In the wake of repeated incidents of caste-based violence around the country, APEX asks 12 Nepali musicians if (and how) music can be an effective tool to fight racism/casteism.
Adrian Pradhan, 1974 AD
I think music is far more heavenly, spiritual, and universal compared to racism. Music unites people globally while racism divides. Music evolved from infinite powers while racism came from the minds of people. With this in mind, I’m sure music can really heal the corrupt hearts of this world. Being a responsible artist, I would definitely try to carry on with songs and music to help change negative minds, with songs like 1974 AD’s “Yo Mann ta Mero Nepali Ho”.
Racism, ‘colorism,’ casteism—they’re all intertwined and are a stubborn fragment of our society. And all of this will never be cleared in one fell swoop; it’s a gradual change through generations. However, I do believe there’s power in conversations, debates, dialogues and especially music that works as catalysts to undo these stigmas. Nepal is a caste-based society and casteism its inevitable by-product. Therefore, it is even more important to keep talking about the topic. I have personally raised the caste issues through my song “Ma Chahi Nepali” and ‘colorism’ in my song “Ma Dami Chhu.” While the idea of music completely ending racism/casteism is far-fetched, it sure speeds up the process.
Kiran Nepali, Project Sarangi/Kutumba
Music definitely helps fight racism and bridge casteist divides in our society. I’ll give you an example. Let’s look back 5-7 years when sarangi was regarded as a “gandharva instrument”. Now it has become a proud representation of Nepali music. People of all castes have started playing it. It has overcome the caste barrier.
Roshan Sharma, Urjaa
Anything that is universal or truthful has the power to end communal, religious and racial differences. Music is one (and probably the best) universal factor that has the power to evoke positive emotions and change egoistic minds. I recently had a chance to collaborate for a song with the Limbu community of eastern Nepal and the response has been amazing. I am getting so much love from all the communities. Discrimination seems to be disappearing.
Ashesh Dangol, Ashesh and Nekhvam
Societies and communities around the world have used music to fight racism. There are many artists and songs you listen to globally. I believe in ‘art with activism’. Blues, the genre I play, originated in the Black community and it has always fought racism. Even a ‘brown’ person like me touring with my music worldwide has helped change perspectives. Music has no language or boundary. I have always thought of my art as contributing to the development of my society. Most of my lyrics and music these days are thus based on social issues.
Nikesh “Kallie” Bhujel, Screaming Marionette
Music can influence minds. As musicians, we are carriers of the influence, whether or not we are aware of it and whether or not we intend to be. The sound and messages we release through our art impacts listeners in powerful ways. As humans, we are influenced by how we feel. And good music can definitely play a role in helping people distinguish between right and wrong. Music has the power to culturally, morally, and emotionally influence society. Thus, the more intentional we become with the sounds, messages, and moods we create and release through our music, the more powerful we will be in creating a deep positive impact.
Bishal Pradhan, Foseal/Nude Terror
Racism is global and having lived only in my home country I can say casteism exists here too. Even between friends, we don’t talk about it openly but there is definitely a tension between different castes. How we have preconceived notions about certain people who belong to a particular caste reflects how we consciously or subconsciously practice casteism.
I think for musicians, it is imperative to believe in the message they want to give. At least that’s what I try to do with my music. Music is a great medium of expression to talk about racism and casteism, but for this the musicians have to first believe in their own message.
Kengal Shrestha, Type III
More than the power to fight racism, I’d prefer to say that music has the power to spread peace. And it definitely does spread peace. But it depends on how people perceive it. That is how I see my own music too.
Speaking from personal experience, music has been the most powerful tool I've ever worked with. Not only against racism, but music also works wonders in the hearts of people on all sorts of issues.
Sarad Shrestha, Shree 3/Tumbleweed
Music in itself is a language and something that’s truly free in terms of expression. From the very beginning, we have been raising social issues through our songs and live performances.
Suzeena Shrestha, The Act
Music has the power to fight anything. Most people might not relate to speeches or even books. But with music, there’s more probability. Our music also deals with the social issues we face.
Ashra Kunwar, Ashra and the Parables
We need to be an intrinsic learner to understand how racism and discriminatory values affect lives on a large scale. Second, there’s always been racism everywhere, wherever people have fought for their right to live as equals. As a musician, I am a believer in art and activism, and perhaps the best means of activism is music. Music as an art is a potent tool to fight not just racism but any social evil.