Rijan Giri, 35, is among the rare people who have been able to make a career out of their passion.
You might know him as the voice behind the popular Nepali song, ‘Kamal Ko Ful’, or you might have heard snippets of his single ‘Sandhya’ on YouTube where Giri’s channel has garnered over 800,000 views.
Those YouTube videos weren’t exactly planned in Giri’s grand scheme of things. Giri studied medicine and was pursuing a nursing career in the US between 2006 and 2013 . But this was not quite what he wanted to do in life.
“You study, you graduate and you start earning,” he says. “These things happen and life moves on, but I wanted something more.”
At the back of his mind were memories of his younger self. Giri had learned how to play the guitar, and with his uncles singing Nepali folk tunes, he had also picked up harmonium and later trained in vocals.
When he finally decided to pursue music, he returned to Nepal in 2014 and recorded his first single.
“It’s not that you can’t record songs in the US,” he says. “It’s just that I wanted my songs to be produced in the place I was singing about. And it was also a much cheaper alternative.”
Recording a single song takes thousands of dollars abroad, but with that money, he could record more multiple songs in Nepal, and even some music videos. “I’d still have money left for my return ticket!”
But his trip home in 2014 turned out to be more than just a reunion with his family and a music-production trip—it also became a lesson. Only after the recording of his first song did Giri realize just how much he didn’t know about music.
“When you’re a kid, you play a few songs on your guitar and you think you know everything,” he says. “But music is like an ocean. The farther you go, the more you see things you never knew existed.”
After returning to the US, he signed up for western classical vocal classes and learned music theory. When he next came to Nepal in 2017 he had almost 30 pieces of lyrics. With the help of his friends and family, he turned them into songs, some of which have been filmed.
In 2019, he would return after every four or five months, spending nearly half the year in Nepal. And in these three years, he was able to roll out his first album, ‘Anageenti Sapanaharu’, and then his folk fusion album, ‘Mari Lanu K Cha Ra’.
Much of his music is easily accessible on online platforms—YouTube and Instagram being the primary ones—but his online presence is limited. “I’m not in it for money,” Giri tells ApEx. “And I want my growth to be organic.”
This is one reason he’s not partnered with video production companies or hired popular figures to feature in his music videos. “The only thing I’m earning from my songs is self-satisfaction and I’m happy with that because I’ll probably never stop making music.”
The pandemic put a dampener on his plans to come up with a new album in 2020. But he returned to Kathmandu this year and has already recorded six songs since the start of 2021.
“I was lucky enough to work with guitarist Hari Maharjan on my upcoming songs,” he tells ApEx. During the second lockdown, Giri has been spending time at one of his friend’s home music studio.
“This album is turning out to be everything I’d hoped for, a mix of jazz and rock and everything in between. And I look forward to dropping the songs one by one,” he says.