By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – Guitarist Diwas Gurung will perform at Big Sky’s Lone Mountain Ranch on June 14, as part of a fundraiser to benefit humanitarian efforts in Nepal.
On April 25, the country was shaken by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which was followed by hundreds of aftershocks including a 7.3 tremor on May 12. The collective destruction left more than 8,500 people dead and destroyed nearly 500,000 homes.
“My stomach sinks with each new update about the earthquake in Nepal,” Gurung wrote on his artist Facebook page on April 25. The 33-year-old lives in New York City and grew up in Katmandu, Nepal’s capital. “So many lives lost and so much of our history erased. Let us do what we can to weather this terrible moment so we may rebuild.”
The fundraiser is an attempt to assist that rebuilding, and LMR partnered with Montana State University’s Nepalese Student Association and Tsering’s Fund to host a live and silent auction, as well as presentations from southwest Montana residents who participated in the relief effort.
Dr. Peter Schmieding, a dentist who practices in Big Sky, Four Corners and Ennis, co-founded the nonprofit Tsering’s Fund to pay for the education of Nepali girls through private donations. After the April earthquake struck, Tsering’s Fund changed its focus as Schmieding traveled to Nepal to assist in the humanitarian effort. Proceeds from the June 14 fundraiser will be donated to the organization’s continued relief work in the stricken country.
Gurung moved to the U.S. when he was 20, and began performing with the band Ayurveda in 2005. When the group split in 2011, he formed Photoreal with Ayurveda band mate Dan Halperin.
Photoreal, along with more than 7,000 other bands, entered National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest this winter. They didn’t win, but were highlighted on its web page as a featured entrant in late January, gaining them national acclaim.
Gurung will perform at the fundraiser with Montana drummer Brett Goodell and Gurung’s wife Mandy, with whom he has a band called The Rungs. EBS interviewed Gurung by phone on June 5, prior to his first trip to Montana.
Explore Big Sky: When did you learn to play the guitar?
Diwas Gurung: I tried learning it a bunch of times … I was about 16 [years old] when I really started playing it seriously. I was a late bloomer [laughs].
EBS: What are your biggest musical influences?
DG: When I was growing up I listened to a lot of western bands – The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and bands of the ‘90s like Nirvana [and] Metallica.
When I moved to the U.S. I started listening to a lot of Nepali folk music; I started getting a different perspective on it. The past couple of years I’ve been listening to a lot of contemporary Indy pop/rock, electronic, and world music [like] African guitar music.
EBS: Describe your guitar style.
DG: When I started playing, I was really obsessed with playing super fast. My style now is more like rhythm, a mix between African guitar music like Ali “Farka” Touré, with the style of bands like Pearl Jam.
EBS: What type of musical experience can attendees expect at the June 14 fundraiser?
DG: Predominantly solo songs. I’ll be playing with a drummer, but it will be … mostly old Nepali folk songs that I’ve stylized my own way, and then some Nepali songs that I’ve written. And some songs that [Mandy] wrote – those will be in English.
EBS: How did you get connected with LMR’s General Manager Paul Robertson?
DG: I checked my artist Facebook page and had a message from him. I’ve been playing a lot of benefit shows for people affected by the Nepali earthquake[s], mostly in New York. I heard there was a Nepali community [in Bozeman] and about the beauty of Montana.
EBS: Was your family affected by the April/May earthquakes?
DG: Most of my family lives in Katmandu [and] after the earthquake they were sleeping outside in tents. My grandmother, who still lives in a village, her house was badly damaged. Luckily, all the villagers were working in the field [during the April earthquake], but all of their houses were damaged.
EBS: The rebuilding of Nepal will likely take years. What is the most important thing Westerners can do to help the country?
DG: At this point, I feel like there are a couple of things. Monetary donations, [since] there’s a lot of people on the ground working with nonprofits. [Also] tourism is Nepal’s biggest source of income … Going to visit is one of the best things people can do.
EBS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
DG: I’m really excited to come to Montana and play for everyone there. I think it’s going to be a great time.
Visit tseringsfund.com for tickets to the June 14 fundraiser, or if you cannot attend the fundraiser but wish to donate to Tsering’s Fund earthquake relief.