1974 A D: The Picture Perfect Band
1974AD is one of the most popular and influential band pioneering the Nepali music industry for almost 2 decades. Despite producing amazing albums over the years, each band member have his own individual projects venturing successfully on the sides. Besides music, these men are also the idealistic modern day Nepali men on all trades of life. TNM team is more than priviledged to have this rendezvous with them, highlighting their journey together and their individual life.
Many would not shy away from considering 1974 AD as the closest things to the Beatles that Nepal will ever have, and few would actually contradict it. With almost two decades under their belt, the band has remained a rock solid force in the music industry, consistently bringing out music that everyone loves. Not content with rocking just the nation, 1974 AD has performed in many parts of the world, winning over audiences of various nationalities and age groups. But it doesn’t end there. There is another side to the members of the band, who each are an entrepreneur in their own way. A band that has stood the test of time and maintained a proper stature in the music industry without succumbing to the typical band stereotype, 1974 AD has more or less been the face of the mainstream Nepali rock music scene. Thus, it seemed only natural to get to know them better for this second cover story of TNM.
We were asked to meet them at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory and excitedly made it to the venue spot on time. Manoj, Sanjay and Adrian were all standing around a Mac book on the table, hushed. Sanjay stood silent, a finger placed loosely on his lips, intent and observant. So we decided to not disturb and wait for them to be done with whatever they were concentrated on. Then Adrian asked us to come over and we quietly waited for Manoj to play the music video that he had edited. It was the interesting music video of the song ‘Neta Ji’, executed by Sanjay’s other band ‘Joint Family Internationale’. The upbeat reggae music of ‘Neta Ji’ ended the stillness and all three heads began bobbing to the beat and we couldn’t help ourselves from giving little foot taps of our own. A wide smile spread across Adrian’s face as he looked at us while leaning on the table, and we reciprocated with a nervous smile of my own. However, the nervousness disappeared in a short while as we were seated and began talking about the men and their band after Nirakar joined in.
Being in 1974 AD is very important for us. So the band gets a lot of priority despite many other things.
TNM: Tell us how 1974 AD started.
Nirakar: The band started out in 1994 and what we initially planned on was to have a nice time and a reason to get together and jam. We never really expected it to become this big.
TNM: And man did you guys become famous!
Nirakar: Yeah… bad luck I guess… (Followed by everyone laughing)
TNM: Is there any story behind naming the band 1974 AD?
Nirakar: Back in the days, we used to do a lot of cover songs of bands that existed in the 70’s. We loved the music of that era, and our name is a sort of tribute to that.
TNM: 1974 AD has toured to various corners of the world. Where was your best experience?
Adrian: Australia was really fun for me, what do you guys think? (Looking at the rest of the band who reciprocated with a nod)
Nirakar: The US tour wasn’t bad either.
TNM: Is there any special experience of your tours that you would like to share with us?
Manoj: During our first US tour in 2002, which lasted 3 months, we got our own vehicle to move around in and that was awesome. We weren’t restricted to any flight schedules and we could stop anywhere we wanted to. In fact we even hung out with a group of Harley riders, which was great. It was a proper road trip, and at the end of the tour, our transportation costs rounded up to about $18000 -$19000. It has to be the most memorable tour.
TNM: Is there any particular performance where it struck you guys that you were making an impact?
Manoj: Every performance we do has a charm of its own. Once you’re on stage, everyone is a different character. You feel like you are the king.
But a particular concert that really struck us has to be when we performed at a California Fair. There were very few Nepali people in the audience and despite that we were performing our own Nepali songs (because we don’t do covers). Surprisingly, the crowd went crazy for us!! It was amazing to see non-Nepalese fans appreciating our songs.
TNM: Every band has a member who is a little wild on stage. Who is that member in 1974 AD?
Nirakar: Ooh (pointing at Manoj), that daaju there. People call him “ants in his pants” when you see him on stage. He is all over the place, crazy I tell you.
Sanjay: There are times when we’re scared he’ll fall right off the stage. One time, I was looking at him on stage during our performance and he was running around like crazy. I was so worried he’d hurt himself that I messed up my part!
TNM: You all seem like a playful group. Do you have nicknames for each other?
Nirakar: We call Manoj – Kallu, Mannu, Hero… for obvious reasons (a nudge at Manoj Dai’s darker complexion). We kid a lot with names.
Adrian: We have nick names for each other actually. Interestingly, all of it relates to each singer from The Beatles. I am called ‘Phone Lennon’ (John Lennon) because I am always on the phone, 24X7. Manoj is ‘George Hairy-Son’ (George Harrison) because god has blessed him with a generous amount of hair on his body. Sanjay is ‘Chindu Star’ (Ringo Starr) because of his bright bald head and Nirakar Dai is ‘Pual Ma-Gardney’ (Paul McCartney)… for some reason or the other.
Sanjay: We joke around a lot and it is fun to hang out with the band. We’re always pulling each others’ legs.
Manoj: Undoubtedly, Nirakar Dai is the leader of the band and we consider him as our ‘Dai’. He keeps us in check, especially during tours. If we get too out of hand, he takes us to a corner and sets us straight. Haha.
