The story behind “Anuprastha” is any high-schooler’s dream. A bunch of friends from different backgrounds meet at high school, their common musical interest bringing them close. Then they form a band to play for the school’s freshers, and that’s it. The band hits it off from the first gig itself and starts playing concerts. In a few years, it wins a huge music competition and in a few more, becomes of the most successful bands in the country.
This is Anuprastha for you: a high-school band that started in 2004 and has since been a force to be reckoned with in the Nepali music scene. With its humble beginnings as a cover band that started in high school and then mostly played in the pub circuits of Thamel, the band won the first ever “Sprite Band Challenge 2008” which catapulted it to fame.
The Sprite Band Challenge also gave the band a record deal, which resulted in the release of official music video of its popular song “Din” from its 2010 debut album “Anuprastha”. The band, popular countrywide for live performances by then, released another album “What to do Kathmandu” in 2015.
As Anuprastha prepares to release its third album “Nepal Swarga Bhanda Thulo Cha” in the near future, it’s new music video for “Samjhera Malai” is already getting praises from new and old fans alike. The music video sets a benchmark in production quality. The rock ballad, which was originally included in the band’s debut album, has been rearranged and recorded and the music video has been made with cinematic visuals.
“Now that we talk about it, everything sounds so smooth. But this has not been the case,” says Niran Shahi, the founding member and singer/guitarist of the band that has suffered many lineup changes in its almost 18 years of existence. “It’s one thing to form a band and play music in high school. Making this a profession is an entirely different ball game.”
With another founding member Govin Sunuwar (guitars) still with the band, Shahi now leads a young team of twenty-somethings—Manjil Raj Shrestha (drums), Laxman Dangol (bass) and Suresh Maharjan (percussions)—to complete the lineup of Anuprastha.
“It has taken us quite some time to bring back the stability in the band and now I think we are ready for bigger things to come our way,” Shahi says while in the middle of a Nepal tour promoting the band’s new music video. The band has survived highs and lows all these years, especially the pandemonium forced unto it by sudden departure of band members. Also, the band has felt its popularity decline in recent years.
Shahi cites two main reasons behind the band not being able to consistently cash in on the success of its Sprit Band Challenge win. “Apart from lineup changes, we made the mistake of playing regularly at bars and pubs and also released low-cost, DIY music videos,” Shahi explains. “When a band plays regularly at bars and pubs, it loses audiences at bigger venues. Nobody would pay for tickets to watch you live when they get to see you for free every weekend.” So Anuprastha won’t be doing regular bar gigs from now.
As for the music videos, Shahi says he has realized that after “Din”, which was produced by the organizers of the band challenge, Anuprastha made simpler music videos with local creators. This did not work in the band’s favor, Shahi feels. “Our audience probably expected more from us and we kind of disappointed them. After winning such a prestigious competition, we should have tried to live up to the audience’s expectations,” he says. So the band made no compromises in producing “Samjhera Malai,” which Niran feels has resurrected Anuprastha’s popularity to a large extent.
Starting as teenagers and now in their 30s, a lot of things has changed for the band and its remaining founding members—Shahi and Sunuwar. With the changes in the lineup, the sounds have changed, which is a positive for the band, the current members believe. Also, with age, the band members’ responsibilities, commitments and financial burdens have increased.
“We have been surviving through our music and that is exactly what we intend to do in the future,” Shahi says. No bar gigs means a loss of income but band members need not worry. At Shahi’s initiation, the ‘Anuprastha Music School’ is soon opening in Balaju, where the band members will be employed as teachers and mentors.
“Anuprastha and the song ‘Din’ is a legacy I carry over from my elder brother,” says Shahi. “After giving it the best of our youth, there is no backing out now. We are in this for the long haul and Anuprastha will continue to release new music for its audiences.”