Deep Shrestha recalls the Golden Age of Nepali music and displays a healthy disdain for singers with no talent
Even for diehard fans who hum Deep Shrestha’s soul-titillating songs regularly, this piece of trivia might come as a surprise – the singer is also a keen gardener. Taking care of each petal, cutting out every rogue twig and watering the roots day after day – these intricate processes are integral parts of his lifestyle. Do you get my point? Deep Shrestha likes delving into the minutest of details. Maybe that’s why each of his songs seem like a “filtered” magnum opus.
“Recording music today is easy. When we started in Radio Nepal, things weren’t as simple. But that doesn’t mean those days were bad,” says Shrestha. “We had a live band playing along with the singer and we didn’t have the luxury of stopping midway to continue later. One pause, one fault, one hiccup and the entire thing had to be redone. I am glad that I could complete a song in a single take, sometimes two.”
Technology has obviously made recording easier, but a major drawback is that individuals who can hardly get a note right have been able to carve musical careers as well, successful ones at that. “People with no vocal aptitude are singers today. And here I am, a person who doesn’t even like singing with a backing track. Even when I have to, I at least keep a harmonium beside me. I then close my eyes and just sing.”
Shrestha is part of the golden generation of Nepali music with singers such as Narayan Gopal and composers like Gopal Yonjan. Although relatively younger than the deceased luminaries, Shrestha still holds a heavy heart for having had to say his goodbyes to some of the best musicians of the Golden Age. “Those who are still among us can be counted on our fingers,” sighs Shrestha. “Composers these days are privileged to have education and a very proud history on the same platter. To have a worldwide perspective in music and opportunities to learn from some of the best composers of the nation should have led to the birth of very talented musicians.”
Why is the story sad then? Shrestha exposes the darkest truth of the Nepali music industry with a single word - “Commercialization”
Commercialization is a ying-yang structure of “compromise” and “patterning”, two factors that complement each other. The world has become faster and the people impatient, which, in turn, has led to a great deal of compromise in the work of the composers. Because of this compromise, the quality of output has also degraded a lot. A sickening wave of “patterned” music is heard over and over again. The entire music industry has, thus, become stagnant.
Deep Shrestha is also known to take a longer time than other composers to construct a single song. “That’s why people have stopped asking for my compositions,” confesses the singer. But he certainly does not regret it. “In the past, some select singers, who asked for favors and chose my compositions, didn’t even listen to the music before they entered the studio. In the end, they made the music sound like it was from the North Pole while their singing was from the South. It was preposterous!” This was when Shrestha decided to do things his way. “If I am slow, so be it,” he says bluntly.
With a majority of compositions these days being based on keyboards and pre-programmed software, a certain purity has disappeared from Nepali music. It’s during times like these that the singer seems glad to be a slow composer. “If commercialization is taking over, I might as well be out of it,” he says. Slow but steady, Deep Shrestha is planning on coming up with a duet album in the near future in collaboration with lyricist Yogendra Mani Dahal, who also wrote songs for his popular ‘Yatra’ (Part I and II) albums. !