ASANI is an Aboriginal women’s trio from Edmonton. They are Debbie Houle, Sarah Pocklington and Sherryl Sewepagaham. This circle of First Nations and Metis women have performed across Canada and internationally at such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York, The Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C. and the Saddledome in Calgary. Their debut CD ‘Rattle and Drum’ was nominated for 11 music awards including a 2006 Juno nomination for Aboriginal Recording of the Year and received the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award (CAMA) for Best Female Traditional Cultural Roots Album, 2005. Asani composed the theme song for the CAMA’s in 2005 and the honoring song for the Esquao Awards in 2009. They have performed for the Dalai Lama, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler, BC.
ASANI seek to use the inspiration of their cultural heritage to create music that is accessible to a wide audience, but delivers a powerful message from their hearts. In October 2009, they released their sophomore CD “Listen,” to growing acclaim. The album establishes a new direction for the group, expending their sonic palette and going even deeper into vocal arrangements with unique depth and impact.
These women sing from their soul. The amazing projection of sound allows them to sound as if they have omni. Which is a directional microphone.
Since the release of their follow up cd “Listen”, ASANI has received a 2010 Canadian Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year and a 2010 Indian Summer Music Award for Best Spiritual Song. In March of 2012, ASANI was acknowledged as a finalist by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce for an Alberta Business of Distinction Award as an Aboriginal Women Entrepreneur.
On March 19, 2012 Asani made their orchestral debut performing with the Lethbridge Symphony at the Southminster United Church. We would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts for their financial support of this project. Without that support it certainly would not have been possible.
We came across the Nepali Chhori blog by accident — via a link a singer posted on google. So, we visited the link thinking we were contacting the singer, but were actually contacting Richa Pokhrel and her blog. After a couple of email conversations, we became aware of our mistake. However, we were so moved by the women’s stories and the other content on the blog that we wanted to share it here. Richa, first of all, congratulations on the award your blog received and second, thank you so much for allowing us to share you and your work here. We also thank you for uniting Nepalese women and helping the overall collective of women to gain more rights, respect, appreciation and understanding. Women need women. Together we are strong.The heading of the website reads: “Being a Nepali Woman in Today’s World.” First, tell our readers what “Nepali Chhori” means and second, what was your reason for starting your Nepali Chhori blog?
Nepali Chhori means Nepali daughter. I wanted to create a safe space for Nepali woman, no matter where they live, to come together and talk about things that affect us. I couldn’t find any place on the internet for just Nepali woman so I thought a blog was the way to go. I realize that we aren’t going to have the same experiences but we will be able to understand each other and come together.
How many different writers contribute to your blog?
Currently we have 6 regular writers, including myself but we do have guest authors from time to time. We are always looking for more Nepali women writers.
Are they all Nepali women?
All of them are Nepali, but we all live in different parts of the world.
We found several stories where writers talk about their experiences as a part of the culture of United States and how it conflicts or varies with the Nepalese culture that their parents hold on to. One story specifically was “Adulthood,” where the writer’s mother flew out to her college to meet with her college advisor. She felt it was a little over the top, but by her mother’s standards, it was perfectly appropriate. In your opinion, for situations like this, is this culture difference a really big problem or not a problem at all?
In that example, I think that was very extreme as in terms of cultural differences. I don’t think most Nepali parents would do that in America. In general, Nepali parents are very involved in their children’s lives, even as we get older. Even though I am in my late 20s, my mother still calls and asks if I have eaten and what I have eaten. I am married and they still see me as a little girl. Independence and individuality isn’t something that is taught in Nepal, we are a society that depends on our family and friends. For of us who grew up outside the country, we struggle with this notion because in Western cultures, independence and individuality is something that is taught early on. Sometimes the things our parents do seem extreme here but some these situations wouldn’t be extreme in Nepal.
Tell our readers a little bit about Nepal. For instance, where is Nepal? What is the population size and what is the dominant religion?
Nepal is a tiny country between China and India. It has roughly 27 million people and many different ethnicities and languages. It is also home to the highest mountains in the world known as the Himalayas. It is known as the Hindu Kingdom because majority of its people are Hindus but there also a lot of Buddhists and smaller populations of other religions.
We watched the segment on Nepal from the documentary entitled “Girl Rising” which taught us that girls are forced to work (as slaves) from a very young age under the guise of “bonded labor?” There was a law passed in 2000 to end that. Do you think it still continues?
Yes, it still continues. Unfortunately, even with the law passed, society is slow to make those changes and frankly some people are morally okay with treating girls as slaves. Also, due to poverty, parents get tricked when they think they are sending their children for a job but end up being trafficked. However, there are organizations that are working towards ending these practices across the country.
What is the woman’s role in Nepalese society?
In the traditional sense, it’s to be a good daughter, then a good wife, and a good mother. There always a male figure in your life that you are supposed to obey, your father, your brother, then your husband. However, there are a lot of women and girls who aren’t conforming to these narrow expectations. Many women are choosing to marry when they want, choosing to have kids later in life, pursuing their career goals, and being politically involved. Women in Nepal do a lot of work but never get credit for all that they do.
What kind of things do you feel need to be changed in that society as it relates to women?
Citizenship through mothers. Currently, it’s very difficult for people to get citizenship without proving both parents are Nepali. This affects millions of people, especially children who are born to single mothers, refugee mothers, mothers who were abandoned by their husbands, and Nepali women who married foreign nationals. They are deemed stateless. The Citizenship Certificate is needed to do the most basic of things in Nepal like registering for school, buying property, vote, opening a bank account, etc. However, children of Nepali men who marry foreign nationals don’t have this problem because they automatically get citizenship through descent. Nepal is currently working on drafting the new constitution, there has been big activism in changing the law so that citizenship can be granted either by the mother or father, not both.
Education. Many girls in the rural areas don’t have access to education even though basic education is supposed to be free for everyone.
Access to resources. It’s nearly impossible to get bank loans and women can’t inherit land easily.
Menstruation practices. There are still practices of “chaupadi” in rural Nepal for women who are menstruating. This essentially means they can’t practice in normal activities like cooking, cleaning, being around others. This was banned in 2005 but it is still being practiced.
What can we do collectively to help create positive change for girls and women in Nepal?
We can believe in them, we can encourage them, and we can give them support. For any change to happen, we must fully believe in the capabilities of other women, especially those who don’t come from the same background as us. We as women need to let go our our stereotypes and we need to stop making judgements about other women’s choices.
What do you want out of life personally and what is your mission in life, if you have one?
My mission in life is to be the best person I can be. It’s very easy to try to be someone you aren’t, especially with all the pressure we get from our families, friends, and society. I want to live an authentic life that doesn’t dwell too much on how I look, how much money I make, and what things I own. But more on how I treat others and how I interact with nature. My life is filled with meaningful friendships, room for growth, and the ability to not take myself too seriously. I hope that continues as I get older. http://nepalichori.com/https://twitter.com/nepalichoriblog