The king of Nepali pop: Nabin K Bhattarai
Nabin K Bhattarai is often regarded amongst the most prominent singers, composers and lyricists in the Nepali music industry. The unique twists and turns his vocals easily achieve, and the melodies in his soft music have earned him a huge fan base inside the country. Popularly referred to as the ‘king of Nepali pop music’ Bhattarai creates a perfect blend of pop and rock in his songs.
Inspired by bands such as Pink Floyd, Rainbow and Queen from a relatively young age, Bhattarai says he has always loved music. Born in 1974 in Kathmandu, Bhattarai completed his schooling from Budhanilkantha School. He was more interested in sports and arts as a boy, but that didn’t stop him performing covers of popular songs by Metallica and Guns n Roses with his friends in school.
After completing his SLC in 1990, he formed the band The Steel Wheels with his friends, singing lead vocals and playing rhythm guitar. The band’s first and only album Jindagi was released in 1994. The band identified itself as a heavy rock outfit and was influenced by western music, heavy rock—more commonly known as hard rock—in particular. The group separated when most band members decided to pursue their educations abroad, and Bhattarai himself decided to go his own way and begin a solo career.
Rahar, his debut solo album was released in 1996. The album contained seven songs and intially failed to sell in the market. The singer was relatively unknown at the time, but when Dipesh Shrestha aired Aakhama Timilai on Hits FM six months later, the song became an instant success, and the name Nabin K Bhattarai established itself as one of the most popular in the Nepali music industry.
“The success of the song motivated me. I would even go so far as to say that it compelled me to keep my focus on music and release a few more songs for my fans,” he says. His next album Aabhas—which is,
even today, regarded as one of the most successful in the history of Nepali music— was released the following year. The song Sanjha Pakha, one of the most popular tunes from the album, was composed during a vacation in Sauraha with childhood friend Manoj Acharya—who was involved in the actual lyrical composition. “I love to compose songs that are based on themes related to nature and love”, says Bhattari.
The musician has released nine more records since. Smriti, Samjhana, Samarpan, Nabin, The Blue, Smriti Re-loaded, G-Major, Nakshatra and Kathmandu are some of the most widely appreciated Nepali albums of our times. In the course of his 15-year-long journey, Bhattarai has recorded more than a hundred and fifty solos. He has also lent his voice to a number of movie soundtracks, and was the music director of the Nepali movie Challenge.
The singer is also known as the first person in our industry to use the ‘false setup vocal’ which he employed in the song Dobatoma. Within a week of its release (in 1998), the song had been broadcast on all national radio and television stations. It remained in the number one position in various local charts for a long time. His first music video, Lakhau Patak was also released the same year, and received much attention from music enthusiasts. Bhattarai has produced more than 30 music videos by now, and even has his own YouTube channel.
While his popular tracks Timile Herda Kasailai, Timilai Bhetne, Chaina Joona, Yaad Le Timro, Daar Lagcha and Yo Jhari are ubiquitously known, very few might know that Bhattarai studied ethnomusicology at the Kathmandu Univeristy. The singer still recalls the first of his many guitar lessons with Daniel Birch from the university and says, “He was my first teacher and has had a major influence on my musical career.”
Technique and creativity, Bhattarai says, are two major aspects of music. He also believes that the importance of originality is integral to shaping the personality of any musician. “I always focus on creating unique music when I’m composing,” he says.
The singer has performed extensively inside and outside the country over the years. His solo concerts across three states in the US were immensely successful, and his performances in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Bahrain and Thailand too have been largely appreciated. One of his most recent concerts—New Year 2013 in Pokhara—drew a 32,000 strong crowd who’d shown up just to see him perform live.
His most recent album, Kathmandu consists of nine tracks and also includes popular songs from the recent past such as Fikka Fikka, Yedi Maile Guitar Nasamayeko Bhaye and Mero Kathmandu. The album also includes an English composition titled Million Faces, and two music videos that have already been released. Bhattarai says the song Yedi Maile Guitar Nasamayeko Bhaye depicts the story of his own musical journey. “I want to dedicate this song to all my fans. Their support has helped me reach this stage,” he says.
Nabin K Bhattarai’s contributions to the Nepali music industry have been applauded by many, and his music has won him dozens of awards. He won the Sajha Smriti Award for Best Male Vocals on two different occasions—for Preetka Geet and Aankhama Timilai. He was also awarded the Shikhar Hits FM Music Award for Best Male Vocal for the song Sanjha Pakha. Other notable awards include the Hits FM Music Awards for his album Nabin and the Chhinnalata Award.