Amber Gurung, father of the Modern Nepali Music

Born on 26 February, 1938, Amber Gurung is an accomplished musician of Nepal. He was born and raised in Darjeeling, India, where his father served as the British Indian police force. His passion for music since his childhood days is what led him to become one of the most accomplished musicians in the Nepali music industry. Although his father never approved of his interest in music, his mother always encouraged him. During his school days, he had started composing and singing which has won him recognition and many awards as well. A self taught musicians who learned both western and eastern classical music entirely on his own, Amber Gurung taught himself to play violin, piano, guitar, mandolin, table and several other instruments.

He started a music institute, The Art Academy of Music in Darjeeling in the 1950s where famous singers and musicians such as Arun Lama, Sharan Pradhan, Gopal Yonzon, Peter Karthak, Indra Gahmer and Ranjit Gajmer among others leaned music under his guidance. Nau Lakhe Tara, his first song to be recorded that expressed the suffering of the Nepali diaspora, was considered as a masterpiece of lyrics (by Agam Singh Giri) and musical composition and gained much popularity in the Nepali world, both in Nepal and India. In the years that followed, he recorded many other songs which helped to make him one of the main architects of modern Nepali music.

amber gurung

He joined the Folk Entertainment Unit, Government of West Bengal, Darjeeling as Music Chief where he served from 1962 – 1965 after which he became disappointed with the bureaucracy and resigned from the post, however, he continued to write music and do stage shows both in Nepal and India. He joined Dr Graham Homes School as a music teacher in 1967 and in 1968, he was invited by the then King Mahendra of Nepal to return permanently to Nepal and establish and chair the music department of the newly founded Nepal Academy of Arts. He served there as the Music Director for nearly thirty years.

He has recorded many albums and songs and has also composed the music for many musicals and documentary and feature films. He had also written and performed cantatas and choirs and many of his songs have been recorded by well known Nepali singers. He is also a recognized literary figure who has published three books and many music related articles in national publications besides being a musician and lyricist. He was invited by the Government of Nepal to compose the music for Nepal’s new national anthem in 2007 and still he has been involved in composing and teaching music to select students. He is married to Bina Gurung and has four children and five grandchildren.

For his contributions to the music industry in Nepal, he is also known as the father of modern Nepali music. He has written and recorded more than 1000 songs (1961-2006), composed/conducted the first Nepali chorales (1900-1997), composed and conducted first Nepali operas, Malati Mangale 1986, Muna Madan in 1979, Kunjini in 1963. He has been honored with more than 25 lifetime achievement awards and felicitations, Uttam Shanti Shahitya Puraskar (2007), Madhurima Phulkumar Mahato Puraskar, Kathmandu (2000), Tuborg Outstanding Award (1999), Image Award, Image TV, Kathmandu (1999), Jagdamba Shree, Kathmandu (1998), Bhupal man Singh, Kathmandu (1998), Sha-Shanka, Jhapa (1996), Giri Puraskar, Darjeeling, India (1994), Golden Flute Award (CEDOS), Sikkim, India (1993), Indra Rajya Laxmi Pragya Puraskar, Kathmandu (1987), Chinnalata Puraskar, Kathmandu (1983), Gorkha Dakshin Bahu, Kathmandu (1971) and Gold Medal Radio Nepal, Kathmandu (1970) and has been felicitated by various national and international organizations and institutions.