The art of the flowBinod Dhakal, whose speedy rhymes in Ukali Ma Pani Hajur has already garnered him a host of young fans, hopes that his upcoming album will keep up the momentum
To say that longevity in the Nepali music industry is elusive is an understatement—there are very few artists today who really find a niche of their own so as to sustain their popularity for more than a couple of years. Generally, we find that each new year introduces to the scene a haul of new musicians, but a few albums and some videos in and they soon disappear, never to return to the spotlight again. Of course, the mainstream music business has always been highly competitive, but it seems today, more than ever, artists rely too heavily on novelty, which tends to wear out quickly. But then there are those rare few who don’t need gimmicks, and who are determined to build a fan base the old-fashioned way—by
pulling in listeners with raw talent, and keeping them hooked. While this might not result in the sort of hype others are able to create, it can often be more lasting. And that’s precisely what musician Binod Dhakal hopes to do.
Dhakal’s rap number, Ukali Ma Pani Hajur, has managed to create some buzz, and is a favourite among youngsters today, not to mention being very possibly the song that is played the most in public vehicles at present. This is partly owing to the fact that the lyrics depict conversations between a driver, conductor and their passengers, as well as the catchy tune. Aside from rapping, Dhakal is also experimenting with folk, pop and reggae, the culmination of which will be seen, he says, in his upcoming second album, Homework. The musician has also sung playback for the film Mokshya, alongside playing a role himself in the Nepali feature Kuntha.
Born in Dhading, Dhakal had gone to his father’s school—the Prerana English Boarding School. Although the school has since been shut, he remembers it as the site of his first contact with the world of music. “I saw a teacher of mine, from Darjeeling, playing the guitar one day, and I thought it was the most amazing sound ever,” Dhakal recalls. “I told myself then and there that I was going to learn to play the guitar too some day.”
The next few years, he tried it out, but couldn’t really throw himself into learning the way he wanted, under pressure as he was from his family, especially his brother, to keep up his good grades. In fact, at one point, his brother actually broke Dhakal’s guitar because he deemed it a ‘distraction’. “That absolutely broke my heart,” he says. “I still don’t like thinking about it.”
Meanwhile, the Maoist insurgency was heating up, and when Dhakal had passed the eighth grade, the school, along with many others in the area, was closed down, and his family moved to Kathmandu so he could continue his studies, something that was a blessing in disguise, according to Dhakal. “It didn’t feel like it then, but in retrospect, the move was a good thing. I would never have been able to be exposed to the kind of musical influences and guidance I found in the city if that hadn’t happened,” he says.
Once in Kathmandu, Dhakal was sent to the British Gurkha Academy, where he was able to explore his musical inclinations. “There were a lot of talented seniors at the hostel who were always playing the guitar, and that inspired me to try to do better myself,” he says. “I spent a lot of time practicing back then.” Once he’d completed his SLC exams, he joined the Don Bosco College. At this point in time, his father was insistent that he study to become a doctor, but this was far from what Dhakal wanted, and he wasn’t willing to compromise. “I think college was when I really became serious about music,” he says. “I was always writing, composing, playing, I couldn’t think about doing anything else with my time, regardless of what people thought.” Although most of his friends are now settled in cushy jobs, Dhakal says he has no regrets. “I think the measure of success should have to do more with how happy and satisfied you are with the work that you do every day….it has to fill you up. And what does that for you might not be the same as for other people, but you have to remember to stay true to yourself.”
Soon after he was out of college, in 2005, he released his first album, the pop-rock record Download. By then, he’d managed to bring his father around to support the choices he’d made. Thereafter, Dhakal worked as a drummer for Om Bikram Bista’s band Om Namaha Shivaya for two years, an experience he says was very valuable in building his skills and expanding his network.
So when did he get into rap? Dhakal says he’d always been fond of the form, but it wasn’t until the late 2000s that he decided to give it a real shot. “I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child, and I’d rap for friends and all that, but never seriously,” he says. “But then I started listening to a lot of great rap artists, and realised that it was a medium that really spoke to me.” And he soon had a fan in folk singer Ramchandra Kafle, who, after hearing Dhakal sing, introduced him to Gagan Pradhan, the director of the Rebel Creation music company. Pradhan offered him the chance to rap on Ukali Ma Pani Hajur—a duet he’d sung with Anju Panta. The song proved a hit and Dhakal has since been featured as a rapper by a great many artists around town.
Presently, the musician is busy working on polishing his upcoming album, and a song, Yesari Ta Hunna Ni, has already been released. The versatile Dhakal is also involved in a television project, tentatively titled TNT (Text and Test), which seeks to discover new singing talents in the Valley. “I’m excited about what’s to come,” he says. “It’s a short life and there’s a lot to do and I want to make sure I let no opportunities pass me by.”