Nepal. What do we actually know about that country? Yes, the Himalayas, with that eternal Mout Everest. The strong Gurkha soldiers come from there, they drink tongba and it is the only country in the world that can’t be bothered to have a rectangular or square flag. But metal is also made. Of course metal is made! After all, we metalheads are everywhere. One of the biggest bands is brutal death metal outfit Kaal, despite their extremely limited discography with only one EP. Drummer Jay Ram Karki decided to send Zware Metalen a message to draw attention to his band and he got our attention: an interview about the first Nepalese band we get to know better.
It doesn’t happen every day that we deal with a musician from Nepal. Can you introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do in daily life?
My name is Jay Ram Karki and I am a full-time musician based in Kathmandu, Nepal. A drummer to be precise. In the ongoing journey that is life I have played in countless bands that had different styles. Metal is one of them and that is very special to me because it was the first genre I came into contact with and it is my favorite. I play drums every day. I start with a warm-up and then do a full set. I then teach students of all ages who want to learn more about drumming and I also have regular concerts. Especially in Kathmandu but also in other cities in Nepal.
How did that go, that introduction to metal?
It all started with a band that was formed during my high school years, in 2010 and 2011. We often had band competitions with other colleges and my college band decided to participate in a competition that focused on metal. After participating in that competition, I became hooked on the genre.
Why did you start playing drums? Who inspired you to pick up the sticks?
That started in my school days, between 2006 and 2008. The drums was a fairly new, unique instrument and I found it challenging to learn because it requires a lot of focus, strength, hard work and, above all, a lot of passion. Many people who are introduced to this instrument feel overwhelmed and then choose to use it only at a surface level. For me it is an incentive to learn to play drums at a deeper level, which means that I now dare to call myself a specialist in playing this beautiful, challenging instrument.
When I think back to that time, my very first inspiration for playing metal was Mr. Derek Roddy from Nile (Roddy was the guest musician who played almost all the songs on the bands breakthrough album Black Seeds of Vengeance – RF.) I had never heard anyone like Derek Seeing drums played in such an extreme way at different levels made my interest in that instrument grow. But ultimately I find inspiration in all kinds of musicians, both local and international.
Jay Ram Kakri, foto: Cirrus Shrestha
What is the current state of the metal scene in Nepal? Are there many concert halls, meeting places, bands, studios, festivals and is there a lot of press?
Metal is a growing genre in Nepal. It is having an increasingly deeper footprint in life here. For example, many international bands have traveled to Nepal to play at music festivals, such as Decapitated, Vader and Behemoth. There are a limited number of locations for performances. There used to be many places for meetings and gatherings but with the growing technology, most people now communicate digital. There is a growth in studios and bands and there are regular music festivals, but the really big ones only happen once or twice a year. There is hardly any press attention when it comes to metal.
What is the attitude of the population towards metal and how does the media view it?
Like I said, people are definitely attracted to metal and not only young people, but people from all age groups. However, the limited attention of the press plays an important role in the inability to project this powerful music style among the people.
So you play drums with Kaal. How did you end up there?
In 2014 I was actively touring with a band in India. The singer of Kaal, Mr. Hem Kumar Pun, contacted me to join the band as their original drummer had left.
It can sometimes be that simple. Can you tell us more about the history of Kaal? And does the name have a meaning?
Kaal is a Sanskrit term meaning Time or Death. Founded in 2008, Kaal is a death metal band from Pokhara. Hem Kumar Pun is the founder of the band and the first EP, Dismembered, was released in 2016 and the band has been active for the past fifteen years.
One EP is a meager harvest in all those years. Is it difficult to release music in Nepal?
Pokhara does not have many recording options and if they are available, they are mainly used pop and folk music included. A lot of recording engineers aren’t interested in recording something in the style we play. Moreover, I live two hundred kilometers away in Kathmandu and it was difficult to travel and stay for filming in the early days. With a lot of patience, work and gradual planning we were able to release our first EP and now we are working on a sequel.
There were simply fewer facilities available when recording Dismembered. Since then, recording engineers have learned new ways, skills and techniques and facilities in the recording studios have improved, allowing us to deliver more. The new work also reflects our true capabilities as a band.
How often do you appear on stage and is that only in Nepal or also abroad?
Since I’m a full-time musician, I’m usually on stage playing with different bands and in different styles. I have played and toured with many Indian bands but as a session musician I always look for any opportunities that arise.
How does Kaal work when it comes to making new music? Does that happen in a practice room or do you all work individually? And who is responsible for the lyrics and who for the music?
We first check the agendas of all band members and then choose a period of one or two weeks every two to three months for rehearsals, performances or recordings. At that time I will fly to Pokhara and we will rent a practice room so that we can play and practice together every day or discuss plans for the near future. Our singer Hem Kumar Pun is the lyricist, and all band members contribute to the music.
What are your sources of inspiration?
For me at this stage of life, that means anything unusual and out-of-the-box.
What is the highlight of Kaal‘s history so far?
Kaal is a much loved and appreciated band here in Nepal. Not only locally but also nationally. We started as an opener for concerts and festivals and are now at the point where we are headlining. We have played with international bands that visited Nepal, such as Skinned, Near Death Condition, Twelve Foot Ninja and Methedras.
What is your personal dream as a musician?
To never let go of the passion I started playing drums with and to inspire young people to explore different music styles and instruments. And I welcome any opportunity to perform worldwide with different bands in different musical styles.
And what is your dream for Kaal as a band?
Together with my fellow band members, I work hard to perform worldwide. To make Kaal not just a band that plays metal, but a symbol of craftsmanship, passion and dedication. And we hope to inspire people across the country and around the world.