Image courtesy of Nepathya

Nepathya in Dubai: Interview with Nepali music legend Amrit Gurung

Amrit Gurung, an illustrious Nepali vocalist, joins me in an interview, discussing his views on topics ranging from music to morals to memories.

Nov 13, 2022

Nepathya is a name in Nepali music that has garnered popularity among people of all ages. Often labeled as a trendsetting band, Nepathya is a pioneer of a unique fusion between folk and rock music. The band was formed in 1990 by Deepak Rana, Bhim Poon, and the legendary Amrit Gurung. Since its inception, Nepathya has been a platform for as many as 23 emerging artists, and the band’s story continues.
Gurung, who has been the guardian of the band for more than 32 years, is the current lead vocalist of Nepathya. Admired for his down-to-earth nature and his peace-making efforts, Gurung is involved in the research and development of folk music in Nepal.
In this interview, I talk to Gurung about his experience as a band leader, social activist, and passionate musician.
Portrait of Amrit Gurung, courtesy of Nepathya
Samyam: Let’s start with some background information about Nepathya. As we know, the band is particularly well known for the production of folk music blended in a rock format. What inspired you to proceed with this unique taste in music?
Amrit Gurung: During my college days, I used to live in Kathmandu — it was at that time when I, along with my friends, decided to do music. However, contemporary music in Nepal…was different than we expected.
During that time, television and radio shows were in their prime stages. But, the music that we were used to was Pashchatya [Westernized] like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and so on. The type of music [prevalent in Nepal] was either hardcore Western music or Nepali music using Pashchatya [Westernized] instruments. This situation can be called alino in Nepali — like a dish that lacked salt. So, we, a group of friends, decided to practice music. We are from Gandaki, so we agreed on making music using Nepali folk tunes, and that’s how the band began.
S: Nepathya’s seventh album was called “Ghatana…incidents of Nepal”, which was a musical expression of Nepalese who lived through the conflict-stricken ten years [from 1996 CE to 2006 CE]. My question is: what were the challenges that you, collectively as a band, faced in terms of music production and bonding with the public?
G: Every Nepali that lived during those years faced countless challenges. The Communist Party of Nepal started a “movement”, and the political scenario of Nepal was at its worst. Even though they called it “The People’s War”, I think, it was the time when Nepalese were forced to live with problems. We survived [a total of] ten years. When someone exited their home, they had no idea if they would make it back — there was terror everywhere…
The public had to go through a lot because of both sides — one due to the Maoist party and the other due to the Government of Nepal as well. The war was between these two sides, but the general public got crushed in between…a person who lives barely for 100 years should not have been affected by a war between two groups. People deserved something better — children deserved to go to school, study and return home safely; citizens deserved to return home from their work and stay with their families safely. The ultimate goal is to live, right? But, this very thing was devastated during those days. So, I believe, it is not fair to talk about personal inconvenience when the entire nation was suffering.
S: I am aware that you travel a lot. However, was there any significant perspective that you gained after you restarted traveling to villages after the war?
G: When I was in college, I witnessed the movement of [1990 CE]. Even before the conflict days, I used to travel to villages of Nepal frequently — sometimes alone, the other times with friends. I used to go there, have fun and get closer to Nepalese culture.
But, during the conflict, whenever I had to visit a place, people were concerned; they used to request, “Don’t come! This is not the time to travel. If something awful happens to you, we will not be able to take the burden.”...
In 2006/2007 [CE], when Maoists got into mainstream politics, I started traveling again. But I never found a similar level of culture again. It seems to have been lost. Our culture — social harmony and hardikta [wholeheartedness] that was prevalent since time immemorial — seemed broken.
मान्छे देखेर मान्छे डरउने समय थियो त्यो! [it was a time when people had to be afraid when they saw other people.]
S: Now, I am going to turn to your guiding principles. You live a simple life, which I immensely aspire to do. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your beliefs and mentality.
