Back in 2015, as the country reeled under daily power cuts, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day, a group of young musicians were trying to create their own music under the yellowish light of a burning candle— and that’s how “Pahenlo Batti Muni”, an experimental rock band, got its name. When the band released its debut single “Bari Lai” on May 2016, the maturity of its lyrics and music brought it instant recognition, and also music award nominations, that created a space for it as a band not bound by genres or any other limits.
With some original members of the band leaving for abroad in its starting phase, the band’s founder members Rochak Dahal (guitars/vocals) and Pravesh Thapa Magar (guitars) were joined by twins Lav and Kush Jung KC on drums and bass respectively to form the current line-up.
The entry of the musically accomplished KC brothers helped shape the sound further, the band says. With Rochak’s acoustic guitar and non-anglicized Nepali vocals, Pravesh’s carefully placed guitar licks, and the tightness of the twin’s rhythm section, the band found new avenues and went on to release a few singles like “Lori” and “Bichitra”. These brought the band more attention and then, finally, it released its debut album “Asthir” in May 2019.
Although they prefer being placed under ‘experimental rock’, the band members don’t want to confine themselves to a single genre. Their sounds vary in inspiration from Nepali folk to alternative, grunge and even metal, while keeping the foundations of rock intact. “When the KC brothers joined us, we already had a visualization of the sound we wanted,” Rochak says. “Of course when there are new musicians, there are new interpretations. But we are finally headed in the same direction and it is working for us.”
Listening to the band, one can feel the fluidity in their music that the band members want to emphasize. “Our feelings are not bound and that’s what transmits to our music,” Lav, the drummer, says. “We create whatever we want without restricting ourselves to genres.” This results in each of their track sounding unique.
With sounds that are not facsimiles of the older generation of Nepali music, PBM is one of the few young bands whose lyrics are poetic and meaningful. Every song the band has released has a powerful meaning and when the lyrics are read without music, they sound like astute poetry. “I do poems and am also a part of the group called Word Warriors,” says Rochak, who writes the lyrics to the songs. “But I never sit down deliberately to write songs using heavy words. Also, my lyrics and tunes come simultaneously.” Sometimes, when he’s written the lyrics but has not found the melody, Rochak waits. “It is Rochak’s honesty in writing that probably makes audience relate to our music,” Lav adds.
The band members, aged 25-27, seem ahead of their time in understanding their own music and the direction they want to pursue. But when the band had started making music seriously with the new line-up, it was never for fame.
“Even when we first met Rochak and started making music together, we had no intent of becoming popular, or shaping our music to what’s trending in mainstream market. The band’s motive was purely to make the kind of music we wanted to play and put it out there for the listeners.”
But the band did get popular, with some of its videos crossing a million views on YouTube, and it started getting invited to play at live events. “People usually judge us by watching our YouTube videos and listening to a few of our tracks. They think we’re some kind of indie soft-rock band but that’s not who we are at all,” says Lav. “We are a whole different band when it comes to live performance. That’s our forte.”
As the band looks forward to 2020, it already has plans for more singles, music videos, and concerts across the country. “We have been lucky to have filmmaker friends make music videos for us. Now that we are financially capable and feel our music requires fitting visuals to better connect with our listeners, we want to make professionally produced videos this year,” Rochak says O
(Pahenlo Batti Muni will be performing at The Annapurna Express Music Festival at Tangalwood on February 8)