BARTIKA EAM RAI : Airspace to Allegory

May 1, 2016 , by DREAMS, 1 Comment
BARTIKA EAM RAI : Airspace to Allegory » My Dreams Mag
Bartika Eam Rai a writer, a radio jockey, a teacher and also a pageant winner but currently, she is mostly known for her singing/ song writing for the emerging album "Bimbaakash". DREAMS caught up with versatile Rai to talk about her new album, love for arts and her process of discovering where her passion lies.
How have you managed to be so proficient in so many different aspects of art? Is any aspect more difficult than other?

For me, writing is a state of being. It is as part of me as the necessity to eat. And I loved the radio, I grew up jotting down lyrics in the radio with my mother when I was six/seven, I dubbed over my mother’s “Just For You” cassette tapes by mimicking RJs where I held my own show, being the caller as well as the singer all at the same time. One of my longstanding wildest dreams has been to fall in love over the radio, the one that happens over cheesy anonymous messages in dramas (Yes, sure!).

I am passionate about arts as an entity which is why I am constantly involved in (m)any form of arts that I can get my hands on. I really enjoy telling stories, in any form I can get. More than discovering where my passion lies, I am in the process of discovering myself. Every aspect of art has made me happy at some point of life and therefore, there is no such comparison.

We know that you have been performing and writing for a while now. What made you decide to take a plunge to record an album this time?

I have been ducking repeated questions from my people who kept asking me, “So when are you going to record these songs?” for some time now. I might have been unconsciously affected by that.

Also, Aamaji (my mother) never shows any excitement about anything I do, she is all about balance. The only thing she has ever shown excitement has been my music. When all this will fade tomorrow, I know she will still be singing my songs, albeit in her own renditions. In 2012, I had started working on music collaborations with my closest people in Kathmandu. Ever since then, Aamaji kept asking me, at various points of time, about what I was doing about my music. So unconsciously, it might have been for her. When all this will fade tomorrow, I know she will still be singing my songs, albeit in her own renditions.

Consciously though, it was time for me to let it all out. The pent up songs sought for a release. I just had to let them get out of my system.

What do you suggest to aspiring artists to do to get opportunity as such?

The normal of “opportunity as such” is changing in the music scene. Thankfully, it is not all centred on landing a record label, working networks to get to a studio and building connections to get your videos to do the rounds on the TV. We live at a time when recording/expressing is accessible in easier ways and musicians are defying the conventions: in ways more than one, we create our own opportunities.

If you are genuinely into music today, you can record it at home. We have had amazing music come out of living room sessions with friends who musically click when together. Understanding the difference between making music and the audience reach (which is ephemeral) is vital to stay grounded too. Keep making music, attend as many LIVE shows/freestyle jams that you can get your hands on. In being invested in these ways, you might just end up being able to express a space you always have wanted to express. Keep your senses open, you never know when it clicks.

How is the support back in New York? Has it been easier for you to make music there compared to here in Nepal?

The support has been good everywhere (touchwood). New York obviously lets me be more individualistic than Nepal. The good difference I have had is the waiver in the curfew time in New York. As inspiration and my loner space that was necessary for writing some mad stuff, it might have definitely worked for me to be away from home. But this has had both pros and cons. For one, if I wasn’t in New York, I would not have worked with Diwas Gurung on this particular project, the timing wouldn’t have worked well that way.

Musically, the saddest reality though, is that I cannot collaborate with the people back home. We definitely could make some compulsory music over the internet but collaboration is more about the energy than calculation.

Your lyrics, the voice and even the name of the album speak volumes about your attachment towards Nepal and Nepali language. Has it been easy to stay connected to your roots when you are living in such a different and a faraway setting?

In fact, it required for me to travel halfway across the world to realize how connected I was to my roots. It took me over twenty years of taking Nepal for granted to reset my life to ground zero in an anonymous land to appreciate my roots. Also, Aamaji instilled in me, the love for the language and the assertion in myself to be comfortable in my skin. I have had a very active childhood and my memories exist in blocks of back stories. Since Nepal and the language are integral parts of my childhood and memories, it has been instinctive for me to remain connected to my roots. I take extreme pride in the beautiful language that Nepali is and don’t hold back when given the opportunity to make that clear.

In one of your recent uploads, you talked about how this album is a collaborative one. Please tell us more about the process.

I am a collaborative musician, which means I work better in communicating with other musicians. The songs that make up Bimbaakash are songs I have had for a range of three years. I never released them because I was expecting them to grow. None of that ever happened which is why I knew I needed another input into the songs, another perspective.

I got in touch with Diwas Gurung in late October 2015 and introduced my clumsy singing to him, to which he seemed genuinely interested. Once he agreed to put some time into this, I sent him raw acoustic versions of my songs, one at a time, which I had recorded with my USB mic on my computer. He would then track my music his way (as a response), after which we would both have discussions about how we felt about the vibe of the individual song, what instruments sounded right with it, the tonality, dynamics, bass-end breakdowns, etc. He is a very spacey engineer meaning that he listens to everything I have to say. While I communicated with him in voice, he would respond with the guitar- that was really insightful!

He has the rare gift which is a combination of talent, creative precision, patience and humility- he has endlessly listened to all my back stories in context to understand the feeling of the songs better- for he appreciates that collaboration works better when we are in similar planes.

The songs from your album are creating a noticeable buzz here in Kathmandu and other major cities. How do you feel about this?

The energy is all good and humbling. Honestly though, I do not really know what else to do about it.

Can you see yourself as a full time musician any time soon? If not, what does the next few years look like?

Point blank honestly, I cannot afford to be a full time musician right now. The next few years look like me working like a madwoman. I am still writing songs. I don’t want to tour yet or commit to lots of LIVE music yet but I will keep doing what I am. Also, I cannot take myself seriously as a singer. The brain has still not relayed that. I am still the clumsy songwriter singer in my own space, communicating with the time that I am in.

What have been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of this journey?

Aamaji’s reaction has been the most rewarding. The fact that Kokuji (my grandmother) has listened to my music is a happy-happy feeling. The most challenging has been to respond to the strategic aspects of suddenly attracting some attention (sales, publicity, marketing, reach and such).

Are there any plans to sell or distribute your album in Nepal?

Initially, there was none. But under pressure and some genuine demands, we have produced limited copies of CDs for Nepal that are going to be out in the market in May.

Can we expect to see you back home any time soon?

I cannot say anything about that right now. Whatever happens and however though, will all be good.

Do you have a favourite song from the album?

The best illustration I can give you is to say that my songs have now become like my babies, choosing them, is difficult per se. But I will say this, I started writing Khushi for Papaji (my father), who passed away when I was fifteen years old. I began writing that song with the chorus and as I wrote the song, realized that that was in fact my silent prayer to all the people around me that I am grateful for. I am clearly a personal songwriter but Khushi, for reasons beyond generic, is very personal to me.

Finally, can we expect to see you back home any time soon?

I cannot say anything about that right now. Whatever happens and however though, will all be good.

  In conversation with Kritika Lamsal.
  Follow Kritika on Twitter @lamsalkritika
  Photo courtesy: Khukuri Production Inc
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One comment on “BARTIKA EAM RAI : Airspace to Allegory

  1. Prem Rai says:

    Thank you Bartika for what you do and best wishes…!!!

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