Nepali Times
Indian idolatry


Prashant Tamang may have dropped out of the headlines, but he is still running a busy schedule, wowing Nepali audiences worldwide.

After a touring the US with Raju Lama (formerly of 'Mongolian Heart') in September, Prashant Tamang swept through the UK for three days. He had just enough time for an interview before dashing off to catch a plane for a concert in Guwahati.

Over the weekend, Prashant performed two concerts and, not surprisingly, was feeling a touch groggy after being woken from his jet lag to talk to Nepali Times in a living room in a southern English barrack town.

But once a cup of coffee had washed away the cobwebs, Prashant was a thoughtful and articulate speaker, and still strikingly humble despite the widespread adulation to which he has become accustomed.

So, how has his life changed since winning Indian Idol one year ago? "It's changed completely," he says. "When I think about what I was doing before and what I'm doing now, it's like a different world."

Prashant was training as a commando in the Kolkata police force when his friends persuaded him to audition for the show. "I was used to performing in the Police Orchestra, but when I sang in front of the cameras for the first time, I trembled as I knew that people all over the country could see me. The cameras make a big difference."

In the first weeks, the contestants were kept incommunicado from the outside world, so Prashant had no idea of the wave of support and Nepali pride that was surging through India and across the world as fans tracked his progress week by week.

"When we reached the final 10, they let us read the newspaper," he recalls. "Then I spoke to my mother, who told me that I had a fan club in Darjeeling now, and that people had been sending money from America and Europe to vote for me."

But the scale of the hysteria only really hit home when he returned to Darjeeling towards the end of the show and was met by a rally of thousands of supporters, with people hanging from windows and climbing onto rooftops for a glimpse of him. "My heart still jumps when I remember that day," he says.

"No Nepali had ever won a competition like Indian Idol before, and I suppose that's why they were so excited. There is talent in Darjeeling, even though it's a small place. And I hope that my success will help other Nepali singers to come through," says Prashant.

Prashant's victory generated an upbeat feeling and new-found optimism that has indirectly enforced the political wave of support for Gorkhaland autonomy and created a surge of pride among Nepali-speakers across Darjeeling.

"I suppose it was time for this to happen and it happened," muses Prashant. "Personally I was never really interested in politics, but since Indian Idol I think Nepalis have been feeling more united, both in India and elsewhere. And if that's had a good effect on politics then I'm happy."

Prashant says there is a certain 'Nepaliness' that united Nepalis all over the world. "I live in India, but I am a Nepali. That's why I wanted to sing 1974 AD's 'Nepali ho'. That's a great song as it speaks to all Nepalis no matter where they're living: yo man ta Nepali nai ho," he says.

With a record deal from Sony and a worldwide performing schedule, Prashant has come a long way in the past year. He now wants to take his music and singing to a higher level.

After the interview, Prashant is whisked away to dinner with various leading lights of the local Nepali community. At his London concert the following night, women well into their thirties leap up on stage beside him, only to be pulled down by security, and fans of both sexes, young and old, crowd round him when he steps down into the stalls.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)