On the road less travelledPashupati Sharma is not an unknown name for people who are familiar with contemporary Nepali folk music, for he has provided dohori lovers—living in and out of the country
Born in Syangja, Sharma has been singing dohori ever since he can remember—the genre being the most loved art form of the place. In 2002, Sharma’s parents sent him to Kathmandu to become an engineer, but he secretly started performing duets in a bar called Saptakoshi Dohori Sanjh located in Chabahil instead. Later, he started taking part in live dohori competitions, in which he often landed in the top positions.
“My family didn’t support my career choice, as they wanted me to become an engineer. I had to become an artist in secrecy,” says the singer.
Sharma’s debut album, Syangja Mathi Ban, was released in 2003. Since then he has released 17 more albums—seven of them comprise of Teej songs, five have Roila songs in them and five others are collections of folk duets—and has sang about 200 songs in total, penned and composed solely by himself.
“I get a lot of offers to sing other’s songs, but I decline as writing my own songs gives me the freedom to experiment and vary. However, I recently recorded a song titled Lekai Janey Lekali Danphe for a Nepali feature film Bracelet, which is yet to be released. The song is composed by Dipak Sharma, and I had to sing it due to peer pressure,” says Sharma.
Sharma’s style of music may be akin to the typical folk duet, but lyrically, he stands out from the orthodox. His lyrics exhibit an unlikely sort of activism against the traditional—and often problematic—norms of the society and are backed by an added satirical flavour. His song Chhori Paye Maile, featuring Tika Pun, is about how desperate parents are for having a son, a social evil still prevalent in our society, but how joyful it is when the home is blessed with a girl child. The song commemorates the existence of a girl child and slams feticide. Though the singer has made a poor choice of words at places, the song is crafted with good intentions and delivers an important message to the audience.
The singer believes that inspiration for art begins from self.
“One doesn’t necessarily need to get out of the house to write a song. My songs are an integral part of me. They are about what I see and experience in my everyday life. I pour my feelings out in my songs and fictionalise some aspects of it to make them sound interesting. I wrote the song Chhori Paye Maile as a celebration of my daughter Luvina’s birth,” says Sharma. I’m against pre-birth sex-determination tests and feticide. A girl child has equal rights to live as a boy child. I always try to impart social messages through my songs. I guess that’s why my songs are taken notice of,” adds the singer.
Sharma’s most loved song, Malai America Yahi, featuring Sita KC, was written when he was in Qatar for a musical programme. After he witnessed Nepali labourers working for significantly low wages and in extreme conditions, he wanted to do his share in minimising the exodus of capable manpower from Nepal. In the song, Sharma talks about his fondness for native practices and about the importance of little things that lead to living a content life. Making use of a simple and catchy music structure, the song praises the agricultural prospects in Nepal, and hence comes out as a request to Nepalis to not underestimate the opportunities inside one’s own country. The singer uses mockery as a weapon in this song as well.
“We Nepalis are not eager listeners of words. We like to remain on the surface and do not care to understand what is being said. Preaching is no good while reaching out to such an audience, which is why I have opted for humour. I try to suggest an idea whilst keeping them entertained,” he says.
Sharma’s latest hit, Dhaad Dukhera Maryo, ridicules people’s dissatisfaction towards their occupation. People often complain how hard their work is and keep wishing to do something else—they try to find an easier way out. Some of us want to spend our life doing nothing, but that too has dire consequences. The song is a reminder of the ever-so-unsatisfactory nature of human beings.
And it doesn’t seem like the artist has plans on taking a break anytime soon. Sharma is currently working on a parody that makes a farce out of the politicians and citizens of Nepal. He is also busy touring both Nepal and abroad. Till date, he has travelled to over 26 countries, performing in concerts organised by the local Nepali communities living there.
In the saturated Nepali dohori scene, Sharma stands out for having paved a different path for himself by taking a well-established form of art and using it to convey his socio-political viewpoint. But most importantly, the singer-songwriter has managed to make changes in the traditional duet culture while still keeping its essence intact.
A singer who is well aware of his social responsibilities, Sharma could be an example for many in this country in a state of flux.