Giving new life to Nepali music (and musicians)
Imagine listening to the late music maestro Narayan Gopal’s recordings on high quality stereo vinyl. The sound of the yesteryears captured and reproduced in the most primitive of the formats where the whole ‘analogness’ of the music is preserved. Now imagine not having to scrounge through other people’s collections or antic shops to buy them. Instead, you could have them with the click of a button or find them at a convenient spot near you. That’s exactly the intent of the Wild Yak Records—an initiative of three friends who connected with each other through their common love for vinyl and music. Sushil Koirala, Kiran Byanjankar and Neeraj Prasad Gorkhaly are the men behind the Wild Yak Records, its inception made possible by their common love. They are spread across the globe—Koirala is a public health professional based in Bangkok, Byanjankar is a restaurateur in Chicago, and Gorkhaly is a scientific policy advisor in Washington DC. What also brings these men, all in their early 40s, together is their common root as the rebellious “thrash metal” generation of Kathmandu in the early 90s.
The seeds of the WYR were planted when Koirala found an entry of a Narayan Gopal record in an online vinyl marketplace a few years ago. He sent an email to the owner asking if he wanted to sell the record. “You will probably have to dig it from my grave because I am going take it with me,” was the reply he got. So he thought, “What if I could produce it myself?” That is why he first made contact with Gorkhaly.
Koirala then took up the task of digging through information in Kathmandu for the analog media and the rights for Narayan Gopal’s music. Finally, he got in touch with Music Nepal, which owned the rights, sourced the tape, and signed a license agreement.
During the search, Koirala and Gorkhaly were both surprised with the neglect of the original analog source of Nepali timeless classics. They then decided to take it a bit further and continue looking for the media and preserve it. Now all that they needed was a “co-conspirator” for their company. “The funny thing was, we needed to find an investor for a project that is likely to lose money,” Koirala says. Gorkhaly then mentioned his Chicago-based friend, with a tagline that “there is someone I know who would do anything for Nepali music”, and that’s how they found Kiran. After many hours of Facetime and after discovering their mutual passion for Nepali music, the trio eventually established the WYR in Chicago in 2018. The company is now legally registered in Nepal.
While the WYR was started to find, remaster and preserve classic Nepali music in analogue format and fund future projects via sale of vinyl records, the team discovered a gut-wrenching truth about the state of Nepali music. “With the growth of internet, musicians get a lot for exposure and an inexpensive platform to share music. But we also learned that it is impossible to monetize [earn profits] from platforms like YouTube, streaming services and sale of music for the vast majority of them,” Koirala says. “The online systems are designed in a way so as to favor big companies and big artists.”
The WYR then thought of a platform to support the sale of their music, in what would be a “fair-share” approach for the Nepali market. Yakspin.com will make it easier for music fans to support the musicians by directly buying their music. It will also allow musicians to make money so that they can focus on creating more quality music and continue to entertain us all. The WYR is currently working with local partners to create online payment gateways so that Nepalis can pay from their phones and purchase music right from their homes. The fully digital online marketplace will most likely be launched by September-end.
The WYR’s goal is to be self-sustaining after some initial investments by the owners. Again, the priority is not making money but helping Nepali musicians and saving our classic music.
Apart from making vinyl records and creating a platform for Nepali musicians to sell their music, the WYR is also producing music for new and upcoming artists. As co-owners of the company, their preferred choice is to produce what their ears like—namely metal, rock, punk, jazz and funk albums. Not that they will not produce other kinds of music; it’s just that they want to maintain the right balance and see no point of working on albums they do not enjoy themselves. They also have a soft spot for original Nepali folk music.
(The first batch of a limited 300-copy records of Narayan Gopal will be ready for shipment on December 5, the Narayan Gopal Remembrance Day. It will be available for pre-sale and will be shipped globally through the US postal system) .
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