"I really hope we become a generation
that knows how to be grateful to others,
that is tightly connected by things we can't see."
Meet Bobin, a musician formally based in Japan who diligently rocks show after show including numerous music festivals. He participated in almost every SONG OF THE EARTH event held for the restoration of the Chūetsu Earthquake (occurred in 2004), organized by Candle JUNE and his team. He returned home to Nepal in the spring of 2010. Since then, 5 years have passed [at the time of this interview]. He has come back for an epic performance at FUJIROCK. We sat down with Bobin, the weaver of songs of peace, to gain insight into the great earthquake that hit Nepal in April of 2015 and the future of his homeland.
The first Great Earthquake in 82 years.
–––– The UN announced on April 28 that 30% of Nepal’s population was effected by the great earthquake that happened on the 25th. Where were you when it happened?
I was in my home in Patan. Patan is a very old town, and the main square Durbar Square is even recognised as a world heritage with many old temples. My house is about a 10 minute walk from there. My house is made of concrete so there was no problem. Our old house that is in the central area is over 100 years old and the third floor fell apart. We had a great earthquake 82 years ago and many homes that didn’t crumble then were severely damaged.
–––– Was the shaking big?
It was pretty big, yeah. I’ve been in Japan for a long time and have experienced earthquakes a few times, so I thought I knew what to expect, but this was the biggest one I’ve ever experience.
–––– What was the magnitude?
It was 7.8. Some people say it was a 7.9, some even say it was 8.2. Since the elevation of the Nepali plateau is rather high, you don’t really feel the earthquakes of smaller magnitude, but this time they say there was a large movement of the plate.
–––– Considering how Everest was formed by an upheaval of land mass, it’s easy to see why there would be such large earthquakes.
When you think about the whole world, it’s only natural that there are earthquakes. It’s crazy to think how one moment’s worth of shaking can totally turn the lives of us humans upside down. Everyone will tell you, not only me, but it took about 2 to 3 days to really get a grasp on how big the quake really was. You can’t really wrap your head around it all just by looking at the crumbled buildings. It was only after a few days went by that you’d realise, “Something incredible just happened.”
It began with making your own food.
–––– After the earthquake, did you see a change in the Nepali people?
About 80% of Nepal’s people are involved in farming. Making your own food is an everyday thing here. So people were sad that they had lost family members, or they had lost their house, but you rarely saw anyone devastated. Obtaining food was no problem, and water still flowed from springs so we could get by. I mean, we’re a people who can live off of 2 buckets of water a day. If we lived like people in Japan do, paying for electricity, paying for water, then we might have thought we’d lost everything and fell into despair, but things like 10 hour black outs are completely normal to us. Everyone is cheerful. I was really moved by seeing just how strong we are mentally. There were no disturbances or riots, everyone was calm. There were over 1,000 people in the square, all making food. It was like communal life. Since there are a lot of seniors, there are a lot of people firmly rooted. I’m sure Japan used to be like that back in the day.
–––– So there being smaller communities makes it easier to help each other when things like earthquakes happen, I see.
There is this kind of lateral connection, or something, like a tight knit circle. Tokyo is more like a square, but Japan in general is supposed to be more of a “circular” country. It’s when the going gets tough that we see the true personality of a nation’s people.
–––– So you’ve recently had a child, am I right?
My wife’s family is all in Tochigi Prefecture. It really pains me to have to leave the kids there in Tochigi. There is the invisible fear of radiation. Almost all of the vegetables grown in Nepal are organic, and it’s over all more simple here in Nepal.
–––– So there are no worries about food then?
It’s hard to get rid of the idea from my head, of wanting to avoid food from Tochigi. I mean, we’re being frightened by things we can’t see. Some one once said that, since we live in a time where we are scared of things invisible to the eye, we are also in a time where more value is placed on other things invisible to the eye. I think that’s spot on. I really hope we become a generation that knows how to be grateful to others, that is tightly connected by things we can’t see.
Instilling dreams in the children.
–––– Right after the earthquake, I understand that relief help came from Japan.
