Nepali Times
Praveen Gurung (1962-2000)


Back stage at the Yak and Yeti Hotel the support team moves about purposefully, changing the sets for the next musk number. The group plays a song from Himalayan Feeling, and the audience goes quiet immersed in the meditative folk blend of the music. Back stage, there are moist eyes. This is the music of their mentor and friend, Praveen Gurung who died on the night of 6 August in a hit-and-run incident involving the king\'s nephew, Paras Shah, just outside the Royal Palace.

"He was our inspiration, our guiding light. We can\'t believe he is no more with us, its like a bad dream," says a young dancer, Manoj Shrestha. "He was generous and kind, and treated us like decent human beings, with respect.

And he was thoroughly professional." Many of Praveen\'s friends can\'t believe they are talking about him in the past tense. Someone they said good night to only a few days ago. not imagining that they would never see him again.

Even\' evening, Praveen\'s music troupe used to look after two cultural shows, one at the Yak and Yeti and the other at Hotel Vaishali in Thamel. His days were spent in the recording studios, mostly Namaste Cultural Studio doing music arrangements and also recording and acting as session artist for professional bands. Praveen had also been affiliated with the Nepal Cultural Corporation as a staff musician for the past 14 years. With all that energy he devoted to his music, Praveen\'s absence has left a void, and the shock of his loss has left his family, friends and colleagues speechless.

It is difficult for many of them to talk about Praveen without breaking down. It\'s almost as if the words don\'t mean anything. Says close friend Sambhu Rai: \'\'Working day and night with music, for the music and for those in music, he was a musician of immense dedication and energy."

All of last week, inside the recording studios, music classes and the cultural group backstage, there was an eerie silence, even though some of the shows went on.

Praveen was born 30 April 1962 as Dev Bahadur Gurung in Lumle near Pokhara. He grew up with the music and dance culture of the Gurung community. He completed his high school and joined Pokhara\'s famous Danfe Kala Mandir at 18 as a folk dancer and singer.

He later migrated to Kathmandu, recording his first song for Radio Nepal in 1983, the year he also bagged Ratna Recording Corporation\'s Annual Folk Song prize for "Tesaita nabune ko dali\'.

Like many of his peers, Praveen had to struggle hard to get to where he was. Being a modest, easy-going man who liked to keep a low profile, Praveen was well liked in the music circles in Pokhara and Kathmandu. Some of the musicians he trained, like Devika Pradhan went on to become famous.

Sambhu Rai remembers: "He respected the tradition of the rodi ghar a lot. Apart from being a good singer and a composer, he was versatile with all kinds of instruments. He was a cut above the rest of us."

Praveen was an all-rounder with highly developed skills at recording and organising musical and cultural events. He sang folk, pop and modern songs, and had mastered numerous instruments, including the piano, the accordion, and many traditional Nepali string and percussion instruments.

Praveen\'s memories now remain in the 500 recordings he made in Nepali and Gurung languages. His five major albums are the Gurung language Gnowse Mise La Le Lhei, a collection of Nepali folk songs called Thet, Simsime folk tunes, Sandesh, and Himalayan Feelings, meditation music with folk influence.

Gajal singer Shiva K.C. remembers Praveen as a hard worker: "He used to work day and night. For what? For the music, for the band, for his friends, for his family and for his effort to present the Nepali music to the outside world."

Praveen\'s wife, Shanti Gurung, is herself a musician and is the singer and bass guitarist of the first Nepali all-female band, The Sparkle Girls. Their two boys, 8 and 11, also play string and percussion instruments. At the moment, the bereaved family is in Pokhara.

Praveen had recently sent a music track of modern Nepali songs to Japan, and he was planning a tour of the United States. He had also just returned from a series of shows in Singapore.

For Praveen\'s friends and fellow-musicians, the best way to keep his memory alive is to keep playing his music and performing his arrangements.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)