Cover Story

PRAKASH SAPUT THE MODERN DOHORI PHENOMENON

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With all the global influences, we are losing touch with our culture and our roots. In this day and age, it is imperative to have that balance – moving towards advancement and globalization all the while keeping what defines us close to our hearts.

Mr. Prakash Saput is a singer, composer, song writer and producer who has been keeping that balance ever so. A humble, down to earth person who has managed to make a name of himself in the ever-growing music industry. He has accumulated a large fan base because of his work, not just here in Nepal but worldwide as well, by sticking to his roots and what he does best. May it be his songs with social message, or his fusion of traditional with the western influences, he has managed to touch the heart of many people.

Upon the chance of having a conversation with him, we got to learn his journey, struggles and his beliefs. Here we have a conversation with the man himself, Mr. Prakash Saput.

WITH YOUR MUSIC REACHING THE HEIGHTS OF FAME AND YOUR FANS BASE EVER EXPANDING, WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW YOU GOT INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. HOW DID YOUR JOURNEY START?

My fascination with music started in my early age and used to sing songs since I was a small child. As a child I was attracted to movies, literature and most importantly singing. This fascination led me to participate in my school singing contests and events. This fascination grew as I started writing my own songs and poems.

Even after my childhood days, I was rigorously partaking in various contests and lok-dohori competitions and cultural events. But, as of official records, I started my journey as a singer in 2069 B.S. That is the year I released my first album. However, the first song I recorded was ‘Gari khana deu’; which was a song on social issues, but the first song I ever published was a lok-dohori song – ‘Musu musu hashi deu’.

AS YOU MENTIONED YOUR PARTICIPATION IN MANY SCHOOL CONTESTS, DID YOU OPT TO SING LOK-DOHORI SONGS?

Yes. The reason was back in those days we did not have the level of exposure to the western influence. Well we did not have the media exposure we have right now, so that was a given. Lok-dohori is something that had influenced me from the get go. You see, lokdohori is a part of the culture from the village I come from and that is the case for most of the villages in our country.

We grew up without the presence of radio or television. So, the only songs we used to have were the songs that were created and sung in that village. This can be traced back to my childhood as I grew up listening to those songs sung by the elders of the village. It was not until later when we slowly got introduced to the tape recorders, through which we could connect with the cultures of outside the village. Because of this, I was heavily influenced by the traditional and cultural aspect of lok-dohori as it has been an integral part of my growing up.

SO, YOU COULD SAY THE LOK – DOHORI CULTURE HAS IMPACTED HEAVILY ON YOU AND WHAT YOU CAME TO BE.

Of course. I have taken my inspiration through the roots of the social backgrounds.

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WITH THE LEVEL OF GLOBAL INFLUENCES AT THIS DAY AND AGE, THE ROOTS WE COME FROM AND OUR CULTURE ARE SLOWLY FADING AWAY, AS PEOPLE ARE BEING ATTRACTED TOWARDS THE WESTERN INFLUENCES. IN SPITE OF THIS, YOU HAVE REMAINED IN-TOUCHED WITH YOUR CULTURE AND ROOTS. AT THE SAME TIME YOU HAVE MANAGED TO BRING THE TWO WORLDS TOGETHER THROUGH YOUR MUSIC; ESPECIALLY THROUGH ‘DOHORI BATTLE’. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS IDEA?

When I entered the industry, I was heavily influenced by the folk genre. But, most of my peers of my generation had already moved on to the western influence. Personally and professionally, I wanted to be in touch with my generation and I wanted them to know who I was and where I come from.

In my college days I wasn’t taken seriously when I mentioned I sang Dohori songs. I grew up listening to the folk songs and trying to change into the western influence was also out of the question as I would not know how to sing western songs. But at the same time, I would not be recognized by my own generation if I did not have influences in my song from western culture. It was a dilemma.

The solution was; taking what I know mixing it with the global influences that people are into. This was also to connect with the people in my generation but at the same time not completely giving into the western influence all the while remaining in touch with my roots. This is how I came up with the idea for Dohori Battles.

THIS COMBINATION WAS SOMETHING PEOPLE DID NOT EXPECT BUT LOVED IT NONE-THE-LESS.

Yes, I did not expect it to reach the level it is now, but I am grateful that my audience took it well and loved it.

AS OF PRESENT, YOU ARE DOING GREAT IN THE INDUSTRY, BUT TO REACH AT THIS POINT YOU MUST HAVE FACED A LOT OF STRUGGLES ALONG THE WAY.

