I hope you all had a wonderful, peaceful, light, and musical Tihar. For me, during Tihar, the Kathmandu Valley somehow reverts to an earlier time. With oil lamps and orange marigold garlands, juxtaposed with electrical lights over tall buildings, the crisp evening air is almost glowing. While the youngsters now coming round singing deusi-bhailo may be equipped with speakers, guitars and the latest rock numbers, to me Tihar is a time of music which also reflects times gone by. Which brings me to a band that blends Nepali and world music into a fusion of unique compositions, Trikaal.
Trikaal started out with three members back in 2002. This was the time I was first introduced to their music and to one of the founding members, Santosh Bhakta Shrestha, who plays the israj. At that time Trikaal, Sur Sudha and Vajra were the big three names in classical fusion music. And their music seemed to permeate the air and bring the spirit of the Kathmandu Valley to life. Disappearing from the scene around 2013, I was pleasantly surprised to see Trikaal back together and performing last month. Having kept in touch with Shrestha over the years through other musical contexts I ask him to explain why the reappearance now.
“In the early days we played mainly for tourists and a select audience who appreciated our music. In order to widen the audience base to include more Nepalis we created a space for other musicians to come and join us, the original three members,” says Shrestha. He goes on to explain that with a total nine band members of equal standing and who also worked with other bands/sectors it became difficult to manage rehearsal time. So despite them opening up their music to a wider Nepali audience and with three albums under their belt, the band dissolved in 2013.
Stating a lack of motivation as well as other commitments as the main reasons behind the disbanding, Navaraj Gurung (tabala) says there was a lack of continuity in those days, but which is now a key element in the band’s revival. And the revival comes not a moment too soon: I was talking to a young, ‘fusion’ musician just before Tihar and mentioned Trikaal. “Who?” he asked. When I played one of their tracks he did recognize it from his teenage days, but was unaware of the band’s name.
So what motivated Trikaal to reform in 2019? A recent CD and book launch by Aman Shahi (CD) and Salil Subedi (book, relating to singing bowl sound healing as performed by Shahi) brought the current five members together. “Aman insisted Trikaal perform at his launch,” says Nikhil Tuladhar (percussion). The band’s performance, blending perfectly with the melodious, soothing sounds of the singing bowls, was received so well by the audience and press, Tuladhar thought ‘why not continue together and relaunch Trikaal?’ So this is exactly what they did: Shrestha and Gurung from the original band and both Eastern classical music trained, were joined by Tuladhar, Nagendra Rai (flute) and Suren Lama (guitar).
With a wide range of experience between them from blues, rock and folk to studio work these five members have come up with a unique sound that incorporates the classical fusion of the original Trikaal (and the spirit of the Kathmandu Valley) with a fresh and modern approach to Nepali classical music. To quote the band, “Trikaal blends each member’s background to create soulful themes and improvised musicality.” Further, Shrestha describes the current line-up as a ‘balanced team’. Indeed with a potential Pokhara tour coming up and plans underway to record one or two original tracks this ‘team’ seems set to create a new audience of listeners as well as bringing nostalgia to the older crowd.
Keep an eye on Trikaal’s Facebook (Trikaal Tantriks) page for upcoming events, gigs and music tracks.