Banking on experimentationEncouraged by the success of his band's song Maicha, a modern Newa song, Ujan Shakya now wants to introduce new genres in Newa music.
Last year when Ujan Shakya, the lead singer of Emerge (a musical band) wrote, composed and sang Maicha, a Nepalbhasa song, it was one of his first attempts at a modern Newa song.
The 23-year-old artist had not in his wildest imagination thought that the song would go on to become a massive hit.
The song, which was uploaded on YouTube in June last year, has already amassed more than 4.5 million views, and thousands of people have already used the song in TikTok, making Shakya’s Maicha one of the most popular Nepalbhasa songs in recent times.
“I had never imagined the song would become a huge hit. I just wrote and composed it to give something new to the audience,” says Shakya.
Even after a year of the song’s release, Shakya says that he still finds the song’s success hard to believe.
“Everything still feels dreamlike,” says Shakya.
Maicha, a modern Newa song, is a departure from the conventional Nepalbhasa songs, majority of which are usually written and composed in a similar way.
“There’s a dearth of experimentation in Nepalbhasa songs,” says Shakya.
Maicha, says Shakya, was his band Emerge’s attempt to bring something new to the table.
For Shakya, music has always been a passion, and even as a child, he says he enjoyed performing in front of a crowd, no matter how big or small. In 2015, Shakya got together with his two childhood friends and formed Emerge. Until last year, only very few people were aware of the band’s existence.
In 2017, Emerge released its first-ever original song, ‘Tesaile Chadai Aau’, which was in Nepali. They even regularly performed various gigs around the capital but that stopped after the covid-19 pandemic hit the country last year.
A month before releasing Maicha, the band released another Nepalbhasa song titled ‘Thau Kane’, which Shakya had written, sung and composed.
But it was Maicha that was the band’s breakthrough song. And since then there has been no turning back for the band.
“Since then we have been working extra hard to better our craft,” says Shakya.
Two things led Shakya to create the band’s breakthrough song.
“My parents always wanted their musician son to sing and compose a song in their language. By creating Maicha, I fulfilled their long-held wish. As an artist, I have always believed in the importance of experimentation. And in Newa music, there’s only one type of genre available for the audience, Maicha was my attempt to show that experimentation is possible with Newa music,” says Shakya.
The biggest challenge Shakya faced while creating Maicha was writing the song’s lyrics.
“Although I can speak and understand Newa, my written Newa wasn’t very good. Thankfully, my father and my aunt helped me in writing the lyrics,” says Shakya.
Shakya’s hard work paid off as Maicha went viral within a few days of its release. Not only was the song appreciated by the Newa community but it was also well received by other communities.
This positive response and appreciation that came the band’s way, says Shakya, served as a biggest motivation for him to produce more songs. Since Maicha’s release, Shakya has already sung and composed three songs: two in Nepalbhasa and one in Nepali.
Two weeks ago, he released his song ‘Matina’, a Nepalbhasa song, on YouTube. The song has already been viewed more than 99,000 times.
“Matina is special because I have experimented with several genres. The song is sort of an in-between of two genres—mellow pop and lo-fi,” says Shakya. “My attempt with this song is to show the possibilities of experimenting with different genres in Newa music.”
Shakya says he wants to write and compose more Nepalbhasa songs in the future.
“In the past one year, my written Newa has improved as well, so writing lyrics in Newa is not that big of a challenge as it once was,” says Shakya.
However, as an artist, he says he doesn’t want to limit himself within one language. “I would love to produce songs in Nepali and English language as well. Currently, I am even working on three songs in the Nepali language. As an artist, I want to explore my talent and skills of writing and composing in languages that I know,” says Shakya.
But what is important for him, he says, is to use his imagination and experiences to tell stories through his songs.
“There are many factors that influence me when I sit down to write or compose a song. It's important to me that my songs tell some kind of story. Whatever inspires me, I make sure to use that inspiration in such a way that I can use it to narrate a story with my songs,” says Shakya.
Shakya believes he still has a lot to learn and he looks forward to learning as much as he can about music. Besides writing and singing, he also wants to focus on music production.
“As an artist, I am still learning,” says Shakya. “I am more curious than ever to learn about different music genres and I want to make experimental songs. I want to venture into new musical territories.”