If yaks remind you of the Himalayas and of Nepal, then you’re on the right track.
Yak Attack, a London-based band with its musical roots sprouting from Nepal, has released its first EP Taal Sutra.
In a city like London crowded from commercial—and successful—musicians to independent artists and performers who bring world music to the musical spectrum, where does a band like Yak Attack that has non-English songs in their album stand?
Combining Afro-Asian funk music with traditional Nepali sounds tweaked into modern music, Yak Attack delivers what it calls world music.
Breaking away from the stereotypical sounds of Tibetan melodies—often meditational hymns and chants—the band borrows and mixes sounds from the East and the West. Each of the four tracks in the album creatively composes the musical harmony from two different parts of the world.
The EP starts with “Tibet,” what you might think as some sort of a mediation music. As the piano and saxophone lends its tune along with the six-strings and drums, you think the music is leading into some jazz form. And suddenly, you’re thinking what just happened—the progressive jazz turns into a fast-paced tune dominated by the sound of sax based on the traditional Nepali musical note.
In one of his first mainstream media interview with the Nepali press, Shubha Giri, the founder and frontman of the band, says Nepalis in the diaspora need to recognise their musical heritage and immerse themselves in the bandwagon called world music.
Rightly with the help of his fellow musicians, Gagan Thapa on guitar, Allan Shrestha on drums, John Martin on saxophone and Robyn Hemming on bass, Yak Attack mixes Nepali and international talents.
The blend of two musical cultures is clearly audible in the second song, though in Nepali and the only one with vocals, is the highlight of the album, at least for me who grew up listening to the original version of this song.
“Hariyo Dadha Maathi,” with its literal translation as “atop a green hill” is one of the timeless classics. A song from the 80s popular and often sung during the rice plantation season, I haven’t come across a classy remixed version.
The Nepali music market is flooded with remixes of classic Nepali songs often tailored for the dance floor. Oftentimes, the remixed versions just kill the original in all its form.
However, Yak Attack’s version, though it suits for the dance floor—however you got to know the Nepali dance moves —it hasn’t tarnished the song. Singer Raju Lama, a well-known singer from one of Nepal’s famous pop band lends his voice and does a god job to keeping up the beat of the evergreen hit.
The remaining songs of the EP stick to its theme: free spirit and joy. While “Phagu Purnima” resonates to the spring festival of Holi, “Be Free” is asking listeners to pause all other sounds and flow with Yak Attack. A combination of the tabla, a pair of hand drums used in Indian classical music, guitars and saxophone, don’t get it confused with the sounds of the Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, a Hindu devotee movement that weds music and spirituality.
Infectious and catchy, though Taal Sutra falls into the world music genre, I would call it a combination of jazz and funk along with the flavours of international sounds.
For the devotees of commercial music, Yak Attack’s sound will not fit your expectations—and it shouldn’t as well. For someone who likes indie/folk music, you might want to give this album a listen. But this album is for people who don’t mind listening to new and fused music and enjoy the sounds, rhythms and beats.
Though some of the sounds come from Nepal, it’s meant for all ears. Yak Attacks’ Taal Sutra is worth a listen until you’re infected by the music and decide to have it on repeat.