A ‘born entertainer’

- Manisha Neupane, Kathmandu
A ‘born entertainer’

Jul 3, 2013-

Success in the music industry is generally the result of a combination of factors—talent, hard work, determination, and of course, a substantial amount of luck. And Udesh Shrestha seems to have checked all these boxes. The 32-year-old singer, known mostly for the songs Yo Junima and Kina Mayama Yeti Dherai Chot Hunchha, has carved something of a niche for himself in the local music scene, one he seems destined to perpetuate with the recent release of a new album, Still Alive, after an almost seven-year hiatus.

Shrestha’s friends and family tag him as something of a ‘born entertainer’. When he wasn’t singing at home, he was banging desks and singing for his classmates at school. Originally from Katari in Udaipur, Shrestha grew up listening to and belting out Nepali and Hindi numbers. He came to Kathmandu after he’d passed his SLC in 1998 and enrolled in the Pashupati Bahumukhi Campus to study commerce, and by then, his passion for music had already extended beyond a ‘hobby’ into a more serious pursuit. The official initiation happened two years after arriving in the Capital, when he recorded his first song, Ghorahi Bazaar.

“One of my neighbours had heard me practicing…I was singing some Narayan Gopal, Udit Narayan and Kumar Sanu songs like I usually did, and he said he had a song he wanted me to try singing,” Shrestha recalls. The song was never released, but it was a great learning experience, he says. “It also confirmed in my mind that this was what I was meant to be doing.” Soon, with the support of singer Manoj Rai, he established the Aroha Sangeet Vidyalaya, an institution that provided training in music. “It was very helpful in terms of my own growth as a singer,” he says. “Up till that point, I had never gotten any formal training myself, so even though I founded the school, I was also more of a student, and I’d sit there listening to the teachers give lessons and absorb what was being taught.” Unfortunately, time constraints meant he couldn’t keep the school running past two years, and with it closed down, Shrestha decided to devote himself fully to his musical aspirations.

By the early 2000s, he had already recorded 22 songs, but none of these were pieces he felt ready to release. Finally, after a lot of hard work, his first album, Love Area, came out in August of 2004, and to Shrestha’s relief garnered the sort of appreciation he was hoping for. “A couple of songs from the record were real big hits, and one of these even won the Hits FM award for Best Vocal Collaboration that year,” he says. “It was a great feeling to see your efforts pay off like that.”

Success brought along a slew of engagements—concerts at a number of venues around the country, as well as Hong Kong and Dubai. And it also spurred his second album Rahasya, which was released exactly two years later. “Thankfully, it did well both commercially and critically, and Timrai Lagi and Aba Natak Banda Gara won a few accolades from the industry as well as audiences,” Shrestha says. “I was rapt.”

But as happy as he was with his growing success, the singer says the Nepali music scene was undergoing some visible changes at the time, some of which he didn’t find too appealing. “Remixes were all the rage and it wasn’t really something I prescribed to,” he says. “I decided to take a step back, work on my music and not worry about recording and releasing albums as such.” The singer immersed himself in classical music lessons from Sangita Pradhan for three and a half years. “It was incredibly rewarding; it built my confidence, helped me be more versatile.”

As more time passed, and Shrestha retreated into the shadows, fans were naturally worried. “I had a lot of people tell me I should do a comeback, try something new,” he says. “Their insistence won me over, and that’s how Still Alive came to be. It was a way of saying ‘Hey, I’m still here.’” The new album comprises eight songs, six of them entirely written and composed by him, and the other two composed by Ramesh Adhikari with lyrics by Rahul Pradhan.

At present, Shrestha is shooting a video for the song Nashalu Nayan from Still Alive, and says it’s good to be back. “As volatile and fickle as the music industry can be at times, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” he says.

Published: 04-07-2013 09:00

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