Music Saved My Life Ganga
I first came here in September 2007. I came to study music at SOAS and finish further studies. When I was in Nepal, I was very excited. Coming to London was the first time I travelled. I had never even been to India because of my physical challenges. I was very excited, also very nervous going to a different culture. Also, for three months I was being so lazy because of the weather – so dark, always rainy – I missed lectures because I stayed inside. It was a mix of emotions – excited, anxious, and nervous. I imagined London to have a lot of big buildings. I even thought there were no trees here but I have found so many large open green areas. I thought a lot about snow. When you see a movie, all you see is the London Eye – the best parts. Other parts are not shown. I knew big buildings, but you see a range of old small building.
I was excited about the way people work and the way people think, especially study. I changed my study method. In Nepal – probably things have changed now – but when I was there we just copy and paste. The teacher tells you what to write and you get good marks. Here you need to be yourself – make your own way. If I write something or play something, it has to come out from me. I learnt this very quickly – I find it the really interesting part. It was very difficult because I do not know even how to use a computer because there is no access in Nepal. I am not from a wealthy or rich family – very basic family, no luxurious life. Coming here is completely different. I enjoy the most that at the same place, people are from different places – India, China, Japan; you see different cultures in one place. SOAS is a great place, people from all over, different music, languages.
One of the memories that definitely stands out is that after 3-4 months I actually cried. I still remember Russell Square, in the park. I still remember the professor. I was very quiet, probably because of the language barrier. I did not do my homework, so my professor said to me, “If you are quiet like this, your friends will go and you will still be here, so please be open. Speak out.” I never had that attitude in my life. No one in Nepal says it that way. It was difficult for me. I was alone when I came here; studying in an international hall. I definitely miss my country at that time. I cried for almost two hours, when I go to that park. I still remember that moment.
Now you see me, I am not the same. Believe me. I met at a concert, 6-7 years after first meeting her, one of my friends who studied in SOAS. When she first met me, I was a boy; now I have become a man. She helped me a lot; I was so depressed at that time. For me I was very quiet – I had no reason. I was very excited to be in London but what to do. Funny – it is easy to be lost in a city with so much life.
I honestly came here to complete my studies but I found I did not understand music. I understood through coming here music has many categories. It is not about only singing. People think in Nepal if they are popular or can sing they are musicians. One concert changed me. Before I played rock music and used to have long hair; after I completely changed myself. It was my first concert – a West African band. A husband and wife sang a duet – fantastic. I cannot explain the feeling. I did not understand the language at all but the music has had a great influence on me, I went to go see them as part of a school assignment. I have found West African music rhythmically very similar to Nepalese music and really like West African guitar. (I learnt classical guitar copying pieces.). I thought, “Why can Nepali music not be done that way?” It was really difficult, it took time but now I have Namlo – my band.
Since then I have been doing research on Nepali music in London. No one seems to know Nepal. There is a South Asian music circuit supported by the Arts Council. You see India, Pakistan but I do not see the name of Nepal; it means there are a lot of things to do about Nepalese music. So I want to bring the sounds of Nepal so people realise Nepal exists somewhere. I want to be a musical bridge between the Nepalese and UK. That concert changed my life and after 9 years I played at the same venue.
I still miss large aspects of Nepal. Right now I am especially missing my family. I need to share my pain. Here I can be with my friends but I miss so much – it is hard to talk about. It is in your head, in your thoughts. On the other hand, I have to do a lot of things here Physically, it is very difficult in Nepal for me. Now I have been here 10 years so there is not as much a connection but I still miss everything.
In more recent times life has been difficult. For 3 and a half years now I have been struggling with the Home Office to accept my right to remain. Also, my family is broken. I was married before – our 10 year relationship broke down. 2 and a half years ago. So, between the marriage and the immigration, I am struggling. Also, my room was burgled – a lot of things happen. Still I am here because of music. I like to be here because all my friends, family, support network are here. My father is not that much caring about me, only my mother that really cares about me but she passed away 15 years ago. So since then not much family remember me. But I still remember them. Still, I keep going.
Only when I am singing that I forget everything – the pain, the journey. It comes when I sing; I forget everything. Music for me is not only singing, it gives me strength also. It has given me so much strength to tackle all the difficulties. It is being an artist that I love, not the famous aspect. I do respect my artistry. No matter what happens to me music has given me so much hear by God’s grace.
Centrality of music and affinity with music – it connects people and friends. Music also breaks barriers, despite my physical difficulty which would usually leave you so isolated. In Nepal I would have to think a lot of things – whether there are steps or a toilet. You are not inclusive within the society but for music at least friends call me to play music for them. It gives me confidence and that breaks the barrier. Really good integration into society through music – it breaks all my barriers mentally, socially, physically; that’s really important.
Going monthly to Croydon* is killing me softly – without music I would not survive. Life can be so painful but the music saves me. Everything for me is the music.
*Before immigration status is confirmed, people have to check in monthly at the Home Office in Croydon.