It was an enthralling evening: the show, the stage, the ambience, and Phatteman himself. Phatteman's total devotion to his music was apparent in the way he immersed himself into the depths of each and every song. With a nod, a juggle, and twist of his head and neck he seemed to coax the notes from deep within his throat, every note as powerful as in the original songs he sang over three decades ago. His body sang along with him, his dimpled chin thrusting in and out, shoulders arching along with the crescendo of the chords, fingers dancing over the harmonium, or stretching out with an alaap. Song after song from the jocular Sannani ko gaalai ma kaalo kothi raichha najar nai tirmir garaauney, to the melodious folk song Ghintang ma ghintang maadalu bajyo that he sang with Anju Sewa, the four-day old new mother. From his nostalgic all-time hits Marnu baru gaarho hunna, timro maya marnai sakina and Yasto pani hoondo raichha jindagi ma kailey kailey to the heart-warming, rousing Raato ra chandra surya jangi nishaan haamro, he sang over two dozen of his favourite hits, his gusto still the same, the nuance of every note still the same, the potency in his voice still the same.
Phatteman and the 20-person ensemble who sat on a three-tiered brick platform lined all around with oil wick lights seemed as if they were on temple steps in the midst of a festival. The lighting was non-intrusive, complementing the mood of the songs-shades of crimson when Phatteman belted out Raato ra chandra surya. The taste of the young showmen from Nepalaya and the designers from MaxPro was apparent in every detail of the stage, down to the use of traditional brass drinking vessels instead of the ubiquitous mineral water bottles.
This was Phatteman Rajbhandary's first solo appearance, and the singer's down-to-earth simplicity was apparent in the few words he spoke in between songs. A couple of songs into the evening he said, almost apologetically, "Sorry, but it's hot." and removed his black bhadgaunley cap to reveal a shiny pate! Autographing the back of a fan's ticket stub after the show, Phatteman wrote "sangeet mero pran ho" (Music is my soul.) The only proof you need for that is the simple life of this modest 67-year-old artist who has sung 300 songs in his 50-year career.