Remembering the legendary Panna Kaji
On January 25 Nepal lost a music legend Panna Kaji Shakya.
Panna Kaji was born on January 8, 1932 in Ombahal and raised there. He was interested in music since his childhood. His father Chatur Man Shakya used to sing bhajans and was an inspiration for the son to follow music.
"In the beginning, he used to sing bhajans," informed Prabesh Man Shakya, Panna Kaji’s second son. The legacy of music has continued in the family with sons Prabesh and Pabitra Man having contributed to the Nepali music too. "His dedication to and passion for music led him to become one of the prominent singers of the country. He was so dedicated that he never missed reeyaz," informed Prabesh Man.
The veteran singer-composer was 86 when he breathed his last at his residence in Tahachal. "We had just held his janku (a celebration performed when a person from Newar community reaches a certain age) just a month earlier," shared Prabesh Man.
Panna Kaji is famous for Tiriri Murali Bajyo. He composed songs like Kina Kina Timro Tasbir, Lolaeka Ti Thula Timra Dui Najarle, Jati Heryo Uti Ramri, Hajur Lai Sumpeko Yo Dil Pani, among others. He sang over 300 songs.
Life in theatre
Panna Kaji was not only involved in the musical industry. He was also well known for his acting. In the olden days when there were no female artistes in theatre, male actors used to perform the role of the females. In a play Kunaal written and directed by Parmananda Bajracharya, Panna Kaji acted in the role of a female in 1947.
"The play was a satire against the rulers in the country. The rulers should be one of the citizens. They should understand the problems of citizens rather than just being dictators. There used to be a dabali — where plays were staged. As the play was against the Rana rulers, only three shows were staged. Police came to catch the artistes," informed Pavitra Bajracharya, the eldest son of Parmananda.
Panna Kaji had also acted in a Newari play Bisantar Ya Machadaan during the Rana Regime in the role of a king. This play was staged in public places and even in the royal palace, as per Prabesh Man.
Not only a good actor and musician, Panna Kaji was a good friend sharing harmonious relationship with his friends such as Daya Ram Bhakta Mathema, Parmananda, among others.
Many people might not know about the political career of Panna Kaji. He was interested in politics and was involved in several political movements. He was arrested in 1962 for being involved in politics. Pavitra, whose father Parmananda was a contemporary of Panna Kaji, remembers the political life of these two people. "They were interested in politics as they were much influenced by the Nepal Praja Parishad — one of the political organisations in the country. They were involved in anti-Rana movements then," revealed Pavitra.
Courageous in nature
Prabesh Man recalls his days with his father during the earthquake. During the April 25, 2015 earthquake, his father was in his room in their house in Ombahal. During the earthquake Panna Kaji stayed in his room even when his family members had already fled outside. "When I came out of the building after the earthquake, I didn't see my father. When I asked others about father’s whereabouts, they said he was still upstairs. I immediately went up. There he was, silently sitting. He was courageous and never afraid of natural disasters. When he saw the devastation around, he wanted to see the areas around. So, he and I went around the City," Prabesh Man recalled.
"He was also a wrestler. He used to have bouts with many people at the same time. He regularly did push-ups and exercised too. He used to walk up to Swoyambhu and come home buying vegetables necessary for the particular day," revealed Prabesh Man.