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Upclose with Sugam Pokharel
9 April 2004-Friday

-By Sampada Malla <>
-Photos by: Abhinav & Sarobar Kasaju

(The article and photos may not be reproduced in any medium without the written permission of the publisher.)

"I strongly believe that God has sent me to be a singer, compose lots of songs and endeavor reuniting the whole world through the bond of music.” A young and an aspiring singer voices. His songs create magic, his music generate beautiful melodies, his voice invites an enchanting majestic feel; he is Sugam Pokhrel. With only two albums in his closet, the very handsome singer have already ruled umpteen hearts of umpteen music lovers. I have always adored Sugam Pokharel. I still remember those days of my school life when I along with a group of my friends used to sing his songs even when the teacher was teaching! Of course, the punishment we received after our such actions lie crystal clear in my heart. No wonder, I was looking forward for a rendezvous with my favorite singer.

The sun was mild as we, me and Abhinav Dai, entered the singer's home. The singer, also an RJ at Sagarmatha radio had just returned after accomplishing his daily show “Naya Pusta”. “ Here's the remote. TV herdai gara laa.” Sugam voiced as he hurried towards his kitchen for the lunch where Liza, his wife was waiting for him. I nodded as I rolled my eyeballs towards the beautiful portrait of the singer that was hung on the wall of the living room.

“Shall we start?” After couple of minutes, Sugam Pokharel returned back. “ What kind of questions will it be?” He asked before I switched on the recorder. “ Easy ones, dai.” I replied with a witty smile.

Sugam's childhood
Sugam spent the golden days of his life, his childhood, in Biratnagar, the place where he first opened his eyes. An average child and a mediocre student, Sugam admits to have been a very introvert and a shy lad in his earlier days. “ It was only after class eight that I finally succeeded in overcoming my shyness. Then, life changed. I was more social and started spending a lot of time outside the periphery of my house. Otherwise, I was a very self centered child. ” He remembers. His interests and hobbies were like most of the boys of his age. Wandering around needlessly and listening to music reigned supreme. He used to listen to songs of Sanjay Shrestha, Deep Shrestha and Harish Mathema in those days which also unknowingly influenced him proceed his destiny.

Sugam's bygone days in the music scenario
“I was always interested in music. I used to sing lots of songs in school functions, gatherings etc. People appreciated my voice and I felt proud of it” Sugam smiles. He never aimed to become a singer but the aspiration to establish his individual identity remained prior. Thus, soon after his SLC, he rushed to Kathmandu in search of a platform to explore his dreams and ideas. It was the year BS. 2052. “ As per my interest and desire, I used to sing a lot. I used to stay with my elder brother, Sunil Pokharel. In this interval, another desire took birth in me, the wish to record a song. Therefore, with some pocket money that I had saved, I and friend Sudin Pokharel recorded a song with our own compositions.” Sugam candidly mentions. It was the song “Ma Maaya Garchu”. Though the song was recorded, it was not released. “ We were really thrilled to hear our recorded song. But even then, we did not release the song because the song lacked good lyrics and composition. ” Sugam clarifies the reason. After couple of months, they attempted to record another song“ Payera Timilai” But the second song also could not tally their level of expectations. “ It was then that we realized that our time was yet to come. We did not want to jump hastily in the music world and remain unnoticed amidst the masses. So, we dropped the idea of recording songs. I, on the other hand, started concentrating on my studies and music lessons.” He reveals. With a hectic daily schedule, it was only at night that he could practice music. Thus, with the help of a guitar, he started learning the chords. Then,he also learnt music with Sir CB Chettri for around three years. “ In this period, I was lucky enough to receive a job as an RJ in Radio Sagarmatha. The programme that I was hosting was related with music which helped me develop psychologically with music. I received the opportunity to learn about the musical status of the country and listen to the current musical trends as well. It was a stepping stone in my voyage. ” He states. “ The days were hard. I was working and pursuing my studies as well. Time management was a tough task for me, at that time. ”

Sugam's musical voyage
Finally in the end of the year 2058, Sugam recorded his third song “ Mero Sansar” which comprised of his own lyrics and composition. The song was released. People loved the song. Sugam Pokhrel was successful to throw an impact on the music lovers. Then followed another single song “ Pheri Tyo din” which successfully captured the no. 1 position of music countdowns for months and months. With two popular single songs in a row, Sugam's debut album “Shunya” hit the music stands. The album was a great success. Overnight, Sugam Pokharel turned into a popular music star. Journalists lined up for his interview, photographers waited for photo sessions,his fans quested to feel his lively presence. “ Truly speaking, I had not expected so much of success from Shunya. The appreciation I received was overwhelming. My hard work of past so many years had bore such a lovely fruit.” Sugam laughs. “People started recognizing me as I walked through the streets. Giving interviews, receiving fan mails, visualizing myself on the television screens were new experiences to me. That was also the moment I realized that I was popular. “Sugam's aspirations are in fact his inspirations. He defines himself as a sentimental singer and his songs as catchy melodious songs. Music is a feeling to him which arises from the heart and strikes the heart. “Music is like love.” He beautifully quotes. Sugam declines to address himself as a popsinger. Rather, he says that he is only a singer and his songs are post modern songs.

