Prem Raja Mahat is a living Nepali musical legend in more ways than one. Over the past 25 years, folk music in Nepal has gone from being a very local phenomena to a national celebration. Prem Raja Mahat, who grew up listening to and singing the "rural Nepali blues" as a young boy in the hills of west central Nepal, is a large part of the reason for the revival and tremendous appeal of folk music in Nepal.
Nepal is just as rich in music as it is in natural beauty. But lying in the shadows of the great Indian culture and entertainment industry, Nepal's own prodigious musical heritage remained under-appreciated, by both national and international audiences. The Hills of Nepal are settled by very diverse peoples, and the effects of this are enshrined beautifully in the incomparable musical legacy of this region. The instrumentation, scales, rhythms, melodies, and syncopation found in the music of the Nepal Hills reflect a millennia of cross-fertilization between distinct, yet ultimately complimentary, musical heritages. And nowhere is this unison more beautifully or powerfully expressed than in the diverse traditions of "lok geet' (folk songs) of the green hills of Nepal.
When Prem Raja Mahat took up this art form in earnest at the age o f 12, many were dismayed that a sharp young man had chosen the dead end path of a sarangi-playing singing minstrel. But, incredibly, within 10 years Mahat had managed to transplant his own love affair with Nepali lok geet into the hearts of an entire nation. Nepalis became instantly re-infatuated with their own musical roots while swaying and tapping to Mahat's early hits like "panko paat" and "simsime paanimaa." Nepali music fans that grew up on a steady diet of recorded Hindi film music, turned en masse to the folk tunes and rhythms rooted in their own lush hills and valleys.
It will be no exaggeration to say that Mahat played a key role in altering musical imaginations in Nepal for the better. Mahat was not he first in Nepal to look to lok geet for inspiration. But it is on account of Mahat's unique genius and supreme dedication to his art form that whole new generations of Nepali artists and audiences have gravitated towards and remained completely captivated within the lush world of Nepali lok geet.
Mahat's boundless musical energy and his creative genius are irrepressible. In the short time that Mahat has lived in the USA (Baltimore, MD) Mahat has showcased his music and his passion for it on NPR, in the columns of numerous local and regional papers, in a wide range of performance venues, including local bars and national college campuses. Having conquered the musical hearts of Nepalis, Mahat is now on a mission to captivate worldwide audiences with the timeless magic and charm of the music of the mountains and hills of Nepal. And judging by the interest and excitement he has generated for Nepali folk music from his new musical base in Baltimore, MD, Mahat is well on his way achieving his new mission.