Call him a multimedia ambassador. As a filmmaker, musician and academic, Yogendra Shakya tries to bring his birth country, Nepal, and his adopted country, Canada, closer together.
Shakya immigrated to Canada in his late teens and spent several years in Victoria, where he attended university and launched a successful music festival, Rhythms of the World. An accomplished guitarist and tabla player, Shakya sees music as an easy – and powerful – way to draw together people of different cultures. “It’s a way of celebrating diversity,” he says.
Through U of T’s geography department, Shakya (MA 2000) is pursuing a doctorate in the politics of international development. He recently spent 16 months in villages in Nepal and Vietnam studying how communities are affected when households are able to obtain tiny loans – some as small as $10 – to spend on ventures such as chicken farms or sewing operations. Such microfinancing has been hailed in some circles as a fix-all for communities living in poverty. But Shakya’s research shows otherwise. “It’s a useful tool but not a magic bullet,” he says. “It’s not enough to help people in the long term.”
After defending his thesis in September, Shakya plans to begin work on a documentary examining how young South Asian artists, musicians and DJs in Toronto express what he calls their “hybrid identity.” “I like film because it can convey a strong message,” he says. “And like music, it bridges cultures.”