Dhiraj Rai started his musical journey way back in 1990 when he recorded his first song‘Luki Luki’ and has 11 albums to his credit so far. ‘Priyasi 1’ (2047),‘Priyasi 2’ (2049), ‘Priyasi 3’ (2051),‘Timra Nayan’ (2053), ‘Girl Friend’(2055), ‘Parivartan’ (2057), ‘Suzana’(2059), ‘The Best of Dhiraj Rai’(2060), ‘Prithak’ (2061), ‘Freedom’ (2063), ‘Star’ (2064/65). The sometimes lovable and sometimes very controversial singer has also two books to his credit, ‘Pop Ma BiteKa 15 Barsa’ (written in 2005), ‘Ke Ho Pop Sangeet?’ (2007). Dhiraj Rai is currently working on his new album and has been rather busy with performances! Irrespective of what is written and talked about him, he seems to like living life on his own terms by doing various other things besides singing. Whether its writing books or making documentaries, he surely knows how to play in the hands of the media and in turn the media love him for his sometimes outrageous remarks and sometimes downright simplicity. A couple of weeks back, we had the opportunity to talk to him on his music, teaching career and other general matters. Let’s get started!
So! Long time ha, how have you been?
Everything is good so far! I’m a little tired and exhausted because of the stage shows and that is one of the reasons why I didn’t do any abroad shows for New Year this time round. This year I spent almost all my time in the country. In recent times, I’ve been doing a lot of shows here in Kathmandu. Basically, I’ve been busy with shows lately and I’m going for a Nepal tour tomorrow. Besides that, I’m also preparing for my new album.
Nepal Tour! Sounds good. Tell us about it.
We’ll be going from east to west. We’ll be doing shows in Ilam, Damak, Butwal, Hetauda, Pokhara, Nepalgunj, Dhangadi, Surkhet and a few other places. I’ve gone abroad for shows on numerous occasions and I haven’t had the opportunity for a genuine Nepal tour since a long time and it feels good to finally do it. I think I’m doing a Nepal tour after three long years.
Who else is accompanying you in the tour?
We are four of us in the team including myself. We have Khem Raj Gurung, Nalina Chitrakar and Reema Gurung.
As you said you are working on your new album, is this tour in support of this new album!
Yes that is also the reason. I don’t have difficulties keeping up with my fans abroad because for the past few years I have been spending almost half a year abroad. But I need to stay in touch with my audience here as well. I’ve plans to perform some new songs in the tour, that way I’ll know the public response. It would be a kind of a promotion too.
Tell us about your new album!
This album is basically a typical Dhiraj Rai type. It’s Dhiraj Rai in and out with similar songs like ‘Timra Nayan’, ‘Timi Ruda,’ ‘Himal Najhuke Samma’ and so on. The only difference in this album is that I’ve tried some new flavors like Arabian and Gypsy music in a few songs. I would say they are also influenced by the music of Santana.
As you say that the new album comprises of old Dhiraj Rai type of music. Don’t you think the audience need some change?
Yes! Of course, the audience need some change that is why I’ve tried those Arabic and Gypsy music. But what I have also realized is; the audience who come to my concerts want to hearDhiraj Rai flavors. That means I shouldn’t forget my originality but give varieties to the existing flavors. That is the reason why I do both slow and fast beat songs and sometimes I do lokand rock and roll numbers. I hope this time theSantana and Gypsy colored songs does well!
How was the response of your last release ‘Star’?
I think the album did an average business in the market. There were two leading songs in the album and they were ‘Maya Cha Hai’ and ‘Ex- Girlfriend’. Those two particular were the promotional songs. I think ‘Maya Cha Hai’ was well appreciated whereas I felt audience didn’t like ‘Ex- Girlfriend’ much. It was a time of recession in the industry, album sales were low. Because of the fact that I’ve been singing for 18 years and I have my own fan following and I would say the album did averagely well. The album should have done better but there are many reasons like piracy, country’s situation and so on which affected the sales.
