Jazzmandu Kathmandu Music Festival 2019

“Music, when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory”-Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Well, vibrations are definitely still occurring in my hippocampus and my frontal lobe re-living the Jazzmandu finale five days after its close. This year Jazzmandu a jazz music festival in Kathmandu took place for its 17th year across six days and ten venues within the capital. A cluster of talented musicians, residents and visitors of Kathmandu travelled to Alliance Francaise, Dhokaima Cafe, Jazz UpstairsKathmandu Jazz Conservatory, Moksh, House of Music, Manny’s Eatery and Tapas Bar, Kantipur Temple House, Gokarna Forest Resort and Hotel Yak & Yeti.

As an attendee, this was my first year experiencing Jazzmandu and left me spoilt for choice. However, work and other commitments prevented me from attending every event. So I took advice from past attendees and chose to attend Gokarna Forest Resort on Saturday 19th October. I chose this venue as it showcased a range of all the musicians who played at the other venues making it a day-long event. Which left me on such a high I decided to attend the Jazzmandu Finale at Hotel Yak & Yeti on Wednesday 22nd October. My experiences from those two lively events made me feel proud to live in Kathmandu.

Jazz Bazaar Gokarna’s Forest Resort

On Saturday, Gokarna’s event was titled ‘Jazz Bazaar’ running from 2:30 pm-10:00 pm. Due to commitments and road issues, I arrived at the resort by motorbike around 5:30 pm. Having only attended the Damien Rice folk music concert earlier this year it left me sceptical to see what type of festival atmosphere this event would display. Arriving into the parking area I could hear funky melodic music playing from a short distance. This instantly caused every single hair on my body to stand to attention.

My newfound excitement took me back to a younger time where I’d attend music events religiously and made me accelerate to the ticket counter. Upon arrival, I paid 1400 NPR to enter the venue, where volunteers exchanged with a ticket and a luminous paper wristband. The moment I walked through I was approached for a photo at their stand with props. Normally, I’d partake in this activity however I was too eager to witness the talent. To my disappointment, as I got to the concert area the band had just left the stage.

Exploring the grounds

I chose to purchase food and alcohol before the next act came on the stage. I’m not sure if the food were external caterers or the chefs were from Gokarna themselves. Inside the ground were many stalls serving momos, chow mein, falafel in pitta, chicken and others to state a few. Likewise, a range of alcohol. The variety available surpassed my expectations.

Once I had my food and drink I moved to find a seat. As I arrived during the early evening I was a tad anxious if I’d get a seat or not. Luckily, I came across a pile of stacked plastic chairs and pulled some out. Later on, I moved on to chairs at the front and sat with an epic view of the stage. Whilst, satisfying my stomach with the tasty food I began to digest another thing, my surroundings.

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The stage was set with stunning changing visuals as a backdrop and gorgeous colourful lanterns hanging above the crowd. This provided a romantic yet colourful ambience. Throughout the night I witnessed a few talented artists play who got the crowd up dancing towards the end. Jazz Bazaar was a grand even well worth the money.

Following this, I couldn’t stop talking about my first Jazzzmandu experience to friends. Another friend had attended the Jazzmandu event the following day at Manny’s and was full of praise. He talked me into to attending the Finale at Yak & Yeti on Wednesday.

Jazzmandu Finale Hotel Yak & Yeti

As it was the finale of the festival I did not want to miss a single act. I arrived at Yak & Yeti around 5:30 pm paying the same as the Gokarna entry fee. It was a similar set up with a photo area, food and drink stalls. As I walked further into their garden area I noticed a whopping giant stage with the Jazzmandu logo and adverts of their sponsors Surya. Opposite the stage were many comfortable chairs provided by the hotel.

The first was the Blue Fret a Nepali act. Their music I found soothing and found it interesting about their songs about Nepal and life experiences. They were an ideal act to open the finale. Next up was Paul Tynan and Jake Hamlin, a duo from Canada.

Then shortly after followed Topic Green, who was definitely one of my favourites of the evening! Topic Green are a collective of musicians from Singapore, Japan, Cuba and the USA. This act I found upbeat, I loved the unique names of their songs and the stories behind them addressed by the enchanting presence of, Susan Harmer their pianist. One of my most memorable moments was when they brought out a young tabla player who played for a while alongside their drummer. Sat hearing the beats switching back and forth like tennis between those two were magical. I was in awe yet lucky to witness such great talent.

Sassy Fabian

Following this was a French artist Fabian Medina, who brought a sheer amount of sass to the stage. Her music was fluid and relaxing to hear. However, as soon as I discovered who was next I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Cadenza Collective and Forró

Next, was a Nepali act Cadenza Collective. Luckily, I’d already managed to see them at Gokarna and knew how lively they were. So as soon as they came on, I rushed to the stage barriers. Throughout their whole performance, I danced and grinned from ear to ear. Their music was so upbeat, funky and lively incorporating Nepali music into it. The dancing didn’t stop their either was Forró an Afro Brazillian group.

At this point, more came up to the front and were dancing! You could feel the energy bounce from the stage, to one person and over to the next. The atmosphere this time had far surpassed the one I attended at Gokarna.

Jam Session

I was enjoying the music so much I didn’t want to end, I looked at my watch it was 9:30 PM. I was confused at what time the cut off would be. Then slowly previous acts joined  Forró on stage and it ended up with around 20 musicians. They were all there sharing instruments jamming together. This went on for at least 20 minutes and it was definitely the highlight! The atmosphere was electric.

After the jam, the compare shouted the sponsor’s names and announced the dates for next year. That was it, Jazzmandu for 2019 had come to an end. I departed Yak & Yeti with a great beaming smile. What an event to attend, I will definitely attend again the following year but visit more events! I couldn’t recommend this anymore for others to attend next year. It does not matter if you’re a hardcore jazz lover as there is something for everyone as many artists fuse different genres together. Kudos to the Jazzmandu organisers and the musicians as it was efficiently run. This is what ‘Visit Nepal 2020 campaign’ should be promoting as it’s a true asset to Kathmandu.

Visit Nepal 2020 and attend Jazzmandu 2020.


Extracts of Alex

Navigating Nepal and the World

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