KATHMANDU, Oct 30: Before 2007, Sunny Tuladhar was what he likes to call a “hobby guitar maker”. When he first started playing guitar at the age of 14, he was intrigued with the idea of guitar making. His fascination with guitar making combined with his DIY habit led him to repairing his own and his friends’ guitars.
“I was repairing guitars for my friends free of cost but in 2007 I took it up professionally. I completed my first guitar in 2008 but the first effort wasn’t very successful,” he says.
Sunny Tuladhar plays guitar for Jindabaad, an art-rock band based in Kathmandu alongside Rohit Shakya on vocals and guitar, Rajan Shrestha on bass and Kiran Shahi on drums. The band released their first EP in early 2011 and is currently working on the second one after a 8-month hiatus. Tuladhar has been playing guitar since 1999. and is very good at what he does.
Tuladhar, till date has made around 20 guitars and his clients include Roshan Kansakar, bassist for Mukti N’ Revival; The Uglyz frontman Sarun Tamrakar, his band mates from Jinadabaad, Abhisek Bhadra and Rohit Shakya, and of latest, John Shrestha from the band 7th Gravity.
He is a self taught musician and craftsman. Having experimented on wood for the first few times, everything he knows is from internet and books. “As a guitar player, I didn’t want to rely on anyone. I wanted to know what was wrong with my guitar and work on it myself,” he says. Tuladhar uses basic carpenter tools for his work and if the need arises, he imports specific tools from abroad.
Tuladhar’s musical endeavors date back to 2003 when his first band Elysium won the Rubber Soul Inter College Music Competition held on BICC Ground on June 14.
He cites his brother, Romus Tuladhar, as the one who first got him into playing guitar and it was through his brother and his friends’ circle that Tuladhar met his fellow band mates from Elysium.
After that, he occasionally played pub gigs in Thamel until Atomic Bush of ‘Sano Prakash’ fame came into being in 2005. After that, Tuladhar went on to play in Baking Space Cake, played shows where the band mostly did Rage Against The Machine (RATM) covers.
Tuladhar has also been looking after the music department at British School for the last five years. Although he wants to give more time in this line, his commitment to fulltime job at the school and his band has limited the time he can give to guitar making. He says “Like I said, I am not a full time guitar maker, at least for now. So it takes about two months to complete one.” He and his brother work together whenever both of them are free.
Another hindrance, he points out, is the availability of raw materials. Most of the materials comprising primarily of wood are available like mahogany, alder, ash, maple, rosewood and walnut but otherwise he imports them.
Photo Courtesy: Rajan Shrestha
This is when Tuladhar cheerfully shares all sorts of encouragement he has gotten so far, “If they are really hard to get here, I ask my friends to get it for me. British School’s principle has been very encouraging and she helps me from time to time.”. He uses local hardware which is easily available in music stores around Kathmandu.
Custom guitars are comparatively expensive; depending upon the model, specifications and modifications. Because most of his clients are musically able and already own decent guitars, they understand. Having said that, Tuladhar is often asked to make guitars for young aspiring guitar players as well and he lets them know about the cost range beforehand.
He still has a long waiting list of guitar enthusiasts looking forward to owning and playing Sunny Tuladhar custom made guitars.
Tuladhar calls himself a “bedroom guitarist” and while he hasn’t officially launched a solo project of any sort, a couple of his originals can be found on SoundClick. He explained, “I self compose and record whenever I can manage time. Somebody took those off my computer and uploaded them on the internet a while back. I got a good response and that has been a great drive in playing music further.”
The waiting list and appreciation towards his work, both as a musician and a guitar maker, is enough encouragement for him. According to Tuladhar, people admire the idea of a musician making guitars. His musical background has helped him greatly, with so many people who have heard and seen him play; he doesn’t have to advertise himself to get customers.
He recalls the encouragement from guitarist Iman Bikram Shah who let Tuladhar repair his guitar during the initial years of guitar making, “He was my first paid client,” he recalls.
“There are a few who have started making guitars themselves and they ask me for help on Facebook. As far as I know, there is no one else who makes electric guitar here so the lack of competition might be another reason,” he emphasized on how encouragement goes both ways.