the musing’s of an artist : bartika eam rai
Music takes us places. It takes us down memory lanes, it takes us to the hope we have for the future. It is the thing that we have depended on for happy occasions and sad occasion alike. It invokes the spirit inside us. That is why we feel songs know us more and understand us more than people around us, or also ourselves sometimes. So, what makes music so relatable? Is it the song writer’s vision and the compelling music that makes us feel all the emotions that we didn’t even know we had?
For me personally, and for a lot of people like me, one such musician that sends shiversdown my spine when I hear her songsis Bartika Eam Rai. Her coming ofage songs and amazing song writingskills make her songs one of a kind.She is currently based in the USbut most of her songs are inNepali, making it easier for allthe Nepalese to relate to it more.Since her new album “Taral”has recently been launched,we had an online conversationwith her and got to knowher story.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MY SHOWS HAS ALWAYS BEEN
STRAIGHTFORWARD: YOU ARE WELCOME IF YOU WANT TO
REALLY STAY STILL AND LISTEN TO THE MUSIC.
TO GET TO A POINT IN ONE’S LIFE YOU HAVE TO START. HOW DID YOU START OUT AND FIGURE OUT THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO?
Music-wise, I don’t think that there is a clearly demarcated line of ‘Start’ for me. Whatever I have done through the years has been quite organically a response to things around me: people, places, spaces, strangers… I guess I broke into the world when I first attended Cadenza’s sound check at Patan Museum for Jazzmandu 2010/11 as an intern reporter in a monthly magazine in Kathmandu. Being a figured out person is far far away, I couldn’t put it that way when for me, it really is an ongoing struggle to honestly be able to express all the words, music, and films that keep playing in my head. In these lines, I will use and have used whatever medium is available to me at that moment depending on how well I can use it. To reiterate, it is ongoing. What I want to do is pretty clear: to document the spaces I have been in, the times I have seen. How I do this and why, that is ongoing.
MOST IMPORTANTLY I WOULD LIKE TO GUESS, YOU DO WHAT YOU LOVE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE GIRL FROM NEPAL?
If I understand this question correctly, you are guessing wrong. I am an Accounting Major with Double Minors in Finance and Econ. I live alternate lives of being a full-time accountant and a full-time musician. Whatever remains after the day job of an accountant; those remaining waking hours in my life, I spend doing music and writing in addition to the social obligations that one has to live with. I have yet to do full time music/ writing. I will answer this question at that time.
DO YOU THINK THERE IS A RECURRING THEME IN YOUR MUSIC? WHAT IS YOUR STYLE?
As I have said, I write music as it comes to me. I am not trying to be poetic; it is the only way I have gotten through some of the lowest points in my life. Therefore, it is not up to me to decide on the themes or to sit down and analyze to categorize the ‘literature-worthy’ aspects of my music, if any. However, since I am a creative who leads her projects from start to finish; when I release my music as an album, I do try to work around a theme. My debut EP had six different singles written over 4 years time. Since music is not what I did completely for those four years, it would have been difficult to write six songs on the same theme. However, when I put it up for release, I did present them under a similar theme because that is the way I like to release my albums, like portfolios. Again, sitting down and pondering upon what my style is would only do harm to my probable growth. This is up to the audience to observe about what my style is.
WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES IN YOUR CAREER? WHAT MEASURES DID YOU TAKE TO OVERCOME THEM?
This will be way too long of an answer. Can’t delve into that right now. The challenges have been many and are still ongoing, and will always be. But, I keep walking. I slip, I sit down for the longest while, I stand in the crosswalks; but I keep walking. I overcome the challenges with persistence.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER AS YOUR FIRST NOTEWORTHY ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER OR IF THERE IS A MOMENT THAT YOU CONSIDER TO BE A MILESTONE?
Tiny interactions along the way have shaped me up as a writer/musician/ performer. I don’t know how to define milestones; accolades, fame, and money are all temporary. The relationships I have built with musicians who inspire me, the audiences that connect me with people who I look up to are important to me. No matter how many hits my critical ratings receive, how many views my videos get or how viral my name becomes, at the end of the day, it is my family, related by blood and related by ethics over the years, I have to look in the eyes of and continue living. When I release songs after a two years gap, it is the people who have been listening to my clumsy Soundcloud originals since 2013 that I know are the ones waiting and are in this with me.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MY
SHOWS HAS ALWAYS BEEN
ARE WELCOME IF YOU WANT
TO REALLY STAY STILL AND
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC.
