It feels good to be a pioneer. It feels good to have started the first youth magazine in the country. Technically, I’m not sure if you could call Wave the first youth magazine of the country. There was Yuwa Manch, which Gorkhapatra Sansthan published. It’s a Nepali-language monthly which was very popular. Then there were a couple of others like Connection and Spark, which had a youth look and feel. I don’t remember so clearly but I’m sure they too had the youth components in them. So, Wave might not have been the first youth magazine.
However, being solely focused on youth, and being an English-language magazine that appealed to youth and talking about things that young people want to read about – music, fashion etc – I guess these ingredients made Wave magazine an icon of youth culture then. A lot of people grew up reading it. We grew up making Wave. So I do feel proud of the fact that I was part of the popular culture, shaping it in many ways. It feels good to have been a part of the process of shaping the future of Nepali youth culture.
I felt good to be read, to be followed, to be praised for doing what I enjoyed doing. So I never felt like I was working. In fact, I’ve been comparatively lucky that way. In whatever I’ve done so far in life, I only rarely felt like I was working. I’ve been lucky enough in getting opportunities to do what I enjoy doing most of the time.
Perhaps it was destiny. My family had a family business that I didn’t feel like I belonged to. Also, I wanted to do things my way and I didn’t get that there. There was, I think, an urge to do my own thing, take risks, even though I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to see it as a risk back then. So, we did things. We formed music bands, we opened up video rental shops, and then we did the magazine. Although the deciding factor when doing the magazine was the logic that young people needed their own magazine and that wasn’t there. And we also had the confidence that we, too, were capable of producing a magazine for ourselves. It was exciting. The risk was there, but as I now know, maybe we didn’t know it back then. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it?
I don’t know if there were other people back who were thinking about doing a magazine like Wave back then. When we decided to do it, it wasn’t because we saw someone do it and saw them making money. We saw that there was no magazine for young people like us, and thought that there should be one. So we did our own whatever preparation we could do, got hold of some foreign youth magazines, combined it with our own ideas and designed Wave. We knew one thing: that this would be a pop magazine, this would be about young people, their music and their lives. Immediately after we started, we did see one or two other magazines come up. And more in the years that followed. But most of them disappeared quickly, and I think Wave is the only one that still exists.
The magazine was received very well from the beginning. And I think we knew that it would do well. After the first issue hit the stands, we went out to see it hanging from the bookshops. The two thousand copies of the first issue literally flew off the shelves in a couple of days. But of course, we didn’t know enough to reprint them. The circulation figures continued to climb up with the issues after that. Friends were impressed. Family started believing. I remember at one point after a number of issues, my father came to our office on the first floor of our house. He said that maybe we did well; perhaps it was the right decision for both of us brothers to venture out of our family business. However, when I think about it these days, I would’ve been much richer had I continued with the family business, which had a solid base with a long history and reputation.
Wave was a trendsetter. It not only set a benchmark in youth media in Nepal but also in youth culture here – in music, fashion. Wave was kind of an authority in music. It wrote about artists, reviewed albums. Artists and bands used to long to be featured in Wave. Imagine a time when there was no Internet, and no way for you to know how a singer looked like, or if you wanted the guitar chords of a song. We used to feature international singers, their posters, the lyrics and the chords, and people used to buy the magazine for these things.
We didn’t make any profit for the first five or six years of the magazine. Of course, the magazine was hugely successful, but the revenue wasn’t coming in. We didn’t have the marketing talent in us, in our group, and we knew it. So we couldn’t turn the magazine’s sales into advertising revenue, which was the core business. But we didn’t have to support the family with our income. We were the fortunate urban kids. We had our family house, and the family also provided for our daily expenses. So we didn’t feel any pressure for the first few years. But it did start getting difficult later on, and as we grew up, we started getting a little wiser and started thinking as to what if we never made any money? So, ultimately, we decided to sell it.
It has been almost two decades now. The political landscape has totally changed, the social scenario is different. I think it’s a more complex life in general for young people, a lot more pressure from everywhere.
The media landscape perhaps is the one that has undergone a sea of change. Fortunately, things have changed for the better to a large extent. The market has grown for magazines, or so I’m told. At least, there are many reading sources for young people. There are just so many media avenues. There are many youth magazines, newspapers have segments for them, more radio broadcasts and TV contents than can be consumed, and there’s the Internet that can be one-stop source for everything young people would want to read about.
The problem now is that there’s just so much, because of which it’s also confusing for young people because quality is still hard to come by. The similarity in the media scene then and now is perhaps also due to the lack of opportunities for young people to learn about doing things right. Hundreds of people join FM radio stations all the time, but who teaches them how to be good radio journalists? Good journalists do come out of young people because there are avenues and sources for people who want to learn on their own. But after so much of growth in numbers, you would expect to have some sort of mechanism and facilities for teaching young people to be good journalists. There are some avenues, to be sure, but none that matters much, especially for the urban youth willing to start their career in youth magazines.
However, young people themselves have become smarter and more knowledgeable. As a wise man once told me, it’s the law of nature, isn’t it? The newer generation should be better in everything than the older ones. Young people now know more and are more creative and energetic than we were. Much can be expected, therefore. Any time now, we can expect to see another Wave coming: A Wave that will redefine the youth culture for the new times, one that will set the tone for the youth and media for next two decades.
Yubakar is the founding editor of Wave, the magazine that published its 200th issue this month.