The road to personal musical satisfaction is long and arduous. Acclaimed musicians have always looked to satisfy themselves first with what it is that they have held dear. Some have done so, and these are their stories.

And turning it around. For decades, brave musicians all around the worldhave gone back to their preferences and have broken their own mould of name and fame. Some succeed, some not so much. Led Zeppelin did so triumphantly with their stark departure from the blues on their first two albums, to what became the genius of Led Zeppelin III and IV. Bob Dylan dropped his trademark acoustic guitar and harmonica combo to pick up the electric guitar. He was berated and criticized, only to have those same people herald him as a pioneer a decade later. With their movement across different genres, it has become apparent that dynamic musicians had, and always will have an insatiable appetite to push their own limits and move into altogether different directions. All this leaves their audience often puzzled and frustrated as they long for the ‘old stuff’. People screaming for the old stuff are what you’ll get at a Rolling Stones concert who honestly, never quite made that smooth transition to any memorable songs post the 70s.

Becoming successful is the ‘be all end all’ (as it should be) for most bands. They walk a tight rope, making music under the pressure of huge recording labels and their own fans. Us fans; who get fickler by the day and expect ‘epic’ stuff with every next beat. It is a very judgemental world, but some, against all odds, they soldier on to come up with music that is close to their heart and has individuality. Yes, it may get panned and put down but creativity engulfs popularity for those few.Those few who dare to speak their mind through their music. Those few who have nowhere to look but ahead and bring some amazing music out for all of us to enjoy. These same traits are sporadically found in musicians and bands in Nepal as well. Nepalese artists have looked to collaborations with foreign artists to broaden their reach. Some have turned to folk and opened the spectrum of fusion for the masses. Some have brought rap and metal together with a heady mix of rhymes and riffs. A path re-taken, by our own Nepalese performers should be duly encouraged and mentioned.

Umesh Shrestha, Editor/Founder of KTMrocks has seen it all happen herein the local Nepali underground music scene. He says, “It is all about individual satisfaction. Some are fed up of just having commercial success and have this need to find their own identity. Musicians usually don’t like being stereotyped but at the same time, you’ll find those who are hesitant to change and explore their own versatility.” So it seems, is the lore around the globe. To change their own image as an artist and fulfil a personal preference of theirs. “It is certainly a great contribution from their part,” Umesh Shrestha further adds, “their music now goes beyond one generation and they are still making an impact on the youth.” It certainly goes without saying that there is much risk involved as you do the turnaround and try something new and expand your own musical horizon in the process.

It is time to introduce thesedaring artists, who are fulfilling musical aspirations close to their heart.Even after achieving success with their previous body of music, they haven’t given way to stagnation rather; they are now firmly looking to break open a brand new door.

Sarad Shrestha

Content. Seldom are musicians ever content. They are looking ahead to their next venture, next gig, next song and next goal. It is this thirst for more and more music, which drives an artist to various corners of the world, discovering some astounding new music. Musical sojourns are a big part of a musician’s life and Sarad Shrestha will attest to this. The axeman from The Axe Band did an astounding 180 of his own. He was an idol for many budding guitarists and was part of a much-talked about trio, The AxeBand. His guitar playing skills were heralded and praised. After the dissolution of the band, Shrestha took a brief hiatus and returned in 2012 with a bang, and brought the band Tumbleweed. Thus came a mix of eclectic hip-hop and metal, with a fusion of old school beats leaving his fan base enthralled.

 crowd reception been towards I think right off the bat the question I have to ask is how has theyour new musical dimension?

Divided (laughs). And I realized this when I became involved with Tumbleweed. The Axe Band had such a devout following that I knew some would accept us and some wouldn’t. But with time, people have seen us live. And I firmly believe, if you play well on stage, they will appreciate you.

Where would your influences lie?
Well going all the way back some 20 years, I was deeply impressed by a guitarist called Raymond from Calcutta, who I think played for Prism here. He had a very rhythm based style of guitar-playing that I liked and tried to make my own. Back then there were bands like Vampire and Criss Cross among others. Crossroad was starting to come out with original Nepali rock numbers. Internationally, we had all the regular rock bands that we followed, but I also really liked the Beastie Boys, Rage Against The Machine and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The funky rap grooves with guitars always piqued my interest.

You took a break after the AxeBand dissolved.What did you do during that time?
I was in Hong Kong mostly and started laying the groundwork for what you see as Tumbleweed today. I had the opportunity to see a band called Doc X in Hong Kong and started playing with them around the area. They had the backing track laced, punk scar approach to their music and my love for this genre was re-ignited. Soon I formed a band called Intellectual Morals in Hong Kong and it was great fun playing there.

How is playing in Tumbleweed different to playing in The Axe Band?
Oh very different. The whole playing style is different and there is just a completely unique structure in both. When I came from Hong Kong last year, I met Prashant Maharjan our bassist as well as Subash Raj Upadhyay who is our vocalist. It was great because I had all this playing experience in a new kind of music and with them, I could finally expand it further here in Nepal.

A great career with a stellar rock band, exploring new music now, how would you describe your journey so far?
It’s been more than 20 years now. It started only as a hobby and then it provided my income also which was, and is, great. I got to play with some amazing foreign bands and learn from them. The best part is, I’m still learning, and still having fun.