Nirakar: And I don’t really care when I go off track myself… haha.
TNM: You are a jolly group, but I’m sure there have been times when things did not look as good as it usually does.
Sanjay: Yea, I guess every band has its ups and downs. For us it was when Firoz Dai left the band. It was a very tough time for the band. But things worked out as he came back last year and we did a massive concert in St. Xavier’s. By the way, we will be coming up with a new album in 2014 to celebrate our 20th anniversary as a band.
TNM: Apart from the band, all of you have your own thing going. How do you manage to sync up with each other to practice?
Nirakar: Being in 1974 AD is very important for us. So the band gets a lot of priority despite many other things. If we didn’t give priority to the band, we may not be in the position that we are in right now. But time and again, we decide to take breaks so that we don’t get saturated. And that’s when we gather new ideas and learn new things that we can implement on the band.
TNM: What is the best part about being 1974 AD?
Adrian: It’s probably the spectrum of the age group in our fans. We have listeners who range from children to old people. Maybe it’s because we’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years.
TNM: Twenty years is definitely something to brag about, what’s in store for the future of 1974 AD?
1974 AD: Yeah, we’ll see where it goes. In the past, we did a lot of strategic marketing and cleverly made our every move. But now, we are in a position where we can dare to take things as they come.
TNM: Tell us something that we don’t know about the band.
Sanjay: Sadly, half of the things we couldn’t really tell you. Even if we did, you probably wouldn’t print it.
Adrian Pradhan was born in Kalimpong, did all his studies there and passed out from Kalimpong Government College. Adrian was into music from his childhood. He was involved in the local church choir and this was probably how the passion for music in him ignited. Because a career in music was not an ideal career according to the general norm, he initially had something else in mind.
“I always had it in mind that I should be an army officer or something like that, but what can I say, that dream was pretty much demolished”, recall Adrian.
He came to Kathmandu in 1994 to perform with his band from Kalimpong and started working in Little Angels School as an English teacher. Then he began teaching in Galaxy Public School and later on met Nirakar Yakhtumba, who invited him to join the band 1974 AD. Although he started out on the piano for the band, he later shifted to madaal and later percussions. After becoming the voice of 1974 AD, the rest was history.
TNM: What are your passions besides music?
AP: For me, my main passion is music. Apart from 1974 AD, I have started another unplugged band which is coming out very nicely. I also have another band called Victory, with whom I do concerts and live tours. Apart from that, I get offers from Nepali movies and there is freelancing as well. But with all the things that are piling up, I get really busy.
Currently, I’m also working on my new solo album where I’ve tried something new with folk music integration, and I am really anxious to see how it’s going t do.
TNM: Give us your take on politics.
AP: I think everyone should rather just listen to the song Neta Ji. I would like to dedicate this song to all the ‘Netas’ and everyone who is said to be in charge of the country.
TNM: If you could meet anyone in this world, dead or alive, who would it be?
AP: I would like to meet my ‘boju’ (paternal grand mom).
TNM: Three things you would want to have with you if you were stranded in a desert island.
AP: My guitar, my phone and (after thinking for some time)… that’s it I guess!
Manoj KC first got his hands on the tabla at the young age of three when an uncle began teaching him a few beats on it. A sincere student in his school days, he was into Eastern Classical music and regularly practiced after school. He later switched to Pianos and moved on to learning the Guitar.
“The way I was introduced into 1974 AD was when I sold my guitar to Firoz Dai to buy an Ibanez. I asked him how to write notations, and he showed it to me”, says Manoj.
At the age of 16, he was already handling a little bit of his father’s business and also opened a music pub in Jawlakhel named 3MB, with his friends.
It had only been 19 months he had began learning how to play the guitar, but 1974 AD asked the then sixteen year old Manoj KC to perform with them in their outdoor concert in 1994. The second album, ‘Samjhi Baschu’ was the first album he was involved with in the band and began recording together with the third album ‘Sataabdi’.
Because his father was living abroad and he had to grow up with his mother, Manoj KC was always independent. Right from learning to play the guitar to his hobbies like photography, audio engineering etc, he learnt it all himself.
“It’s easier for youngsters to learn things now through the internet, but it wasn’t the case back then. Now, I’m on the computer constantly, learning and updating myself constantly”, explains Manoj.
TNM: What are your passions besides music?
MKC: I have a lot of things going on, but everything revolves around music. I have a radio station RVL Radio where I do the Sound Designing. I am also involved in Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory where I teach Audio Engineering. KJC is a huge part of what I do now. Nirakar Dai and I wanted to make learning music a possibility in Nepal, and we are now doing it in the most professional manner possible through KJC. Apart from that, I do a little bit of background scoring for movies, amongst which Kagbeni, Sano Sansar and Highway is a few. I work as a producer and make television signature tunes too. Basically, everything I do is related to music in one way or the other. And most recently I have begun on editing music videos.
TNM: What was your first guitar?
MKC: It was a really nice Bruce Springsteen styled telecaster model guitar that my Dad sent me.
