The curious case of Arthur Gunn

Jackie Taylor

Jackie Taylor

The curious case of Arthur Gunn

Arthur Gunn apparently came from nowhere and reached runner up position in American Idol. Suddenly every Nepali media is writing about him. Where were they when he was beginning his journey?

This week we saw Dibesh Pokharel come runner-up in American Idol. So hands up who had heard of him before Monday, May 18?

I’ve been following American Idol this season but I forget the first time I saw Pokharel, or Arthur Gunn as he calls himself. I think I saw something on YouTube before the event aired here. That was a video of his first audition with the judges. They were blown away! I was also so blown away I made damn sure my TV was tuned to Star World at 9.15 pm every night. Meantime, I widely advertised Arthur Gunn on my FB page but no one responded really. I was quite surprised that none of my Nepali musician friends seemed interested or aware that there was a Nepali guy taking part in American Idol. 

I got replies like “I don’t watch reality shows” and “must be a cover singer”. Actually he is a singer songwriter but at the age of 22, how many songs could he have written? Anyway, only one friend, Abhishek S Mishra, of ASM and Spirit X fame, had anything to say. Mishra is also host of a radio show that features musicians from all genres. He had interviewed Arthur Gunn long before American Idol got hold of him. So yes, he knew him. Later I learned I had ‘missed’ gigs in past years when Pokharel returned to Nepal for a visit. I’m usually up to date with the music scene here, so obviously, no one had ‘talked’ about this amazing artist to alert me at that time either.

Meantime, Star World, in its—several times a night—promotion of American Idol was using over and over again the clip of Arthur Gunn walking into his first audition where he Namastes the judges. Was India more excited then than we were? I could not turn on the TV without seeing his face. And yet no one I knew was interested. With Covid-19 the format for the show changed and there was a lack of episodes to fill the time slots. So the same episodes were repeated maybe for three weeks. Still only one local friend, currently stranded in India, showed any interest. She is now a firm fan.

Then, according to much of what I’m reading this week, Arthur Gunn came from nowhere and reached runner up position in American Idol. Suddenly every Nepali media is writing about him. Where were they when he was beginning his journey?

I have seen this before. Take Prabal Gurung. This, now American, fashion designer, attended St Xavier’s School and other institutes here before moving to New York, via Delhi.  Today we know him as fashion designer to those such as Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton. I attended an event a couple of years ago where Gurung was a guest speaker.  He acknowledged his Nepali roots, but did Nepal ever acknowledge him before he became successful?

I’ve also seen this ‘leg pulling’ throughout society.  Let’s clarify: leg pulling in the UK means you are playing a joke on someone—such as saying they have a ink mark on their face, where there is none. In Nepal, it seems to mean pulling someone down, holding them back, or ridiculing them in their attempt to achieve something positive. I’m not entirely sure why this is so—jealousy? 

So, anyway, yes celebrate the fact that a Nepali is runner up in American Idol and will probably go on to be rich and famous. But do not pretend you wished him well earlier.