Dressed in faded blue jeans and grey t-shirt, Gaurav Sharma takes a break from the guitar lessons he’s giving to Marco, one of his many foreign students, and gulps down half a bottle of Coke on a sweltering summer afternoon.
He’s tired and fiddles with one of the many finger rings he wears for religious purposes. A couple of more swigs of the cold drink, and he brightens up and is eager to head back to class.
Back in class, he strums his guitar and instructs Marco to follow suit, sporting a contented smile. “You have to feel the music. It’s not just about playing an instrument,” says Sharma who has been a music instructor since 1990 when he collaborated with his friends and opened Kaleidoscope Music Academy on a sheer whim. An ardent music lover, Sharma believes that the right notes hold the power to lift up your spirits.
Sharma is a quiet and reserved person, speaking only when he’s spoken to, and even then limiting his words. But his persona undergoes a dramatic change when he’s surrounded by music.
He’ll talk more and gesticulate – something he hardly does otherwise. And as he closes his eyes to let the music take over, he’s transported to a different world where nothing can reach him.
“I was never very talkative. I usually did my own things and was lost in my own world,” says Sharma whose mother passed away when he was only eight, leaving him alone under the care of his father and uncle and without any siblings.
“But I was always passionate about music. When I was a college student, my friends and I formed a band called Strings and I was one of the lead guitarists,” he adds, mentioning that it was his passion for music that got him through his childhood and many hurdles after that, like his divorce from his wife by whom he has two children, and his father’s death a few months back.
Sharma was always fond of strumming the guitar even when he didn’t know how to read music. He recalls a time when he used to borrow his classmate’s and senior’s instruments and play whatever he felt like.
His uncle took notice of his passion and bought him a guitar which cost Rs 1,000 in the late seventies, and the first song he played on it was Biteka Kura by Deep Shrestha, an icon in his own rights.
“At that time, Rs 1,000 was a huge sum of money. But he made that investment to give me something to focus on, I believe,” he says and goes on to talk about how he loved playing Hotel California by The Eagles over and over again after he got his hands on the guitar.
Sharma now has around 30 guitars in his personal collection. From Gibson and Yamaha to Fender and Ibanez, he boasts a well-kept collection but he’s partial to the Ibanez guitar which is his favorite.
Sharma calls himself a self-taught musician who learnt to play various instruments like guitar, keyboard and drums by leafing through music books since the time he was seven years old.
He did his schooling from JP High School in Kathmandu before moving on to Siddhartha Vanasthali School. He even went on to complete his Bachelor’s in Science from Tri-Chandra Campus. But his love for music was never lost and he didn’t continue with his formal education after that, and instead chose to focus on making a career in music.
“I was teaching English in a language institute at Durbar Marg when I launched Kaleidoscope,” he says. The music school, which is now located at Putali Sadak, was at Lazimpat in his own house during its initial years.
“I started working right after my SLC exams. I worked as a receptionist at various hotels like Yak and Yeti and Everest but I got bored in a short time and never stuck to one job.”
It was only when Kaleidoscope was up and running that Sharma found his calling. But after two years, he left for the United States to pursue a few courses in music. Since he didn’t have any formal training, he felt the need to learn more if he was to make an impact in the music field in the long run.
In the States, too, his frivolous nature got the best of him and he didn’t stick to one institution but switched schools as he moved from one state to another. But when he returned in 1997, he had more experience, and with that came confidence to run Kaleidoscope on his own. He also had a newfound zeal to revive his four-member band, Eternal, that he had founded in 1992 before he left for America.
“We’ve come up with four albums already and are currently working on the 5th one,” says Sharma. At 46, Sharma is proud of the fact that he’s established himself in the music scene and loves passing his knowledge on to the younger generation.
“When people come to me to learn and insist that I have to be their instructor, I’m overwhelmed and those moments fill me with a sense of satisfaction.”
Besides teaching music at Kaleidoscope, he also partners with other musicians and performs at various venues whenever he has the opportunity to do so. His son has taken after him and is quite a good drummer, and Sharma admits that he wants his son to follow in his footsteps and become a musician as well. Besides music, his world is centered around his children and he makes it a point to spend as much time with them as possible.
“My daughter stays in a hostel and comes home once in a while but my son lives with me,” he says, adding that they are the only ones for whom he would even give up music which is a huge part of his life.
Sharma is inspired by Blues and is a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix and Gary Moore. He confesses that he doesn’t listen to much Nepali music, preferring to be wooed by a soothing English number whenever he can.
“I don’t listen to much music when I’m home because I’m surrounded by music when I get to work. But even then, I stick to English numbers,” says Sharma who wakes up as early as five in the morning and goes for a stroll around his neighborhood before returning to carry out his daily rituals of an elaborate puja which takes an hour at the very least. He sticks to the same rituals before bedtime and that means two hours of prayers every single day.
“My daily ritual of praying and music is all I need to function,” he says, reveling in the fact that his family and close friends know him as a religious person whose only interest, passion and hobby in life is music. His students too feel he is reserved and opens up only when he talks about music.
Music coupled with daily prayers is what keeps Sharma calm and composed despite his hectic schedule. He doesn’t compromise with his prayers no matter how busy he is because this ritual has a calming effect on him and he feels he can compose better music when he’s at ease with himself and his surroundings and he draws that strength from his daily prayers.
A normal day ends aslate as around nine or ten at night and when Sharma retires around midnight he is already looking forward to another music-filled day.