Ankit Shrestha, armed with a guitar, frequents New York City’s subway stations. He is not at the station to board a train. The 27-year-old is in town for a different reason.
He chooses a place, sets his bucket in front of him, and begins busking. When he has free time, he follows this routine. He says, “I’ve been doing this since I came to the United States from Nepal in 2013.” “It has greatly aided me in becoming a better singer and musician.”
He does it for two hours every now and then, and six hours every now and then. With a lifetime of experience in music, he sees it as more than just a way to make money; it’s also a place for him to showcase his skills and learn.
Using the skills he learned from busking and classes at Truman State University, he has released two albums and plans to release more in the coming years, as his soulful melodies and relatable lyrics have touched the hearts of Nepalis in Nepal and around the world for the past half-decade.
Street performances in the United States
Shrestha began playing music when he was ten years old. He chose a guitar as an elective because he was attracted to it. His mother, seeing his enthusiasm, bought him a guitar, and he and his guitar became inseparable. He was listening to popular English rock bands by the age of 13, and by the age of 15, he was fully immersed in metal and heavy metal.
He was a member of the metal band Wings of Spasm in high school, and he participated in numerous valley competitions. After the band’s vocalist moved to the United States, Shrestha and a few others founded Plan Aftermath in 2012, releasing the EP Abomination.
“I moved to Kirksville, Missouri, shortly after to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music.”
In the United States, things were different. He tried to find people with whom he could perform after becoming a member of a band in Nepal. With college work and everyone else’s schedules, he couldn’t find someone to play with.
However, shortly after, an opportunity presented itself. He had gone to work in Ocean City, Maryland, in the summer of 2013. He saw people on the beach singing to passers-by. That inspired him to do the same.
“What did I have to lose?” says the narrator. “I got to play music as part of a job,” he remembers. That’s something I’ve always wished to do. It was a lot of fun for me. That year, I played up to 8 hours a day and made a decent living doing so.”
Taking it further than busking
He did, however, raise more than just a few dollars. He began to study how to perform. He began to sing as soon as he became the lead member of Plan Aftermath. Busking, on the other hand, allowed him to improve his singing skills while also introducing him to the indie music scene. Busking also helped him compose songs because there was never a dull moment when he was out and about.
“I used to listen to a lot of singer-songwriters in Nepal as well,” he says, “but I never really played their songs.” “I saw how much people enjoyed listening to that form of music in Ocean City. I enjoyed playing it as well.”
He began writing and composing songs in his Kirksville apartment as he pursued his studies. With a taste for American indie music in his veins, he began to write songs in both English and Nepali that were similar in style.
Shrestha started going to Ocean City and busking on a regular basis. He claims that busking transformed him from a guitarist to a singer as he noticed changes in his voice.
“My voice tone began to improve. It was also a good place to work on new songs.”
After learning a lot while busking, he released his first album, Fingers and Fables, in 2015, which includes both Nepali and English songs.
“It was done in my room with the assistance of a friend.”
It wasn’t always easy to make a living as a busker. There were times when people would take his hard-earned money and flee. He’d come back with little or no money on certain days. But, he says, it was just part of the learning process for him.
By 2017, he had completed his undergraduate studies. He realized he needed to get out of Kirksville if he wanted to make it in the music industry. He chose to move to New York City after considering a few options.
“It was a very different world. You could busk anywhere as long as you didn’t bother anybody and the crowd was receptive. It was a no-brainer to come here because the busking situation is so great.”
In the same year, he traveled to Dallas, Texas, with the aid of his friend Davin Shakya, to record his second album, Kathmandu Saharma. According to him, the album contains songs about his life in Nepal and the United States, as well as his relationships with others.
He returned to Nepal in 2018 after his visa expired. His stay here, however, was short-lived, as he returned to New York at the end of 2018 to pursue an audio engineering degree.
“I decided to improve my mixing and mastering skills. There isn’t a course like this in Nepal, which is why I returned to New York, where I could do a lot.”
He has now completed his studies and is preparing to release a new album. He’s been releasing singles on the side, but he wants to put out an album. He wants to do so because many of his peers around the world have inspired him to do so.
This is why, despite his difficulties in writing Nepali lyrics, he tries and wishes to continue releasing Nepali songs because he recognizes that there is a market for the type of music he produces.
“I released around five in 2020, but I want to release a couple more this year, but in English.” I’d like to compile and distribute it.”
He claims that he does not make many plans for the future, but he has made plans for this year.
“For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by vinyl. I’ll make a vinyl after I finish recording all of these songs.”