and the Heavy Metal Scene in Nepal
A few posts ago, we mentioned the surprising Heavy Metal scene in Nepal. Very briefly, in an article about Metal’s beginnings in Britain- but the scene in Nepal had been something we knew was brewing in the most Subculture driven style. Whilst we tend to focus on British Subculture, for us, there is a special place for the truly subversive and resisting undertakings happening in the most unexpected of places. There’s nothing we appreciate more than the Sapeurs of Congo or the Rockabillies of Tokyo. Because, when you think about it, it’s not surprising at all. It makes a whole lot of sense, and in turn, a whole lot of positive change.
In true universal Underground grace, after our original post, it wasn’t long before the most internationally known band spearheading the Nepalese Metal scene came to visit us at our store, unaware of the mention. Fate, it seemed, had paired us with Underside. A four-piece formed in 2010, they refer to themselves as a ‘New Age Metal band from the Third World Street of Kathmandu’. They are a hugely respected and recognized band on a global view of the Metal music industry, but it’s the way they have utilized their work to achieve significant affect that is most impressing. They seamlessly share their culture to an audience largely unfamiliar to Nepal; as well as provide a platform for rebellious culture to exist and enjoy across South Asia. An area which, as well as being logistically difficult to access for bands before, has suffered a number of tragedies, environmental and manmade. Because of the significant work they do, it would be difficult not to mention the greater context of their home country when talking of their work.
For a long time, Nepal was ruled under a Hindu monarchy and separate parliament, which when combined with the neighborly conflict associated with being a landlocked country, saw many periods of instability. One of the worst and freshest to date was the Nepali Civil war that ravaged the country between 1996 and 2006, between the monarchy and an emerging Communist Maoist Party wanting to overthrow the throne. When you realize how recent this is, it begins to paint clearer picture of the context these Subcultures and youth groups have faced. Resisted.
Whilst heavily populated, it is an ethnically diverse country, with the main religion being Hindusim. Though it’s also where Gautama Buddha was born- the man who founded Buddhism. Such diversity has given it a rich and dynamic history of architecture, spirituality and music. Folk music in Nepal is so ancient it is often difficult to date, and there are countless variations of traditional Nepali genres. Though, in the 1970’s, things began to change when Kathmandu became a popular spiritual destination for Hippies. With them came guitars and western Hard Rock, which sparked the country’s interest in heavier music. A number of ‘one-gig bands’ began to arise, playing covers of Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin.
In 2001, that began to change. Nepal’s premier Death Metal outfit known as Ugra Karma released ‘ The Himalayan Metal Of Death’- which was a real turning point. They focused primarily on recording their own material, and they didn’t try to fit in. A new Punk mentality flooded the minds of young people all over Nepal. The civil war still vivid in their minds. Whilst Ugra Karma didn’t last long themselves, new bands taking this mentality erupted all over the place.
Precisely a decade later, Underside formed. They have been the first band from Nepal to make it to international applaud and renown internationally, which is one huge feat. Aside from their music, one way they have brought Kathmandu to the international Heavy Metal stage was to create Silence festival in the city. It has previously welcomed massive names such as Behemoth and Sikth to the mainstage. Heartbreakingly, when the devastating earthquake struck in 2015, taking the lives of 12,000 and displacing many more, Silence Fest had to be postponed. Instead, Underside set up fundraising concerts called Metal For Nepal. Across 18 shows in four countries, they raised over £12,000 for emergency aid.
Though the civil war is over, socio-political tension still weighs heavy on the youth of Nepal, and Underside have stated in the past that their formation was in response to the climate. Their music is a reaction to the anger they feel toward the political elite and their ill-decision making on behalf of an oftentimes-struggling country. In one interview, the band describe police arresting those with long hair and tattoos: to give them haircuts. It is certainly Underside’s bravery and willingness to speak up about the contradictions and intolerance they and their fans face that speaks so much to us. The use the power of their music to access people’s understanding, and speak freely of their beliefs to international press, which has been instrumental in giving Heavy Metal fans across the West the understanding that the scene not an imitation of what’s happened before. This is a new scene, making new music, fighting the injustices they face, to create a bigger and healthier music scene for local bands to earn a living from.
This is truly what Subculture is all about, what Punk, Metal are all about. It’s about uniting in our alienation to fight against the bigger establishment, and to collaborate in an effort to improve the lives of many. The world needs this kind of creativity, union and resistance.
Underground <3 Underside
You can follow all the updates on Silence Festival HERE