Severna Park High School junior Parijita Bastola is already making a name for herself as a blues singer.
The International Women in Blues organization reached out to Parijita, vocalist for Severna Park-based band Bastola, to perform at its showcase in the International Blues Challenge. The event was held on Beale Street, the iconic home of blues in Memphis, Tennessee, on May 7.
The blues challenge represents the worldwide search for blues bands and performers ready for the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break.
“It was just an honor to be able to be with people that I love, doing the thing that I love at an amazing musical place with other musicians who also feel the same way about music that we do,” said Parijita, whose band had collaborated with the organization twice before.
Bastola had regular performances at Mother's Peninsula Grille, Copper Creek Pub & Ale House and other local venues prior to the Memphis show. The warmer weather was a boon and contributed to the lively party atmosphere in the event's many club venues, as well as outdoors on Beale Street.
Bassist Jack Slote was "excited and a bit nervous" to play in front of such a large crowd of well-known blues musicians and seasoned fans, but he and the band not only pulled off a flawless performance but also received one of the few standing ovations of the evening.
After their set, the band enjoyed the rest of the Blues Challenge performances. Because it was an international competition, Jack - who is part Korean - was happily surprised to see a band representing the Blues Society of Korea (they made it to the finals, but a French band walked away with the grand prize).
Bastola band members have spent their childhoods as budding musicians.
Jack started studying electric bass when he was 11, first at School of Rock in Arnold and for the past three years at the Priddy Music Academy in Millersville.
Parijita grew up surrounded by music thanks to an entertainment company her father used to own.
“Bands from Nepal would come to the United States and do USA tours and he would always have musicians over and they’re singing all night and they always encouraged me to,” Parijita said.
Growing up, Parijita learned to play several instruments. A piano teacher from her early childhood set her on the path toward becoming a singer.
“It was the performance, the energy of a crowd of other people that really motivated me,” Parijita said.
In seventh grade, Parijita sang at her first school performance. In the audience was the family of Zane Brennan, a fellow student who reached out to her about forming a blues band. Although she wasn’t familiar with blues specifically and wasn’t sure how interesting it would be to perform music in that genre, Parijita was interested in practicing with the people Zane had already gathered.
“I went in for practice with this band that he already had, and it was so much fun,” Parijita said.
For a few years, the band lineup changed until the current Bastola band formed in early 2020 with the goal of performing more professionally. Along with Parijita as the vocalist and Jack on bass, the current lineup includes guitarists Jesse Kegley and Bennett Terhune, and drummer Dylan Hood. Jesse and Bennett are Severna Park High School juniors and Jack is a freshman.
When it came to naming the band, all of the members agreed they wanted to use a last name and settled on Bastola’s.
“They told me that it would make a lot more sense for the singer of the band to use their last name, and if things go well with the band, having my name in it would be beneficial for all of us,” Parijita said.
Bastola Band mostly performs covers of artists such as Adam James, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse and Rhianna, who aren’t strictly blues artists but have a bluesy, soulful sound.
“It’s in order to refresh and incorporate blues into the next generation,” Parijita said. “We wanted to make enjoyable for other people what blues can sound like and what blues can look like.”
The show in Memphis was a great opportunity to share their love for blues music. It was an experience that Jack said he won't soon forget.
Playing the blues with Parijita, Jesse, Bennett and Dylan on Beale Street with such talented musicians “has really inspired me to keep practicing and start doing some composing,” he said.
Parijita intends to study music in college. While her school of choice and exact career path are yet to be determined, she knows that she wants to be in the music industry.
“I know that it’s going to be music for me,” Parijita said. “I’m just excited to see what happens.”
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