Sanjay Shrestha

After achieving huge success as 1974 A.D’s drummer par excellence, Sanjay Shrestha soon stepped into the spotlight as the guitarist for the reggae group, Joint Family International. Their single ‘Netaji’ is currently topping local charts and they are busy in the studio with their first album. A man who’s already garnered much repute over the years, speaks of what it was like changing gears and following a passion-genre of his.

Firstly, how did Joint Family International come to being?
Well I was in Australia back in 2008 for the birth of my daughter. I was there for about a year and met a reggae band called ‘Pachooka’. Naturally as it is with musicians, we were soon jamming. I travelled around Australia with them and realized how popular reggae was and is, down there. Growing up, I had a special place for reggae and always liked it. Upon my return to Nepal I started to look around for a reggae band and soon heard the name Anurag Zimba. I had the opportunity to hear him sing and after I did, I knew, I had to go forward with this.

What were some of the initial challenges while transitioning from a famous band to forming a new one?
Well 1974 A.D is there and will always be there. With Joint Family International, yes, it was different but really, it’s been fun too. With 1974 A.D, there came recognitionwhich I am very grateful for.Now I am taking my love for reggae ahead with this great group of guys in Joint Family as well. Our album release is slated for June this year.We also played at the Himalayan Outdoor Festival in addition to playing around town frequently.

How was, and is the feedback to this new kind of music that you are playing?
The music community liked it and that encouraged us. There were some positive reviews and all our good friends encouraged us to come out with our own songs and that’s what we are doing at the moment. As I said, this is for the love of music, and making your original tracks is the next step. We can’t play covers forever and we were ready to head to the studio, and start the process of making a record.

Lastly, how would you describe Joint Family International’s music?
Laid back. It is very different to the vibe of 1974 A.D, and personally for me it is naturally different, as I play a different instrument on stage. The ambience and feel is another and we have this great energy in our crowds at small venues. And I am very happy with it. The audience appreciates what we have done so far and we look to keep on it in the future.

Diwas Gurung

The man started his rollin’ and tumblin’at the turn of the millennium with Albatross, before his move to the US to pursue higher studies. While studying in Ithaca College he met up with what would become his next musical adventure, Ayurveda. They played for a good part of the 2000s getting praise on both sides of the Atlantic. After Ayurveda disbanded in 2011, Diwas Gurung trudged along and brought forth his new ensemble- Photoreal, as well as releasing aNepalese solo album titled ‘Rato Mato’. Gurung talks about his foray into a career spanning both sides of the globe and nearly 11 years.

How was it starting as a musician, and with your first band?
Becoming a musician was a gradual process. In many ways it was almost an unconscious decision driven by my excitement for it. I think it’s still that excitement that propels me forward to be one. My first experience of writing music was with Albatross way back in 2002 when we made an album called “ Hi:Fly” and that was a pivotal experience to me in terms of  having confidence in my own ideas and the encouragement I received from my band members. Additionally, that was also my first time in a full on recording studio(BMI studios, ran by Iman and Binayak dai), which was another milestone. I feel that initial spark of curiosity and unbridled glee of creating and performing music is still a big part of me.
What kind of music have you always wanted to play?
That has changed a lot through the years, but isn’t that the point? I believe that an artist should always be growing, always be absorbing new things and ideas and present them to his or her audience without fear. When I started playing music it was all about the guitar, and it still is to a certain point. So a lot of my earlier musical life was informed by guitar based music of all kinds, from bands like King Crimson and Tool to African guitar music. Whatever music that I have put out, is usually a reflection of the music that I love and respect at that moment.

But to answer your question, I have always wanted to play the music that makes me feel happy and accomplished, and the kind of music does that is always evolving, but you can be sure that there is always going to be some guitar in it.

Difference between playing with Ayurveda and going solo?
With Ayurveda, apart from the vocals and the lyrics, the music was written as a collective which meant that everyone brought in their ideas and we all worked on it. More than anything it was an exercise in perspective and humility. Of course you always think that what you have written is good, but if no one else if feeling it, is it worth working on? What is the best thing for the song? And how do you effectively communicate your ideas to your band mates so they “get it”? All of these questions I think helped us all in becoming better musicians and a polished live act. Doing my solo work, I have to ask those questions to myself, except for the last one because you know exactly what you are going for and you spend less time convincing others. I feel that this freedom allows for a lot of experimentation and creativity. However I do work closely with Mike or Dan, (both of who were in Ayurveda) even when I do my solo music because I trust their musical judgements and ideas.

Finally, what are the projects in your hand at the moment?

Currently my primary focus is Photoreal, which is a duo consisting of me and Dan Halperin ( bassist for Ayurveda ). Our music is very song based, with a lot of emphasis on arrangement and vocal melodies and simplicity. I am doing the singing and lyric writing which is exciting because it is all in English. I have written English songs for a long time but it mostly lived in my hard drive or on some obscure websites, so I am really enjoying it. The music is heavily based on electronic sounds and loops, but the emphasis is on the song writing.

I am also compiling songs for a new Nepali album; so far I have a handful of originals and a bunch of obscure but beautiful folk songs. Last but not least, I have a band with my wife called the Rungs, which is a ton of fun, we have some songs out, and it is poppy, bright and giggly!

What are your future plans, as to what kind of music you want to create?
Right now I am really into electronic music and computer based music creation. Not necessarily to make crazy, weird sounds but to utilize it as a tool for refining songs down to their most potent core and then building them back up again. I know people like to berate these music softwares for making music too easy and liken it to cheating, but I think that with any tool, it’s all about how you use it. Right now I just want to write the best songs that I can, concise, powerful, good songs!