When four cover artistes come together to sing a happy version of ‘Bhari Bho Bhari Bho’, it does not take long for music enthusiasts to start dancing. That’s the magic of cover songs - they make you feel new ranges of emotions even when you thought you had felt it all.
My City’s Shuvechchha Ghimire and Ashim Neupane had a similar recollection to share after meeting four YouTube cover artistes --Jyovan Bhuju, Anu Shakya, Surakhsya Malla and Sweta Singh Hamal -- at Jyovan’s music studio in Dillibazzar.
The four cover artistes had a lot to share. Their journeys were fuelled by passion, determination and hope. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation with the two reporters.
Working to give back
Participating in Nepal Idol was not a positive addition to Anu Shakya’s resume. Owing to an unfortunate Pharyngitis, she could not go far with the competition. However, she met established singers and potential collaborators for her YouTube channel, whose dedication to music inspired her. “Right after the competition ended for me, I got opportunities to work with established production houses,” she remarked.
Anu wanted to be a singer from an early age. She grew up listening to Bob Marley and Nalina Chitrakar in radio specials. She fondly remembers attempting to sing along with these legends. She attended vocal lessons as a child and ended up performing gigs for band Stambha when she was just 17 years old. “I performed late night gigs for almost all pubs in Jhamsikhel,” she said.
However, she had to stop soon after. Late-hours demand from the band got in the way and people started making harsh judgments about her “character” for working late night. Her initially supportive parents had to eventually ask her to limit the night schedules.
Since Anu was not one to give up, she started taking guitar and vocal lessons at Musica Music Institute. The institute later became a platform for her to record her cover songs. She has published five solo videos and collaborated with artistes at others. These days, she is also learning the basics of mixing at the institute. She deems it important that an aspiring artist be a jack of all before she seeks to be a master at specific skills. Anu hopes to give back to the institute and take it to bigger heights.
Anu sees herself singing originals in few years. While she recognizes that it might be hard to come out of the tagline of ‘cover singer’, she hopes to work harder for her originals.
Anu is currently pursuing third year in Bachelor of Arts.
Love for legends
Jyovan Bhuju is in no false impression that his exceptional cover songs will eventually outweigh the legacy of original songs. He is quite adamant about the fact that his cover music instead will always be about protecting the legacy of ‘evergreen’ songs. What he also believes is that adding new tweaks to originals using modern instruments helps appeal to the younger generation. At times, when young generation seem to prefer Western music to Nepali songs, he says, cover songs make audience aware of the rich diversity of Nepali music and its legends.
That said, there certainly are times when audiences, especially the older generation, blame him for affecting the structural integrity of ‘already popular songs’ and call him a ‘wanna-be singer’. The reason why these kinds of harsh comments do not seem to affect Jyovan as much, even after five years in the industry, is that he makes a point in taking feedbacks to heart and learning from them.
In recent days, Jyovan has collaborated with new aspiring artistes, including Deeksha J Thapa and Sweta Singh Hamal. This has not only increased the base followers at his YouTube channel, but also established him as a mentor-figure among aspiring cover artistes.
Addressing few challenges of being a cover artiste, he mentioned that it was hard for singers like him to get exposure early on. “There exists a monopoly of some sort, in that established writers, composers and producers want to only work with established singers. This means that singers with weak financial status would have to wait for ages before they get signed for big projects.” Since Jyovan is not the one to lose hope, he looks up to YouTube these days, which in recent years has taken talented artistes to stardom.
What Jyovan ardently dislikes about the Nepali music industry is the commercialization of talents by music companies. While he is good friends with most music houses of Kathmandu, on an ideological level, it troubles him that singers are showcased as a product who work to feed market demands, instead of producing music that is truly legendary. Not only that, the music houses hold on to their production very dear and affect aspiring cover artistes with issues of name-credit and copyrights, which ultimately “pollutes the entire music industry”.
Sweta Singh Hamal’s soulful voice and cute looks has taken away the hearts of thousands of youths. Taking her mom as an inspiration, Sweta started to sing since her early childhood. Her cover on ‘Kehi Mitho Baat Gara’ has already crossed 100,000 views on YouTube. Her breath-taking voice and performance on that cover song earned her a contract with Channel Arbitrary.
Sweta started singing making Adele her musical idol. As singing was her hobby, she started posting short clips of cover songs on Facebook and Instagram accounts two years ago. As she was posting short clips regularly, she got noticed by Jyoban Bhuju, and they did a cover together of the evergreen song ‘Kehi Mitho Baat Gara’.
“People started knowing me after I covered the song originally by Narayan Gopal. Despite practicing for days, we are unable to meet the charm of old evergreen songs. Our singing style is different and cover artistes have different singing style,” she said, requesting the audience to enjoy the new version of the songs and not to criticize the artistes for their hard work.
Sweta feels that cover artistes try to create a magic and add new flavors in the songs. As a young artist, she tries to mix music and give some western touches to the covers she does in her own style.
Sweta sees herself as a successful entrepreneur and she wants to take singing and business in a parallel way. Sweta’s new cover songs are hitting Youtube on August. Collaborating with other artistes she is doing covering different songs in Channel Arbitrary show ‘Me and My Guitar’.
Passion Creates Path
Inspired by Hannah Montana and Disney Movies, she always wanted people to watch her sing and dance. Surakshya Malla takes her dad and brother as her biggest inspirations. She remembers that her father liked her voice so much while she was singing a song ‘Fulko Akhama Fulai Sansara’ at her school.
After getting recognized by her own dad, she started taking guitar classes with her brother at her home. The likes and comments on her first Youtube cover five years ago inspired her more to sing. She has already covered more than a dozen old Nepali and English songs. After being recognized by local bands, she started performing gigs for different pubs of Kathmandu Valley.
As Surakshya was getting better with each live performance, she had to limit her late night shows as people started commenting on her “character”. This never led her down as she is planning to release new cover songs this year, and is also working hard on her originals.
Surakshya has her own YouTube channel and her cover on ‘Ukali Ma Aghi Aghi’ has already crossed 100,000 views. Most of the artistes choose old songs to cover because the number of audiences that love evergreen old songs is overwhelming, she said.
Surakshya sees herself as a successful singer in the near future. She requests people to not to take music as a low grade profession. “Singing at pubs doesn’t make music a low grade profession. People should respect artistes for their hard work and dedication,” she said.