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Jaire: Efforts to quench fans’ thirst for fresh and uncanny tunes in Nepali music

Jaire are not your average Nepali band. They are different, both musically and philosophically. Ever since they started out in 2017, they have been producing a type of music that they are passionate about.

It is soothing, raw and inconsistent. People who hear it for the first time call it goofy and fresh thanks to the uncanny time signatures they use. In a short span, this two-piece band are garnering great response from the community as they aim to create more interesting music in years to come.

From cover to punk, then to originals

“We’ve always wanted to do something new and fresh… something that makes us happy and that’s what we’ve been doing since 2017,” says Mannu Shahi, the band’s guitarist.

Jaire, as a team, comprises two people: The smooth-fingered Shahi on guitar who plays riffs effortlessly like she was born to do so, and Birat Basnet who might be one of the most underrated drummers/percussionists in the country.

The two met in 2012 through mutual friends and initially formed a cover band as they enjoyed playing together. They played a few cover shows in various restaurants around Jhamsikhel, but both Basnet and Shahi wanted to do something different.

“We both attended a punk underground show by Rai ko Ris and that day, we felt we wanted to do our original music, something that we could call our own,” says Shahi.

They were a part of the progressive punk band for a few years. But, after having differences in philosophy and ideology, they disbanded the punk band and started to do music as a duo.

“Both of us have always had a similar idea about what music should be like. After we ended the progressive punk band, we started exploring music and started playing with the idea of forming a two-piece band,” says Basnet. “We hadn’t formed Jaire by then, but the band was taking shape gradually.”

Focus on fun

Soon they came across the math rock genre which they both liked. It was fun, full of riffs and uncanny yet interesting drum beats. That inspired them to start playing a type of music that was not quite popular in Kathmandu’s music scene.

“Ever since we’ve started, we have wanted to do music that makes us happy because we want to make music for ourselves first,” adds Shahi.

As their previous stints at different bands had not worked out, their aim through Jaire was to have fun. They wanted to release as many songs as they could and tell stories that they felt were important. Both Basnet and Shahi are animal lovers as they say that they draw a lot of inspiration from animals; they have composed music that deals with animal rights issues and injustice.

“This is what brought us together and why we’ve only been a two-piece band,” says Shahi. “We’ve not met another person with whom our ideologies matched.”

They released their EP Prakriti Prabriti in 2020 incorporating five tracks. Staying true to their values, the tracks are reflective of their beliefs. Even though the tracks do not have vocals, one can feel what they are trying to say. The guitar is flawless as Shahi transitions from one part to another with ease along with Basnet who perfectly complements Shahi with his adaptability and consistency.

“She does all the work. I just try and help out,” jokes Basnet.

Hopes and fears

While there have been talks that they might need an extra member to make them even better, the duo feel that they are good on their own as they are still learning and evolving with time.

“We are an underground band who are still exploring. We’re happy with what we’re doing and will continue to do this as a duo.”

When asked if they get frustrated at all due to a lack of listeners, they say they are not too bothered by it. Basnet says they get satisfaction by listening to what they have produced together. While they do get frustrated due to the things going on in their life, composing a track that they like makes it all worth it.

But, there are a lot of challenges for a band like Jaire. Nepal’s music community sustains itself on live shows. As they are a small band, shows are hard to come by. And, with popular bands struggling with album sales, they feel that musicians like themselves need a side hustle to sustain them.

“We both teach because we have to have something that can pay the bills,” says Basnet who adds that musicians nowadays have to do a lot from being their manager to have skills to produce and mix their own songs.

That said, they do feel that applications like Noodle are a good start as they will give musicians some form of revenue. They say as the government does not really care about musicians and artists, it’s the job of the musicians themselves to create a space for one another.

“We’ve only got Spotify in Nepal which has put us a few years behind. Had it been available in Nepal legally a few years ago, it would have helped out a lot as musicians would have come up with a campaign to promote their music,” she says.

But, for now, all they can do is have patience because the industry will take time to develop. They feel that society does not treat musicians with the amount of respect they deserve.

“It’s quite sad because people don’t take us seriously however good we are so it will take time. The community also needs to be a bit more supportive because sometimes we feel there is groupism,” she says. “I’m quite vocal about this as I feel that sometimes people don’t accept us into the groups as they seem to have criteria about who fits and who doesn’t.”

But they do not seem too bothered about it. They want to break barriers and stereotypes doing the music that they want to do in the way they want to do it.

Buy their album here.

Photos: Jaire

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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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