Bryan Adams in Kathmandu: What Does That Mean to Nepal

Bryan Adams in Kathmandu, Nepal
Brinda Singh, who went on stage from the crowd, clings to Bryan Adams after singing “when you are gone” with the star

By Dinesh Wagle
Pic by Narendra Shrestha

[This article first appeared on Sunday’s (feb 20) Kathmandu Post. Bryan Adams performed in Kathmandu’s Dasharath Stadium on Saturday.]

Were things better here, Bryan Adams’ arrival wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Over the past two decades or so Nepali society has opened up to the outside world—especially Western culture and values—like never before. More people are going abroad. English language schools have proliferated. The reach of radio and TV has widened. Credit for this change should be given to the open economic policy adopted by the first government of Girija Prasad Koirala after the restoration of democracy in 1990.

But the arrival of Bryan Adams became a big deal because we are in a far from ideal situation.

The signs of progress that we saw in the middle of the 90s quickly disappeared into the smoke coming from the violent Maoist-police clashes. The economy stopped growing as politics failed to deliver the basic expectations of the people and the business community. Bloody conflict ended without concrete relief.

bryan adams in nepal Kathmandu Post 20 feb 2011
20.02.11 TKP. Click to enlarge

As a result of these and other issues, it seems society has hit rock bottom. People no longer hesitate to put aside morality for the smallest of things. Opportunities are so rare that the slimmest chance to earn money creates intense rivalry and conflict. We’ve all seen dogs on the street fight over a small piece of bone, haven’t we?

This past week I got to see the preparations made by the organisers of the Bryan Adams concert in Kathmandu up close. They wouldn’t tell me the exact figure of the deal that had several groups, including an Indian team that was responsible for setting up a stage and managing the sound system at the venue. But the red tape that they had to go through and the hassles they faced to make that event happen were clear to see. Every concerned authority, from police officers to the sports officials who rented Dasharath stadium for the gig, wanted their share of the profits. And there were countless demands for free passes. Those in powerful positions, including senior police officers, wanted the most expensive tickets free for them and their families. Others only demanded free access to the cheapest seats. “There are so many people who are envious that we are bringing Bryan Adams,” a person associated with one of the organising groups told me last week. “Everyone wants to pull our leg. There are obstacles at every step.”

It’s not surprising that earning money is one of the most difficult feats in a society that is one of the world’s poorest. But everything has a limit. We seem to have crossed this line.

The chief and a member of the sports council reportedly each asked for separate kickbacks. The chief denied asking for a bribe, while the member in question said he wanted money for ‘sports’. Organisers denied bribing officials, but it was hard to believe that they didn’t. Agitating employees, who were waging a separate war of sorts with the management, locked the stadium gates. They unlocked the gates only after securing volunteering opportunities during the concert. Simant Gurung, one of the organisers, hinted to me that the organisers unofficially promised to voluntarily donate some money to the agitating employees’ group. By the time of the settlement, some damage had already been done. Vandals had burned the closed-circuit television cables put in place at the stadium complex.

And there were friendly expectations. Friends of organisers wanted photo opportunities with the singer. Some wanted to see Bryan at their restaurants in Thamel and Durbar Marg. “That bhai at Tamas (restaurant) asked if I could take Bryan to his restaurant and make the singer sing just one song,” Simant said last week. “Another bhai from Lakhe had the same request. I would love to bring the singer to my own restaurant (Simol, Durbar Marg) and make him sing a few numbers if that was possible!”

The exposure to Western ideas and values that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, is mostly limited to television screens. A few hundred thousand Nepalis may have directly experienced Western societies by visiting and living in them. But celebrated personalities from the West don’t come to us that often.

The reason, again, is our poverty. We can’t afford to buy the expensive tickets for their programmes. We don’t have the money for their authentic CDs and DVDs. We can’t spend money on the merchandise that they hope to sell during their tours. This is the reason many Western celebrities who come to India (which is becoming a lucrative market) don’t step foot in Nepal. We are not important enough for them to come because we are not rich enough. Of course, there are those Nepalis who are rich enough to attend every such concert and buy every merchandising item on sale. There are many others who know Western songs by heart and idolise Western celebrities. But those numbers are not high enough to gain the attention of mainstream Western celebrities. That is why people like Nilesh Joshi, a guitarist with Nepali rock band Cobweb, feel bad every time Western celebrities tour India but skip Nepal.

Here enters Bryan, into this gloomy scenario.

With his arrival, many of us may feel that our existence has been recognised. Many of us may feel that we have finally been accepted into that advanced world we aspire to be a part of. Bryan may have instilled some amount of self confidence in us. But all this, I must clarify, may only be felt by those who know about Bryan and are familiar with his music. For those who don’t know the singer, like the spokesperson of Kathmandu valley police who thought Shree Bryan Adams was a “British national” and a “band but not a person” all these things may not matter much.

[The article in print version introduced Nilesh Joshi as singer of the band Cobweb. He is not. He plays bass guitar for the band.]

8 thoughts on “Bryan Adams in Kathmandu: What Does That Mean to Nepal

  1. Have been hearing a lot about Bryan Adams concert in KTM.
    I can’t believe he is the first western to do so.
    Saw some pics too they look amazing.
    Yes Nepal is a poor country but whatever young generation i have come across with is very talented they are just like any other Indian.
    KTM was well prepared for him, see what happened to Delhi.

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  2. Dear Sir,

    Actually i am glad to hear that Bryan Adams like Nepal and appreciating his eagerness to visit Nepal not officially but personally. Salute to his enthusiasm to know about SARANGI…………………………..I personally don’t know much more than his name Bryan Adams but after his visit i liked him.

    Regards,

    Jenika Shakya

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  3. I don’t think Kathmandu is comparable to any of the big cities of India. I think a lot of the celebs skip KTM because of the political unrest rather than just money.

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  4. Brinda Adams; now I’m getting jealous of this one pretty lady.🙂
    When I first heard and read about “The Bryan Adams” coming to K-Town, that too for a concert, like many skeptics out there, I too turned a deaf ear to it. But as it turned out, not only did this musical maestro pay us a visit; he sang straight from the heart, brought the summer of ’69 in the chilly night of Ktm, kept us at awe both inside out and took all of us (those present at the concert and those who weren’t) up to the cloud no. 9. So then, here’s to that historical concert that left us spellbound, to the organizers who stood out even in the midst of skepticism, to the music that knows no boundary and to many such concerts we’re going to be a part of in the near future!

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  5. congress should also be given credit for one thing:-more than 10000 lifes lost in civil war.. why thousands of people participated in people’s war? were they crazy to practice vampirism or conmpelled?

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  6. thats right i really liked the post and again there is another big noise going around there that Enrique Iglesias is going to visit Nepal very soon..lets hope he come fast..

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