Koili Devi, singer with the cuckoo voice

One of the most famous Nepali singers, Koili Devi is popular for her melodious and soothing voice. Her voice is as melodious as her name as Koili is called the Cuckoo bird, with the melodious and sweet voice. Born on 12 Bhadra, 1987 BS, she was originally named as Radha Basnet, daughter of Nilam and Rambahadur Basnet in Chisapani Gadi of Makwanpur district. Although her name was Radha, she was known as Pantari when she was small and she used the same name for enrolling in a local school in Makkhan tole in Kathmandu. She had lost her mother even she reached 1 year of age and at the age of five years, she came to Kathmandu with her aunt (father’s sister) who also taught her music.


With the help of her aunt, she entered into the palace of Singh Sumsher JBR at the age of 11 years as a helper. He referred to her as koili after listening to her melodious voice, after which she became known as Koili Devi, the name that gave her success and fame. She used to sing and dance in the Singhadurbar but around the year 2007 BS, after the establishment of democracy in the country, she became an independent singer in Radio Nepal.

koili devi

She was raised by her aunt but after the death of her aunt, she became alone and that was the time when she met Sakarbhakta Mathema. After the love that bloomed for around ten years, they got married in the year 2021 BS. Maybe because they were past their marriageable age, they had no children and also her in-laws refused to accept her. So, after the death of her husband in 2056 BS, she became all alone once again.

She sang song on radio for the first time in 26 Chaitra, 2007 BS, which she had written and composed herself.


This voice became popular as the first singer of Radio Nepal and she also became the first female music composer of Radio Nepal. This marked her way as a regular singer in Radio Nepal. She worked here for 44 years and was promoted gradually until she became the department officer in 2044 BS, Chaitra 15. She also served as the Director of Classical Music in the radio station. She officially declared her retirement from singing and music composition in the year 2059 BS and donated her musical instruments that consisted of harmonium, tabala, tanpura, etc. to Indira Sangit Mahavidhyalaya.

She has also received various awards and recoginitions for her contribution in music. Some of the most prestigious awards that she received include Gorkha Dakshinbahu Fifth, Indrarajyalaxmi Pragya Puraskar, Chinnalata Giti Puraskar, Birendra-Aishwarya Sewa Padak and other awards and honors from various organizations along with awards from Radio Nepal and Television. Her awards and certificates of honors, if used as bricks, then it would make an entire wall. She has also been to China for performance. Also, a Koili Devi Music Trust was established in 2056 BS. The legend of Nepali music, the singer with the melodious voice died at the age of 78 in December 2007.

She has sung more than 4000 songs during her time and released her first solo album named Chitta Nirantar at the age of 71 and second album Hajurali at the age of 74. Some of her popular and all time hit songs are Samjhi Rahanchu, Nisdin Kabal Hajurlai, etc.