Abhaya Subba Weise tunes in as she rewinds her journey in ‘Women In Concert’
In the not-too-distant past, late 90s in Kathmandu, Abhaya Subba Weise began her musical career by performing as a guest artist with bands like Parikrama, Red Skywalkers, and Panchatatva. In 2003, she decided to form her own band called ‘Abhaya and the Steam Engines’. In the same year, Abhaya also started the ‘Women in Concert’ campaign.
“I was once told that Nepali women can’t sing in the way I do. An admirer didn’t believe that I was Nepali. He might have said that as a compliment but I took it as an offence. I thought about this and ‘Women In Concert’ was born,” recalls Abhaya. She adds, “I also wanted to discover more female rock singers in the country.”
Bartika Eam Rai, Shreya Sotang and Megha Shrestha were some of the participants of “Women In Concert” who later on went on to become singing sensations.
“I didn’t want them to just sing on stage, rather I wanted them to reflect their strong personalities,” states Abhaya, who gives training to ‘Women in Concert’ participants. During this training, participants are given singing lessons and classes on personality development and media management.
Women In Concert represents girls who pen their own songs. With music, the concert conveys the message of women empowerment and gender equality. Abhaya initiated ‘Women in Concert’ in 2003 and Nirbhaya Manch has been organising this event on International Women’s Day annually since 2014. The Nirbhaya Foundation was legally registered as an NGO in January 2014. The registration was a step ahead and a big leap for Abhaya to enable it to work as an organisation on women rights issues.
Talking about tokenism in music concerts, Abhaya points out that many of the concerts find women singers just to fill the gender gap, she wants female singers to be recognized for their talent and have the limelight they deserve. Abhaya hopes to take this concert across Nepal but finds that funds are a challenge.
With more than two decades in the music industry, Abhaya has seen the industry up close and says, “Women are judged brutally. If it was based on skills, that would be fair but we are judged for our clothes, our face, and our background. And this is disheartening.”
Every year Abhaya’s team discover new, local artists and bands from different parts of Nepal, “In this male-dominated music industry, female artists are often diminished and even demoralised from pursuing musical careers,” she adds.
The Laijau Malai singer says she is not afraid of trying new things even though it may lead to failure. “I have failed many times but the experience makes me who I am. My work to uplift women singers is challenging in many ways but it will not stop me,” she concludes.