My friends in Japan were all very worried for us. People like (UEDA) Kōhei, from TENGUSA, and ECHO BEATS syonan took action right away and donated money. Drill’s very own (MATSUOKA) Shunsuke also brought money to Nepal that he gathered as donations at music festivals that he opened booths at. WAKI (You) also came looking for ways to help out. When thinking about what one can do with all the money people donated, in the end, we were really only able to help people on an individual level. So what we did was put it towards medicinal expenses at hospitals. My cousin is the director of a hospital that is run free of charge, originally by German support. We donated some money there. Next we thought of donating shelters made of corrugated iron to farmers. Since we were just entering the rice planting season, we wanted to have farmers focus there time and energy on work with a little more feeling of stability.
–––– What do you think of the Nepali government’s policy to put all of their gathered donations into one place?
I don’t necessarily think that collecting all donations at one place and then handing it out is a bad policy. The problem is that the citizens here, as well as the international community don’t have trust in the Nepali government. The government really acted slow too.
–––– The government of Japan is slow as well.
Situations and environments always differ, and it’s difficult to make everything fair. You’re always faced with so many issues when doing things on a large scale. What I am able to do is on a strictly individual level. We started the Alumni, PASA OB Pucha about 15 years ago and we have been working on many things using that as a hub. It is made of friends, Nepal natives who have come back after studying abroad in Japan. PASA means friend. A while back, Candle JUNE came to Nepal to teach the street children how to make candles and coordinated the whole thing.
–––– What do you plan on doing through PASA OB Pucha in the future?
In Nepal, there are many schools that are run on money put together by both the government and regional communities, but I was wondering if there was any way of providing a bit of fun in there. Education is more than justing teaching the ABCs, and we thought it was important to teach them to be conscious of what environment they are to grow up in as well. Like I think there is a big difference in children who have grown up with clean bathrooms as opposed to children who grew up in an environment where bathrooms are dirty and that’s just the way it is. So, for instance, we would love to have people like the festival decorator Bubb, or the Live Painting duo Gravityfree come and have them put up some funky artwork in the bathrooms of schools. We would love to have people who can come to teach the kids something creative. Especially since now we have to create our own place all over again after the earthquake. I mean, it’s got to be loads of fun to be able to show them that making something new can be this much fun. And it’s something that the government isn’t able to do.
Organising the Peace Festival
–––– What do you hope to do next?
We are entering Autumn here in Nepal, which is the most beautiful season of all. I hope loads of people come for sight seeing. More people coming to visit, should mean greater motivation for us Nepali people.
–––– You are throwing another event in November, I hear.
We plan on throwing an event right smack in the middle of the world heritage site of Patan on November 21. We’re going to do the event that we did with JUNE, one more time. Light some candles, and put on an unplugged concert. The theme is “Pray for peace through light and sound”. Even if it’s just for that moment, everyone will hold peace in their heart, and we’ll end the show on one big “Thank you.” A very simple event.
–––– And the name of the event?
SHANTI UTSAV. “Shanti” means peace, and “Utsav” means festival. We don’t plan on setting up any booths like festivals in Japan, since it’s our first event since the earthquake.
–––– Is it an event centered around “prayer”?
I think that prayer is like tuning for the mind. We’ll be tuning the mind through live music and lighting candles. It’s not about praising God, but to bring a feeling of peace to your heart, our theme is PEACE OF MIND. If we all feel the same way, then I think we are able to connect as one. It’s really a very simple aim. It’s more like a festival for the heart, rather than a music festival. We see a steady increase of Europeans. I hope to see more and more Japanese.
Bobin (Bobin Man Bajracharya)
Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the land of the Himalayas, Bobin has released CDs in Japan, Nepal, and Taiwan. During his 2010 tour of Japan and the US, he performed in large scale rock festivals both domestically and abroad. With his homeland in heart, still facing the aftermath of disaster, he not only writes songs that strongly call for peace in Nepal, but sends messages of peace to the hearts of forerunners that will be creating the next generation and continues to perform all over the world with his theme of harmony.
This interview is from September, 2015
Text: KIKUCHI Takashi
Photography: ITŌ Kaoru