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Adhishree Dhungana: A rare woman guitarist of Nepal has lots of ambitions

Adhishree Dhungana, popularly known as Addy, with a knee brace, gets on stage with Batrika Eam Rai and band. After touring for nearly three months, they were back in Kathmandu where the tour had begun. She looked tired and was almost limping. But, with a wide smile on a face, she sat and played for nearly two hours. This wasn’t the only show that she played with the knee brace. She did so the entire tour.

“I had committed to doing it a long time ago. But, when you’re on stage, you forget all the pain. You’re in a zone,” she says.

Dhungana is one of the few female guitarists in the scene. Further, she is more than just a guitarist. She writes, composes, and sings. In a short space of time, the 23-year-old has amassed a lot of love and respect from the indie music community. She has been part of various projects that includes a folk band, a cover band and even plays for musicals at the Kausi Theatre. But now, she wants to do something on her own: create music the way she wants to, use her influences to produce a type of music that is raw, soulful and unique.

From a madal to the Baja

Her musical journey started at a very young age. By five, she was taking classical music lessons and had learnt to play madal. By seven, she started to learn guitar.

“I learnt classical music till the age of 10,” she says. “Looking back, I’m glad I learnt that as it has given me a strong base right now.”

For her, music from her childhood was a means to express herself. With that spirit, she continued to learn guitar in school. She says her seniors played a huge role in her continuing how to play the guitar. 

By the time she finished school, she had developed a skillset and could play riffs as smooth as any 16-year-old around. But, it was not until 2016 that she realised that this could be something that she could do in the long run. 

In 2016, she took part in Women in Concert, an annual musical event, for and by aspiring female musicians in Nepal. That paved the way for her to become a guitar instructor at the Early Development Childhood Centre.

“The two projects made me realise how much I love music and how much I wanted to do it.” 

She was a part of an all-girl group and even started a band called Baja. Even though Baja still play, Dhungana says that they have become more fusion and contemporary rather than folk.

Dhungana has been playing with Bartika Eam Rai since 2018.

Acceleration and ambitions

By 2018, she was making inroads in the indie music scene in the Kathmandu valley. She played at the So Far Sounds and Sea Shells on the Shore where she performed her solo sets. She wrote and composed some of them in less than a week.

“These shows were fun. I learnt a lot… Made great friends who are still pushing me to do music and keep doing it.”

That was the year she started touring with Bartika Eam Rai too.

“It’s great touring with her. We go to so many places. Her fanbase is quite amazing. I feel it has doubled in the space of two years because the number of people who came to shows was just staggering.”

In early 2020, she was touring with them. The first leg of the tour had only finished when the lockdown was imposed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from a tour, a lot of her plans were put on hold. She wanted to perform a few solo shows and improve as a performer, she says. But, the free time did give her time to stop, think and most importantly practise. 

She started to learn jazz and wanted to do it in Nepal in the near future. She says jazz brings out something different in her. It resonates with her soul.

“I really like jazz. Since the first time I was introduced to it to now, I’ve been exploring more and more and maybe will be doing this in the long run,” she says.

In 2021, she has similar plans. She wants to play shows and become more comfortable doing it. She also wants to start her own band.

“I have sets which I can play alone while there are also some songs which will need a band so that’s what I want to do.”

She also wants to release a single this year. Not wanting to put pressure on herself, she says, while an EP (electronic production) is on the works, she does not want to release it anytime soon.

Dhungana also wants to go abroad to study music as she feels there is still a lot she can learn and do.

“When people say that I’m a good musician, I feel humbled,” she says. “I feel that I am still learning. I mean: are you ever a good musician? Is anyone? The is to get there, but this is a never-ending process. You keep growing and getting better.”

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Pant is a journalist currently working for Onlinekhabar. He writes on movies and music, travel and mountains, and culture among others.

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