Translation By : Dipti Serchen
Melody King Nati Kaji
In his old worn-out motorbike, Nati Kaji used to ride to Radio Nepal and wherever he went he always carried his old black bag. In it, among other belongings, were sure to be songs penned down by other lyricists. Once what happened was that he had arrived at Radio Nepal and as he was entering the main building, a piece of paper fell off his bag. It so happened that the particular paper carried a song written by journalist and lyricist Shiva Adhikari. It was picked up by singer Yogesh Vaidhya. He liked the lyrics and the meaning it held so much that Yogesh Vaidhya requested Nati Kaji to let him sing it. Then and there, Nati Kaji composed the music on his harmonium. After a couple of days, the song was recorded and was sung by none other than Yogesh Vaidhya. The song in the spotlight:
"Sapana Bhulai Sara Ashu Piyera Jau
Mandirma Cha Timrai Tasbir Liyera Jau"
After all these years, this song is still talked about not only in the music circles but by the general public as well. It won't be an exaggeration to say that it is one of those evergreen songs, if you could use that term. Of the many songs Yogesh has sung, majority of them have been composed by Nati Kaji. He feels that Nati Kaji's compositions are extremely good because he is a fantastic poet himself and a good human being at the same time.
Once, Radio Nepal had organized 'National Music Competition' and Mr. Vaidhya was supposed to sing a song, the composition of which was to be Nati Kaji's responsibility. Even one day prior to the competition, Nati Kaji had not prepared anything. And on the last night he composed the music, the lyrics of which was written by late King Mahendra. Later, at the competition, this song was recorded live and till date, this song is aired on various FM stations and TV channels. The song goes like this:
"Nepal Mero Timilai Upahar Bho Yo Jindagi
Apnau Ya Naapnau Timrai Cha Sarwaswo Je Jati"
Lyricist Rathna Sumsher Thapa remembers Nati Kaji as a versatile musician who could incorporate Nepali folk and modern music with exceptional ease. Ratna Sumsher says, "At times, Natikaji used to first compose music for a song and at times he used to first create the tune." Once, Nati Kaji asked Ratna Sumsher to write a song. The words goes like this:
"Akhaima Raat Gali Sitma Tara Dubey
Bataima Aadhi Chali Akashka Muna Udey"
Yogesh Vaidhya sang the song and was appreciated by one and all. Ratna Sumsher shares, "The second stanza of the song was especially a favorite of Nati Kaji. It says "Bari Bagaicha Bhari Mujura Oili Gaye"."
The first song recorded at Radio Nepal and in Nepal itself is:
"Yo Nepali Sir Uchali Sansarma Lamkancha, Junkiri Jhai Jyoti Bali Andhkarma Chamkancha" the music for which was composed by Nati Kaji, written by poet Bhupi Sherchan and was sung by Prem Dhoj Pradhan and Swor Samragi Tara Devi in 1956. Before this era, the songs were not recorded but were sung live. In fact, those days there were no equipments to record a song. It was only in 1956, when the government of America gifted a recording machine to Radio Nepal that the first ever song was recorded.
Prem Dhoj Pradhan still feels the absence of Nati Kaji in the music scene of Nepal and in his life. He remembers spending some valuable time with the great man. There was a time when Nati Kaji and another musician Amber Gurung were very popular among the people and in tremendous demand as well. They shared a good relation as well. They hardly visited each other's place but they often discussed for long hours about certain matters whenever they met up at the premises of Radio Nepal. Both of them were excellent musicians but have worked together only once. Nati Kaji composed the music for the song of veteran poet Madhav Ghimire and it was sung by none other than Amber Gurung. The song is called "Pahilo Bas Basta Cha Yatri Jhaukiri Ruwai".
Amber Gurung remembers the yesteryears and shares that the memory of Nati Kaji during their musical tour to Darjeeling is still fresh in his mind. Tika Bhandari, another well known musician was very impressed by Nati Kaji's talent and his ability in creating music with any musical instrument. "The best part of Nati Kaji was that he used to create good music instantly. For outsiders it seemed that he was just staring into empty space and in no time, he was there with a new creation."
In 1990, after the restoration of democracy in Nepal, Radio Nepal wanted a new music theme while transmitting their news, which was aired at seven in the morning. Nati Kaji came up with a tune but it was not appreciated by anyone. Immediately, within five minutes he created another tune, in which the music was orchestrated by Tika Bhandari. Till date, the same tune is being aired at seven in the morning at Radio Nepal. Tika Bhandari informs us that Nati Kaji's unique specialty lay on the fact that he could create fantastic music in no time at all.
Nati Kaji was a personal favorite among music lovers. He was the one who gave a new meaning to modern music and has always been known as The Melody King. He was born in 1925 in Pulchowk, Lalitpur to Mohan Lal Shrestha and Champa Devi Shrestha. His father used to work at the palace. Form the age of seven, Nati Kaji used to play the harmonium and sing songs. His guru with whom he first learned music was Tuyu Narayan Shrestha. After getting so engrossed in music, Nati Kaji couldn't continue his study. However, he managed to complete his Bachelors in Music much later.
Nati Kaji entered Radio Nepal in 1950 but got his appointment letter only in 1951. From 1951 to 1978 he worked at Radio Nepal as a Nayab Subba. On late King Mahendra's orders he was promoted to a section officer. After a few days, he was designated as a joint secretary of Radio Nepal. Out of the numerous songs, Natikaji has also composed music for Chadani Shah, which were mostly sung by Swor Samragi Tara Devi. Because of this dedication to music, he was awarded with honors like -- Gorkha Dakshin Bahu Pratham, Indra Rajya Laxmi Pragya Puraskar, Chinnalata Geet Puraskar and Bhupal Sangeet Puraskar among many others.
Melody King Nati Kaji devoted his entire life to the development of Nepali music. During that time, Hindi music and songs were pretty popular but Nati Kaji proved that Nepali music too could be made equally popular in the Nepali society. In 1960, while he was actively involved in music , he married Saraswati Raj Bhandari. They have three daughters -- Sanjeeta, Kabita and Sabita. During his endeavor to broaden the music horizons of Nepal, he developed heart problems. He was diagnosed of Parkinson disease as well. He expired when he was 75 years old and took his last breath at Medicare Hospital, Chabahil.
During the last rights of Melody King Nati Kaji, the then Prime Minister of Nepal Surya Bahadur Thapa, the then Minister for Communication and Information Kamal Thapa, the President of Nepali Congress and now the Prime Minister of the country Girija Prasad Koirala together with other ministers were present.
The figure of the number of songs sung by Nati Kaji has still not been authenticated. However, many of his songs were transmitted live by Radio Nepal as in the initial days there was no process of recording the songs. Some of the songs by Nati Kaji was later recorded by Yogesh Vaidhya.
Tentative statistics show that since 1956, Nati Kaji has composed music for over 300 modern songs, 171 Bhajans, 81 National songs and 10 songs for children. Nati Kaji will always remain in the hearts of every Nepali not only for his contributions for the overall development of the music industry, but also for the exceptional person that he was.