Nepali Times
Win-win situation


Whether the country has made any overall bikas post-1990 or not is always a subject of debate. But the one area that holds itself up well to scrutiny is Nepali music. Initially supported only by Radio Nepal, Nepal Television and a few private recording studios, the world of Nepali music has now blossomed to nearly 35 radio stations, 6 television channels, approximately 50 distribution companies and innumerable recording studios.

In the old days, a singer's lot was literally hand-to-mouth. The situation has taken an about turn: today there are Nepali musicians and singers like Ram Krishna Dhakal and Nabin K Bhattarai who command such a following that a single album of eight songs sells upto Rs 800,000 in the legitimate music market.

Radio airplay and specifically, the Hits FM Music Awards, has had much to do with the success of new artists and the continued promotion of new ones. Hits FM was certainly not the first to hand out awards to outstanding musicians, but when it began seven years ago, it initiated a trend that allowed musicians to concentrate on quality studio recordings.

The popular Kathmandu-based station hit upon the idea of creating a unique platform for performance and praise in its show. The Hits FM Music Awards is widely regarded as the most representative Nepali awards: the people decide on the nominees, and an independent panel of judges-culled from the pillars of Nepali music-make the final selection.

The first Hits FM Music Awards had only seven categories. Seven years later, there are 70 nominees for 14 diverse categories including Best Song in a Foreign Language and a Lifetime Achievement Award. Next year, they will include two more. This year, five-time winner popstar Nabin K Bhattrai has been nominated for two categories and another five-time winner, Kunti Moktan, returns yet again with a nomination for Best Female Vocal Performance. It's going to be a mother-daughter act with her two daughters, Sheetal and Shuvani, who are strong contenders for the Best New Artist award.

It's a family affair for Uday and Manila Sotang who sang "Hamro Bajae Le" with their young ones Shreya and Sujog. Songstress Nalina Chitrakar could pick up her second Hits FM Music Award after a six year gap, although this time she has to beat the likes of Mamta Dipbim, Poonam Singh and Sukmit Gurung and Sunita Subba for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Meanwhile, singer Karna Das had better make some more shelf space. The five-time winner has snagged three nominations this year for Best Male Vocal Performance, Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The duo GP are the odd men out with their blend of Nepali hip hop in the Best Vocal Collaboration along with more mainstream singers like Aim Baral, Sapna Shree, Uday Sotang and others. In the second year of introducing the Best Song in a Foreign Language category, former winner Dimple with his band Full Circle will vie for the award with the extremely popular rock act Robin n' Looza, and newcomers Da Nepsydaz and The Shadows.

The increase of new artists in Nepali music is an encouraging sign. Among the opportunists out to make a quick buck, or desire their 15 minutes of fame-a feat easily accomplished thanks to Nepali music programs on television-there are those who genuinely wish to contribute to the development of Nepali music. The Best New Artist award seeks to recognise the contributions made by fresh entrants. This year Aastha stand out for their catchy beat, accents not withstanding. They'll be up against Shital and Shuvani's vocal acrobatics, Pramod Nirwan (Music Link), The Destiny and Ravi Bajracharya. Within the span of a year, last year's winner in this category, Sugam Pokharel aka 1 MB has become so popular that his name now features with established stars like Nabin K Bhattarai, Nima Rumba and Deepak Bajracharya. His distributors at admit that Sugam's sales increased dramatically following his win.

Even if in small ways, the Hits FM Music Awards have contributed to improvements in the Nepali music: artists pay more attention to the quality of their recording, synthesisers are being replaced by a more human touch, singers and musicians enjoy star status and album sales are rising. Along with the respect due them, artists are increasingly being paid for their talent. Artist management has become a new sector with agencies like event~nepalaya and Real Solutions handling everything from promotions to concert bookings. Many singers have become popular on the Nepali diaspora circuit, travelling to Hong Kong, the UK, the US and Australia to perform for sold-out concerts. l

The 7th Close-Up hits FM Music Awards is on 18 February at the Birendra International Convention Centre. The event will be telecast live from 3PM onwards by Nepal TV and Hits FM 91.2.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)