Famous fathers and just as famous children. Upendra Lal Singh, son of Govind Dongol (campus chief at the Fine Arts College, late princess Shrutiâ€™s art teacher) and Shristee Sunuwar, daughter of Atit Mukhiya (lyricist, poet, lawyer and short story writer), are a likely pair, in that respect. There is a generationâ€™s gap between Upendra and Shristee, though, but that is only when it comes to age. In every other aspect theyâ€™re in perfect harmony with each other. Upendra stepped into the music industry about 25 years ago, about the same time that Shristee was born. He is the founder member of Blind Faith (Nepal) and the keyboardist of Mukti and Revival. â€œHeâ€™s the ultimate one man band,â€ volunteers Shristee. He met Shristee in 2002. Upendra was looking for a female singer and when he attended the New Yearâ€™s show at Casino Everest (Shristeeâ€™s first gig, ever) he knew heâ€™d found what he was looking for.
What genre of music would you slot yourself into?
Shristee: We do music thatâ€™s for â€œlisteningâ€. Soft music, ballads, country and a bit of jazz. Classics mainly.
A memory that gets you laughing every time you think about it?
Shristee: (Laughs) Every time I get nervous the rest room turns into my refuge. This year during the New Year gig at Hotel Shangri~la I had to give an introductory speech of sorts before we started. I was told about this at the last moment. To add to it we were performing before a really large audience. I was a nervous wreck. I ran to the rest room thrice in a row, once from the stage itself just as we were about to begin.
Upendra: Last year I had been asked to play at a private party. I had been told that some VIPâ€™s were going to be attending but I didnâ€™t bother asking whom. When I saw Tina Ambani, Anil Ambani, Abhishek Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan walk in, my fingers literally froze on the piano.
Considering the number of years youâ€™ve been around. Whatâ€™s taking you so long to come out with an album?
Shristee: Iâ€™ve had no formal training and because of this it took time for me to build confidence and to get ready in a way. But the wait should end pretty soon as my solo debut album will be hitting the market in about two months from now.
Upendra: My debut album will be out around the same time as Shristeeâ€™s though my reasons for the delay are dissimilar. Iâ€™m more into teaching than playing but now I want to take a little break from that so Iâ€™ve started work on the album.
What are your future plans?
Shristee: Planning on going on tours in and out of the country. As The Duo, we will, in the near future release an album and for that there will be expansion, as weâ€™ll be adding more musicians.
Upendra: Nepal doesnâ€™t have a proper music school. I have been giving a lot of private tuitions but I want to open a music school soon.
Do you think itâ€™s possible to balance love and work?
Shristee: Definitely! You certainly can because you fall in only with a person who understands your passions and your interests.
Upendra: I agree. Iâ€™ve been married four years now and it was a love marriage. Infact, Iâ€™ve been luckyâ€¦ my wife is a performing artiste (classical dancer) as well and she understands my profession and me completely.
Who gives you strength?
Shristee: I come from a family of musicians and the making of my debut album would not be possible without them. Theyâ€™ve backed me up â€” technically and emotionally. I also derive strength from my passion for music.
Upendra: Myself (laughs)â€¦ and my family as well.
What is the strangest thing youâ€™ve heard about yourself?
Shristee: Much later after my first gig I found out that a rumour had been spread; that Iâ€™m an international artiste whoâ€™s been brought from Hong Kong or Philippines or wherever. Maybe they did it to make the event sound grand.
Upendra: When I was studying piano in Bangkok in 1987 someone told my mother that I had gotten married to a Thai there and theyâ€™d seen me in a departmental store with my wife and kid. My mother called me up and started crying. It was crazy!
Advise that you would give to aspiring musicians?
Shristee: Stick to your passion. As music is becoming stereotype these days, Iâ€™d suggest they come up with something different and originalâ€¦ something that comes from within you. Singing is not about perfection; itâ€™s about creating style. Also respect every genre of music, regardless of whether you fancy it or not. Lastly, work hard, very hard.
Upendra: Music is not a joking matter so learn the basics because without that youâ€™re lost. Remember the three â€œPâ€™sâ€ â€” Passion, Patience and Practice. Thereâ€™s one â€œPâ€ that you shouldnâ€™t have though and thatâ€™s Pride.