Last week, singer Ravi Oad, the title winner of Nepal Idol season 2, was busy feeding the needy affected by the Covid-19 crisis, in Naya Bus Park of Kathmandu, in the memory of his mother and stepmother.
Coming from a working-class family living in far-western Nepal, Oad, today, is an established name in the Nepali music industry. However, the memory of his ‘mothers’ every year around this time reminds him that he has his own share of struggle to reach this achievement.
Born in the late 1990s in the village named Gulariya of Kanchanpur, Oad used to hum every tune he heard in his early childhood. His grandmother was quick to notice it as her late husband was also interested in singing.
Ravi Oad’s grandfather used to sing dohori songs (duets) in his locality and the villagers used to praise him for his voice.
Not only his grandmother, but most of the villagers also told Oad the same thing that his voice resempled his grandpa’s. “This is when I subconsciously developed a deep interest in music,” he recalls those days today, “The foundation of my musical journey was laid hence.”
While he was growing up with his four siblings, a tragedy struck his family. He lost his mother when he was just a tween. His eldest sister was already married and he was the eldest among the siblings in the family currently. Hence, he had to handle everything (household chores) and everyone of his house as his father was deeply tensed with his wife’s death.
Oad narrates, “For me and my family, one year after the demise of my mother was the toughest. This phase of my life taught me a lot about life and struggle. I handled everything and everyone.”
As the environment of his house, then, was tragic, his father only used to play sad songs on his tape. The teenage Oad also used to listen to radio shows, dramas, and songs of Narayan Gopal. In response, he used to wish if only he could sing like that and keep humming.
His family was totally broken and mismanaged in the absence of his mother. Everyone suggested his father get married for the sake of his children. Considering the advice of his relatives, his father got re-married.
“My second mummy (stepmother) was so innocent that she was unknown about the outer world. She never showed any behaviour that is typical of a ‘stepmother’. My father had married a woman who was unable to give birth so that we would not be affected.”
Soon after marrying, his father left to work in Surat, India, to make a living and earn enough to provide quality education to his children.
Struggle for education
At that time, Oad was studying in a local school. After completing the eighth grade, he also went to India to work. By then, he had already realised his family’s financial limitations and also his responsibility as the eldest son to support his father as the needs and expenses of younger siblings were mounting. Meanwhile, his relatives living in India put pressure on him to quit school and start earning.
However, his father wanted him to continue his study as he did not want his son to suffer and endure all those sufferings he went through. On the other hand, the teenage boy was good in his studies.
Therefore, Oad returned to his home and completed his secondary education (the 10th grade). He shares, “The school in Kailali where I studied the ninth and tenth grades is considered one of the top school of Kailali. Getting an opportunity to study in that school itself was a big achievement. For me and my family, this school was very expensive. However, my father somehow managed the school fees for the ninth grade.”
There is another story too. “One of my friends was already studying in that school and he informed that this school annually organises Lotus Top Tara, a singing competition among the students and the winner will get a one-year full scholarship. It sparked the rays of hope in me. I was confident that I would win that show. Later, I did win that show.”
To his dismay, that year, the school decided not to grant the full scholarship to the winner. He, however, pleaded with the school officials to get a scholarship to study the 10th grade.
That competition helped Oad get established as a better singer and performer in his school and community. Oad recalls, “When teachers used to ask who could sing well, everyone used to answer with my name.”
Meanwhile, his art teacher used to inform him about various festivals and local events where he could sing representing his school. Oad admits today, “This is how I learned to sing in front of a mass.”
After completing school, he focused himself on making money for the family and supporting his father. For this, along with his close friend Rajesh Bishowkarma, Oad used to run a dance studio. They used to choreograph various performances for many schools and colleges, other local shows, and programmes. While doing so, they travelled across many districts of western Nepal such as Mugu, Kakikot, Surkhet, and others.
Oad opens up, “After my 10th grade, I went to India again. There, I used to learn music in the mornings, work at video surveillance and security company during the daytime, and in the evening, work at a dance school.”
