It was a wintry evening three years ago when he got a call from an anonymous number in his mobile phone. A man with a heavy voice told him, “Congratulations, your lyric has been selected for New Nepal’s new national anthem.”
What a joke! He thought and disconnected the line. After all, his entry was merely one of the more than 1,200 other lyrics submitted by almost as many competitors to the selection committee formed by the Government of Nepal soliciting the most ideal verse for a secular national anthem of New Nepal.
After another five minutes, however, he got another call from a different person who broke the same news. He still did not believe in it. But after receiving more than thirty calls that night, he was left with no other option than to believe in the fact that it was his song that had been selected for the Federal Democratic Republic Nepal’s new national anthem. His eyes remained wide open throughout the night and he kept on staring at the ceiling. But he was still doubtful.
Maybe some people are playing pranks on me, thought Byakul Maila, the penman behind the national anthem, “Saye Thunga Phulka Hami Eutai Mala Nepali” (One hundred flowers that are we in a singular garland of Nepali).
From the next morning, his life was changed. He was no ordinary man.
Before he could complete his next morning’s constitutionals to get ready for his daily routine, a dozen journalists stood before his door to interview him.
“I had no clue as to how to handle them. There were questions, one after the other, and I wasn’t prepared with my answers. The camera flashes were irritating. I was totally shocked,” Maila recalls.
“How are you feeling?”
“Did you expect that your verse would be selected for the national anthem?”
“How many days did it take you to write the stanzas?”
“How is your song so special from the ones others wrote?”
These were the first and foremost questions Maila faced in the beginning. Some even asked him if he would join politics. For someone who had never been in limelight and never thought that his life would undergo such a drastic change, it was obviously difficult to accept all the unprecedented fame and success overnight.
For nine continuous days, his mobile phone kept ringing, and all he was made to go throughout this period were to attend press conferences and sit in for interviews for television channels and at FM stations. Before long, however, he became much confident in answering to the media. After all, almost everyone asked him the same questions, and he was tiredly used to answering the same thing time and again.
“Every time my cell phone rang, I got to get scared. Many times, I even felt like throwing my cell phone in a bin and lock myself in my room. I wanted to be left alone, I wanted to sleep peacefully. It all became possible only after a month. All the same, I was overwhelmed. It was a great feeling to realize that my hard work was recognized,” shares Maila.
But even after his competitively chosen lyrics for Nepal’s new national anthem became official in the melody of the veteran music composer Amber Gurung, Maila preferred to remain behind the curtains for a long time. He kept himself busy writing poems and songs for Nepali films.
He said he wanted time to complete his ongoing projects, and after getting married last year, he wanted some quality time to spend with his dear wife.
This has had been how the universal fame of Byakul Maila began and came to rest for a while.
Born Pradip Kumar Rai in the imaginatively named Hile Pani (“muddy waters”) village of Okhaldhunga (“stone mortar”) District, the obviously lyrical-waxing indigenous bard, now 37, chose the nom de plume of “Byakul Maila” because he was the “second son of desperate restlessness,” as his pet penname means.
Well, be that as it has been. And now, after almost three years, Byakul Maila has compiled his songs of patriotism, love, and human feelings of joys and sorrows in a new album called “Utsaaha” for which Shantiram Rai has composed and arranged the music.
The title track has voices of Parbati Rai, Kala Rai, Sarala Rai, Jagdish Samal, Bhisan Mukarung, and Shantiram Rai. The composition is beautifully based on folk streams, and the musical arrangement is done judiciously.
Other compositions in the anthology have been sung by Ram Krishna Dhakal, Abha Mukarung, Rajesh Payal Rai, Lasimit Rai, Rup Kumar Rai, Nabin Rai, Bhuwan Suptihang, and Kankaisht Rai.
A presentation of Music Nepal, “Utsaaha” is a fusion of modern and folk music, and the lines are projected in slow tempos. As the writer of Nepal’s new national anthem, the expectations from Byakul Maila were higher. Not that he failed to deliver his quality writing, but the musical output, however, should have tried something different. Some of the compositions are slow and too sad to listen to. At times, you feel like saying “Stop!” Not the lyrics are to be blamed, it must be made clear; it is the composer who should have worked out with the tempos and beats.
Let it be, too, as it may.
“I’ll be writing better lyrics. And I promise that it’ll be a big bang next time. I want to dedicate myself completely to writing,” concludes Maila with his typical unflappable eastern determinism.