By the way, you’ve sent your documentary ‘Om Bikram: History of Nepali pop music’ to Cornell University USA which they have kept in their library and we have also incorporated the letter from the university in this interview. Tell us about it!
I’m very happy that the documentary has been kept in the library of the prestigious Cornell University. The documentary being there means people around the world would know about the history of Nepali pop music. I think now Nepali pop music has got a good platform because now the history of Nepali pop music is accessible to the world and now it is open for those who would like to study about Nepali pop music or would like to write thesis on it or want to do a doctorate on the subject. The documentary was selected for screening in different international film festivals like the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival. Itgot selected in Mumbai International Film Festival which was an even bigger platform. Cornell University has the trend to collect different good materials from different countries to their library. I got a call from Dr. Kathryn S. March who is an anthropologist and professor of the university and she explained that she watched the documentary and thought that the world would also watch it so that they would know about the history of our pop music. I was also asked to come to the university once a year to take some classes about Nepali pop music if I can make it. So the documentary made its way to the University through different film festivals.
Besides music you have also been teaching English at a collage. How has been the experience?
Actually I have been teaching English for more than eight years. After I did my masters degree in English literature, I thought why not try in a collage as being very interested in English literature. After I passed my 10th grade, I started giving tuition classes. Few collages approached me and I wanted to do something creative during my free time. So I started teaching in the mornings. Now talking about experience, when I went to the class room for the first time, students thought I had come there for a concert or something. I still remember the first day when I went to the classroom with a marker and a duster and when the principal introduced me to the students as their new English teacher they were surprised. I was a bit nervous on the first day because teaching in a collage requires a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. I had to leave the coat of glamour outside the gate and enter as a lecturer. But because of the name in the music industry it became easier. Students were supportive and didn’t create any trouble for me because students today are much informed. The generation today is highly talented so I have to be prepared to cope with their queries. It’s a challenging job for me. Now I’ve completed an entire session so I have become more used to it.
There is an incident which I remember often. At times when glamour and teaching collide it becomes difficult. There was one student in my class; we were forced to shift her into another collage because she was more into singer Dhiraj Rai than her teacher. I tried my best to turn her towards lecturer Dhiraj Rai but she was crazier about the singer. So the environment of the class was disturbed. We made her understand things and for her own good we admitted her to another collage. There were many things I had to deal with. Another pressure is that the principal wants results… have to complete the course in time. I think I’ve been able to pass the students on average rates.
Now being an English literature lecturer you must be reading a lot of books. Now besides your course books, what kind of books do you generally read?
I’m into fiction. I’m more into science fiction novels. I also love drama. I like to read Shakespeare’sdramas rather than to watch it like Othello, Merchant of Venice…even today I know more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s dramas by heart. So basically I read fiction these days.
If you have to suggest a fiction novel to our visitors, which would that be?
I would suggest an easy read…any.
I was talking about something really interesting one rather than an easy one!
Fiction should be easier to read because there are a lot of categories in it…and I feel good with the easier ones. I particularly like Frankenstein, A day With Invaders, Outsiders is also a good novel. These are the ones that I would refer!
Do you have any favorite writer?
Not particularly as such.
You’ve spent these many years in music, gone through ups and downs. What do you think life has taught you?
I’ve learnt that life is a never ending struggle. Every time I feel like doing something new in life… there are so many things to do in life. Once we achieve our goal, we see some other goal and we should go and try and achieve that. But life is very challenging. I chose this singing field and I feel good about it. I earned everything from it. This field has everything… fun. excitement…I’m very happy with my life.
Any message for your fans before we wrap up?
Whatever other profession I may be involved in, be it an overseer or lecturer but I’m a singer first. People love me as a singer and they have given me that identity. So I would like to thank them. I’ve been singing for more than 18 years just because of their love and support. I want to sing for another 18 years and I hope they’ll be with me. I would also like to thank fursad.com. You guys have been working as a bridge between artists and Nepalese residing abroad. Thank you fursad.com family!