A landlocked nation edged between the borders of India and China, what Nepal lacks in size, it makes up for in global and historical significance. For some perspective, Nepal is a land about half the size of Victoria, but with five times the population of around 26 million. Within its borders, Nepal boasts the world’s densest grouping of world heritage listed sites, as well as Lumbini, the proposed birth site of Buddha and yetis.
But for all this rich history, Nepal faces considerable hardships. With 25% of the population living below the poverty line, Nepal is classified as one of the world’s poorest countries, and with that accolade comes what we see in every nation on the planet to varying degrees; corruption, crime and suffering. However, much like some of the other world centres we’ve covered in our “a punk guide to” series, Nepal isn’t content with this fate, as we learned speaking with local punk Vishal Rai, vocalist from Neck Deep In Filth. Much like other entries in the series, again we would be reminded that the teeny, tiny differences between humans within the global alternative community are nothing compared to what we have in common.
How did you become a punk?
I got into it in the mid-’90s. I had heard Green Day and the Offspring, but it was watching a Ramones video on MTV that really piqued my interest. They looked and sounded cool. But this was the Nepal in the ’90s, in the pre-internet era, and this style of music couldn’t be accessed here. It was maybe only a year later that I made friends with some kids who had returned to Nepal from Singapore. They gave me a Rancid …And Out Come The Wolves tape, which was a dubbing of a dubbing. And that’s where it all started for me.
Growing up as a young punk in your hometown, what are some of the places you would hang out at?
It wasn’t really that time [for the] scene here, still isn’t. It’s usually at shows that we all meet up.
Are there any other locations in the city that are important to its punk community?
An infoshop run by a prominent anarcho-punk band was quite influential in the last decade. Currently, there’s a rehearsal space run by a hardcore band that, in my opinion, is really important because it doubles as a practice spot and a venue for a lot of young hardcore and punk bands.
How does the general community in your hometown take to punks, and punk music?
Punk, hardcore, and metal are pretty much grouped under the same umbrella here. And for general society, it’s all noise. Quite a few people from the scene, including my old band, have been arrested due to noise complaints. So, I guess, not very well? But in any case, we’re too under the radar for society to form a solid opinion.
What do you think is the biggest threat to the punk community in your city?
For us in Kathmandu, it’s finding a venue for regular shows. However, that’s changing. We have a few spots where shows have been taking place regularly, even during this pandemic.
I don’t know whether I can call this next point a “threat”, but one reason the scene has remained small is because people start going abroad – whether for studies or work – as soon as they finish school. A huge chunk of the population has migrated. And, of course, this includes people who had bands and used to be actively involved in the scene.
All over the world, politics and punk go hand in hand. What are some of the political issues that influence punks in your hometown?
The list is long. The widespread corruption in the country, gender inequality, police brutality, religious discrimination, the caste system, subjugation of minorities, and ultranationalism are but a few of the issues we talk about.
Who are some great punks, or punk bands making moves from your hometown that we can check out?
Since the scene in the country is pretty small, it would be better if I named three bands from across Nepal. Strangle, a NYHC-inspired band. Void Turned To Message, a metallic hardcore band from eastern Nepal, Toerag, ska punk from eastern Nepal.
What are your tips for any punks traveling through your hometown?
Kathmandu and the eastern part of Nepal has quite an active hardcore and punk scene, but you’ll need to contact someone in the know to find out about shows. So, if you’re travelling to Nepal, send us a message.