Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries. More than half of the nation survives on less than $2 per day. The earthquake that hit it in April not only killed 9,000 and left 23,000 injured; it also displaced 450,000 people and caused significant economic harm. While aid has been committed by better-off countries and the usual NGOs are working to help, reconstruction is a challenging task. In the aftermath of the disaster, Anni Hogan, the musician and composer, and her friend Cathy O’Dowd, the first woman to climb Mount Everest from both the north and south sides, took the initiative to organise a compilation of tracks from willing artists. It’s now been released as MITRA – Music for Nepal, a 75-track, 2 Gb (in FLAC form) mountain of digital music on Bandcamp.
The contributors include Ryuichi Sakamoto, Shakespears Sister, Dave Ball & Rick Mulhall, Matt Johnson/The The, Jarboe, Sarah Jane Morris, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Parralox, Billie Ray Martin, Scanner and Hogan herself. While some of the tracks have been donated from the artists’ archives, many have been composed and recorded specifically for this compilation, so will be good reasons in themselves to buy a copy.
Sakamoto-san’s “Kizuna World” took shape in the wake of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011, and it comes in solidarity with enough emotional depth and strength to draw comparisons to Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony. The first of two contributions from Hogan, a collaboration with Itchy Ear called “Climbing Mount Analogue,” ties back to their work on the soundtrack for Mountain, a film by Bob Wass: a frozen soundscape with piano keys tinkling like the sound of breaking icicles. Shakespears Sister’s “Cold” is lifted from Songs from the Red Room, proving that Siobhan Fahey has a heart as large as her vocal range.
The overall quality of the compilation is exceptional, and there aren’t many other places where Simon Fisher Turner and Scanner rub shoulders with Loretta Heywood and Kirlian Camera. There are no excuses not to pay over the asking price for a copy on Bandcamp, as proceeds go to reconstruction in Nepal and the price per song is far too low for material of this quality.