There have been many struggles up to this point. Firstly, I come from a humble background and getting to Kathmandu city was a huge ordeal to begin with. Right after my SLC, I was independent. At the same time, my responsibility towards my family was growing        and I knew I had to earn more and reach a level of success, all the while not derailing from my dreams.

When I came to Kathmandu, I worked a lot in restaurants and bars singing Lok dohori in those places. There have been many ups and downs along the way. It was only after a year and a half of me coming to the city I was able to record my song. But no matter the struggles, I am thankful I have reached to this point.

At the time I joined the music industry. It used to be a big deal just to record and publish an album. Even after putting an album out we had no means to see how it was doing, so that was a struggle.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE SITUATION OF DOHORI CULTURE ALONG WITH OTHER FOLK HERITAGE AT PRESENT?

Not just the Dohori culture but the entirety of Nepalese people and culture are in middle grounds. People are still connected to their roots through their parents or traditions, but at the same time the generation is heavily influenced by the western cultures. Same can be said about the music industry. We are not able to leave behind our folk history completely and also not able to change entirely into the western culture.

However, the dohori culture in Nepal is just as big as it used to be. Obliviously it is linked to our nationality, our culture, and who we are as Nepali. Music is something you cannot force into people. You cannot force your taste into others as people listen to music according to their taste and interest.

However, when it comes to dohori and other folk music, they are linked to our heritage and to patriotism. And I feel because of this majority of the people have a certain level of respect for the dohori songs and folk music even if they do not indulge in them. If we were to represent our country through music, I believe it is Lok dohori that represents us the best.

At a professional level, I think a person liking dohori songs depends on the content of the songs rather than the genre itself. Even people who have a taste in pop or rap song may not like all rap or pop song but the question is which pop or rap song they prefer over others. Same thing with lok dohori.

TALKING ABOUT THE CONTENT OF A SONG, MOST OF YOUR SONG SEEMS TO HAVE HIGHLIGHTED SOME FORM OF SOCIAL ISSUES DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY. IS THERE A REASON BEHIND IT?

The social issues I present in my songs are something almost all of us can relate to. I grew up in midst of these social norms and so have many other people. So, having social messages in my songs makes it more relatable to the people who listen to them.

When we talk about lok dohori, it is in its core nature to convey messages and social issues and that is how people used lok dohori from way back; to convey messages. Back in the times when radios were a thing of awe and not available, people had a way of communication events and incidents through songs; either through lok dohories or through ‘gandarbha’ via Sarangi.

This is seen even in present days. At times of festive season like Dashain or Tihar, or events like Teej, people still express themselves through the means of songs. The women celebrating Teej sing songs of teej and during Dashain and Tihar people sing festive songs of the festival.

Lok dohori has always represented the way we live our life and our society. When I integrate these social messages in my song I want to make people relate with the situation we are in apart from just making them aware of the situation.

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AMONG YOUR RECENT SONGS, ‘GALBANDI’ HAS BEEN DOING REALLY WELL, AS IT HAS SUCCESSFULLY ACCUMULATED MORE THAN 20 MILLION VIEWS ON YOUTUBE. HOW HAS SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS SUCH AS YOUTUBE BEEN HELPFUL WHEN IT COMES TO ARTIST SUCH AS YOU SHOWCASING THEIR WORK?

In my honest opinion, the music industry is nearly completely dependent on YouTube. We do not have many other means to market our songs. Now-a-days people generally go to YouTube to listen to some music. However, with a business view point and getting exposure, YouTube has been nothing short of a help. Our work is able to reach many people with a click of a button or at a touch of your finger.

It has been three years since I opened up my YouTube account and till date I have already reached 100k subscribers, which I am grateful for. And it has been quite helpful to me as an artist. I have been able to easily put up my work and it reaching people from around the world is a bliss.

“JUST LIKE HOW I SAID BEFORE; THE SOCIETY AND THE MUSIC BEING STUCK IN THE MIDDLE GROUNDS, I WANTED TO TAKE THIS IN A FINER WAY. THE DOHORI BATTLE WAS SOMETHING THAT CAME OUT OF THIS. AS THE DOHORI BATTLE GAINED POPULARITY, I STARTED GETTING EVEN MORE AUDIENCE”

AS SOMEONE WHO HAS A GREAT DEAL OF HELP FROM THE SOCIAL MEDIA, AND AS MORE PEOPLE ARE USING IT, HOW DO YOU THINK THIS WILL IMPACT THE FUTURE GENERATIONS?

I am serious on this matter. I personally am very active on various social media and I think the introduction of social media is a gift which has helped me get closer to my audience. Not just me it has helped a lot of people connect with each other and that too on an international level. However, these are just the pros of the social media. Just as every coin has two sides, social media also has some drawbacks.

