On December 8, Chumbak, a rock band from Itahari, eastern Nepal, performed at Beers N Cheers, Jhamsikhel. It was their third performance at Beers N Cheers and despite the familiar setting, each performance radiated a new burst of energy and excitement.
Formed in 2021, the band has gone on numerous tours across the country, covering locations such as Pokhara, Butwal, Dharan, Jhapa, and Kathmandu. They have experienced a substantial increase in audience turnout, with attendees ranging from school-going teens to young adults.
The enthusiasm at their concerts stems from the band’s consistent release of new tracks, which they frequently showcase during their shows. Despite being active for only two years, the band has already launched two EPs – Bageko Bagey and Chumbak in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Presently, the rock band is in the process of crafting their debut album, titled Sapana Bhayo Mahango, scheduled for release in 2024.
“We are desperate to compose new songs and we are spontaneous about it,” says Gongba Spikes, vocalist of Chumbak. “We gather, compose each other’s parts, review them and finalise songs. Almost all of our songs are composed similarly.”
The band’s debut and most popular song, Parkhidina, was also composed in a random jam. The band got together, played some riffs and in no time had the song ready in a few hours.
Recognising the significance of original content, the band actively strives to produce new songs every other week. The band members say that they have compiled ample material for the next two albums. Their songs are quality too, as evidenced by the enthusiastic reaction from their fans.
“We have people making covers of songs we have only performed live and not released yet. That gives us added motivation to make good quality songs that people can remember us by,” says Chumbak’s guitarist Lav Sherpa.
The common thread that binds all the band members is their hometown, Itahari. Coming from the same place, they initially connected through their involvement in a similar musical circle. Each of them was independently engaged in various projects for KLM Records, a production house in Itahari, which led to their initial acquaintance. The decision to jam together emerged spontaneously, without any preconceived plans to form a band.
“All we wanted to do was have fun.”
Things started to change for Chumbak as they started to write and produce songs in these jam sessions. It was only after they composed two songs that they started to play with the idea of forming a band.
As they continued to jam together, their confidence in their musical compositions grew. Eventually, the five musicians made the official decision to form a band. However, at that point, they found themselves without a name for their newly established group.
On a particular day, as they gathered in a jamming room brainstorming for a band name, a friend, Bishal Jholey, spontaneously suggested the name Chumbak, which translates to magnet in English. Without hesitation, the group unanimously agreed to adopt the name for their band.
In addition to Gongba Spikes and Lav Sherpa, the band includes Sahil Sen on guitar, Nishant Lama on bass, Bimash Magar on drums, Ikshang Subba as the sound engineer, and Pratap Tamang as a guitar assistant.
Standing up for original music
In addition to creating music, the band is equally committed to promoting original artists. They highlight that the region they hail from provides a larger space and platform for cover music rather than original compositions. Given the scarcity of shows dedicated to original artists, the band feels compelled to take the initiative and organise entire shows for themselves and fellow original artists in such a challenging environment.
“As of now getting a proper platform and space is the major challenge for the band,” says the band’s manager Yodin Limbu. “In most of the gigs, we have to look after every tiny detail that adds certain complications.”
Despite facing these challenges themselves, the band is determined to ensure other original artists do not face similar struggles. They say that the lack of gigs for original artists has overshadowed the talent of many. In response, the band has taken the initiative to organise various gigs specifically aimed at promoting original artists.
In September, they hosted a show titled No Covers Day in Itahari, featuring performances from six original artists in a warehouse. This free event drew over 150 people, contributing to the band’s efforts to support and showcase the work of fellow musicians.
Following the launch of their album, Chumbak also plans to tour Nepal in 2024. To close the new year, Chumbak is performing at London Pub, Kathmandu on December 15. This will be their last show in Kathmandu for 2023.