Kathmandu: He teaches guitar for thousands but he is almost entirely anonymous. In his tutorials, he appears seated on a couch, mostly with a faded T-shirt and jeans–and the guitar, of course. For his first-ever video, the man behind Nepali E-Chords chose Gurasai Fulyo, the classic folk-rock piece by 1974AD. He begins by strumming two alternate bars of the A and B-minor chords and then a brisk, wailing solo.
Guitar is said to be an instrument that is easy to learn and hard to master. For beginners, after learning a few chords and strumming patterns, the logical next step is to transition to playing songs. Being able to play a song one grew up listening to can be gratifying.
There are thousands of channels on Youtube helping aspirers navigate the fretboard. Nepali E-Chords is one of them–perhaps the most famous in Nepal. The channel teaches popular Nepali songs, with genres ranging from adhunik and pop to rock and folk-rock, covering songs by artists from Narayan Gopal and Sad Rose to Arthur Gunn. The channel has a humble tagline: “Play Guitar Nepali Way”. Its videos have been viewed over 24 million times so far. Nepali E-Chords started back in April, 2013 by an emigrant Nepali based in the US.
For all his popularity, Poudyal has never exposed his face in any of his videos. Many of his friends and relatives still don’t know that he is the man behind Nepali E Chords.
Songs like Gurasai Fulyo, Chudaina Timro Mayale and Resham are timeless classics popular among Nepalis at home and abroad. “These songs are played in almost every Nepali event and gatherings taking place in the US,” says Sajeed Poudyal, the man behind Nepali E-Chords. “But most of the time the songs would be played the wrong way. I wanted to teach them the right chords.”
Poudyal is himself a musician playing with his band Mokshya Mantra for the past 20 years. He had played with a backup band for Phiroj Syangtan, the 1974AD vocalist, in Washington DC, a week prior to starting Nepali E-Chords.
“One of the objectives of starting Nepali E-Chords was to teach guitar lessons for US-based Nepalis because there were no platforms or institutions which would teach them guitar lessons of Nepali songs,” Poudyal says. Poudyal had no idea that the tutorials would attract aspiring guitarists from Nepal.
“When I started the channel I was totally disconnected from Nepali music scene,” says Poudyal, who has been living in the US since 1998. “I was clueless about the artists and songs which were popular in Nepal. So I started off with the old classics.”
Though he had played guitar for a long time, tutoring it was a new thing for Poudyal. So when he began he was apprehensive. He didn’t even publicize the first few videos. He wanted to see whether people would explore them or not. They did. After a week, comments began trickling in, all thanking him for teaching the lessons. “Those comments surprised me and gave impetus to carry on,” Poudyal says.
After eight years and hundreds of tutorials later, Poudyal still doesn’t want to be known as a guitar tutor. “I have never taught how to play a guitar, I have just taught them how to play songs on guitar,” says Poudyal. “There is a great difference between these two things”.
Guitar is not a quintessentially Nepali string instrument like sarangi or tunga, yet it is far more popular than the two. Guitar came to Nepal along with the hippies from the west. It is played both by the punk rockers in dingy Thamel bars and the lok dohori singers in Pokhara studios. And so it has captured the imagination of Nepali youths, many of whom want to play it by themselves. Nepali E-Chords teaches them how to.
For all his popularity, Poudyal has never exposed his face in any of his videos. Many of his friends and relatives still don’t know that he is the man behind Nepali E Chords. “I want people to look at the guitar, not my face,” he says.
Last year, Poudyal went on a personal tour to Ilam with one of his friends and stayed at a hotel. There was a guitar lying idly nearby. Poudyal picked it up and began to play. The staff members of the hotel complimented him. His friend asked them if they’ve heard of Nepali E chords and they said they all have learned guitar from it. “When my friend introduced me to them as the tutor of Nepali E-Chords they were all surprised,” said Poudyal. “It felt great to know that people from such a far flung area had learned from my channel.”
When Poudyal started his channel, he promised to himself that he’d delete the channel altogether if his videos had received more than five percent of dislikes. But today, the number of dislikes in his videos are paltry as compared to likes. His first tutorial, that of Gurasai Fulyo, is also his most popular. It has received over 700, 000 views, over 5,000 likes and 241 dislikes, which is a lot less than what would make Poudyal stop.
In one tutorial’s comment section, one aspirant dubs him a “legend”: “I know there are lots of stuff on the internet but nothing matches your lessons,” he writes. Another aspirer writes In the Gurasai Fulyo tutorial’s comment section: “I was a complete beginner before I came across this channel. Now I can play guitar in a fine way. Thank you so much for creating this channel.”