WOW | Musical Conversation

Gyanu Rana – Queen of Melody

Gyanu Rana is recognised as one of the most influential female singers of Nepali language in the country. With over 2500 songs in her repertoire, she is known as the queen of melody, and has been honoured with many national awards and accolades. Excerpts of a conversation with the famed singer:

How did your passion for music begin?

My father, Dharmaraj Thapa is an iconic songwriter, poet and singer. When I was a child growing up in Pokhara, we had the most talented musicians in the country coming over to our house to learn from and create music with my father. Being the eldest daughter of the family, I became interested in singing at a very early age. I started to sing the songs that my father wrote.

Was your father proud that you wanted to follow in his footsteps?

He was not supportive in the beginning. I still remember when my father heard me sing for the first time. He was happy that I had a beautiful voice. However, he strictly told me to keep music as a hobby and concentrate on my studies. At that time, female singers were not socially accepted. There was also an ideology that women who sang were considered to belong to the low caste. Hence, I focused on my studies. While I was very mediocre in most subjects, I always topped in music.

How did your career in music begin?

When I was 16 years old, my father took me to his office in Radio Nepal and arranged for me to sing. At that time, Radio Nepal would play live recordings of artists and broadcast it all over the country. I sang Jane Kaha Rajai Bato Dekhaideyau which was written by my father. I was paid the standard rate of Rs 20. It was a huge deal for me because it was the first time I had earned money for myself. When people heard the song, they absolutely loved it. Countless singers and artists came to my father to praise my singing and told him that I would continue his legacy. That is when my father began supporting my musical career.

What are some highlights of your music career?

I have sung over 2500 songs, so you can imagine that it’s very difficult to choose specific highlights. One thing that I can highlight is when Narayan Gopal approached me and wanted to sing a duet. I immediately went to my father and asked him to write a song for us and that is how Siri Ma Siri was born.

Who are your biggest influences as an artist?

My father and my devotion to God.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I have an album of bhajans that I am working on. I have always been a religious person and when I sing I feel closer to God.

Who do you sing for?

When I sing, it’s purely for myself. Singing is an outlet for me to pour all my feelings and emotions. When I sing, I live these feelings and it feeds my soul. For example, when I sing romantic songs I feel like a young heroine. When I sing bhajans, I feel so much devotion that I start to cry. When I sing dohori music, I feel like a little girl in the village.

Do you have a message for contemporary Nepali artists?

Yes! I am worried about the future of Nepali music, and feel that the value of folk music is depreciating. I see so many young people influenced so greatly by Western music, but Western music will be preserved by Western people. As a Nepali, we have a responsibility to develop our culture by using our talent to sing our own songs. That is how we can bring our country onto a global stage, by developing our already rich culture and arts. We have so much diversity in music from roila, dohori to churri and Himal geet, we cannot let this diversity and culture fade away.

Favourite artists

Muhammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mehdi Hassan, Gulam Ali.

Favourite genre

Any and every kind of Nepali folk music and the artists I have mentioned above.