Monday, May 27, 2013

Valuable Advice For Younger Musicians of Kathmandu

Music Education is a topic I have always taken seriously. Primarily because I never had a real life teacher to take ''regular'' lessons from until I started my Eastern Classical training due to certain circumstances. Like many of you out there I am an autodidact when it comes to western music i.e. the so called self taught kind. I do not consider myself a high level musician to be very honest as an extremely self critical bloke that I am. But my advice will save you a lot of money and time. Money one can redeem, time - never. I have seen my mother grow as a professional musician still learning under her mentors too. I have had the privilege to be in the company of some Grammy award winners/nominees from different genres. I have also worked with some of them. Work pertaining to music publishing/events, not performance. I have had extended talks with some world class musicians as mentors through the right connections. Let me share what I learnt from them. And let me maintain a very direct and a truthful stance.

- Don't go for cheapass music lessons under clueless teachers. That will ensure wrong learning and progessively a backward decline. Imagine having to relearn everything completely from the basics just because you were taught something wrongly and unsystematically.

- Why don't I (me) teach music in an institute though I teach a lot? (I teach but not in an institute and many folks ask me this question)

THE NEXT GENERATION OF EXTREMELY PROSPECTIVE YOUNG NEPALESE MUSICIANS SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT BY UNDERQUALIFIED TUTORS. There is a reason why Germans invest millions of Euros on something that is called Musical Pedagogy. There is a reason why Nepalese Eastern Classical musicians cannot touch Indian musicians when it comes to performance level in the classical idiom. There is a reason why one can study Music Education for 4 years in a row in proper colleges.

Look at whom you are taking lessons from.

- If you want to read music effectively. Learn from someone who is at least a decent sight reader himself and has learnt to read music correctly and proper. even if he is self taught. If you want to be a professional classical or a jazz musician sight reading is an indispensable asset. Us Nepalese music teachers seriously lack on this aspect.

- If you are learning jazz or classical music under someone who is not a professional musician. If you are learning the so called 'serious music' under someone who is too young and inexperienced. Who hasn't been playing this music for at least 10 years. You are an absolute moron. You will discover it. One can take advice from anyone regardless of age and experience, do not confuse that with institutional learning.

- Musically illiterate people should not be teaching music theory. Lets talk functional harmony. Do you know why was the Harmonic Minor scale derived when there was already the Melodic Minor and the Natural Minor in diatonic harmony, okay its used to Harmonize but how is it done?

You will not find the answer to this very rudimentary and basic question in one book or on the internet. It will take a combination of books and some effective score analysis before you get all the answers. There are multiple answers to this question. Yes everyone knows its because the 7 is raised to become the Leading tone. But that doesn't suffice. There are deeper reasons.

What is the meaning of DIATONIC ? You will not find the answer in a single book or a music dictionary. The major scale we study is the diatonic major scale, but there is also the harmonic major scale. Its the Vth mode of the Lydian Diminished scale. So what is the difference? Why diatonic? It took me years to find proper answers from tonnes of books.

So if you go learn 'music theory' (mind it I don't mean music) with this regular Nepali hack guitar institute guy who doesn't know how to read multiple staves and who can't play basic keyboard (a must for all music college students abroad) you are rebuked for life. A music theory teacher who has nebulous and uncertain views on the subject.
Are you kidding me? PAY for good teachers.

Truth Number 1 - Unless its an exception and unless you have no other option. DON"T LEARN WESTERN MUSIC UNDER A NEPALI TEACHER. If you do choose erudite people like

Mr Kishor Gurung - B.M in Classical Guitar Performance, San Fransisco Conservatory of Music
Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology, University of Hawai
Ph.D (I am uncertain of the process currently)

He is not just a guitarist. he can teach your solfege, scoring, jazz harmony anything.

Mr Sharad Gurung - Bachelors Degree from Berklee College of Music, a Keyboardist

I remember as a kid discussing music with Sharad sir for 7 hours straight. Yes 7 hours. Even while I cooked chicken for his family. It was so engaging that I had to sleep in his house. I played the polychord chord on the classical guitar. He was drunk and from another room he yelled. Thats a chord from Stravinsky, Petrushka! I have literally punched 2 guys in their faces when they mentioned something about him which was false through their semi-informed unintelligent mouths. This happened many years back when i was in a very famous cafe.

Mr Raju Gurung - Bachelors Degree from Berklee College of Music, a drummer.

Mr Rupak Sahisamuda - Studied Western Classical Music in Vienna, Austria. The Degree has a German name so I refrain from mentioning it. Very helpful person. Has an extensive knowledge of Eastern Classical music too.

Classical Piano: Ms Mayo Shimonishi KJC. A very talented teacher. There are other teachers but they are too expensive and might not teach regularly. Go straight ahead to Mayo San. Unlike many piano teachers she has good technique, good reading and is also a very good teacher. She played the Piano reductions to concertos also a good chamber music player. I'd kill to take lessons from such a good teacher.