G: The world is like this, Bhai [brother] — even in the toughest of times, we should not forget humanity and that we are humans. Non-living commodities do not matter, but as humans, we face challenges in life, and we have to compromise. जिउ रह्यो भने, संसार रहन्छ [If there is life, there is the world]. But, the main thing is people set their priorities first and then follow other things. However, as artists, we have to keep in mind our society first and then set our priorities. This is where the conflict arises.
I am 55 now, and next month, I will be 56. According to our Sanatana culture, this is the phase when a person enters the Vanaprastha stage of life [way of the forest or retirement]. So, I am not sure about what we fought for, what we struggled for, what was the country we wanted [Nepal] to be, how was the world we imagined to be, and finally what it all resulted in. I am extremely confused about this topic. I am sorry; I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist in fact, but the direction [that society has taken] is disheartening.
S: You had a major role in the production of more than nine music albums — from Chekyo Chekyo to Aina Jhyaal. But, what was the most challenging project that you worked on?
G: Most of the things in music are challenging. I am not an artist who practices music with an agenda; instead, I express my feelings through music. Neither am I a person who studied music; I accidentally got into music. So, I do music because it is my way of expression. I am fortunate that I got a chance to travel to different parts of Nepal, and we are still living in a country where people have to die just because they do not get one Cetamol in time…
When I witness the life of a commoner, I feel sour. I feel disheartened. The country belongs to a rich or educated person as much as it does to its counterpart. No matter if a person is in Himal, Hill, or Terai, everyone deserves an equal say. This is where I feel like we are lacking. So, talking about challenges, what can be more challenging than having to sleep with a hungry stomach or pass away in absence of one piece of Cetamol? In this circumstance, the question of music or art seems trivial.
S: What is your favorite memory that you still cherish?
G: I will talk about my rafting experience in Karnali that we did in 1996 [CE]. The Karnali Highway was not operational at that time, and even though transportation was available from Surkhet to Sauli, we decided to travel by foot.
So, while we were rafting in Karnali, somewhere between Achham and Surkhet, our raft got damaged, and we were stuck in the middle. Afterward, we went to a house in Achham as our food was swept away by the river — it was an emergency. The interesting thing is: the residents of the house did not understand the Nepali language — instead, they used to speak the Western Doteli language. For dinner, they gave us roasted corn — it was all they had. The husband and the son of the house had gone to Kalipahad to work as laborers, and in the house were an old mother, wife, and little children. All they had was corn, and they shared it with us. We had money, but it was useless.
On that night, I felt that Hardikta [the wholeheartedness] is to be human. I am pretty confident that [once] humanity, love, kindness, and compassion exist, the world will be a better place.
S: What are your future plans?
G: I am not practicing music to earn money so I look forward to producing more music. I hope to continue sharing happiness with others, which makes me grateful. I am also confident that I will spend the rest of my life doing social work.
S: To the people who are directly or indirectly related to Nepathya, what are your suggestions? What should they target in their life?
G: My first and foremost suggestion is that you should become a असल [moral] person and a असल [moral] citizen — I am not saying rich, alright — I mean असल [moral]. If you become असल [moral], people around you will be असल [moral] as well. The unfortunate thing about the world is we, people, make strangers fight, and then we talk about borders, we talk about principles and we talk about morality. Later, people in a position somehow settle with harmony, while leaving people in lower levels in chaos. So we should protect ourselves from this immoral trait that is prevalent everywhere. We should be disciplined and have integrity. It will spread kindness…
Image courtesy of Samyam Lamichhane
On Nov. 6, the band, which also consists of Dhurba Lama (drummer), Suraj Kumar Thapa (keyboard player), Subin Shakya (bassist), Niraj Gurung (guitarist), and Shanti Bahadur Rayamajhi (percussionist), performed at Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai after a three year absence. It was a grand success and a milestone in the international journey of Nepathya. The band was a breeze and storm at once. It brought along the calmness of home and the fierceness of Nepalese hearts. Watching Gurung, a man who drew Nepalese from all seven Emirates, perform was an iconic sight for all Nepalese in the nation.
Samyam Lamichhane is a contributing writer. Email him at
gazelle logo