By Mannu Shahi,A paragliding pilot by profession, Shailendra Rai, also known as Shailu Rai, abided his fair share of struggles before embracing the path of a musical career in 2016. This Pokhara-based musician was first drawn to music in his teenage years while studying at a local school in Darjeeling. In this school, he acquired skills in singing and guitar-playing.
In 2008, the singer joined a band in his hometown, performing cover tunes for the foreign crowd that visited lakeside. But, only a few years later, Shailu faced the first of his many to come setbacks when the band decided to disband.
But, confident enough to expose his vulnerable self, Shailu turned this into an opportunity to begin a solo career. His repertoire included immensely intimate tunes and he cultivated a brand for himself by using devices like loop pedals to create a melodic layering in live settings. He would occasionally post cover videos on YouTube, while curating ideas for originals
In 2013, he participated in an online songwriting competition organised by the company SongsNepal with his original demo single ‘Yo Geet.’ This song made him the first runner-up.
Around this period, Shailu also formed his own band 'Mixtapes'. The band had some seasoned musicians from Pokhara and performed for almost a year. But soon, they also decided to part ways.
In 2014, Shailu participated in yet another online competition – Pepsi Voice of Nepal. There, he showcased his solo live set, performing his second single ‘K Garne’. These back-to-back participations, and his relentless parallel hustle as a cover artist, had been slowly but steadily making ripples.
But, despite his career gradually moving upward, the singer, for personal reasons, interest and financial stability, decided to take a step back from music. He never quit the field though and continued to occasionally release works in collaboration with singer Janice Dahal. In 2018, the two released their composition 'Sangai', published on the YouTube channel
Shailu was processing his dialled-back approach to music, dare we say, having a sense of clarity for the first time since his early teens, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Life came to a standstill and the songster suddenly found himself with a lot of free time. This made him feel guilty, guilty for having abandoned his musical dreams and for letting something he had enjoyed since his childhood take a backseat in his life. The result of this guilt was the intricately crafted raw acoustic version of the single ‘Samaya’ released in October 2020.
Following this, the singer entered into a phase of musical rejuvenation with a soulful indie-folk discography comprising singles like ‘Ma Jastai’, ‘Lamo Sash’, ‘Sunau’, ‘Sochnu’, ‘Chindai Janchu Ma’ and ‘Yestai Nai’. And on November 24 this year, the songwriter published his debut four track EP 'Nametiney Chitra', featuring Diwas Gurung on audio production/arrangement and Aman Karna (Phosphenes) on the cover artwork. The third track ‘Sakdainau’ further features a band on music composition with Sundar Gurung on guitars, Manis Ale on bass and Yugal Gurung on drums. In addition to this the video for the melancholic slow-core song number four ‘Alikati’ was released a month prior than the
rest of the EP.
All the tracks justify Shailu Rai’s lyrical prowess and versatility as a singer/ songwriter, but my personal gravitation towards the uplifting shoegaze track ‘Khusi Chu’ is undeniable; probably for its compositional structure, effortless flow, exhilarating groove, catchy melodies and overall texture. A recommended listen for anyone seeking to broaden their understanding of modern