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Band Profile

Dead Soul has somehow managed to remain alive and kicking since it was formed in 1993. Those were heady days, when Nepal had just restored multi-party democracy, the government had just flung open its gates to free market economy, and satellite channels had been beaming global pop culture into Nepali drawing rooms for just a couple of years. There was genuine hope all around that people's lot would finally improve. All those hopes, however, were to be quickly dashed by the politicians and their petty power games. As to Dead Soul itself, a string of journeymen musicians were to repeatedly jeopardise its fortunes.

The original lineup of Dead Soul comprised Hamant, Bishal (Sam), Shyam, Tham and Roshan. Earlier, Sam had played bass guitar for The Move, one of the first pop bands to hit big time in the country. Hamant also had played a cameo role in the band as a lead guitarist, before the future Dead Souls fell out with the vocalist and broke away to form their own band called Analisa.

Analisa had three other members besides Hamant and Sam: Raj on vocal, Shyam on rhythm guitar and Ram on keyboard. The group was essentially a garage band, with the band members gathering at Hamant's place to practice various English chart busters and classics. It is a tribute to the patience of Hamant's family members and neighbours that they never barged into the noisy practice sessions with blazing shotguns! Analisa did two incomplete recordings and a gig at the Royal Nepal Academy Hall before the exodus began.

Just when the afore mentioned recordings were about to be completed, Raj had to leave the band due to urgent family commitments. A classically trained vocalist, Som, was roped in, but he too quit the band after just a brief stint. Then, it was the turn of Ram, who left to work for a newspaper as a reporter/sub-editor.

Meanwhile, Sam and Hamant took stock of the situation and carefully charted the future course of their band. Until then, Nepali pop bands as a whole were still aping the styles and idioms of traditional Nepali music. The only things that set pop artists apart from their traditional, mainstream cousins were their sleek electric guitars and fancy gadgets and their outlandish dress, hairstyle, onstage gimmicks and so on. Everything else remained the same.

The Analisa duo, Hamant and Sam, decided to adopt and amp up the idioms of western rock in their music, in the process blazing a new trail in Nepali soundscape and subverting the tyranny of the country's conservative musical establishment. But before embarking on their ambitious journey, they had to find new band members somewhere in the concrete jungle of the Kathmandu Valley.

Hamant reminisces, "After changing our track, we realised that we needed a real good drummer and a vocalist. We literally went to the street to seek them. We somehow ran into Tham, who was playing drum with his local friends. Then we bumped into Roshan, a former Sound Mill vocalist. Afterwards, with our band back to full strength, we changed our tag and called ourselves Dead Soul."

A nostalgic Sam recounts their first outing as Dead Souls thus: "Our first gig was at a small Karate Dojo at Lagankhel, Lalitpur. Surrounded by friends, we performed some of 70s' numbers by Deep Purple, Eagles, Rolling Stones. The gig was unforgettable."

Just when it seemed that Dead Souls had jelled as a team, Shyam quit to pursue further study. His place was taken up by Suraj (Bele), former Devil-Ancestor lead guitarist. Soon, Dead Souls were back on track and practicing day and night for their ambitious solo concert "Iron Maiden Spirits". Another disappointment awaited them just round the corner, however.

Roshan, the vocalist, simply could not match the pitch of Iron's Bruce. As if it were not enough, he was erratic, irregular, impatient and big headed. His bandmates tried to be patient and flexible with him, to no avail. Eventually, he had to be fired. There was no other option. Naren, former vocalist of Metamorphous, duly filled his place.

It took six months' relentless practice to rehearse Iron's 24 mega hits to satisfaction. The brutal non-stop practice sessions usually lasted seven to eight hours a day. The Dead Souls were leading topsy-turvy lives, with no fixed schedules for sleep and meals. The concert was to be unprecedented in Nepali music history, as no other band had ever dared to stage a solo concert before. If it flopped, the Dead Souls would be ruined financially, mentally and psychologically.

All those years of hardships, practice, self-doubts, sacrifices and frustration were vindicated, however, when fans responded wildly to Dead Soul's rendition of Iron's 24 power packed numbers at the concert. The band was catapulted to stardom overnight. At last, Dead Souls were on their way to claiming their rightful place in the contemporary Nepali rock scene. In the euphoria of their resounding success, the Dead Souls could not see yet another hard blow coming their way.

The vocalist, Naren, disappeared into thin air without so much as a warning even as the Dead Souls were contemplating another solo run close on the heels of their first triumph. The first taste of big time probably proved too much for Naren. Or, maybe, he was racked by self-doubts and believed an encore would be too good to be true. Whatever the case, on the sunny side, the Dead Souls were for the first time having a manager and promoter in Suman Gole. Gole did a power of good to the band. Meanwhile, Roshan reappeared on the scene to take Naren's place in the second solo concert, before he too disappeared for good.

Dead Souls again scouted the concrete jungle of Kathmandu for fresh talent. They found one in Sanu. Soon after, Dead Souls achieved another milestone when they were honoured with an invitation to a live talk program on Radio Nepal on the occasion of the great Nepali festival of Dashain. The invitation was probably the first of its kind. Previously, Radio Nepal, the bastion of Nepal's conservative musical establishment, had shut out pop/rock artists. It had treated them as musical pariahs, refusing to give them any slots on its programs. However, there was no hint of ill will when Dead Souls went on air live. The mood was genial and festive as the radio host played rock numbers in between live chats with the Souls.

The fans of Dead Souls wanted to see their idols back on stage, this time with Metallica numbers. The Souls duly announced 'Metallica Live Concert', with an important difference. This time, the songs would be chosen by the fans themselves. An avalanche of fan mails hit the Dead headquarters, with each fan requesting their own five favourite Metallica numbers. After shifting through mountains of fan mails, Dead Souls zeroed in on 25 most popular Metallica numbers. The count down to the big day began in earnest.

Lady Luck was to desert Dead Souls yet another time. Sadly for Souls and their legion of adoring fans, the concert had to be scrapped in the middle of preparations because Suraj could no longer devote his time to the band. He had to quit. Dead Souls were back to square one.

Nowadays, the charismatic Dead Souls frontman, Hamant, continues to electrify Kathmandu's rock fans with his supreme artistry on lead guitar at cameo appearances at the capital's premier concert venues. He remains one of the most sought-after and respected guitarists in contemporary Nepali music scene. His bewitching, free flowing guitaring is in a class of its own.

Another Dead Souls stalwart, Sam, has temporarily moved his base to Hong Kong. Seduced by computer and cyberspace, he is currently busy recording his original compositions in his home studio set up by himself.

Sam does not want to be just another rocker. He wants to be the conscience of his generation and sing about the angst of Nepali youths. He is outraged by the pettiness, greed and bickering of Nepali politicians of all shades and colours. Little wonder, then, that he wants to sing political songs in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley. He wants to be the voice of alienated, disenfranchised Nepali youths. Incidentally, love is a four-letter word in Sam's vocabulary. The last thing he wants to do is sing one of those corny romantic ballads.

As a well-known chiasmus says, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Dead Souls have already proven their resilience and toughness by bouncing back from one setback after another. Therefore, it would be premature to write them off as a band. Like the mythical Phoenix, they are sure to rise from the ashes of their dreams once again.

(This band profile was written by Kanden for Dead Souls. A dabbler in music, Kanden is currently working on a Media and Cultural Studies degree at Australia's Macquarie University)
 Dead Souls 2000