If I were to list the pros and cons of social media it would take us all day. Although I am very active in social media, over indulgence is not good. Now a days, people, especially the younger generation tend to make their social media life their reality. Seeking for approval and likes will only get you so far.

And this also depends on how an individual uses the platform; if used to showcase your work and positive things that’s really great, but often social media is used for selfish gains and degrading others, which is not utilizing the social media to its full potential.

LET’S GET BACK TO YOUR SONGS. COULD YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT ‘GALBANDI’?

Frankly, I didn’t expect the song to reach the popularity it has right now. Just like how I said before; the society and the music being stuck in the middle grounds, I wanted to take this in a finer way. The dohori battle was something that came out of this. As the dohori battle gained popularity, I started getting even more audience.

At the time I was working on ‘Galbandi’ I already had earned a certain fan base. As I was being recognized for my work even more now, I thought why not use this as a platform to show our culture to the audience.

‘Galbandi’ follows the ‘Rodhi’ genre of music completely. I have tried to represent the original folk symphonies, along with the Dohori culture and traditional aspect of our culture in ‘Galbandi’.

AS A DOHORI SINGER, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO PROMOTE FOLK MUSIC LINKED WITH OUR TRADITIONS AND CULTURE TO THE WORLD?

Dohori is an art; a conversation between two individuals presented in a musical way. From the words used to the rhymes are all spontaneous. This is something you can only experience in our country. Of course, there are rap battles in the west which are similar to this but you will not find the melodious use of words and rhymes. We can proudly say Dohori is an original art of our country.

If we were asked to sing a song representing our nation, we generally would sing folk songs such as ‘Resham Firiri’. The folk music we have is our music. The songs itself do not have to have the aspects that represents our country, but when you hear song like ‘Galbandi’ you will come to know it is our culture. The things portrayed are part of our traditions. They are helping in keeping our culture and tradition and our roots alive.

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AND THE RAPIDLY INCREASING WESTERN INFLUENCE?

Well, we cannot stop change and we cannot stop the time. Just because people are being more attracted towards the western life style and their influences does not mean that it’s a bad thing either. We need to be aware of the things happening around the world and be exposed to those things as well. I am in the young generation group myself, and I believe we have to change and move according to the time and age. Change is inevitable. But at the same time, we should not forget out roots. We should not let our culture and traditions fade into history. They are what define us.

Talking about our cultures and traditions, they are also not completely perfect. They have some flaws that we should move on from. Our society has been ruled by many social norms and issues like racial, ethnical and gender discrimination and blind beliefs. For many years we have taken them as our culture. We should filter what is bad from our actual culture and represent the better parts.

While doing the Dohori battle, I was worried. Worried that if I just did the western influenced songs; obviously people from my generation will know me, but then I would not be showcasing my culture, my roots. However, after ‘Galbandi’, I came to the realization that sticking to my roots and what I know best will also result in people knowing me and at the same time I would be representing the culture and traditions.

CONCLUDING THE CONVERSATION, THE NEPALI MUSIC INDUSTRY IS BLOOMING AND MANY ASPIRING TO MAKE A NAME IN THE INDUSTRY ARE STEPPING FORWARD. WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE ANY ADVICE TO THOSE PEOPLE?

First and foremost, you need to have the passion that drives you to keep moving forward. Secondly, you should have the selfconfidence to believe you will reach the level you yearn for and you should be the judge of your talent yourself. Granted, in today’s world, with all the easy access through the social media and all, it is really easy to get into the industry. It might seem like a glamorous lifestyle, the lifestyle of a singer or an artist from far, the journey is filled with struggles. You should have the perseverance to move forward no matter how many times you fail. You should learn from your failures and strive to be better the next time.

At the end of our conversation, Mr. Saput said something that resonated deep in me. He said he wanted to be an inspiration to those who come after him. Despite his backgrounds he managed to make a name for himself and he hopes this will help to inspire others in following their dreams. He also added, talent can arise from any nook and cranny of the world in spite of their social stature. You just need to have that perseverance and the passion to materialize your dreams.

INTERVIEWED BY: BAIBHAV SHRESTHA

PHOTOGRAPHED BY: GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR

DIRECTED BY: NIRVEEK PPJ SHAH

ASSISTED BY: PROJENDRA BIKRAM RANA

WARDROBE BY: DNA

SHOES BY: DULLA.OFFICIAL

WATCH BY: ALMA ARTES

LOCATION: ALLEY’S CAFE

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