How a restaurateur became one of the most acclaimed lyricists of recent timesIn an industry where remixes and meaningless lyrics get millions of views instantly, there’s Hark Saud, penning heartfelt, earnest lyrics.
In the third verse of the latest viral Nepali song, ‘K Maya Lagcha Ra’, there’s a line where the male character says to his lover, ‘Timi lai here pachi kina janu Antu... Timro eti maya paye jagcha tantu tantu.’ This can be roughly translated into: ‘If I see you I don’t need to go to Antu (a hill station in Illam, famous for sunrise viewing)... Even if I get a little amount of your love, my entire body will be jolted’.
Through these two lines, the audience can grasp the love and devotion the singer/ the narrator has towards his lover. “I wanted to show that for the man, his lover’s presence was warm and luminous like the red sun. For him, watching her is like witnessing the warm and spectacular rising of the sun,” says Hark Saud, the lyricist of the song. “Likewise, through the next line, I wanted to show how for him even if he receives only a small amount of love from her, his entire body gets hit with energy, as it happens with everyone who is in love.’
Released a month ago, the song, which has already received 8 million views on YouTube so far, was appreciated for its heartfelt as well as meaningful lyrics penned in everyday Nepali language.
But this is not the first time Saud’s creation has been appreciated by music lovers for its lyrics.
His first step into the music scene, his first song ‘Suna Saili’, was a huge hit, and perhaps an indication of how talented Saud was. In just three short years in the Nepali music industry, he has written 12 songs till date, like ‘Hatti Dhungama’, ‘Pyat Pyate Chapal’, ‘Curly Curly Kapal’, ‘Nacha Maya’, ‘Batauli’ and ‘Dubo Phyluo’, all of which have been hits, making him one of the most acclaimed lyricists in Nepali music industry currently.
For Saud, music and arts was something that he was always inclined to. “During my formative years, I had a keen interest in arts and theatre which led me to participate in various cultural programmes during my formative years,” says Saud, who hails from Doti.
After completing his secondary education, he came to Kathmandu in 1998 for further education. To fill his pockets, he started working in restaurants at night as a kitchen helper, he says. And the years of his experience in the restaurant industry led him to open a restaurant, Aradhana Cafe, in Bagbazar, in 2008 along with his friends.
For a decade, Saud did what he had to to make ends meet, he says. But his interest in arts and music never waned. “Since my eatery was in a prime location, I would often overhear various artists who were regular customers of mine talking about arts and music, which always made me happy and excited,” says Saud.
And that’s how he came in touch with singer/music director Kali Prasad Baskota, who had then just recently created two hit songs, ‘Pari tyo Danda Maa,’ and ‘Nira jahile risaune’. He was a regular at Saud’s restaurant and they would often talk about music and arts.
“One day he made me listen to a tune on which he wanted to compose a song that reflected the plights of migrant Nepalis labourers,” says Saud. “He asked me if I could write the lyrics for it, as he knew I was passionate about music. That’s how I came on board to write the lyrics along with him, for Suna Saili.”
‘Suna Saili’, which he wrote under his pen name, Himal Saud, was an instant hit because it resonated with the people for its lyrics and for humbly portraying the reality of the thousands of migrant workers who leave home their lives and families in the hopes for a better livelihood.
Although the song changed the career of the singer, Hemant Rana, and the music director/co-writer, Baskota, and even resulted in the making of a full-length feature film, ‘Saili’, which was released last year, Saud didn’t receive the attention and credit he deserved. “One time a reporter refused to interview me saying that the audience wasn’t interested to know who wrote the lyrics of Saili. He said that my face wouldn’t draw enough attention,” says Saud, 40.
According to Saud, the comment emotionally affected him, but he used the energy in a good way—by focusing more on writing meaningful lyrics in Nepali, he says. Today he has written songs for big banner movies like Kabaadi Kaabadi Kaabadi, Prem Geet 3, Senti Virus, and Saili.
Among the hundreds of songs that are released every year, what distinguishes his songs is how he makes use of local colloquial Nepali words and reflects the diverse cultural and geographical landscapes of Nepal. This makes his work rare and interesting, especially considering that much of the Nepali music industry is filled with copies and remixes as well as meaningless lyrics.
According to Saud, every word he picks is a very conscious decision. “I try my best to use local words rather than those that are used in the mainstream, as it’s the local words that have the power to encapsulate the essence of the song, as they reflect the socio-cultural aspect on where and on whom the song is based on,” says Saud.
For him, songs should always add value to the whole movie or reflect what the narrative (of the song, the film or music video) is intending to say, which keeps him busy with research most of the time before he sits down to pen the lyrics.
Research is crucial for any creative endeavour. But it is missing out in the Nepali musical scene, he says. “We focus more on quantity than quality, leading us to resort to using tried-and-tested formulas that work to make videos trending on YouTube,” says Saud. “This is why we haven’t been able to deliver great songs in recent times.”
But according to him, the lyricist and music composers aren’t doing enough research not only because of idleness or lack of creativity but because there’s no point where one can strive to reach, he says, especially for lyricists. “The situation of our music industry is so grim; you can’t pay your bills just by writing lyrics. Likewise, the failure of giving enough credit to songwriters is also demotivating,” he says.
Regardless of the struggles, Saud is gearing up for his next release, ‘Tinpatey’, a musical film that is set to release on August 5. “Songs hold great value as in the end they are cultural products. That’s why the focus should be shifted on how it can add value to the lives of the listeners rather than just thinking of making it a trending one on YouTube,” he says.