Rebuilding Nepal: Q&A with Ryan McAllister
Ryan McAllister is a singer-songwriter, producer, and former Maverick recording artist from the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. In 2015, he spent two weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal with World Vision Canada and the Vineyard Church, seeing the impact of ongoing relief efforts, visiting with locals and collaborating with a few Nepalese artists on newly released album, Other Side: Hope From the Rubble.
We asked Ryan to share a few reflections from his time in Nepal, as well as his hopes and aspirations for the recording project.
What were your first impressions of Nepal?
This was my first trip to Asia. Having grown up on a farm in Canada, I was overwhelmed by the density in Kathmandu. There were so many people, so much traffic, but not a single stop sign or stop light! At first, it was shocking to see a family of four piled onto a scooter passing by on a packed road. But after a few days, you get used to it and stop wondering, “Where are your CSA-approved car seats??”
How has the earthquake affected the people of Nepal?
Prior to the earthquakes, Nepal was known to be one of the poorest countries in the world. From what I gathered, it seemed that the country had taken some steps forward in recent years. Many people we spoke to, had been hopeful about the future. But the earthquakes have set them back years – if not decades.
Even though the majority of the rubble has been cleared from the streets in Kathmandu, there are still thousands of buildings remaining that ought to be condemned. Unfortunately, for many families, there is simply no other choice but to continue living in a building that could collapse at any time. They prop timbers against the outer brick walls and hope for the best.
Many people, especially children, are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder following their experiences in the earthquakes. It’s heartbreaking to see kids and families have to re-enter unsafe spaces for lack of any other option, and to continue living in such frightening conditions.
Tell us about the album and the recording process.
While I was on my way to Kathmandu to record this project, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It ended up being one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever been a part of. The musicians that we worked with in Kathmandu were from the Gandharva class, which, in Nepal, means they were born to do one thing: play music. We recorded them playing in a courtyard, with scooters and cars coming and going, dogs sleeping next to us, and an elementary school class chanting the alphabet nearby. It was a very challenging recording environment, but other than one smoking microphone preamp – everything went great!
When I brought the recordings back to my Abbotsford studio, FiveAcres, the creative challenge was finding a way to fuse Canadian artists with this organic, Nepali sound. I am very proud of the final album and I hope that people are reminded of Nepal every time they listen to it.
How has your experience in Nepal impacted your day-to-day life back home?
I met a young man in a mountain village outside of Kathmandu. His entire village was ruined by the earthquake. He, like me, grew up in a rural area outside of a major city and dreamed of being a musician. His guitar was wrecked in the earthquake. It would’ve cost about $100 to buy a new guitar, but that cost was so far out of reach for him that he couldn’t dream of replacing it.
My life revolves around my family and my music, and I couldn’t imagine having to give up my dream after losing my home in an earthquake. We were able to buy him a new guitar while we were there, and I’ve never seen someone so grateful in my life. His smiling face still pops into my mind from time to time. Whenever I pick up a guitar, I’m reminded to be grateful too.
What is one thing you’d want people to know about what’s happening in Nepal?
Please remember that the story doesn’t end when the news cameras leave. I witnessed so many great things being done by World Vision and the Vineyard Church while I was there. Supporting these organizations is a great way to get involved and help the people of Nepal as they struggle to get their lives back.
One of the families we visited lived high up in the mountains. Their house was perched on the side of a cliff, and half of it had collapsed in the earthquakes. One side of the house was entirely open to the elements, with a large drop directly below. They lived there with their 2-year-old toddler because they had nowhere else to go. Please remember people like that. Please imagine yourself in that situation. Over and over again, the locals would say, “Please don’t forget Nepal.” I’m hoping this album will help with that.
Other Side: Hope From the Rubble is a collaboration between the World Vision Artist Collective and the Vineyard Churches of Canada, celebrating the hope, resilience and beauty found in the midst of Nepal’s rebuild. The album is available for digital download on iTunes and Google Play. Click on the album cover to get your copy, and help us spread the word on social media by using the sharing buttons at the top of this page!
All proceeds from the album sales will be invested in the ongoing rebuilding efforts in Nepal.
To learn more about the project, and how you can help support children and familes living in Nepal, please visit artistcollective.ca/nepal.