WOW | Music Conversation

Salil Subedi

A multidisciplinary artist and Nepali didgeridoo player, Salil Subedi believes that we all are born as spiritual beings. Recognised as a musician, writer and a theatre and performance artist, he has performed across Nepal and in many international venues. The core of his work resonates around nature, wildlife and humanity. Excerpts from a musical conversation with the passionate artist and profound human being:

You are seen and recognised as an exceptional and versatile performer and artiste, how did your love for music and theatre come about?

I believe we all grow up loving music and the arts. Soon, for some it becomes a favourite pastime, for some just a profession, and for some a pursuit of passion. I have been lucky to be able to blend my curiosity and passion as a profession. Sharing and learning with the audience and artists continues to nourish my love for music and theatre because they make it all the more meaningful.

Who have been your greatest influences in music?

When it comes to didgeridoo and fusion music I am influenced by experimental and independent (Indie) musicians and sound artists from around the globe. The elder Djalu Gurruwiwi, Mark Atkins (whom I performed with in Kathmandu, 2012), Yothu Yindi, Ganga Giri, David Hudson, Dr. Didge are some influences for the didge. Interestingly, the Nepali songs and music that I have not yet produced but performed in private circles are an influence from Dharma Raj Thapa’s style of storytelling through folk ballads. U2’s Bono was a big influence on me for combining social action, writing, and music for a cause. Nepali Sitar virtuoso Bijay Vaidya’s playful nature in exploring music software and making music remains a timeless influence on me to continue exploring new music technology and home based recording possibilities.

How would you describe yourself as a person?

Naughty, playful, passionate, humorous, curious and overtly modest at times (sigh). Once in a while I get lost in the woods of surreal times for days to battle off the demons of uncertainty and dilemma; and also to come out fresh in the world through tormenting but meaningful initiation of self-healing. I am a person who is open to share these experiences and hear others reflecting their own. For me this is love. I am love.

You play the didgeridoo, where did you learn it and why did you choose this instrument?

I self taught myself the art of playing didgeridoo in my hometown, Kathmandu. It was accidental. I first stumbled into this magical instrument some 18 years ago when I interviewed an Australian band ‘Sirocco’ for a daily newspaper I was working for as a young reporter. That day changed my life. The deep overtones it reverberated, its material, shape, texture, smell, and the mythological association with each dotted colours and sound unlocked a new universe to me. I saw a dream shaping right in front of my eyes that one day I would be touring the world stages with this instrument. And it did happen. Dreams happen. In my learning days meeting Bijay Gurung – the only didge player of Kathmandu then and Amrit Gurung – the only didge maker of Pokhara helped me to enhance my skills as we shared essential techniques in few but meaningful interactions.

How spiritually inclined are you? And does this have any connection with music and arts? What does music mean to you?

We are born as spiritual beings. Music and artistic expressions are simply a method of expression of the mystery of life and the beauty it carries. Everything around us and everything we do can become art, and every expression and every word we write and utter can become music if it is lived through mindful awareness such as: the way a farmer plants seeds, the way a surgeon guides her blades into the soft tissue, the moment when an overworked porter sings on top of the hill, the way a mother rubs oil on her new born baby, the moment when a victim of violence forgives the perpetrator, the way a leaf flutters in the breeze, the way a dog looks deep into the night smelling dangers and hearing sounds we cannot see or hear, the way birds soar in the sky to the thermal heat, the way a school of fish gathers like a giant beast in the coral reef, the way the thin ice melts into the sea, the way galaxies collide into each other and give birth to new stars and create infinite equations of probabilities. So there is no way we are free from not being spiritual. I am spiritual too. The only question is: have we cultivated that quality in us to acknowledge, appreciate and practice this in our life? The faculty of music and art should work to provoke the latent pessimists and motivate eager minds.

What have been some of your most memorable performances?

I have probably enjoyed all my performances so far though not all of them were pleasant to the body at times! I have injured my legs, body, and fallen sick post-performance often. A friend joked – falling sick after performance has become a part of my artistic style. I couldn’t agree more. From performing bare footed on cold grassy steeps of Mongolia to making bare footed performance – walking inside the alleyways of Patan; from running bare footed in Chitwan National Park as a bleeding Rhino to walking bare footed on piles of debris doing sound art therapy to the children of earthquake torn epicentre village Barpak – many of my performances bear bare contacts with rough natural elements. But the best is when I have buried myself inside the earth or dipped in muddy pools and while making nude performance art in the nature. Worst is taking voice rest for weeks to heal a bleeding throat from blowing too much power packed didge.

… And who would you like to perform with and for?

I want to keep performing with folk, national and international musicians and actors who are open for collaboration, who practice the art of respect, and who impart knowledge. I want to continue doing sound healing sessions as much as I can for hundreds of people who need a boost in life to remind them: “You are okay!” For thousands of audiences eager to go wild, crazy and yearning to let their free spirits come out with love into the light!

QUICK PICKS

Favourite Instrument: Didgeridoo, Singing Bowls, Fujara, Murchunga, Ukelele, Sarangi, Guitar, Voice
An all time favourite song: My Sweet Lord – George Harrison
Growing up I listened to: Rock Ballads, Scottish Folk Songs, Western Pop, Goa Trance, Radio Nepal Artists.
Music makes me: Go #Fullpower!

Songs that:
Inspire you: Tribal Voice by Yothu Yindi
Relax you: Life is Long by Brian Eno and David Byrne
Make you happy: Roots Woman by Jimmy Cliff
Make your feet move: He Shiva Shankara! by Nina Hagen
Make you forget about the world: Galactic Mantra by Ovnimoon

5 fun facts that people don’t know about you:
My curly hair is natural, please! (Genetic)
I run 10k regularly in less than 60 mins (cycling too)
I am a licenced tour guide too, you may book me (exclusive timing).
I was the vocalist and co-founder of a rock band called ‘Ionica’ (1990-92)
I take daily online classes on diverse subjects on Coursera, EdX, Udemy.