Adding to a successful musical career spanning many years, Raju Lama is back with a new album with Mongolian Hearts. After a series of concerts that included opening for Bryan Adams in Nepal, the band recently performed to a packed house at the Academy Hall. For the past seven years, the singer has been living in New York. During this visit, he performed in a total of ten concerts.
When I met him at Boudha’s Roadhouse Café, the singer was sitting in the rooftop, enjoying the calm and meditative atmosphere of the Boudhanath Stupa. “Just a second hai bhai!” he said, capturing the majestic view of the Himalayas. The following is our conversation.
What do recall about the initial days of the band?
It was not until we passed our SLC that I, along with all my friends, started taking music seriously. We released our first album which was titled ‘Soltini’. Shortly afterwards, we won the 3rd Sajjan Smriti pop music competition. It yielded an attractive contract to record an album for free at Music Nepal. We worked for 10 years with the company and released a total of five albums (Mongolian Hearts: Volume 1, 2, 3, 4 and a compilation: Solid Gold). In fact, I wanted to join the army when I was young but I guess it was not to be!
Can you give us the chronology of your band members?
The current members are Bobby Lama (Rhythm/solo), Kiran Nagarkoti (lead guitars), Santosh Thapa (drums), Dipendra Man Singh (keyboards) and Pawan Kapali (bass). We have been working together since 2008. The previous members were Chandra Gurung (rhythm), Dev Gurung (drums), Rajkumar Thapa (lead guitars), Basanta Gurung (keyboards) and Dhiraj Gurung (bass guitars). I split up with them in 2007.
Which albums have been recorded with the new band members?
Two albums - Mongolian Hearts: Volume 5 (Reeyaz Music) and Volume 6 (Criss Creation). Volume 6 was in fact released last year but we re-launched it during our band’s solo performance at the Academy Hall recently.
Can you tell us about the concert?
It was a fund raising show that was inaugurated by actor Madan Krishna Shrestha. We are currently helping a school at Sindhupalchowk district upgrade its premises. I have established a foundation under my name. It is an organization that helps educate children living in rural areas. The response during the program was awesome. I could see people of all the ages singing along with us. There was lot of appreciation in the end.
How do you compose new songs?
Sometimes it comes to me out of nowhere but sometimes it takes time to produce a tune. After writing the lyrics and creating a basic chord foundation for the song, I take it for arrangement. This is where my band members and studio technicians come in.
What are they like?
Previously, there used to be more love songs on our albums. We even popularized tamang selo (Ubu Ubu khasa) and auto tune effects (Sayad Timro Batoma) in the past. As of now, there is still the mix of electronic and melody based homely beats and even some upbeats. Regarding the lyrics, I have written songs like ‘Mero Nepal’ which are quite different from what we used to do.
Any future tours?
Yes, we are touring Australia this December. There will be concerts in three locations: Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmania. !