22 Aug 2017
5 min read
Nirakar Yakthumba has lived his love for music and shared that love with the world
You did your schooling in Darjeeling. What kind of influence has Darjeeling had on you?
I studied at North Point, Darjeeling, for more than 11 years. Darjeeling is a small place and music is the primary form of entertainment there. I was also musically inclined, so I was always surrounded by like-minded people. By the time I was in the tenth grade, I had already been in two bands. And music scene in the town played quite a vital role in inculcating my passion for music.
How did you get inspired to play bass, especially in that funk style?
Ever since my childhood I have been listening to funky, groovy bass. I have been very influenced by James Jamerson, a bass player with The Funk Brothers for Motown Records. I have spent years listening to and studying solo bass players, all of whom have their own defined styles. I have always been in love with the instrument and the sound it produces. My love for funk has found a way to surface, now and again, even when playing with 1974 AD. I don’t play bass for any reason other than because I enjoy it. In the beginning, the band members were perhaps skeptical of the style, but now I think they have grown to enjoy it as much as I do.
After playing bass for more than 22 years, do you still cherish your role as a bass player in the band?
A famous bass player once said that the bass is like the foundation of a building. A strong foundation is vital to a sturdy structure that can withstand anything. Similarly, bass plays an essential role in holding the other elements of a band together. Bass can also change the mood of an entire song without people’s actually noticing what it is doing. That is what I love about bass. And even though I play other instruments, bass will always have a special place in my heart, and I will forever remain a bass player, more than anything else.
If you stop learning just because you have become a rockstar, you won’t remain a rockstar for very long
Has your reason for making music changed over the years?
After finishing college, some 22 years ago, all of my friends were looking to pursue a professional career; 1974 AD only started as a side-project. Music was more of a hobby than a career choice, but after having been involved with the band for a few years, I realised that playing music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I was younger, I had this dream of having our songs in the international charts. But later, I realised that there was a difference between being a good musician and being a rockstar. Ever since, I have always striven to be a good musician. I chose to pursue music as a career because it made me happy and not because I desired fame. The reason I make music, even after so many years, has remained much the same because music still makes me happy.
You are involved with many creative and business initiatives. How do you bring these disciplines together?
I started Moksh 14 years ago because I wanted to create a place where musicians could come, hang out and share their knowledge. Similarly, I started KJC, eight years ago, to give aspiring musicians a formal platform to learn music—something we didn’t have when we were starting out. My business ventures have grown over the years to incorporate an art school, a dance academy, Moksh and KJC, all housed in Gyan Mandala. The space today is always buzzing with creative energy. I never had to make a conscious effort to bring my initiatives together because music has always been at the core of all my business ventures,and the need to do creative work has always been bringing these disciplines together.
What about mountain biking? Do you find a link with music there, too?
Mountain biking helps me feel present in the moment, completely alive. It is the same feeling I get when I play music. For me, music and mountain biking are not all that different. Biking also gives me an opportunity to go to places around Kathmandu, places I would otherwise not have the chance to visit. It allows me to meet new people and have interesting conversations, and that experience sometimes gets incorporated in my compositions. I understand that the sport can be risky, especially if I injure my hands, but the feeling is too good to give it up.
What kind of musicians is KJC striving to produce? What are the values you are trying to instil in them?
The aim with KJC is to produce versatile musicians who can go anywhere and play with anyone in the world. Both the teachers and the aspiring musicians diligently work to make that dream come true. It’s incredible seeing these musicians working on bettering their craft. They understand that fame is not a realistic goal to pursue and that the willingness to learn endlessly and keep improving is what makes a good musician. If you stop learning just because you have become a rockstar, you won’t remain a rockstar for very long. To survive as a musician you need to be an eternal learner.
As a musician and an entrepreneur in the sector, how have you seen the Nepali music industry change?
Over the years, the international exposure for Nepali musicians has increased mainly owing to two reasons: Many of the musicians are moving abroad and are still making music; and with the growth of the internet, Nepali music has become increasingly accessible worldwide. We have got the market, now it’s crucial that we work to become more professional, which is slowly happening because the newer generation of musicians take their craft more seriously. All these improvements make me hopeful that Nepali music will soon get more recognition.
What’s next for you?
With my next project, I am looking to combine my passion for music and mountain biking. I want to organise a unique world music festival featuring good music from performers all over the world. And I want to combine that with mountain biking in Mustang.
A word of advice to young musicians.
Don’t ever hesitate to dream. Don’t ever hesitate to take those steps towards your dream. Work to achieve your ambitions and the doors will open. As long as you have the drive and you are pursuing your dream with the right intention, you can be who you want to be.