I sing at times. I do it as a passion, as a part of my being who I am born to become. Those who have heard me sing ask me at least two questions. First, “Have you brought out an album?” Second, the same question with a ‘Why’ and a ‘not’. “Not thought about it yet,” I have said over the years. But singing in (in)formal places and occasionally teaching songs constitute my ‘musical’ identity. I don’t know whether signing could have become a career had I tried it, but know I am gifted with the instinct.
And I would give justice to at least three dimensions of music: singing, writing, and composing. I would develop workable knack in instruments like the guitar, the flute and the harmonium.
I can do a little in all and don’t feel tired of the ‘not-thought-about-it-yet’ maxim. Some of my well-wishers console: “Your potential for music and writing are inherent for making you a good teacher.” The qualifier ‘good’ may have some degree of ambiguity at times, so I would much prefer ‘different,’ which would balance my being creative, sociable and entertaining. With music I become an addict, and mix up with people in the way a smoker mixes up with a stranger carrying a packet of cigarettes.
According to Mom and Dad, I started to sing as soon as I started to talk. It was as early as I was the youngest of the children and the rightful partner in Mom and Dad’s bed before the one next to me intervened. And it was when they heard me sing the following lines:
धनकुताको दाँलैदाँला झल्यो बूलो लाउले मायालु
बोलाउँ भने थाइनो थैन खादा खान आउले मायालु
I learned these and many other lines from Mom and Dad and other members of our family circle. Everyone had a melodious voice – Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, Mom, Uncles, Aunts. This was perhaps why we kids got good voice. My sister and brothers sing equally well though I happened to develop greater instinct with instruments, writing and composition. My youngest brother comes next to me in this line. The elder is great with folk duets and dances. I guess what he began with was not very dissimilar from my first lines, but more suited to my life’s actual journey:
म त दान्थु काथ्मान्दु लेल्मा तलेल
थम्दनाको पत्ल लेक्थु इङ्लिच पलेल
Mine happened to be a ‘musically rich’ family, full of songs and verses. During rituals in those early days ladies gathered to beat and husk rice, cook sel, and craft duna-taparis. It was also common for Dad to sing almost every night before we went to bed. The following were the most frequent entertainers of the time, especially sung by Mom and Maiju:
म जान्छु दमक आँखा झमक
म जान्छु चतारा, रोक मटर
सानोमा सानो बाख्राको पाठो निदायो लुटुक्कै
आइतलाई बार पाइतलाई सार, सोमबार त सुटुक्कै
Three instruments rang dear to my ears: harmonium, flute and guitar. The first was around from the earliest time though not at home. I heard it played with madal. But some singers mostly covered their voices with its sound. I did not like this. The other two appeared when I was about nine years. They came with some secret, seasonal groups of singers, whom Dad called close friends. The singers used to come to our village with cultural programs during the Tihar festival. Dad was one among them. He was an actor, a comedian – a sought-after highly creative comedian. He acted as anybody, from a pernickety hag to a notorious Panchayati politician. So, the group would be stationed in our house, and we would get the chance to hear them more. Sometimes, they used to walk past our house in the dark, with one of them singing such lines as this, in the rhythm of the guitar:
पुर्खाले सोचे सन्तानको लागि, टुक्रेको देश मिलाउने
अठोट गरे बल र वुद्धि, सबैको यसैमा लगाउने
I always craved to be one of them when I grew. So, Dad began to take Brother and me along at such occasions. We two little boys were the only little ones to sing. They used to give us a space at all costs. Brother would give a short speech introducing ourselves and the song. Two big ‘uncles’ would stand at either sides with the guitar and madal. They would signal us to start after one round of rhythms. We would sing with the shrillest of our voices, the childish voices. Dad had induced us to sing one of his favorites, which he had picked from a secret magazine and given music of his own:
नरोऊ चेली बाऊआमाको काख सम्झेर
किन तिमी यस्ती भयौ सोच ब्युँझेर
Well, these were those days more than three decades ago when I was growing up with rural groups of singers and musicians. Songs prevalent during my teenage era, mainly before the 1990 movement, stressed the need of social change and I grew up with a partial brainwash by this. The potential romantic ramblings of approaching adolescence got momentarily sidelined by the calls of revolution reverberating from around. We kept on singing for political change. After the movement, which expanded our reach to new groups across villages and districts, I helped in writing songs and giving ‘instant’ music. The time seemed to demand optimism, so I created songs of optimism and collective responsibility.
हिँडेको हामी त एकजुट भएर
आमाको मुहार हसाउन…
ए गाउँले दाजुभाइ, उठ्नै पर्छ हामी
हाम्रो गाउँ हाम्रो देश बनाऔँ अब नामी
The 90s was my life’s creative time. I wrote and composed many songs and presented them in cultural programs. When the academic era began with the higher studies and job in the late 90s, music became only a hobby. I have written lyrics but not spared time to give them tunes. I haven’t stopped singing and learning songs, though. Over the years of self-training my voice has got some more melodious appeal, but I haven’t spared time to go for a more formal training. Teaching, research, and the domestics guide my life all the more tenaciously than musical instruments and hours of practice.
My wife rightly says, “The one thing you will regret for not doing, and I will for not being able to put you into is doing music formally.” I had kept consoling myself that there was always time for this divine pursuit, until last year when Mr. Bishwa Nath ‘Prem’, the lyricist and composer of the famous song “Yo deshama ma euta manis khojirahechhu” said to me, not discouragingly: “Many people go obscure with the conviction that there always is time for singing and making a mark in the field. But one day you’ll find your own voice teasing you. There is no compensation for ageing.”
I am not sure whether I was born to make any mark in the field. But my message to all who have this creative, divine flair is this: Just do it to the point you exhaust your potentials. Name or no name, fame or no fame, but the true sense of being what you are comes from doing what you are gifted with.
[Contribution to Lamp Post, a magazine published by KU Society of Music and Culture]