‘If I feel it’s right, I don’t second guess myself’Jyoti Magar is unapologetically herself, and she wants the world to know it.
You may not have heard her music but you’ve definitely heard her name. Jyoti Magar has stirred quite a ruckus, with many people and even the media speculating—and most often criticising—her dance moves and her ‘provocative’ dressing style.
But for the fans of folk dohori, Magar is one of the most popular artistes in the music genre. In the 13 years since she started her musical career, Magar has performed many full-house shows all around the country and even in countries like Japan and Malaysia. Her songs Chadhauchhu Phool Deutalai and Uhi Mula Ko Sinki Uhi Mula Ko Chana were also well received by the audiences. She even tried her acting chops in a Gurung film.
But it’s not just her donning clothes with a deep plunging neckline that is controversial, the lyrics of her songs are laced with plenty of euphemisms, ‘Garna Mann Cha Kiss’ and ‘Dumsi Kade Junga’ being a few of them. But these criticisms don’t seem to affect Magar—on the contrary, she seems to embrace her ‘risque’ image and continues her music-making and performance.
In this interview with the Post’s Sweksha Karna, Magar opens up about her experience in the industry, the criticism she receives and how she continues to be bold and unapologetic. Excerpts:
What would you best describe yourself as? An actor, a singer or a model?
I’d prefer to introduce myself as a singer. I come from a very musical background. Growing up, I saw everyone around me singing and dancing, and from a very young age, I knew I wanted to do this. I am fortunate that I could follow my passion since I decided to move to Kathmandu in 2006.
Your performances and videos are raw, unapologetic and unfiltered. What makes you so confident and comfortable putting out such content? What kind of response do you get from the audience?
I think confidence comes with time and experience. Everyone gets nervous at the beginning when they start their professional career. But if I have to be honest, I still get nervous every now and then—and it’s natural. But once you have struggled enough, you develop a thick skin and become stronger. Now, I just ask myself if what I’m doing is right or wrong. If I feel it’s right, I don’t second guess myself.
As far as the response goes, there’s definitely more criticism and less appreciation in the industry. People here are very narrow-minded and judgemental.
What do you think you receive the most criticism for and how do you handle it?
We are entertainers and no matter what we do, there is always going to be some kind of criticism. There is no option other than to deal with such criticism. I feel like I usually take criticisms pretty well. I listen to what people have to say, analyse it constructively and try to improve—if what they are saying is valid. But if someone criticises something unnecessary, I don’t pay attention to it.
As I said earlier, I do what seems right to me in that situation. I get criticised mostly for the clothes I wear. I find it funny that people like to focus more on what I wear than my music.
Do you think society tries to enforce its expectations on female entertainers?
People keep talking about women’s empowerment but I don’t think it exists in our society, except for in speeches. If we are bold, they brand us as being vulgar. And if we are simple and timid, they regard us as someone who couldn’t keep up with the changing times. Sometimes we are talking too loud, which is apparently unladylike. Many people say I sing inappropriate songs, but when a male artiste does the same, they have no qualms about that. Expectations and complaints are never-ending. But what makes it worse is that the women in the industry themselves don’t stand up for each other. Only if they did, things would be so much easier, and no fingers would be pointed at us.
One of the main criticisms that come your way is that your style and music do not pertain to Nepali culture. What do you have to say about that?
Nepali society and critics, both are hypocrites. I like to think that these people are jealous of the success I have gained and fear that I will only get more successful. I personally think of it as a compliment. They know they like my work, but they are just not comfortable to admit it. It is exactly how people were losing their minds over VTEN’s arrest, saying that cursing and promoting alcohol and weed is inappropriate. But I bet they all have his songs on their phones.
Do you think male entertainers are subjected to the same backlash?
Of course not! Nitesh Jung Kunwar has songs like ‘Geda Jasto Jindagi’ and ‘Ghyampe’, Laure too has used curse words in his rap. Even veterans like Kumar Basnet have sung songs that have double-meaning, but no one seemed to have any problem with that. In fact, they play these songs in parties, with their friends and families. I don’t know why all of them become so righteous when women talk about the same things.
What advice would you give to aspiring women musicians and performers?
The first thing would be to not take negative criticism seriously. Our society is such that they will judge you and make fun of you no matter what you do. Don’t let that affect your confidence, and don’t let anyone else define you.
But it’s important to be careful: you need to know where you draw the line. People don’t usually know the difference between being bold and vulgar. Be bold, be an example, be appropriate and don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Most of all, just be entertaining!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m going to be putting out and performing the same kind of music that I always have. I believe that artists are the mirror of any society. Comments are passed about how I dress, how I act, how I perform, my lyrics, but that’s what I saw when I came to Kathmandu. The things I saw and experienced is what is being reflected in my songs and I will continue to do that. It has now become a part of me. I don’t feel obligated to change myself: I am who I am.
So, right now I am more focused on producing new music. I am aiming to release a single by mid-November.