Sugam says that his mood play an important role in giving birth to a song. Of course, his songs contain a vision. Concepts and themes revolve around different phases of life like love, pains, tears etc. Then comes lyrics, composition, singing and music arrangements respectively. “ Music is a gift, a gift of God. It is a flow of feelings also. Sometimes, I have taken months to compose a song while sometimes I have completed it in few minutes.” The singer admits. “ I also try to enlighten a message in each of my songs. Pheri Tyo Din ma,Past sabaiko huncha tara samjhera aaja lai khera nafaalau, bholi lai nabhigarau bhanne sandesh dina khojeko chu. A song has a great impact on the masses. So, I take special care that my songs do not spread a wrong message.“

With an outsider's view, pop music seem to target only young groups. What does the singer have to say about it? “ I do not fully agree to this. I think, in the present situation, pop music is successfully spreading its wings amongst every genre of listeners. I receive fan appreciations from people of all age groups, from a child to an old man and teenagers also.” Sugam strongly opposes. And it is true too! My nine years old younger brother is one among many Sugam Pokharel fans. With his first album, he received the prestigious Hits FM Awards. A singer with loads of enthusiasm within him, he mentions that his destiny has a long way to come. “I need to do much more in music. Life has just started.” He philosophically mentions. A believer of God and fate,Sugam feels that along with luck, hard work is equally important.

Flooded with gifts and cards from his fans, Sugam also receives appreciations and criticisms from his loved ones, which he wholeheartedly accepts. However at times, criticisms hurt him as well. “ It depends upon the style of presenting. Sometimes, I also lose my temper. But at those times, I try hard to control my temper and with a smile accept the harsh criticisms.” Sugam truthfully marks. With a program based on his profession, it is essential for him to listen to lots of other songs of various singers. However, his favorite remain Deep Shrestha, Nabin K Bhattarai, Nima Rumba, Sunil Bardewa..... the list seems unending. He mentions that country music influences him and the songs of Rhythm and Blues soothes him.

Sugam Pokharel is one among few Nepali singers who have actively been participating in lots of stage shows. “Singing a song in the stage contains more excitement than in the studio. In the stage shows,active participation of the crowd is received which encourages me. I love stage shows. With no barriers, there is a live contact between the performer and the audience which appeals me.” He says.

Sugam, personally and musically
Listening to music, watching television and playing guitar are his favorite pastimes. He also reads novels of Laxmi Prasad Devkota and Dhruva Chandra Gautam. “ I am moody, I get angry soon. If I start a work, I have to finish it by any means." He explains his personal habits. Generally, he does not travel in the world of internet but sometimes, peeps an eye at Cybernepal. “ I enjoy the site. With regular updates and interesting contents, CyberNepal is steadily climbing its ladders. The promotion that the site has done for my album Highway has helped me a lot. “ Sugam states. The couple of hours that I spent with the singer have resulted into one distinctive conclusion- Sugam Pokharel is a singer desiring to surpass higher, higher and higher. During the rendezvous, his eyes revealed his heart. “ I have to do something much more.” He repeated time to time. I gestured to ask lots of questions to the singer. Some of them are listed below.

You are a very popular singer today. Does popularity change a person or his environment?

Both, actually. In my context, I have changed too, in the sense that I have more responsibilities, today. Work has been very very prior. But things were different before. Today, people expect a lot from me and I am struggling to meet their expectations. Yes, the environment around me has also changed. People have a different eye of looking at me, today.

How important is it for your songs to contain Nepali feel and Nepali smell?

I have been playing hard for it. Therefore, I have always avoided the usage of English words in my songs. My songs contain complete Nepali words which are used while communicating.

What kind of public responses have you received from your second album “ Highway” ?
The response is good, though not overwhelming because of the critical situation of the country. As before, I have not received feed backs from all around Nepal. When I released my first album, the country's situation was bad, now it is worst. With blood baths all over, who would love to listen to a romantic or a sentimental song? So, the music eagerness is decreasing day by day and the music markets also. Not only my album, but the whole music industry is suffering.

