'SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE' - Girls can rule the world, Abhaya Subba
The diva of Nepali rock music, Abhaya Subba, is an established lead singer of Abhaya & the Steam Injuns. She is known for her progressive rock songs.
Abhaya is originally from Darjeeling and got married to her Nepali husband. She had an early influence on music from her family members and started getting into the band when she was thirteen. Initially, she didn’t want to be involved in music but always wanted to have a band, and that's the reason she is here now.
Abhaya hates people calling her a track singer as she feels Nepali female singers haven’t been given the due that they deserve.
Euden Koirala, her childhood friend, says, "Ever since we were in the kindergarten, I have always known her to be a very headstrong person. Her passion for music is very much evident from the musical background that she hails from. I am proud to be one of her close friends over the years and I have been fortunate to witness the success tat she has acheieved. Moreover, the sheer determination by which she has been advocating her beliefs is simply awesome."
Abhaya talked with Arun Budhathoki about her love for music, singing and her desire to see Nepali girls raising the bars.
Who’s Abhaya Subba?
She’s a humble person behind all that shenanigans. My Facebook posts are mainly about girls who are being wronged and how they need to stand up for themselves in the present and the future. I realized that after I met my progressive husband. I am also a mother of a wonderful son.
What are you doing currently?
I am thinking to write a book on feminism in Nepal but it won’t be historical but an anthology of stories about Nepali women. I am thinking to interview girls who are involved in music as they tell me that their parents make it difficult for them to stay out and work. I want to change the patriarchal mindset—‘you’re allowed,’ the phrase that’s commonly used for Nepali girls. I want to change the mentality that Nepali girls belong to men. Also, girls should change themselves.
How did you meet your husband?
I met him through my cousin. He was born here, talks in Nepali, and has a Nepali citizenship. He’s an architect and encourages me a lot to pursue music.
What’s your view on rock music in Nepal and being a rock star?
I kind of feel weird when people call me that. But I like doing rock music since girls are perceived to remain quiet. Rock music helps me to unleash my vocal spirit. I was lucky to bloom after my marriage and do music because my husband knew it was my destiny. It is not the same with other Nepali girls because we all know what holds them for after marriage.
I want to do music which is relentlessly relevant.
The problem with the music scenario is also the listeners because they want the same kind of songs from you. That will make any band and musician dull because of that attitude.
Rock music in Nepal means to have an identity, embrace rebellion and enjoy freedom.
The Woodstock term really means about feminism, rebellion and perhaps embodies the masculine quality. Maybe it was masculine in the past since white men were leading this genre but we also had women doing their thing. That has really changed the music genre and rock music is really about activism.
What’s your new album about?
Last year when there was unofficial blockade by India and earthquake, we witnessed several issues about what it means to be a Nepali. We wanted to spread the message of love no matter how apocalyptic the situation is. Love means showing respect to each other and also pursuing acceptance. That’s how the title was made—‘Looking for Love.’
We have a good response to our YouTube videos and tour too. The thing is we can’t really say how the album is going to do until six to seven months passes after its release.
The other thing about good music and art is that everything that goes viral is about women, sexual objectification of women (SO), trolling and hatred. It’s really sad because that’s the situation of the Internet right now. We have several cases in Nepal already.
So art takes a longer time for people to understand.
What's the situation of rock music in Nepal?
Rock music is not what it used to be. It is now divided into so many genres and the original mean is now diluted. I feel it is going through the phase of deconstruction as there might be the era of construction later. I strongly feel that rock music is getting that tag of being classic and old. Maybe people feel that those who do rock music are the old people.
Is there future for Nepali women musicians?
I strongly feel Nepali musicians will blow everyone’s mind in coming days. We are planning to give a good platform for Nepali girls to showcase their talents for ‘Women in Concert’. But this time, it will be different as there will be no competition and we will only have band girls and few established artists for the event.
I just hope the girls in Nepal will be able to lead like me in the music field.
What does it take to be a lead singer?
It takes a lot of tears, joy, and a thick skin. That’s because people will tell horrible things about you and there will be a moment when you have to step up against the patriarchal society and wear your crown.
I did have few issues with my past band members as they had different perception about me. I really feel pissed with people who think female singers are models. That’s just patronizing and ridiculous. Things have changed now and the attitude that women should be taught and allowed to do music and other things is in decline, snail-paced.
There’s problem with Nepali girls screaming too because the society will consider them as too loud and rude. Whereas, men who do that are masculine and leaders!
Music is for you…
For me, music is not about money. I take it as something that defines my existence and helps me to express myself.
Any words for female musicians…
The society is changing and my advice to the girls is to stick to their guns and guts. If it’s wrong you should come out, but if you are right then let there be a revolution.
Just keep doing what you are doing and try to do what is really honest from your heart. That’s the only you’ll be happy. And believe me I’m a really happy person (laughs).