For singer-songwriter Shiva Mukhiya, the frontman of The Axe band, what happened in the Nepali music industry in the past 30 years is no less than a sea change, in particular in terms of the professionalisation of musical concerts.
There were times when these concerts were just a hangout spot for drug users and gang disputes. The notorious audience used to bring weapons inside their bags. Many concertgoers have even lost their lives during the concert.
But, now things are different, says Mukhiya. Today’s crowds are very decent in comparison to the past. But, this is not the only thing that changed over the years. As a member of the band regularly organising concerts, Shiva Mukhiya says the changes are positive and they help the entire music industry grow professionally.
Journey towards professionalism
Back then, the artists during the concerts used to mainly cover western artists. It was evident that they did not have any motivation to create original songs. Moreover, the audiences too were not conscious of various genres of songs. They would attend concerts without considering the performing artists’ genre of music.
“But, today, people just go to watch the artist of their choice. The crowds at concerts are dispersed according to the genre they like.”
In Shiva Mukhiya’s observation, the primary purpose of concerts has also changed.
“Earlier, only the youngsters used to organise concerts out of their passion. They always used to face losses and run away during the time of payment.”
But, now, everything has improved significantly, from the technology, management, and professionalism to crowd, venue and payment.
Shiva Mukhiya says the presence of the female audience in concerts also surprises him as many times it is more than bigger than the male audience.
In yesteryear, a female fan attending a concert was a rarity.
Concerts have been a place for Mukhiya to observe the sociological change in society.
Consistency in music
Shiva Mukhiya’s band The Axe were formed in 1992. Since then, many bands have shown their presence, but most of them were as ephemeral as mayflies. But, The Axe remained consistent with their music. The band kept giving music and performing in the shows. Songs such Lukna Deu Malai, Euta Chitti, Timi Ko Hau and others are their massive hits, which are performed even today in restaurants and other musical spaces.
Many people are still in wonder about how the band have consistently produced great tunes one after another.
“We did not expect to make much money from the music,” says Mukhiya. “This is the main factor driving us to make music for three decades.”
“I can’t afford to be rich. The more money you will have, the more trouble you will have to face”, he says being overambitious in terms of finances causes disbanding.
Creativity has always been Shiva Mukhiya’s priority. He loves writing and composing songs rather than anything else. Mukhiya’s biggest dream is to make people listen to his songs.
It is not that Mukhiya has never been pressured to earn by doing something except music. He too tried his luck in the British Army twice because of his family although he did not have any interest in it. He says he is glad that he could not make it.
“I never wanted to leave my country for a job. I can easily earn adequate money for myself in my own country. I can’t remain detached from my country, culture, festival and family,” says Mukhiya.
Even today, when he goes on an international tour, he starts feeling homesick within a month.
Creating patriotic music
And, the same feeling helped him become a filmmaker too. He has directed films on stories of different indigenous communities in Nepal. Go Su Naya and Naso are two indigenous short films directed by Mukhiya. Currently, he is busy working on another indigenous feature film.
Likewise, Mukhiya has already collected stories from communities like Tamang, Tharu, Bhujel and others to make films about them.
So what makes the song beautiful? Mukhiya says it is the songwriting process. So what is his songwriting process?
First, Shiva Mukhiya chooses a topic, then creates a story on it and writes lyrics. He says that all of his lyrics come from his own experience. About composing songs, he says every word has its own expression and musicians need to put melodies on it accordingly.
With that, Mukhiya especially focuses on the pentatonic scale for composition. “I find Nepali essence in the pentatonic scale.”
Similarly, he also looks up to ragas for the composition. For instance, one of his musical pieces Praya Sadhai is based on Brindabani Sarang.
While Mukhiya uses various ideas to write and compose songs, he sees a lack of creativity in young musicians. Today, due to technology, making music has been an easy task, he says.
“But, such technology is killing their creativity,” he says, “Actually they are not using software, but the software is using them.”
The Axe have not released any songs in the last two years. Their recent release was Dhanyabaad. But, for the next year, the band have so many surprises for their fans.
“We have around six songs in the pipeline, and a couple of them will be released in early 2023,” says Mukhiya.