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Gorkha Metal

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rock Street Journal- 2012

The Darjeeling metal circuit has, for a welcome change, delivered its first prominent offshoot to the genre in the form of a boisterous cult christened ‘Gorkha Metal’. And going by recent developments, the trend seems set for its moment in the spotlight.

Much like a lot of other whims in metal, this cult roots from the idea of finding a unique identity and slotting thematic and musical ideas along with the heritage of the natives- the Nepalis; the Gorkha tribe, in particular. However, tracing the origins of it has proved to be a hard nut to crack.

For a very long time, this was a term or for the lack of a better word, an idea that confined itself to the suburbs of Sikkim and West Bengal in specific, which is why many people initially recognized this as a ‘flash-in –the pan’ attempt at typecasting Nepali metal bands from the region who were trying to create awareness regarding the political scenario of the expanse and the age long feud between the native Bengalis and the Nepalis. Also, since the term has been open to interpretation, many a time this has also been misjudged as a clich├ęd attempt at amalgamation of Nepali folk tunes with metal bereft of any intrinsic value. I use the word ‘misjudged’ because the scope of this concept is way beyond the musicality or for that matter the idea of political revolution alone. It is in fact a fusion of the two elements.

Gorkha Metal’s arrival into other avenues of the country pledges allegiance to one of Darjeeling’s most established metal acts, Grungy Morphins who are more often than not also credited for coining the term in an attempt to create a unique artistic image for their live acts. “We’ve been around for a very long time y’know. So, when we started garnering sizeable attention in the country and beyond, we realized it was time for us to work on an image that would do justice to the music that we made and the realities of our daily lives. Gorkhas are mocked at and ridiculed with by a lot of people- and that has created a reluctance and tension, of sorts for a large section of the Gorkha population- a reluctance to try and blend in and feel at ease, for who we are. I wanted to change that through our music- wanted to give other people an insight into our rich heritage as a tribe and to encourage my people to feel proud of who they are.” mentions frontman Hozo.

Driven by massive online buzz and debates ‘Gorkha Metal’ and its underlying concept undoubtedly compliments philosophies put forward by numerous activists, social workers, artists and prominent figures from around the scenario but at the same time acts as an outlet for artistic expression of other varied forms. Needless to say, the lyrics are centred ona wide array of themes and aren’t always restricted to personal or general viewpoints regarding socio-political issues. “I meet a lot of new bands and fans from the scene who talk to me about their (mis)interpretations regarding Gorkha Metal. There have been a lot of instances where the person concerned doesn’t even know the fact that we coined the term.Frankly,When we came up with this idea we didn’t know so many people would connect to it so promptly and start interpreting this ‘imagery’ in their own way. For me, this is not centred around politics or a mish-mash of Nepali tunes with Metal. We created this to showcase the legacy of our tribe to the world and make it heard through a wide-ranging set of themes. Kind of like the stuff Sepultura tried to do with their ‘Roots’ album. I grew up reading about how our ancestors had successfully made a name for their bravery around the world. Adolf Hitler once said that if he had the Gorkhas by his side, he could have ruled the entire world and that he was scared of nothing in the world, besides the Gorkha warriors. These stories really inspired me to manifest my pride in being a Gorkha- I think anything beyond that is just fabrication past the original idea and scope. “Hozo comments Trivinesh Subba, Frontman of Pabitra Gorkha Metal act Sycorax who, much like a lot of the other musicians from the circuit,has made his own conclusions, at points somehow contradicting to Hozo’s theories adds “Grungy Morphins paved the way for this cult altogether but Sycorax is the first band that actually brought the musicality bit into the stencil. Most of our unreleased material is heavily influenced by Nepali folk music which is why we call ourselves a ‘PabitraGorkha Metal’ act. There’s this particular song that we really enjoy playing live “Weapons of choice”- it’s derived from a Nepali song called ‘chutki’. Also, I rememberwe were also one of the first bands, to incorporate the ‘Khukuri’, a distinctive Gorkha Weapon into our band logo along with a pentagram thereby trying to display a fusion between our ideas about the Gorkha Spirit and our personal viewpoints about religion. These are the fundamentals that made this cult what it is today. Many other acts came up with their own explanations- which is how it turned it turned into a cult in the first place, according to me. Today, there are a huge number of bands who are involved in this altogether. And the feeling being connected to something as big as this is unexplainable. I hope this gets bigger and better with time.”

Indeed, The past two years have been colossally significant for Gorkha Metal bands having gathered a sizeable reputation for their live acts, around the countryespecially because of bands like Sycorax who have constantly fared well in competitions across the national circuit. The radical development in audience, needless to say, brings about a tense and more competitive milieu for the genre’s existent base and guard. With a larger audience, comes change and that gives rise to the need for better acts and a more varied approach to the music altogether.

However, out of the many hurdles faced by these bands, the inability to create innovative strategies to make the form more accessible stands out. Since the format of the songs have a lot to do with the stories and the issues of only the Nepalis, the entire stencil is bound to seem monotonous and tedious for a music enthusiast who is not aware of or fond of the same thematic references and the Nepali folk and metal blend.

Perhaps in the future, we’ll come across more ambitious GM acts with better and more creative ideas that will further help retain the genre’s hold over its existent fan-base and to reach out to larger audiences.On that form, the coming months might just be for the Darjeeling Scene for the taking.


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