Saturday Features

The taste of yomari

  • Yomari, a word once associated simply with that sweet Newari dessert, has started enticing connoisseurs of Nepali music
- Abha Dhital

Sep 1, 2018-

Easy, breezy Naya by Ladi, an American singer, and Bicky Adhikari, his Nepali accompaniment, is playing on the other tab as I write this piece. I have been listening to this song on a loop. Since it was released on Wednesday, I have also watched the video at least a couple of times. The two musicians, seated on mudas at a falcha, are jamming like nobody’s watching. But as the camera pans, you see a live audience who have accidentally become a part of the concert and yet look like they wouldn’t be anywhere else. You can also see the sound engineer and lensmen at work. There is something raw and organic about this video; it feels intimate.

I can’t get over Naya, just like I can’t get over many of the other songs featured on Yomari Sessions, an intimate one-take production of local music, shot informally but with verve. I can name Dreaming by Space, Cycle by Kta Haru, and Godhuli by Shreeti and Baaja from the top of my head—all unique in their own way.

If I were to describe Yomari Sessions, I would call it a place where you find sincere and soulful  songs that get stuck in your head. “It’s a platform where you find Nepali music that you should have on your radar,” says Shashank Shrestha of Katha Haru, the company that produces these sessions.

Over the years, many similar musical sessions from across the world have reached Nepali ears through YouTube. Along with the pioneering Take Away Shows, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, and Sofar Sounds (which also has a leg in Kathmandu) have managed to gain a wide audience through their informality and the promise of a personal, unfiltered experience. There is something about these sessions that not only help us discover new artists, but also makes us fall in love with our favourites all over again. It feels like we know them, personally. It feels like we are just watching our friends perform.

If there were no such platforms in Nepal when Yomari Sessions first started, more have blossomed in the years since. “We thought it would be cool to do something similar to the Daytrotter Sessions or La Blogotheque’s Take Away Shows in Nepal,” says Shashank. The Katha Haru team wanted to showcase intimate presentations of independent and talented musicians. They didn’t know where to start until they met Yuvash Vaidhya, a musician who introduced to them a network of performers and artists. Katha Haru didn’t even know what to call these sessions until they finished recording their first ever session with the band Baaja.

One artist led to another, just like one viewer led to another, and from then, things progressed organically. Yomari Sessions has since had three seasons with 28 episodes and 15 featured artists. Yomari, a word once associated simply with that sweet Newari dessert, has of late started indulging connoisseurs of Nepali music.  

I have probably watched every single video there is from Yomari Sessions, but I wanted to learn about what it takes to bring these intimate sessions to life, what goes on behind the scenes.

“Minus the musicians and their brilliant music, it takes the entire 13-member Katha Haru team to bring these sessions to life,” says Shashank, revealing that it’s a process more strenuous than it appears.

The starting point for any session is artist selection. The whole team sits down to listen to samples submitted by the artists and decides unanimously on who to feature, based on the authenticity of the music but also on how they as an audience can connect to these artists. “The music they create has to feel different,” says Shashank. “From Flekke’s surreal experimentation to Manda’s folk tunes, they all bring something distinct to the table.”

One strict rule that Yomari Sessions has is that they don’t feature covers, “If you want to listen to cover songs, you can visit just about any platform! We want something original and we want to feature artists who have worked hard in creating a signature sound.”

Once the lineup is complete, the team finalises the shoot dates and the location. What sets Yomari Sessions apart the range of other live music shows is the space that they shoot in. From an old bahal in Patan and an open field on the outskirts of Kathmandu to a closed room in a rundown, old house, Yomari Sessions has shot across wonderfully odd locations. “This only adds to the authenticity,” reports Shashank. “When you place these artists in an unfamiliar setting and let them immerse themselves in their own sound, you can sense that they are in the moment. You can just feel the sincerity.”

But what about the disturbances that take place in public spaces? Wouldn’t artists prefer to be in their own closed space, uninterrupted, undisturbed? “We like that Yomari Sessions, while unannounced, are accessible. Anybody is welcome. People can just drop in and become a part of a concert they didn’t even know was happening. But we are also toying with the idea of letting the audience know,” shares Shashank.

There are challenges of course. For instance, for the session that featured the band Pahenlo Batti Muni, they had to get power to an open field and it was raining. The team could only record two songs instead of three, but at the end of the day, they managed to get what they wanted.

Yomari Sessions, which has around 8,000 subscribers, has yet to reach “critical mass,” in the director’s words. It has yet to penetrate the mainstream music market. If they have something to boast about, it’s finding and indulging in local music that is fresh and has a unique sound.

When you are an independent channel, the biggest challenge is to be consistent and surpass your own benchmark, says Shashank. “Because we are self-funded, we have autonomy, but budgeting is a hurdle, always. We cannot afford to be stagnant at this point. We have to keep pushing, keep growing.”

Yomari Sessions has just wrapped up its third season and expectations are only growing. “The challenge now is to find more artists, as many musicians as possible,” says Shashank.

Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see what the Yomari guys have in store for me next week.  As I move on from one song to other on YouTube and get on with editing this piece, I am left forlorn, but I know that new music is out there waiting to be discovered and Yomari Sessions is going to be there bringing it to the world.

Published: 01-09-2018 08:02

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