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Jhilkey and the Company: Giving voice to the voiceless

The band performing at Beers N Cheers. Photo: Jyoti Shrestha

When Jhilkey and the Company get on stage, the crowd reacts differently. The band, through their music, bring energy like no other. With their contrasting music that is loud and raw, the band question and entertain you at the same time. As a band, they do not follow the notions; they do the opposite, they challenge them as they aim to be a voice of the voiceless, a beacon of hope to the working class and the underrepresented.

“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do: question people and sing songs about things no one else does,” says Steve Dewan, the band’s frontman.

An IT master’s brainchild

The band got formed in August 2019, but it feels like they have been around for years. They have been getting attention from both the music fraternity and fans. Their shows are well received by all; they have been to Birtamode, Dharan, Pokhara, Butwal, and Bhairahawa. Now, they are working on a new album which they plan to release in the next year.

“We’ve started recording it. Hopefully, the fans will like it,” says Dewan.

Jhilkey and the Company is Dewan’s brainchild that had been on his mind since he was getting his master’s degree in IT in Bangalore. After finishing his degree, he left everything in Banglore behind and returned to Nepal to do this project.

Here, he started to look for people. He already knew Bishal Hang Rai, who can play any instrument you put in his hand. Then, he was asked to contact Dipson Narsingh KC, who could play the drums. He still needed one final piece and decided to go with Siddhartha Upreti, his cousin, to play the keyboards.

“The first jam with all of them has to be one of my favourite moments. I knew that this would work,” says Dewan.

A quick climb

Since they started out, the band has been loved by the audience for the energy they bring. Photo: Jyoti Shrestha

With the DIY band ready, they needed songs to play. In practice, they did covers, but deep inside, Dewan always wanted to do originals and he had prepared a few during his time in Bangalore. After a few practice sessions, they played their first show at Beers N Cheers, already home for original music in the Kathmandu valley.

“Their first show was fun. With each show, they’ve become tighter as a group. We love the energy and how they gel as a unit,” says Ritavrat Joshi. “On top of that the non-stop chatter and crowd interaction that Steve can muster. The boppy and catchy yet rocking melodies. This is a band that is to be seen live. Hope they do tons of gigs in the coming days.”

In the next six months, they started working on their EP and launched it on January 25, 2020. The album was launched at Purple Haze, after which they got a warm response. Their songs started to be shared on various social media outlets as people started to tag them on their Instagram stories. For a band that did not have a lot of expectations, the EP was a hit.

“I didn’t think we’d be getting such a response, but we’re quite glad that people liked it. The fact that people bought it itself is great,” says Dewan.

But, a few months after the EP launch, Nepal went on lockdown to control the Covid-19 pandemic and most of their plans had to be put on hold. They had plans of touring Nepal from Mechi to Mahakali as they wanted more people to listen to their songs. But, after a few shows, they, like the rest of Nepal for the most part of 2020, were at home.

“We did manage to go to Dharan and a few cities in the east. We went there for the fans. We didn’t care about making money during that tour. It was purely for the fans, and I think both us and the fans had a lot of fun,” says Dewan.

Linking lyrics with life

Many argue that kids love their music because it resonates with them. They relate with the lyrics that talk about why people need to leave Nepal to become successful. Dewan says he never resonated with the rock music that was popular when he was a kid and adds that he now wants to sing songs that connect with them. 

“I want to be organic. I want to sing about things I faced growing up in the Kathmandu valley. I don’t want to sound nationalistic, none of us does. We just want to be ourselves and express ourselves.”

Having idolised bands like the Sex Pistols, Greenday and the Who, Dewan says he has always wanted to be a performing artist. And, he has been doing that as whenever Jhilkey are on stage, they put up a show. But, there are times when things get a bit awkward when Dewan starts to talk about random vulgar things that a part of the crowd enjoys and others do not.

“Bands in the west have been doing this for the past 30 years. I like to see the shock in people’s faces when I do that,” he laughs.

When asked if his lyrics are indeed nationalistic, he says he does not think it is. But, that said, he does add that any art has the tendency to be political, but he does not try to be. He and the band believe what they sing is representative of the socio-political environment.

“A person might sing that his life sucks, but if you look deep into it, his life sucks for a reason. We’re trying to create a discourse about why that is the case,” says Dewan.

He wants to write about the working class because he feels they are not represented in Nepal’s rock music scene. In his song Nilo Suitcase, he questions why a Nepali has to leave Nepal in order for his/her dream to come true. He talks about how millions of kids growing up will have to leave the country in order to live the life they deserve. 

“In Nepal, a kid from a poor family doesn’t have the right to dream. I want to question why that is,” he says.

As the band is recording its new album, Dewan has changed the way he operates too. Having done most of the songs himself, now, he wants to involve his bandmates in the writing process so they can collectively ask questions about things people do not like talking about.

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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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