10 Nov 2017
4 min read
The flamboyant Yogeshwor Amatya has been a well-known figure in the Nepali soft-rock scene for the past two decades. In 1995, he shot to fame as a singer with his song 'Jaba Sandhya Huncha', which he wrote as a teenager. Since then, he has produced albums like Karai Kara Le (in 1998) and Bastoo (in 2002), winning the hearts of Nepalis all over the world.
In this week's Inspire interview, the singer talks to VMAG's Gaurav Pote about his childhood, his philosophy in life, his passions and, of course, his music. Excerpts:
What is your daily routine like?
I am a very late riser. On most days, I wake up way past noon. Because I don't have a nine-to-five job as such, I don't have a productive day planned out for me. After I get up, I head out of my house, without even brushing my teeth, and have lunch with my friends. Then, my day picks up pace and I just go with the flow and see how everything unfolds.
What else keeps you busy?
I keep myself busy with some Newari literature. My grandmother was extremely devoted to Nepali and Newari literature, and that passion was passed on to me. And to do my bit to keep local literature alive, I have helped publish two Newari dictionaries, the proceeds of which are donated to Nepal Bhasa Academy.
Tell us a little about your schooling.
I switched a lot of schools. I first studied in British Primary, in Tahachal. But then King Mahendra established a rule that forbade Nepalis from studying in English schools. Then my father, under the suggestion of Mrs Doyle, the then principal of British Primary, established Kanti Ishwori Shishu Vidhyalaya, in Tripureshwor, where I studied until I switched to St. Xavier's School in Godawari. After St. Xavier's, I then went to North Point in Darjeeling. I then studied in Minbhawan Campus, here in Nepal, before going to the US to pursue my BBA. Then I went to Mumbai, where I studied gemology.
How do you think your childhood helped shape you as a person?
Ever since I was a child, I have always been surrounded by creative, learned people. When I was young, my guru was Prem Raj Poudel, who was the first editor of Gorkhapatra. People like Renchin Yonzon, who is the wife of the late Gopal Yonzon; the poet Bhim Darshan Roka; the historian Satya Mohan Joshi; and the essayist Shankar Lamichhane have taught me a lot of things. My father, Bhuwaneshor Amatya, was the first President of Nepal Chalchitra Sangha, and my mother, Lamu Amatya, was the first trained nurse in Nepal. And they both also had a huge influence on me. I think the influence of all these innovative people shaped me to be the person I am today. You can learn so much from everyone around you, and I have always been blessed to be around the best minds.
Why did you not pursue gemology as a profession?
I think I had to give up one precious dream in order to pursue another. In order to pursue singing, I had to stop pursuing my interest in gems. But if given the chance, I would definitely pursue a serious career in gemology. I love jewellery. I love getting down to the intricate detailing of jewellery designing; it gives my soul satisfaction. Singing, however, was something that was just in me--all I need is a few pegs of whiskey and a guitar.
How did you stumble into the world of music?
I have no idea. When I was in school, I had wonderful teachers, like Mrs Melford, Rinchen Yonzon, and the legendary Gopal Yonzon--all of whom I respect immensely, and who have taught me a great deal. I have always liked singing, but I never thought it'd be something that people would associate me with.
Do you write your own songs?
Yes, I do write my own songs. I wrote 'Jaba Sandya Huncha' when I was probably just 13 or 14 years old. You know how it is when you're young and in love--you have this passion, and you just put it to paper. It's been awhile that I have not written a song, though.
Do you have musical preferences?
I personally prefer soft rock. One of my favourite bands is Simon & Garfunkel. As for singers close to home, I love the work of Bachchu Kailash, Deepak Kharel and Arun Thapa.
In reference to one of your famous songs, do you think it is okay for men to shed tears sometimes?
I am a big crier. I don't know if even my wife knows this, but I cry while listening to songs, and even while watching movies. It's made to seem that men are much tougher than women, but when the going gets tough, it's the women who are stronger and keep a strong head. We men tend to break down and get lost. And I think it's absolutely okay to shed tears. I don't know how else to cope with emotions.
What are your other indulgences besides music?
I like cooking. I try to cook whenever I have the time. My another indulgence is fine single-malt whiskey. I love indulging in the best whiskeys from around the world. After all, what's life without drinking some good whiskey?
We hear you are also a whisky connoisseur.
My children studied in Scotland, and while I was there during one of my trips, I had the opportunity to visit the distilleries of Glenfiddich and Chivas Regal. When I visited the distillery, I had tears in my eyes--not because I was in the Mecca of whiskeys, if you were thinking that, but because they showed us this emotional documentary they screened prior to the tour of the distillery. From all these visits, I picked up a few tricks to do with gauging whiskey quality. But I wouldn't call myself an expert.
Why are you so media shy? Does fame scare you?
It's not that I am scared of fame. Whatever little fame I have earned I have gotten through the media, despite my not writing new songs for six years or so. I just believe fame isn't something one should seek. I am content with where I am and with what I do.
What's your philosophy in life?
I don't follow any philosophy in life, as such. I just want to live life freely. I am very content with what life has given me, and I have never wanted more. I am not an ambitious person, unlike with most people in the world we live in. The world we live in today is such a strange place--so full of judgement, prejudice and hate. And everyone lives behind different facades--never saying things they actually think. I wish everyone would be free of everything that constrains their minds, and not live behind facades--but be open and transparent.