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20 Years & Still Counting
27 August 2010-Friday
-Alok Thapa

A career in music that spans two decades Dhiraj Rai is back, and he is back with a bang. The “Luki Luki" singer has launched his new album, aptly titled “20 years", and is busy with promotional work. We caught up with the star, who graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to have a talk with us.

1. How’s your new album - 20 years going on?

Well it’s going on pretty well .The promotional song for the album “Ki Bachna Deu” is doing well. Even though it’s a little different from the usual Dhiraj Rai style, the listeners are liking it. But there are other numbers that reflects the typical Dhiraj Rai style, dancing numbers!

2. 20 years is such a long period of time .How has your experience been so far?

It seems like a dream. When I first started singing it was very hard for pop singers to break into the mainstream music scene. There was no place for Nepali pop in Radio Nepal. None of the Music companies were interested in pop album. People used to say ‘yo pop git vaneko du dinko matra ho.. tespachhi yo haraera janchha..’ in radio Nepal. We were like “kagko bichma bakulla”, you can just imagine how tough it must have been, poor us! But with the establishment of Fm stations and private channels, pop gradually started to flourish. Stage programs were frequently done abroad and concerts like these helped pop singers to be financially stable. It wouldn’t be presumptuous to say that, now pop music has become part of our culture!.

3. You are often known as the best stage performer; other even calls you Nepali Michael Jackson. How do you react?

I’m so glad that people love my performance. I love the rush of live performance and it literally keeps me on my toes. Almost six months in a year I’m busy doing stage programs abroad, and it’s always such a joy. I do think people like me dancing and singing (laughs). But that was not the case before, I still remember how people used to laugh at me, seeing me sing and dance at radio Nepal. It was very tough, I vividly recall this incident where one of the senior musician lambasted at me, ‘ki nacha, ki gau yo ke nautanki garirakheko?’ But it has all changed for good, touch-wood, people have accepted and realized that stage performance is also an art.

4. There has been a lots of pop singers who were popular at a time but vanished after a certain period but you have maintained your popularity throughout these 20 long years, how has it been possible?

I think, I was lucky because my very first attempt was a hit, which motivated me to achieve more, to better myself. After “luki luki aankha timi” I have never looked back. I have always believed in experimenting and taking risk is a must. If you go through my discography you’ll see that I have tried my hands in different styles, be it sentimental, dance or lok pop. I have always tried to give variation in my composition and they all have been fruitful. On a personal level I have done lot of sacrifices and have compromised, but they have all been worth it. Secondly I think music should not be taken as merely a hobby, rather one should be dedicated to it. It’s not “Euta Geet Gayera Raata Raat Hit Bhaencha” but it takes time and lots of patience.

5. This is a tough industry to survive, what keeps you motivated to stay with it?

Music is something that makes me happy; it’s like food for the soul. I believe there’s a soul inside every individual and we all are part of this infinite cosmos and the unification with the divine is the ultimate satisfaction. And music is the ultimate medium. It’s in nature and it comes naturally to me. So music itself is big motivational factor for me.

Yes, it is as what Darwin said – Survival of the fittest. Everyday there are lots of singers trying their hands in the music business, but the majority do no have an identity of their own. They tend to emulate others and become just one of the many acts out there. One should have his signature, his style which represents him or her as an individual. And yes, the most important thing is dedication and passion. I believe that you are your own competition, and you should always try to better your previous record. Maybe that’s my secret to longevity (smiles).

6. You are also involved in other profession. You are a lecturer in different colleges and even an architect overseer, how do you manage your time?

When I started my music career, pop music had a very limited scope and thus had to reach for alternative means to fulfill my financial needs. I started my career as an overseer but one thing lead to another, and since I love to teach, I started to coach English language in different institutes. Later after doing my master’s degree in English literature I started my career as a lecturer, full time. I go to college in the mornings, and do my engineering works during the day time. Time management is very important, and nothing is impossible.

7. Do you think it's important to train for music? God's gift or just lots of practice?

I don’t believe in “empiricism” that is knowledge comes from experience but rather I believe in “rationalism”. Art is an innate quality or is an inborn talent. Of course, it can be improved upon by training but it should be there in the first place, by birth. You need a base upon which you can build a foundation.

8. Next to singing what is your passion?

I’m a big time reader, love books. There are some that have really inspired me, one of my all time favorites is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s -“Uncle Toms Cabin”. It deals with anti-slavery, and this very writing was a catalyst in the movement against slavery. Other books that have a prominent place in my little library are: Beloved - Tony Morrison, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin, Frankenstein by Marry Shelly and Robinson Crusoe by Denial Dafoe.

9. What’s in store for the Future?

Right now promotions for my new albums 20 Years, is taking up most of my time, and I’m busy with my second music video. I am also embarking on a Nepal Tour and come Dashain couple of abroad programs are in the pipeline.

10. Lastly, what is your message?

Everything I am today is all because of my fans, their love and support. It’s because of them, I’m Dhiraj Rai the Nepali singer. I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude. Your love has always inspired me to do music, and my new album “20 Years” is out in the market. Please do listen and any comments, suggestions would be appreciated. God bless!

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