HOW HAS DOING WHAT YOU DO CHANGED YOU? TARAL IS YOUR LATEST ALBUM AND YOU ARE DOING PRE-RELEASE SHOWS ALL OVER THE US, HOW HAS THE REACTION BEEN FROM THE AUDIENCE?
Well it’s definitely certain that if you ever decide to pursue the arts and bare yourself with or into it, it is going to show you lows and highs and make room for you to grow. That is how it keeps changing me.
The US pre-release tour is a five-city tour I organized and executed myself, start to finish. I have worked on this for a long time. The philosophy of my shows has always been straightforward: you are welcome if you want to really stay still and listen to the music. And that is exactly the kind of audience I get. Some of them drove all the way from other states, some from two or three cities away. They have come to me after the show and have shared some personal stories about how they relate to the songs. Some have written to me days after the show sharing how important it was for them to be a part of this journey I have decided to take. Should say that it was awesome! Absolutely love it when the audience really is there for the listening, connecting, and taking some inspiration back home.
WHAT IS THE ALBUM ABOUT?
It is a collection of coming of age songs that I wrote over the span of six to seven years. It took us one and a half years to work on the production with our other full-time jobs. Five years ago, I used to be a completely different person. I was raised to be that very person and never faltered. My beliefs, my ways, and my expectations were what made me.
In my early twenties, I hit my very first rock bottom. Navigating was difficult and it did feel like that was all. It was a cold cold place. When I think of it now, it feels so distant. As if I was never there. I am only here. I can only be at one place at one time. Geography and time are realities so so muddled up but all I can remember is hurting so much it didn’t quite hurt at all. Not a good place to be.
Now that I think back, I wish I were more adaptive, more flexible about my expectations for myself, and more fluid with life as it hit me. ‘Taral’, because days on days and nights on nights in this gloomy strange city, I enviously looked up to the fluid states of matter when I felt like concrete solid rock. ‘Taral’ is about loss, regret, letting go, love, hurt, ego, learning, falling, messing up, death, wrinkles, falling out, homelessness, belonging, aging, drifting away and apart. This is an album I have worked on, with fantastic collaborators across the country and the globe, to give life to the words I wrote wherever I was placed over this year, singing to myself; sometimes in over 700 crowds and sometimes in the middle of empty 4/4 NYC walls. ‘Taral’ is an album to remind me of the places I have seen, the people I have been, the friends who stayed, and the strangers who left.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WORK? WHAT DO YOU USUALLY DO TO FEEL MOTIVATED WHEN YOU FEEL LOW?
Real life interactions and stillness really inspire my work. I don’t do anything if I am not motivated. You need to hustle and move around to observe and listen to others around you but there is so much noise. To filter the noise and to really listen to yourself, you do need to be still too. I write because I ‘have to’ more often than because I should.
WHAT ELSE YOU DO LIKE DOING? ANY INTERESTING PASTIMES OR HOBBIES?
I love filmmaking; every detail that goes into the making of it. I have propagated towards the film making scene for a long time now and eventually will end up there. I also want to write a lot more children’s songs.
WHAT ARE YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCES? WHICH ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE?
I like musicians who focus on really writing their songs. This list is going to get way too long but 10 of them are on my playlist right now: Rachael Yamagata, Shreeti Pradhan, Jerusha Rai, Tribal Rain, Yugal Gurung, Belle and Sebastian, Regina Spektor, Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, and Nick Drake (in no particular order).
WHAT DO YOU PLAN FOR THE FUTURE? DO YOU PLAN ON DOING MORE COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ARTISTS?
Will live one day at a time, there is a rough idea of how I’d like to plan the ‘future’ but it’s cool even if it either happens or not.
Yes, to the collaborations! I am a collaborative artist, it gets very challenging and sometimes frustrating to push myself this way but I realized early on that this is one of the best ways for me to grow.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO TODAY’S ASPIRING ARTISTS WHO ARE WORKING TOWARDS THEIR MUSICAL CAREER, IN NEPAL AND ABROAD?
Keep walking. Fall down and stand up, slip and get in somebody else’s territory, come back, sit down at a rest stop for weeks, but get up and keep walking.
INTERVIEWED BY: SHREEYA SANGROULA