Rachana Dahal took the stage of Rashtriya Nachghar on September 16 and 17 last year after a year-long hiatus.
“I was sick and tired of doing the same thing,” she says. “So I took the break to come back with a fresh outlook and idea.”
The performance was part of the Show For the Blind, a two-day musical show to support visually impaired children. The show, organised by Dahal’s group NirviKalpo, saw about 1,000 audiences over two days and was a resounding success. Two of the videos from the show are already out on YouTube and are being received well by the audience.
“More videos from the show will be uploaded every 15 days,” says Dahal.
Show for the Blind was different to the shows that Dahal has done in the past. It exceeded the typical concert format, as Rachana Dahal aimed to provide her audience with a unique and immersive experience. Collaborating with dancers, actors, and painters, she with her team produced a multisensory journey that celebrated diverse forms of performing arts. This innovative approach resonated seamlessly with Dahal’s distinctive artistic vision and personality.
Evoking the artist within her
Since she began her musical career, Rachana Dahal has shown a love for not just music but also various other forms of art.
“Of course I love songwriting, but at the same time I am also always curious about expressing myself well by incorporating different art forms in my works,” Dahal says. “I do not just want to go on the stage and perform. I have done that many times. I go, sing and return. I always asked myself what’s next? And as an artist, it is also my responsibility to become creative. In life, no one can succeed by walking alone. And doing things alone is also not fun.”
By producing a show like Show for the Blind, the 26-year-old wants to see a paradigm in the Nepali music scene and inspire people to work for a good cause.
“There are people who are dying of starvation,” she says. “If I can’t empathise with them, what’s the meaning of my life?”
According to Dahal, productions like Show for the Blind are timeless and stem from her frustration with unprofessional organisers who subject artists to subpar conditions and are hesitant to compensate them fairly. In response, Dahal established her own platform to perform, integrate her creative ideas, and steer clear of the unprofessionalism often encountered with event organisers in Nepal.
“They don’t pay us on time, humiliate us and are reluctant to sign contracts. I don’t want to work with these people,” says Dahal.
She says she has talked about it to the artists around her who said they were also dealing with a similar situation but were hardly interested in changing things. This disappointed her as she thought to herself how could they easily accept the unfair treatment?
“I refuse to accept this and have stopped working with many organisers who think they can dominate me just because I am a woman,” she says.
Being part of events organised by such individuals took a toll on Dahal’s mental well-being. She struggled to understand why she was subjected to such treatment, leading her to distance herself from such organisers.
What also frustrated her was how many organisers have been reluctant to line up female artists during live shows.
“There are enough women but these organisers do see them,” she says.
That is what made Rachana Dahal do Show for the Blind and says she will do similar shows again as it gives her happiness and fulfilment. She has also been running a GoFundMe campaign for Show For the Blind as she hopes to help them in any way she can.
She has also been exploring new avenues, hosting secret shows for a more intimate audience. Her aim is to bring people closer to her music and herself closer to her listeners.
“I want to feel connected with my listeners genuinely,” she says. “And this is going to take place every month for at least a year.”
Expressing through words
Rachana Dahal is widely acclaimed for her songwriting abilities. Her songs broach subjects such as toxic relationships, mental health, and relationship fallouts, among other things that are not discussed in Nepali society as often as they should be.
“Though I write about very sensitive issues, I don’t feel emotionally challenged. I have already accepted that things like death, heartbreak and fallout are inevitable. So it doesn’t bother me,” says Dahal. “But during childhood, I used to cry thinking about such things. All these things used to come to me naturally.”
She says when something bothers her, she sits down and starts writing it down which becomes a song in the long run.
“There are moments when something is bothering you and you want to tell someone about it but can not. Even if you express those things to someone, you won’t feel satisfied,” Dahal says. “And in such situations, writing a song becomes a remedy to those unhealed traumas.”
However, writing and composing is not always a smooth task. Sometimes, the melody of the song matches with other songs and at such a time she drops the idea to release the song. She has gone through such a situation several times.
For Rachana Dahal, the recording process takes more time than songwriting and composing. She explains that she never sits down with the specific goal of writing a song; rather, thoughts continuously swirl around in her mind. These thoughts may start with just one line and gradually evolve into a composition spanning 20 lines.
Writing has come naturally to her but she never thought it would pave the way for her career in music.
“You would not believe it, but I wrote the chorus of Soch in the sixth grade,” says Dahal. “Back then I did not write those lines for a song, I did not have any idea that I would become a singer/songwriter in the future.”
She says she gets into a different zone when she sits down to write.
“Writing heals me in a way,” she says. “I feel good when I sit and express.”
For Rachana Dahal, life is all about expressing herself and says she will continue to do so until she is around.
Believing in herself
Unlike many artists who seek feedback from friends and fellow musicians after completing a song, Dahal stands as an exception. She expresses confidence in her work and refrains from seeking reviews.
There was only one instance before making her industry debut with Bhumari where she asked her brother, Rochak Dahal, frontman of the rock band Pahenlo Batti Muni, to listen to a song. This was a step to boost her confidence in her musical journey.
“We need to believe in our work before we release it,” says Dahal.
Regarding the quality of songs, Dahal believes that the songwriting should have clarity. The language and the lyrics of the song should make sense. There must be coherence among the various verses otherwise it doesn’t matter how good the singer sings.
Due to the sensitive issues she has included in her songs people assume that she is a sad and serious type of person.
“To some extent, my songs reflect my personality but not entirely,” says Dahal.
Many times people have said to her that you are entirely different from what they have thought.
“People think I’m older for my age due to the songs that produce. I can’t help but laugh,” she says.