Upendra Lal Singh is a veteran keyboard and piano player of Nepal. Sitting next to his Yamaha upright grand piano (88 keys), the 48-year-old composer and musician reflects on his life as a musician and talks to us about the Fuji Rock Festival that he has been attending for the past eight years.

 

Your initial musical journey…
My first music teacher was Suresh Man Singh, my uncle and a former musician who used to play in bands such as Hilux and Brotherhood, probably the first cover bands of Nepal. During his practice sessions I saw a young individual of my age who was playing the song Dance Little Lady dance by Tina Charles on a guitar. That was the day when I decided to learn music. I was in my teens back then. Later in 1983, a band called Blind Faith was formed in which I used to play bass guitars. But I was more interested in piano than in other musical instruments. At that time, there were no schools in Nepal to teach this musical instrument. Luckily in 1987, I got a chance to learn piano in Thailand. The school where I studied piano in Bangkok was called Supagarn School of Music. Som Chai was my first piano teacher. Then afterwards I learned from Denny, who was a very famous pianist of Thailand. I am also indebted to my teacher Prathak, who was also the owner of the school.


You first stage performance…

My first stage show was with Blind Faith in 1983 at GAA Hall. It used to be fun. As with piano, my first performance was in Bangkok where I learned the musical instrument for eight years. We had to form an ensemble band in our music school and go to different places to perform.


After returning to Nepal from Thailand…
Even when I returned to Nepal, there were only few schools that used to teach the instrument. In fact, people didn’t even realize that it too was a subject like other academic subjects. At first, I used to do solo performances in casinos and hotels. Some students also approached me for private tuition classes. Afterwards, I started teaching at Nepal Music School. It has almost been six years now.


Memorable performances…
One of my memorable shows was at first the album launch concert of Upendra and Friends. Another memorable performance was my first show at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2006.


Your favorite genre and keyboard icons…
I studied Jazz performance. Hence it is my favorite genre. Keith Jarett, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Joe Sample are some of my favorite keyboard icons!


Reason behind using traditional percussions in your music…
Nepali percussions such as dhime, madal and khi are equally competent with African drums in terms of their sound. So with a motive to promote them, I am incorporating them in my music.


Your favorite keys…

I mostly compose songs from the keys of C, E, A and Am.


Your notable composition…

The musical piece of the song The Park in the album Murchhna automatically came to my mind when I was traveling on my bike near the Tudikhel road. I then immediately came back home and started composing it!


About your students…
In other countries, piano is mostly the first musical instrument that is taught to individuals from a very young age. Here, although there are some young individuals, there are mostly teenagers who want to learn it. Some students come to me and ask about how long it would take them. Most of them want to learn it within a week or in a single day! I had a hard time explaining to them that even a teacher has to keep learning new things each day. Most of my students have already become professionals. Notable amongst them is Alex Waiba, who is now my teaching assistant at Nepal Music Center. Manokumari is also a student who I cannot forget. Born in Morang, she was under a scholarship program. I still remember her reaction when she first saw a keyboard! But now she has become a teacher herself.


People’s views on piano these days in Nepal…
As of now, a lot of guardians have realized that piano is a subject that can be learned and taken as a profession. Like any other field, music has been recognized as an academic subject.


Importance of piano…

Piano is supposedly called the “King of Music”. Likewise, a modern digital keyboard has become necessary for all types of music production these days.


Your inspiration…

My inspirations are my mother and my father. I look up to my father most of the times and get motivated by his artistic life.


Future plans…
When I come back from the festival, I intend to tour to different places of Nepal and conduct workshops on keyboards and piano. My focus would be to advocate its importance to those who are interested.


About Fuji Rock Festival…

It is a three-day event held annually in the mountains of Fuji, Japan. There are a total of 13 stages where almost 200 bands perform. Stages are categorized according to the music genre. Artists and bands such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, The Chemical Brothers and Foo Fighters have participated in the festival.


About Upendra and Friends…

With a special focus traditional tunes and instruments, we produce a kind of music that caters to all listeners regardless of their age group. We have already recorded 4 tracks for an upcoming album. !


Band members
Upendra Lal Singh: Keyboard
Nikhil Tuladhar: Drums
Roshan Kansakar: Bass
Babu Raja Maharjan: Tabla
Raman Maharjan: Flute