TNM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
MKC: I would like to work on Audio Engineering sincerely, because that is what I do best. Another thing that I would like to do is start a school of rock guitar. I think that would be really cool and is something I have been thinking of for a very long time. Practicing and learning music is also on the top of my list as I want to continue what I am doing now.
TNM: If there was anyone you could meet, dead or alive, who would it be?
MKC: I would like to meet David Gilmore or Guthrie Govan.
TNM: Which is one of your best times with the band?
MKC: I was officially part of the band in ’98 with the launch of the album – Samjhi Baschu. We were all giving our inputs and I was pretty young at that time. So I played them my composition of ‘Parelima’ which I had composed before I was in the band. Since the song wasn’t quite refined, the band polished the song up and it came out to be a great hit. I’m glad to have brought in that song to the band.
After finishing school from North Point Darjeeling, Nirakar Yakhtumba finished college from Chandigarh. Once he got back to Nepal, he joined Gyanodaya School where he looked after the extracurricular activities and sports. He was especially involved into basketball, where he played a huge part in not only the school team but national team as well.
In 1994, Nirakar Yakthumba and Firoz Syangden started 1974 AD, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he really took the band’s actions up a notch.
“Slowly I started doing things on my own. In the early 2000, I had to make a decision about what to do, because I knew that doing too many things wouldn’t work well. So I discussed with my friends and family about getting seriously into music, and I got mixed reactions. But deep down, I knew that it would work out. Back then I wasn’t married, so my then girlfriend (now wife) used to call me a ‘dreamer’. But luckily everything worked out”, vividly recollects Nirakar.
TNM: Music is your first love. But you have so many other things going on in your life as well. Tell us more about it.
NY: Ten years back I started Moksh, and I wanted it to be a spot where musicians could get together and jam up. Now, it’s come a long way. Lonely Planet has been recommending it for I don’t know how many years. Later, I was jamming with my friend Mariano when we decided to come up with a music school in Nepal, and Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory was born.
My other passion has been mountain biking. Right now I am the Chairman of Chain (a company that manufactures Nepali mountain bikes). We also have a company called Life Cycle in Hetauda. And I play my part in Epic Events through which we organize mountain biking events and other outdoor events. We will be getting into international events too soon.
I have always been into martial arts as well, and now we are starting the first school of Akido Dojo, which is a different form of martial arts I am into.
TNM: Are there any particular highs or lows during your career?
NY: I feel really lucky to be doing what I am doing, because it has always been an extension of what I love. So it’s never been like working for me. Every day I look forward to doing what I am doing because I enjoy it.
Right now I have another band called ‘What the Funk’ and I love jamming with them as well. I love everything I do, and I get paid doing that. I know that by doing what I am doing, I may not become the richest man in the country, but I don’t want to be that. I feel lucky to be where I am.
TNM: If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
NY: I would really love to meet Nelson Mandela, because to me what he has done is very inspirational. What he did shows that nothing is impossible. So, I’d like to toast a whisky with him.
Brother Josh Niraula gifted Sanjay Shrestha with his first guitar after hearing him play with numerous bands in his school days at St. Xavier’s. Then in 1997, while studying in the 12th standard, Sanjay started a band called ‘Shristi’ with his fellow Xaverians. Shristi is remembered as bringing ‘fusion’ music to the mainstream audience in Nepal and was one of the first bands to cut a CD album in Nepal. While Sanjay’s first instrument was the Nepali folk maadal, his experience has led him to experiment with all kinds of drums and percussions and various forms of music including fusion, rock, classical, jazz, reggae, and heavy rock. Sanjay joined 1974 AD only in 1999 as a percussionist and shifted to drums in 2009. He has also been involved in the vocal sector of the band, singing the song Swargadapi Gariyasi’ on the Album ‘On Air’.
In August 2009, Sanjay and some fellow Xaverians founded House of Music, which has gone on to become one of the premier live music venues in Kathmandu. And more recently, has formed the reggae band ‘Joint Family Internationale’ who has come up with the latest musical hit in town – Neta Ji.
TNM: Apart from music, what is your main passion?
SS: Music is my main passion and everything I do is related to music. Currently, I am having a lot of fun working on the first album for Joint Family. Also, House of Music is a big part of what I am into right now, and that is turning out very well. Apart from that, I like travelling very much.
TNM: Which place would you like to visit in the future?
SS: I’d like to visit Cuba or maybe Jamaica.
TNM: What is your take on politics?
SS: I really don’t care who leads the country. All that matters is that, the one who takes the lead should be sincerely committed for the betterment of the country, sacrificing every personal interest.
TNM: If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
SS: I would have liked to meet Mother Teresa. I wish I could ask her how she got the courage to sacrifice her own life for those of others.
TNM: What three things you would want to have with you if you were stranded in a desert island?
SS: A guitar, water and maybe a bottle of nice whisky so I can get into the groove.
TNM: What do you consider to be your greatest strength and weakness?
SS: My weakness is that I can’t say no to people. I am trying to change that about myself. My strength is that I like to socialize with new people and I am pretty easy going. That’s maybe why I have a lot of friends in different places.
Cover Story: Ankit Shakya | Photography: kishor Kayastha | Make-up: Miki Tanaka