Dev Rana, 68 and “still struggling to rock n roll”

Legendary percussionist Dev Rana on how music helped him overcome tragedy and why he doesn’t regret spending his life playing the drums.

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: When it comes to pursuing a career in music in Nepal, very few can sustain it for long. One of the main reasons behind it is the lack of financial stability. As a result, the artists and bands are compelled to either leave the country or pursue another profession and disconnect themselves from the music profession. But 68-years-old drummer Dev Rana is an exception. Rana has been playing the drums for over four decades and he doesn’t even want to think of retiring yet. 

“Besides music I don’t know anything,” says Rana. “It’s my life and I always want it to stay with me.” But when he started doing music, he never thought of pursuing drumming as a career; he just went with the flow.

Rana, however, didn’t come from a musical family.

“I had many friends whose fathers were in the Army and most of them followed their father’s profession but my father never pressured me to continue his legacy,” says Rana, “which is also why my passion for music increased day by day.”

The sexagenarian drummer takes music as one of the most effective remedies to overcome the problems of life. Amidst his musical journey he faced a huge family tragedy as he lost his wife and son. Music, he says, helped him overcome the tragedy.

“When I was in the most tragic part of my life music was the only thing that helped me to move on and have a new beginning,” says Rana.

Rana began to learn music when he was all of 11. Before he took up drums, he used to play the guitar. He went to the British School of Singapore with the privilege of being a son of a British Army personnel. He was introduced to music while taking part in extracurricular activities. Rana also spent a couple of years in Hong Kong, his dad’s last posting.

Everyone in his friends circle used to play only the guitar, including Rana himself, but he knew a little bit of drumming and so his friends asked him to be the drummer for the band. They jammed up together and it sounded good. The rest, as they say, is history.

Later, in the late 60s when Rana came back to Nepal, his friends from Hong Kong also returned to Nepal. At that time hippies used to roam around Kathmandu, and sing and listen to rock songs. Observing all this, Rana and his friends also wanted to form a rock band. Everyone in his friends circle used to play only the guitar, including Rana himself, but he knew a little bit of drumming and so his friends asked him to be the drummer for the band. They jammed up together and it sounded good. Later, the band was named The Road. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1980, Rana joined another band, The Prism, one year after its formation, and started playing at the Soaltee Hotel, where he played for 15 years. Before that, the hotel used to hire bands and artists from India.

The Prism is the first Nepali band that started playing music professionally. The band used to play old classics by Tom Jones, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, among others. Rana considers the Beatles as his mentor, one that always inspired him to do music.

Many winters have passed since those days. We are in the midst of a pandemic and Rana had never gone without playing music for such a long time.

“I greatly miss performing in live gigs,” says Rana. “It’s been my life.”

Currently, Rana doesn’t do any studio work; he is a full-time live performer and it’s his major source of income. The pandemic did not just affect him financially but also mentally as it has detached him from something which he loved the most.

Today, most of his friends have left music. They have either passed away, joined the military, owned a corporate house, or are celebrating their retired life.

“Now they are well settled and have a big bank balance but here I am still a struggler, struggling to rock and roll,” says Rana. “But, whatever the situation is, I don’t regret it. I am happy and proud of what I have.”

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