Neetesh Jung Kunwar version 2.0After years of releasing some of the biggest hit songs in Nepal’s pop music scene, the musician is on a mission to reinvent himself.
For the better part of the last five years, Neetesh Jung Kunwar has remained one of the leading names in Nepal’s music industry. The song that springboarded him to fame was his 2017 ‘Gedai jasto jindagi’, and since then, many of his songs like ‘Hamro Nepal Ma’ and ‘Flirty Maya’, both of which have surpassed 27 million views on YouTube, have gone on to become hugely popular.
For an artist riding high on the wave of success, Kunwar took many surprise when he announced last year that his “Nepali music journey has come to [a] conclusion”. The social media post was widely shared and had many speculating the reasons behind this decision.
By the time Kunwar made the announcement, it had already been months since he last uploaded a new song on his hugely popular YouTube channel ‘Neetesh Jung Kunwar’, which has more than 700,000 subscribers. And in January 2021, three months before the announcement, Kunwar had released a new song titled ‘Rebirth’ on his new song on his YouTube channel ‘NJK Vibe’, which now has more than 160,000 subscribers. Since then, Kunwar has already released five songs, three of which are in English, on his new YouTube channel.
“Between 2017 to 2020, I experimented with my music, but all I was ever known for was ‘Flirty Maya’, ‘Gedai Jasto Jindagi’, and other similar songs. The audience liked the songs from that genre and they were good for business as well, but for someone who strongly believes in experimentation, I was getting very bothered by the fact that my music had become redundant and felt trapped by my own fame,” says Kunwar. "The year was tough for other reasons as well. That year, my father, who was someone I really looked up to, passed away. And it also didn’t help that the pandemic forced us to stay locked inside our homes most of the year. That was when I realised that it was the right time to break free from the kind of music that I was known for and start fresh.”
After almost four years of releasing multiple hit songs and dealing with all the expectations that come with being one of the most renowned names in Nepali music scene, Kunwar was desperate for a major overhaul.
“When I made the announcement to discontinue making the kind of songs I was known for, I stopped receiving calls for concerts and live shows, and I finally got the time I needed to heal,” says Kunwar.
One of the main reasons that gave him the courage to follow his heart and give into his artistic calling was his father's demise.
“All the money I had made as an artist went into trying to save my father’s life. When he passed away, I felt like I had nothing to lose, and all I wanted to do was to explore the limits of my creativity,” says Kunwar.
Born and brought up in Tripureshwor, Kathmandu, Kunwar was raised in an environment that appreciated music. Kunwar’s father had a lot of musician friends, and the senior Kunwar often took his son along whenever he hung out with his friends.
“In those days, a lot of concerts happened in Tripureshwor. And being the daddy’s boy that I was, I would follow my father everywhere. That was how I got introduced to his musician friends, and that was how my interest in music started,” says Kunwar.
By the age of 12, Kunwar was already singing and performing in school competitions, talent shows, and other school events that involved music. But Kunwar never imagined himself pursuing music as a profession.
“Back then, choosing music as a career wasn’t considered the wise thing to do. So after I completed my Bachelor’s in Banking and Insurance, I started working in the corporate world,” says Kunwar.
After 18 months of working a 9 to 5 job, Kunwar decided to call it quits and focus on music. And he began by performing at bars and pubs. In 2015, Kunwar started a YouTube channel to release original songs that “had easy words and easy music.”
“Back in 2015, people said the music I was making was very childish, but deep down, I knew it would work, and it did. People are once again criticising the kind of music I have been making for the last one year, but criticisms don’t faze me anymore. People will always have something to say, so I might as well focus on being myself now,” says Kunwar. “I am very grateful for all the love I have got over the years for the kind of music that I was making, but I think the time is right for me to explore new musical genres and give something new to my audience.”
Kunwar says he is now working on a new album in which each song will be different from another. “The album will feature five songs in English and two in Nepali,” says Kunwar. “The album will be released on the Noodle app, and this, I hope, will cultivate the culture of paying for music. You know, it’s hard for the artists to sustain themselves, and I want people to start valuing art.”