After a few months, he came to Kailali and joined the 11th grade. But, at the same time, he was a multitasker. He used to choreograph various performances, sign in a local restaurant and perform in local festivals. It gave him some good money but also involved some costs. He could not pass the 12th grade.
“Then, I began feeling that singing and dancing could be just short-term options for your income. Even today also, it is difficult to say how long I will be earning by singing. This field is not like any other job in which one is bound to get a fixed salary every month.
“Sometimes, we may make millions of rupees, but we might have to survive with an empty pocket other times. Realising all this, I would try to divert my attention towards education. But, in some way or the other, this music sector kept calling me towards it.”
He also served as a temporary policeman (myadi police) in the 2013 parliamentary elections so that he could support his family a little better.
Nepal Idol fame
Amid uncertainties, Oad continued participating in many regional shows but never gained a victory. Maybe, the god has planned his victory for some big events.
Whenever there used to be any singing competitions, his friends used to inform him by sending links on Messenger, encouraging him to participate. They did the same when Nepal Idol, a celebrated reality show, called for auditions, for its second season in 2018.
While Nepal Idol Season 1 was on air, Oad was in India, constantly following the show. “I learned so much. I even inquired some of my friends who participated in the event about how the show actually would run, if they had to pay for accommodation, food and travel. When I got to know that I should not spend a penny, I decided to give a try for the second season of Nepal Idol.”
He gave his audition in Dangadhi on March 25, 2018, and won the golden ticket so that he could go to the next round. He then came to the capital. It was his second visit to Kathmandu.
His first visit to Kathmandu was also for a singing show called The Singing Star when he was in the seventh grade. Though he was eliminated from the Top 40 of that show, he had been able to learn some music from Ramila Bhandari. That time, he stayed with his brother-in-law, Dashrath Sunar, in Kathmandu. Oad says Sunar, the first person to have come to the capital from his village, helped him not only to groom himself for the show but also to understand the environment of Kathmandu.
Later, overcoming all the hurdles and hardships that life posed in front of him, he happened to become the winner of Nepal Idol Season 2 and won the cash prize of Rs 2.2 million and a Honda WRV Car. Considering his need to built a concrete house, he took cash instead of that car.
The hurdles and tragedy were still not over yet. After years of hardships, when Oad and his family were getting to experience such an ecstasy, his stepmother died while being taken to Dhangadhi for treatment after being electrocuted by a water pump only after five days of Nepal Idol Grande Finale. The love and respect that he earned from his fans and followers helped him in getting over this irreplaceable loss.
In the meantime, he was also brutally criticised by many saying he won the title only by showing his sufferings and poverty. Oad feels, “I took the criticism positively and believed in working hard and improving my own skills.”
After winning Nepal Idol, he earned name, fame, and money that has helped him better his family’s financial status. Now 23, Oad has taken the responsibility of his family on his own.
After winning the title, he also completed his school (12th grade). Then, he quit his studies as he was busy with musical projects.
Oad shares, “After winning the Idol, I first built a concrete house in my village.” Since then, he also asked his father to come back home from India. He opened a small shop at his own home to keep the dad busy.
Oad is a versatile singer. He has sung different genres: pop, modern, romantic, folk, and deuda (a folk style popular in mid- and far-western Nepal). However, this versatility has also earned him some criticisms. People said he did not give a second thought about any offer to sing and suggested he should be selective as a star.
However, he says, “You should love your work which gives you food and name. Our market is very limited and small. If I became choosy, it will be quite tough to sustain.”
Oad was also appointed as a goodwill ambassador for Sudurpaschim by the provincial government for the development of the province’s tourism industy. He takes this honour as one of his biggest achievements. A 10-member team including him is actively working in identifying tourist destinations of the province and promoting them on social media. He says his heart is deeply rooted in his place far away from this capital , where he lives currently.
By now, he has been successful in establishing himself as a notable singer in this industry. In the future, he desires to learn old classical and semi-classical music and try some of such numbers. Meanwhile, he is fond of sentimental songs and wants to sing as many as he can.
Likewise, he wants to start his own business.