He tugs at your heartstringsAmong the host of new Nepali musicians, Bikki Gurung is someone who gives you the rush of discovering a new crowd favourite before the pack does.
Talented new artistes are not easy to find, and even when found very few blow your mind away like Bikki Gurung does. On a cold December evening, when Bikki took centre stage in a music festival—a first for him, that too in his home city—some in the audience sensed his nervousness, while the rest sang along to his hit song Mari Jau.
“I knew I had fans in Nepal, but I didn’t know there were so many,” said the 25-year-old, remembering the evening of the music festival when he was swarmed by the audience. The minute he sits down for the interview, his nervousness sets in yet again. “This is one of my first interviews,” he said. But the moment he picks up his guitar, you could see him loosen up, his fingers deftly picking the strings looking for the right ‘twang’.
Bikki has a certain melancholy about him, which lends a familiarity to the fresh strangeness of his music to his on-the-fence audience—those who are yet to make up their minds about joining his ‘fandom’.
The singer until the tail end of 2019 was unaware of what was in store for him as a musician. “I was a Business Analyst at Wells Fargo in New York. I never thought I would make music someday and that that day was about to come.”
But the young man from Kathmandu was musically-attuned from a young age. “I’d always have my guitar on me, playing something or the other, but I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to make music.” His talent might have gone undiscovered if not for his friends who nudged him to explore what was buzzing under the surface. Karma Wangyal Gurung, a close friend, knew early on that Bikki could make music. “Our get-togethers would be incomplete without Bikki singing. He knew the lyrics to almost every song. He would never disappoint,” said Karma.
“I enjoyed playing for my friends also because they’d tell me exactly what they thought about my music. Five years ago, a friend of mine took me to a recording studio in New York. I instantly fell in love with the process of making and producing music,” he said. This experience was also what propelled him to songwriting. “When I first started writing songs, I wasn’t sure I wanted to put them out there for everyone to listen to,” he said. “But I got used to songwriting and it became the only way I could express myself.”
With most of his songs about heartbreaks and tragedy, the assumption that he has had his fair share of heartbreaks is guaranteed. But he’s quick to wave the assumption away. “I am an emotional guy and I live through my emotions. I tend to connect to people quickly. So, even though those outside my close circle assume that most of my songs are about my experiences, they are not. They are about emotions in general.” He said, “I don’t box my songs into categories; they are open to interpretations. For instance, Mari Jau could be a sad or happy song. Someone who’s going through a breakup can relate to it so can someone who has just found a new love.”
To create music like any other art form requires time and undivided attention from the artiste. And, both are luxuries only a few can afford to give to their craft. It’s all the more important for a new artist to make it his life’s ambition to create anew every day. But does Bikki have what it takes? Is he willing to go all out? “All the artistes I know in New York have a full-time job and they also have their music. They are doing great at both,” he said. “They are good at time management; that’s what New York City teaches you. I may also get there but for now, I’m going to focus on my music.”
He has new projects lined up for 2020; projects that now seem more important since his listeners are waiting for his next album release. “I didn’t know I had so many fans here. It’s overwhelming. The love I’ve received can only be repaid with good music. That’s what my fans deserve,” he said.
Along with releasing singles almost every other month on his YouTube channel, he has had shows in Melbourne and Sydney this past January. “I’m yet to get used to it. Everywhere I’ve performed, the audience sings back to me, especially my song Mari Jau,” he shared.
For Bikki, the process of creating music involves two phases: In the first phase he seeks to achieve “aesthetic resonance” in which lyrics and music are brought into sync. In the second phase, he puts his creation out there, open to criticisms or admiration. “If you’re writing and composing, you’re creating something from scratch and the end product is your own, whether it’s good or bad,” he said, “that’s why I prefer to write, compose, sing and produce my own songs.”
However, he does want to explore more and write songs for other singers too. “I’ll soon be collaborating with other Nepali singers. I am based out of New York, but now that I am dedicating my time to music alone, I’ll be in Nepal more often,” he said.
He’s been working on collaborations with a few artistes like Trishala Gurung, Rohit Shakya, Brijesh Shrestha, and Sushant KC. “It’s been great working with them,” he said.
Armed with freshness, boundless talent and charm that tugs at one’s heartstrings, Bikki will give his on-the-fence audience a solid reason to jump off and join his squad.