A Maestro passes on ...


Virtuoso Pandit Hom Nath Upadhyaya offered himself to the art of tabala. More than five decades of his 73 years to Nepali classical music as a scholar, teacher and performer, the maestro of tabala was one of the foundations of Nepali classical music.

“He was one personality who contributed to the development, promotion and preservation of Nepali classical music. His contribution was more than that of an oraganisation or mahavidhyala,” Dr Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, sitar player, expressed about Pt Upadhyaya. “He was the heavyweight of Nepali classical music and we have lost a national treasure.”

Pt Upadhyaya succumbed to liver cancer on September 7.

Learning tabala for 12 years and making her living through the instrument, tabala player Sarita Mishra is another generation of tabala player taught by Pt Upadhyaya. Of her guru, she reminisced, “Without any gender discrimination, he taught me to make me a tabala player and he made me a tabala player. I was still learning from him.”

Mishra would be proud of her performance as an artiste but “he would provide me with constructive criticism. I feel that I have lost a shelter with his passing.”

Also, he was very “helpful and supportive” to the musicians of Nepali classical music and would ask his students like Mishra and Bhandary to help them.

When Pt Upadhyaya came to Nepal from Benaras after studying music, he began his performances in Nepal with sitar player Uma Thapa back in 1966. And he, who was musically active till his last days, performed his last concert with Thapa at Kiranteshwor on Guru Purnima.

“He was my musical partner. I began to perform with him since I was 16 years old and I have reached this age. I also toured with him in America, Europe, India,” 66-year-old Thapa expressed adding, “At Kiranteshwor, he must have been feeling unwell. He had told me that he was a little uneasy. He was my guardian. He was my brother who I have lost now.”

He had accompanied her in many stage performances. From Nepal to India to Europe to the US, he showcased his tabala skills in many parts of the world. He also accompanied many other Nepali and international singers and musicians. Also, he worked with RD Burman’s orchestra in Bollywood during 1970s by playing tabala, maadal and congo.

Other than tabala, he held a Bachelor’s degree in English, History, and Sanskrit from Gorakhpur University and a Master’s degree in music from Prayag Sangeet Samiti in Allahabad, India. He has also written two instructional books on tabala — Rhythmic Garland and From Kashi to Kantipur and came out with two albums Prastar and Tarang.