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My Brother, the Rock Star in Nepal
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My Brother, the Rock Star in Nepal

Music

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now a story about a much less controversial cultural exchange between East and West. As an American anthropology student, Josh Brody joined a study abroad program which took him to the Asian nation of Nepal. There, he learned the language, taught in a small school, and in his spare time became a pop star. Josh's sister, Alison Brody, has his story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOSH BRODY (Musician): (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

ALISON BRODY: This is the music of one of the most popular recording artists in Nepal. The artist's name is Gajab Bahadur Gurung Lama, which in English means strange and wonderful thing. But I know him as Josh Brody, my big brother. Josh was given his Nepali name when he first visited the country in 1994 in a study abroad program. He learned the language through singing.

Mr. BRODY: I ended up learning a lot of the songs. And I had such a love for them that I kind of took that on as my project.

BRODY: Josh took a job teaching in a village in Nepal. There he met Khem Raj Gurung, the school's music teacher. He says they started singing together, and then they started performing.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JOSH BRODY (Musician): (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. BRODY: 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.

BRODY: They were an odd pair: short, tall; dark, light. The audience loved it. Eventually, they decided to record together. But before their album's release, Khem Raj cut a record on his own. It went on to become the best-selling album in Nepal's history, and Khem Raj's star power rubbed off on Josh.

Mr. BRODY: It became a real big deal that Khem Raj Gurung is recording an album with this foreigner, Gajab Bahadur Gurung Lama.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BRODY and Mr. KHEM RAJ GURUNG: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

BRODY Josh and Khem Raj released three videos in 2003. They look like short Bollywood films with people singing, dancing and running through the mountains. Josh says to this day, they are among the most requested on Nepal's video channel, NTV. But you don't have to take his word for it or even mine.

Have you ever heard the music of Gajab Bahadur?

Mr. KARMA BHOTIA (Owner Tibet Nepal House Restaurant): (Unintelligible) yeah. He is very famous in Nepal.

That's Karma, the owner of Tibet Nepal House restaurant in Pasadena. He plays Josh's CD to give his Nepali customers a sense of home. Restaurant worker Madav Gurung enjoys it, too. He's a recent arrival from Katmandu. As he peels potatoes for the day's vegetable curry, he talks about my brother's videos.

Mr. MADAV GURUNG (Employee, Tibet Nepal House Restaurant): His music video is very nice. Everybody likes.

BRODY: Do you think it's funny?

Mr. MADAV GURUNG: Of course, because he is very tall guy and another one is very short, so, you know, yeah.

BRODY: So Josh is a Nepalese celebrity, but it hasn't made him rich. In fact, he has earned about 9,000 U.S. dollars from his record sales, all of which he's given to an education project he started for children in Nepal. Still, when he's there, he does enjoy some of the trappings of fame.

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

BRODY: Josh has moved back to the United States and is now the director of an elementary school in Pasadena. But he recently took a trip to Nepal to record a new song and shoot another video with Khem Raj. So for at least a couple more years I can say my brother, Gajab Bahadur, is big in Nepal.

For NPR News, I'm Alison Brody in Pasadena.

Mr. BRODY: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

BRAND: More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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