Saxophone, Clarinet, Oboe, Concert Flute - Mr Mariano Abello - KJC.

Don't listen to rumors. he is strict but he is one of the best. You bitches tell me why not. I will educate you on why is he a very high level musician and an extremely able performer. Forget the khepa Nepali opinion

He plays and teaches - 1 Soprano sax, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax.
2 Bass Clarinet, Clarinet in Bb
3 Concert Flute
4 some Oboe too.
Plays classical as well as jazz.

You motherfucking show me one person in Nepal.

- Who can play Be Bop standards with busy lines and complex tunes too. Can you play rhythm Changes at around 260bpm that too in the key of Ab? I have heard him do that.
- Who can fucking play the Glazunov saxophone concerto. I think he primarily sight read that live in Lincoln School. I have played wind instruments and I can guarantee a jazz player playing a piece of that level in such a short notice is truly commendable. This piece poses a challenge even for a Classical saxophonist. Especially around the altisismo register where I have seen professional musicians run out of breath.
- Who can play Bach's Sonatas in the same concert on the concert flute. (It can mess your embochure unless you are a high level Woodwind Doubler like Mr Mariano.)
- He is not just a regular sax guy.
- He also does some piano.
- Extremely good teacher, I swear to god.

When people have to deal with 'us' illiterate, disrespectful, lazy, uninformed Nepalese they have to maintain a strict stance. Its impossible to be cool and teach people seriously. He took me to a doctor and paid for my medicine when my right hand stopped working, I was not even his student. He gave me a theory book for free. A fat theory book which costs money. He also took me for lunch, teachers usually dont have to do that. I was in Hyatt all of you know how expensive that place is and I was hungry and broke that day, he bought a plate of momos and banged it on my table saying you need to eat maan. Thats for you. He talked to me for hours regarding musical direction. I respect him more than anybody else.

I told you about these incidents to let you know how truthful and generous he is as a person. I am no fanboy. But none does that around here. Unlike many Nepalese I know how to be grateful.

Bass Guitar - Marcus Dengate - KJC

He is not a college music graduate. But simply an encyclopedia of music. Illiterate like me motherfuckers should understand that he is not just a bass player..

- He has run a ballet company in Australia (which means an orchestra too, a full size orchestra)
- He is a very good accompanist on the piano.
- He writes lead sheets himself from memory, reharmonizes them instantly at performance level, at the speed of light niggas.
- He plays the Upright bass
- He plays Fretless bass with perfect intonation. And a killer on the electric bass.
- He has written hundreds of bigband scores
- I respect him as much as I respect my parents

I have seen some mediocre pianists who cannot play a proper line trying to criticize him because for many people when you play them busy 16th note groove on the bass, their hand freezes. and they blame their inability to groove and musical incompetence over someone else.

There are many severely talented Norwegian teachers in Nepal Music School too.

There is the Hagios school run by Koreans but its too expensive for many. Go to these places, learn under qualified pros. Fuck Nepali music teachers (I am one). I dont want to make a career stepping on a horde of misguided young Nepali musicians who could've been great musicians if were under proper guidance. And we dont have the right to teach things that we do not understand well enough in totality.

Earn, do side jobs. I did side jobs since I was 17. Selling instruments, being a tourist guide, freaking real estate at one point, professional counselling, sound technician and what not. Don't blame your parents. PAY for good teachers, and years later it will pay you back in higher amounts. Ramro teacher ko fees mahago huncha. You expect them to teach you for free when they paid so much for their education.

500 rupya ko classes lera 5 kaudi ko musician nabana bhaiharu. This is a very selfless, honest assesment of the music teaching scene in Nepal. Things need to change. I cannot see young guys full of promise landing under music teachers who do not have it in them to teach effectively.

And if you doubt the judgement of mine. Just a bit of my portfolio. My students..

Kiran Shahi drums - Jindabad and several projects
Bijay Shrestha - many projects, Urban Gypsy

Two of the best musicians in Nepal. Bros who are pros.

If you are paying a high amount, even 1000 rupees go under a well trained teacher. Most preferably not a Nepalese. I can openly challenge the knowledge of many of these so called teachers but won't because thats unprofessional and disrespectful. But whats more disrespectful is teaching wrong things to this new generation of extremely talented NEpalese musicians. You should quit your jobs and just play in bars.

There are many Nepalese like Pawan Tandukar - Rivals Institute, Pulchowk who are very good players and teachers though. He is also the guitar teacher of NMC.

All of this targets the western music scene. For the esatern classical music front we have many colleges and very qualified teachers to do the job. Dont go for cheap ass lessons. Please dont. It will negate your growth fellas.

Yours Sarthak Upadhyay.

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