Birth: 6 June 1938, Sindhupalchok Death: 6 May 2021, Kathmandu
A Nepali singer gets an invitation from the organizers of the Filmfare Awards in India. He performs a couple of Hindi and Nepali songs and is greeted with resounding applause. The jury members are so mesmerized that they give him the title ‘The Golden Voice of Nepal’.
That title would remain with legendary singer and musician Prem Dhoj Pradhan, one of the most popular performers in Nepali and Nepal Bhasa music in the past five decades.
Born to a mother who had recorded a couple of songs on Radio Nepal, Pradhan was drawn to music from an early age. Although his parents were separated, and he lived with his father, he regularly visited his mother. There, he used to learn to sing as well as play instruments such as tabla and harmonium. Pradhan got more time to hone his skills after completing his SLC, as he moved in with his mother.
Soon, he would emulate his mother in recording a song at Radio Nepal. In 1955, he recorded ‘Yo Nepali Sir Uchali’—his first-ever. Mother and son would talk about music all the time, and it was this conversation that led Pradhan to toy with the idea of a song that would go on to define his entire musical career. “A guy is being followed by an unknown girl every day near the turning of the road…” his mother had narrated to him. Pradhan then came up with the words ‘Ghumtima Na Aau Hai’.
A single child born to Ratna Dhoj Pradhan and Pran Devi Tamrakar, Pradhan and his family had to face emotional turbulence due to divisions within the Newa community. While the Pradhans were considered members of the high caste, the Tamrakars were looked down upon. His father was forced to tie the knot a second time when Pradhan was just six months old. But that didn’t stop Pradhan from following his destiny.
In 1966, famed Bollywood composer Jaidev came to Nepal to arrange music for the Nepali movie Maitighar. It was then that Jaidev was enchanted by Pradhan’s voice. The voice of this aspiring Nepali singer needed some fine-tuning and Jaidev wanted to help the young singer do that in Bombay. Pradhan went to Bombay and lived there for a month to learn music. Again, in 1970, Pradhan traveled alone to India and stayed there for a year to learn about arrangement.
Apart from Jaidev, Ustad Ganesh Lal Shrestha also played an instrumental role in his musical career. Shrestha agreed to train him for 15 months. In 1954, he had a dream in which he was singing with the ustad. Pradhan later approached him to accept him as a disciple.
In 1965, a group of American artists performed at Tudikhel and, for the first time, he saw an artist play guitar and sing at the same time. And the rest is history. Pradhan started various trends in the Nepali music industry; his guitar and vocals would become the most iconic of them all.
He was also the first musician to organize a solo concert—he did so to build a house for his mother. For three consecutive nights, Pradhan, aided by singers such as Tara Devi and Nati Kaji, entertained the guests.
Swar Samrat Narayan Gopal and Pradhan were friends from a young age and were together almost for a decade between 1950 and 1960. The two used to go to the cinema together—at that time the only way to listen to new songs and memorize them was to watch movies.
In his decades-long career, Pradhan gifted his fans dozens of hits like ‘Para laijau phool haru’, ‘Namana laaj yesari’, ‘Goreto tyo gaun ko’ and ‘Rajamati kumani’.
A few days ago, he was admitted to the hospital after reporting fever and chest pain. He was said to be ‘out of danger’, but a heart attack on May 6 took his life at the age of 83. Pradhan is survived by a wife and two sons—Prasanna and Kabir.