Bhutanese Band North H to Rock Seoul

The three-piece grunge band ‘North H’. (Pic:  North H)

The band will feature in the No Mercy Fest, a carnival of rock music

KARMA CHIMI
Thimphu

Bhutanese grunge band North H has not only made waves in the country, but is now set to rock the streets of South Korea.

On the invitation from No Mercy Fest and Namuai Entertainment from South Korea, the group of three, with Ugyen as the front man, will be performing in the “No Mercy Fest” which will be held on 8 October in Seoul becoming the first ever rock bands to perform in a foreign music carnival.

The No Mercy Fest in Seoul, South Korea will also feature other grunge, alternative and heavy metal bands from Europe and as well as from Korea.

Grunge is an alternative rock subculture that first appeared in the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, specifically in Seattle and neighbouring towns.

After the carnival, the band will be further performing in Incheon and Geoje Island upon the request from the Korean people. Front man Ugyen Tenzin said, “It is a dream come true for the band to perform in Korea.”

The band at present have mixed feelings; nervous at the same time excited about the fact that they will be performing in a grand stage.

The band members were sceptical at first whether they would be able to perform at par with other bands. “But the organizers believed we could live up to their expectation as they have seen some of our videos which encouraged us even more and to believe in ourselves.”

“It is a proud moment for us to represent Bhutan in front of Korean fans and their roaring pop and rock culture,” said Ugyen.

The band, with their historical performance, is hoping to inspire the younger generation of Bhutanese music lovers and showcase their talent and come up with their very own musical genre and songs.

They have been practicing for the Korean tour for more than a month in which they will be playing only their original songs. And even before the invitation, they have always been practicing throughout said the founder of band.

As there will be other bands performing at the fest, North H said they are excited to meet with them and learn from them as well.

One of their new dzongkha original songs will also be played during the tour says the band members for which they are hyped and equally excited.

The band has gone to various concerts before but one of different aspect of this particular event will be the fact that they will be going with their new drummer Rabi Kumar Ghalay which will be his first international tour.

Rabi said, “I feel proud to be a drummer for North H and it is a dream come true for me to be in the band and tour with them.”

Despite his busy schedule while pursuing his studies at Norbu Rigter College, Ugyen Tenzin said, “Rabi comes all the way from Paro every evening to practice for their upcoming tour which shows his effort and passion for the band.”

Aside their songs, they will be selling their merchandise and t-shirts to the audience which makes them even more elevated.

“We are blessed to get such an opportunity and develop our network in the international arena,” said Karma Dupchu, the bassist.

After their Korean tour, the band will also be performing in two venues in Thailand.

About North H

Ugyen Tenzin founded the band in 2014 during his college days who is the lead vocalist and also the lead guitarist for the band. He is joined by his younger brother Karma Dupchu, the bassist.

Before his brother, his childhood friend joined the band as the drummer, that’s how the tree person band was formed. But sadly, the drummer of band had to quit after one year due to personal reasons. That happened with the second Drummer as well, Kapil Chettri who quit after a seven-year journey.

Nevertheless, this year the band found new drummer Rabi Kumar Ghalay who is still a college student at Norbu Rigter College.

The band usually plays english grunge numbers but will include dzongkha tracks as well in the coming days.

Their struggle

Forming a rock band was a herculean task in Bhutan. Ugyen Tenzin was in search of right people from the go which was a very arduous job. For seven months after forming the band, North H practiced throughout and later they started to perform in local venues.

At initial stage, it was difficult as there was less market for music and rock music in particular was not much of a preference to the Bhutanese audience.

Due to the fact that they also had to pay for the instruments and eke out a living, their work became even more challenging.

Through sheer willpower and perseverance, they eventually obtained sponsors and sincere supporters along the course of their musical careers, which helped lessen their predicaments.

In their early years, they performed covers songs by western rock bands including Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Guns and Roses, and ACDC that they had been heavily influenced by. However, after two years, they began to perform their own original songs.

Transcending to Success

The band’s debut original track, My Darling released in 2015, garnered love and attention from the general public.

One of Ugyen’s close friends suggested this particular song to a local radio station in the Netherlands. The band was then inspired to put in even more effort because people were enjoying their music outside of the group. After the release of their debut album, “Into the Night,” in 2016, they started performing their originals.

North H as an emerging grunge and rock band gradually gained popularity through social media platforms and performances in local pubs and live shows.

The band was suggested to the Dutch record company El Mondo by a local radio station. However, the pandemic held the record label from releasing the album they had originally planned.

Nonetheless, the record company has assisted the band with overseas tours, such as their three-year run in Nepal, which was their first tour abroad in 2016.

The Hornbill International Rock Contest and Music Festival in Nagaland, India, which is still the band’s largest stage to date, featured them prominently. They even continued on from there to Sikkim and Shillong in India.

Among others, the band performed as the headlining act at three different venues in Thailand in 2018. One of those locations, the Rock Pub, stands out for the band as the most memorable because the crowd was serenaded by North H and their thumping music.

Even though the pandemic has made their job more difficult, they still intend to produce their second album, which will also include two to three dzongkha songs, and will be released before the end of this year.

Despite gaining popularity, the band member claims they still have a lot to hone their skills and that they will keep learning every day.

The band urges Bhutanese musicians to work hard and develop their skills, and think about rocking the global arena to take Bhutanese music industry to an international stage.

“It is all about working hard to pursue your passion and love for music.”

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