What do you feel visualizing the present situation?
If the same situation continues for some years, I am afraid, I'll have to stop singing. Only after the situation will go better, then perhaps, I will start singing. Singing is our profession, not just our interest. Commercially, we need to survive as well. So, if there is no profit in the sales, there is no reason for the music companies to overflow lots of money in producing a qualitative album.

Any interesting incident about your immense fan following?
Umm, it was in BICC. I had a show there. After the completion of my show, a male fan approached me and kissed me wild for thirty seconds. (Laughs) I can never forget that incident.

How does your day start with ?
I wake up at seven in the morning, have my bed tea and then hurry towards my office. At about 11, I return back home for the lunch. After an hour or so, I go to my office. My office hours finish at about 3, 4. Then, I go for my music works like recording, dubbing , music promotion etc. Sometimes, there are interviews as well. So, it is only at about 7 in the night that I return home. That's it.

Your future plans?
I don't plan anything. I accept the way life comes to me. So, no future plans.

Plans for your next album ?
I have just released my second album. Presently, I need to nourish it. So, the preparation for the next album will take some time, perhaps after some months. Also, you need rest from the music. So, these days, I am spending my time reading books and listening music.

Any last words.....
Keep listening and loving Nepali music!

With Sugam Pokharel & wife Liza
“ A perfect couple!” Anyone who have seen Sugam and Liza Pokharel must have reacted in the same manner as I did. Both are young and very tender but their bond of relationship demonstrates maturity, love and understanding.

During the interview, as Liza accompanied us for some chitchats, I hurriedly asked, “ Didi, media dheki kina tadha rahanuhuncha? ” With a charismatic smile, she answered,“ Khai, interest nai lagdaina.” Liza prefers a low profile life with less media highlights. But with a singer hubby, things does not turn her way. “ I am compromising. It is his profession and I am aware about it.” As an understanding wife, Liza says. “She is perfect to me. That was the reason I married her. People think that I have tied the knots earlier than my age but I do not think so. She is a wonderful partner.” Sugam goes all praises about Liza.

Hits FM Music Award 2059 (Best New Artist)

Their first meeting happened on a telephone. A common friend had Sugam's phone number in her phone directory. Liza glanced at it and loved the name “Sugam.” With curiosity, I ask her, what did she find in the name? “ It was sweet ni, different than other names.” She innocently mentions. Then,with no reason, Liza telephoned Sugam, just for fun. “He responded very well. I liked his voice.” Liza recalls. Then started their friendship. “ We used to talk about everything as normal friends do. It seems astonishing to turn back and recall those days.” Sugam says. After about two years of their friendship, Sugam finally gathered some courage and proposed Liza. The latter happily accepted the proposal. Thus, the relationship took a different turn and bloomed into flowers of love. “I used to go to her college from my office, meet her and then return back to the office. Besides, we had regular phone calls as well.” Sugam shares the incidents of his former days. It was only after 3,4 years of their affair that they performed the matrimonial rituals. How did life change, I ask Sugam. “ My musical career and my marriage went together. After the release of Mero sansar, I had got married. During our affair period, I was zero. But after I married her, I also achieved a successful career. She is my lucky charm, my love.” Liza smiles as Sugam pours out his feelings.

Liza is fully satisfied with Sugam's profession and wishes to visualize Sugam transcend even more higher. “I listen to all of his songs. In fact, I am the first listener of all his songs.” She says. However, she also has complaints en stored within her. “Sugam is really busy these days. He hardly has time for me. He is also less romantic these days.” I ask Sugam's opinions about his wife's complaints. “I accept it. Today, I have more responsibilities in my shoulders. Life is very busy now.

Before, I was a simple man. I have changed with time because the environment around me has changed and other things have also changed. There is work pressure pulling me, these days.” The singer opines. “There is perfect work division between us. She looks after the house, I work outside. I have always received a positive support from Liza.” Sugam can not stop praising his wife.

“I feel happy about Sugam's fan following. It is because of them that he is popular. People love him and his songs. I feel very proud about it. However,seldom, I also get irritated with bluff calls.” With honesty, Liza speaks her mind. How often do they fight ?“ Sometimes.” They answer together. “But, our fights do not last long, not more than an hour. Instead of keeping mum, we sit together and discuss about it.”

Their second marriage anniversary is on July 2004. CyberNepal prays that such anniversaries come and go in the lives of the happy couple.

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