SUNDAY EXCLUSIVE: Abhaya Subba - "Women In Concert empowers Nepali women through music"
"We plan to support women musicians through Women In Concert” - Abhaya Subba.
Nirbhaya Foundation works in Nepal to create a society where men and women enjoy equal opportunities. It is back with the next edition of its annual musical event: Women In Concert. This year, the event which comprises young and aspiring Nepali female artists and creates opportunities for them in the music industry by selecting, training and mentoring for stage performance, will be held in six cities: Pokhara, Butwal, Dharan, Hetauda, Damauli, and Urlabari.
Women In Concert 2017 will take place on 8th March, International Women’s Day, with the goal to challenge the status quo via empowering Nepali women to pursue their dreams in the Arts & Music – the field which is mostly dominated by males in Nepal. More than 5000 people are expected to attend the event.
Rahul Raut talked to Abhaya Subba Weise, president of Nirbhaya Foundation and founder of Women In Concert, about the new edition of WIC which she defines as “not just a concert where a group of girls comes together to perform at a certain time of day, or year but as a shift in the way girls get up on stage, the way they learn to be people and not the creature that our society has taught women to be.”
Experts from the interview:
How ‘Women In Concert 2017’ is going to be different from previous editions?
Women in Concert in previous editions has only occurred in Kathmandu city. If we get the funding we plan to take it to five different cities around Nepal. It depends on the financial support and interest from each city we have chosen - Pokhara, Dharan, Urlabari, Butwal and Damauli as the cities will witness WIC for the first time.
WIC has always had different themes from the year it went public although this concert has been going on since 2003. In 2014 we had almost all the major female stars in one platform along with new aspiring singers. In 2015 our theme was “Women and Their Bands”, in 2016 we had a Talent Hunt for young promising singers from which we chose three winners - Megha Shrestha, Sunita Thegim and Ishara Chamling.
This year we have three all girls band along with their mentor bands performing in Kathmandu city. The three winners of the talent hunt of ‘Women in Concert 2016’ will also be performing with a backing band.
What are the line-ups for the 2017 concert? Tell us about the girl’s bands participating in this tour. How are the preparations going on?
The line-up for this year is Shree Tara, House of Hope and JOTs. Mental Radio, and Abhaya and the Steam Injuns are performing along with these bands and the three winners of the Talent Hunt WIC 2016.
SHREE TARA: This is an all-female traditional Nepali band. They had first been discovered by Ani Choying. They participated in the Talent Hunt of Women in Concert 2016 and though they did not win their talent and passion shone right through and they are participating this year as the stars that they are eventually destined to be.
JOTs: Women in Concert discovered this all-female alternative rock band through Facebook. This band had only been in existence for a few months. With a bad-ass bass guitarist, drummer, and guitarist and an enthusiastic vocalist, this band is waiting to explode into the Nepali rock scenario.
HOUSE OF HOPE: This band put together by a passionate House Master Gopal Yonjan who runs a home for orphan girls and underprivileged girl children. It had already raised a curiosity among the social media enthusiasts when they had released a live performance video on Facebook. This band has a member who is as young as thirteen. Comprising of orphans and underprivileged girls this band has already wowed the audience of Women in Concert last year. They come back this year, tighter and with more hope to conquer the music scene of Nepal.
The preparations for this year is as solid as ever. I have been actively mentoring the bands for higher performance levels as well as pointing out the spaces that they need to improve on. My band members have also been contributing towards some of the production work and guiding them towards the excellence that these girls are bound to reach.
In a patriarchal society such as ours where women have been grossly divested of basic primal rights in all the socio-economic aspects, how hard is it to organize such a huge "only female artists" event?
As in all places in the world, it is impossible to organize an event without the participation of men if women are involved. Women as a species always believe in including all genders. We have plenty of men participating in Women in Concert this year as in past years and the years to come and because we believe that the change must come from all members of society, we try not to make an exclusive show that comprises of only women involvement. Because of this belief, we haven't had too many issues organizing this event although finding women musicians has always been a concern for us.
Nirbhaya Manch has been working for the past 14 years to empower women through the powerful medium of music via its “Women in Concert” platform. What achievements have you got so far and what are those goals that are yet to accomplish?
Nirbhaya Manch was established in 2014. Legally it has only been empowering women through music for the last four years. When people have visions they usually do not expect immediate results. The result of Women in Concert may not be apparent now but most of the female singers you now see in pub gigs have been products of Women in Concert. An amazing band like Shree Tara was about to throw in the towel before WIC caught them in time. We plan to support women musicians not just during the period of performance but also as much as we possibly can throughout the years.
The goals yet to be achieved by Nirbhaya Manch is to create a school for women musicians taught by professional musicians. Through this school, we hope to establish more women musicians who will contribute to our society. We also aspire to go into the villages and discover the talents out there - to talk to the men and women musicians in remote areas. The oppression of women are palpable in these rural establishments - we hope to release plenty of caged women artists from these areas someday.
How do you see the journey of "Women In Concert - Nepal Tour" in total so far?
The journey of Women In Concert - Nepal Tour is yet to take off, The very first step we have taken is to create a Go Fund me campaign. We haven't been pushing this as much as we should as we have the Kathmandu edition to organize. For the Kathmandu edition, we are being once again sponsored by the Embassy of Switzerland and partly supported by Turkish Airlines - both establishments that believe in the empowerment of women. Besides them, we are also being supported by a good friend Dibyesh Giri and Rocky Prajapati who have taken amazing photos for the campaign of WIC 2017.