My Brother, the Rock Star in Nepal

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Josh Brody and Khem Raj Gurung's

Josh Brody and Khem Raj Gurung's debut album in 2003 produced music videos that, to this day, are among the most requested on Nepal's music video channel. hide caption

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One of the most popular recording artists in Nepal is Gajab Bahadur Gurung Lama, which translates in English to "strange and wonderful thing." But I know the artist as Josh Brody, my big brother.

Josh was given his Nepali name when he first visited in 1994 as a college student on a study-abroad program.

"Nepal was both more different than any place I had ever been, but at the same time I felt more comfortable and drawn to the place than any other place I'd been," he says.

Josh learned the language through singing, and developed a love for the songs that taught him Nepali. He took a job teaching in a village in Nepal, a two-day walk from the nearest road. There he met Khem Raj Gurung, the school's music teacher. He says they started singing together, and then they started performing.

"People just got a kick out of our songs and performances, so we ended up performing in larger and larger venues… and we kind of thought, wait, maybe we've got something here," he says.

Khem Raj and Josh were an odd pair — short and tall, dark and light; the audience loved it. Eventually, they decided to record an album. But before the album's release, Khem Raj had cut a record on his own. It went on to become the best-selling album in the country's history.

"It became a real big deal that Khem Raj Gurung is recording… an album with this foreigner, Gajab Bahadur Gurung Lama," Josh says.

Josh and Khem Raj shot three videos. They look like Bollywood films with people singing, dancing and running through the mountains. Josh says the videos were released in 2003 and, to this day, are among the most requested on Nepal's music video channel, NTV.

But you don't have to take his word for it. Or even mine. I went to the restaurant Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena to see whether anyone there had heard of him. Karma, the owner of the restaurant, says that he plays Josh's CD often to give his customers a sense of home.

Madav Gurung, a recent arrival from Katmandu, who is peeling potatoes for the day's vegetable curry, says my brother's music videos are nice and that everybody likes them.

"Do you think it's funny?" I ask?

"Of course," he says, "because he is very tall guy and another one is very short, so, you know, yeah."

So Josh is a celebrity. But his fame has not made him rich. In fact, he has earned about 9,000 U.S. dollars from his record sales, all of which has gone to an education development project he started for children in Nepal. However, his popularity has brought some of the familiar trappings of fame.

"People started recognizing me just out on the street and when I'd get into the taxi cab and the taxi driver would just be really excited that I got in that cab. I think people felt not just, 'Oh, wow, there's someone that we recognize from television,' but it was in the most wonderful way that I think they felt that I had also honored them by doing what I did with the Nepali folk songs," he says.

Josh now lives in the United States and directs a school in Pasadena. But recently, he returned to Nepal, where he and Khem Raj recorded another song and shot another video. So for at least a couple more years I can say my brother, Gajab Bahadur, is big in Nepal.

Alison Brody reports for Annenberg Radio News.



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