Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Prakash Slim is Nepal's Blues Power

Ram Prakash Pokharel (aka Prakash Slim) is an international artist/performer and educator of the blues. 

He was born in a field on June,17th, 1980. Yes, a field. It was during the rainy season, in a small village called Lamatar, in the Lalitpur district, of Nepal. The village saw its first electric light bulb in 1983, and its first motor car in 1995. Slim was raised by a loving family of modest means, but his father died at the young age of 29, leaving his mother with three children to raise on her own. Slim had an older brother and sister, and his mother worked in the neighbors’ fields, gathering what food she could get to feed her kids. Slim waited until the village's annual festival celebration, an important time in his world when his uncle would give him a set of new clothes. 

Unlike most early blues artists in the American South, Slim got to go to public school, but instead of desks and benches, his school had dirt floors and straw mats. When asked about his ambitions when he was young,  Slim replied, 

"Ambition was a privilege that only rich kids had. 

The only ambition I had was staying alive."

He was interested in music since he was a child.  Slim would use the wood and other materials around their house to fashion his own instruments, he'd play music by drumming against a gallon water jug. He'd also drive his mother crazy singing songs all day.  

Music became his world. 

It called out to him, and he could not resist. His most prized possession back then was a bicycle that his sister gave him after she landed a job. Slim wanted to learn to play the guitar but he did not have one, and he had no money to buy one. He bought his first guitar by selling his bicycle. He told his family that a friend had taken it for a few days. He lied.

For two years, Slim gave up everything to search for a mentor who could teach him what he needed to know about the guitar. He found a teacher, a legendary musician named C.B. Chhetri, but he lived 10 kilometers away from Slim. Nevertheless, Slim never missed a lesson. It stormed; it rained, but he always showed up, usually ahead of time, and ready to learn.

After a little while, Slim became pretty good on the guitar, and he accepted Chhetri‘s offer to join a band. He cut his teeth gigging in a circuit of restaurants and playing rock music. At the same time, he started teaching music in schools. 

In 2008 he participated in a workshop entitled Teaching Music Effectively"  conducted at Kathmandu  Jazz Conservatory by the US  Cultural Embassy envoy, Dr. Gene Aitken. He enjoyed playing in rock n' roll bands for all those years, but Slim's thirst for musical knowledge, and a deeper musical experience, could not find satisfaction. The hole in his soul started to heal when he heard his first BB King record. Overwhelmed by what he heard, Slim started to research the Blues.

He became obsessed with Blues history. He also added Blues licks & grooves to his existing repertoire and gradually learned music theory. He developed a deeper understanding of how chords and progressions were formed both physically and numerically. From 2003 - 2015 he served as the lead and rhythm guitarist, bass guitarist, and vocalist for various bands throughout Nepal.

At 2015, he received an invitation to attend a musical retreat at Walden School of Music, San Francisco, California, USA. But a major earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. Buildings crumbled down to dust and Slim's hopes were shattered as he was unable to attend the retreat. The devastation hit him deep and hard. For the next several years, fear and pain were constant in his life. The Blues became his solace, his best friend.

In February, 2017, he fell sick and was confined to bed rest. While he was scrolling through his news feed aimlessly, he came across a facebook page named “Acoustic Blues Pickers." He was intrigued on seeing a world of blues lovers like himself. There he listened to Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues." He practiced playing it for a week and shared what he played on the page. A Facebook friend, on seeing his post on the page, offered to help him and magnanimously sent him a resonator guitar and some slides.

For now, Prakash Slim is not only playing and doing research in Blues, but also teaching BITS aka Blues in the schools. He's recently finished a Blues exhibition for his school in Nepal. No doubt... he's committed to playing forward BITS programs, and hence, is living, by example the axiom "keeping the blues alive" in Nepal & beyond. 

He's now a recognized, internationally affiliated Artist/Performer and Educator of the Blues with the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund (Executive Director Dr. T. DeWayne Moore) since January 2019. Slim is also active in a Blues mentorship program with T.J. Wheeler, a long time pioneer, advocate, activist teacher/performer of Blues, Jazz & related music and educator, from the USA. As a member of International Singer and Songwriters Association (issasongwriters.com) Georgia, USA Slim's own original Blues composition are also gaining him further attention.


Prakash Slim - "Villager's Blues"

Prakash serves as a member of the 

board of associates for Mt. Zion MemorialFund.


Prakash featured with American Blues Merchandise Wang Dang Doodle Tees, Illinois, USA.

Other exposure has included, being mentioned in America's first and leading Blues magazine - Living Blues in August 2019. A Nepali magazine called Yuwa Hunkar, published his autobiography where he says that Blues can be a music of healing for the people who’ve been through pain in life. His quote "B.B. King globalized the blues" is mentioned by the Phenomenal Scholar, Author and Storyteller Diane Williams in her new book’s presentation - The Life and Legacy of B.B. King at Mississippi Department of Archives and History - 22 January 2020.

He was interviewed in The Nepali Times Australia magazine, Australia, October 2020.

He was interviewed by Tucson Unified School District teacher Patrick Brenan and shared blues knowledge  for 5th grade students of John E White Elementary School Arizona USA in September 2020.

He was interviewed on The Phoenix Radio, Florida, USA with Big Low in September 2020.

He was interviewed on Kalakarmi Broadcasting & Media Production Company, Nepal in September 2020.

He was interviewed in Blues & Co magazine, France in September 2020

He was featured in Washington Blues Society’s Bluesletter magazine, August 2020 issue.  

He was interviewed for Grateful Web media/news company, Colorado, America in July 2020.

He was interviewed for Down At The Crossroads, Ireland  by Dr. Gary W Burnett on 26 June 2020.  

He represented  Nepal in International Blues Festival of Lima, Peru and published his biography in Almas Raices Productions, Lima, Peru.   

He played for the Crossroads Confined Countdown Festival (France) on 4th June 2020.

He performed for 5th Posadas Blues Festival, Argentina, on 6th November 2020. 

He played for Seventh Bleus Festival En El Rio, Argentina.

He has played for “Blues for a Cause” Nepal.

American Blues Scene magazine mentioned him “a living history of the blues” while premiering his instrumental track “Blues Raga” in November 2020.

A major Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color referred to him as a “Nepali Robert Johnson” and published his interview in May 2020.  

He played for International Blues Festival of Asuncion, Paraguay (indoor)2020.

He represented Nepal in “World Unity Open Mic” virtual event hosted by The Fire – a legendary live music venue, Philadelphia, Pennylsilvania, USA on 18 May 2020.

He was interviewed for American Blues Scene magazine, Florida, America in May, 2020.

He was interviewed on Blues Radio International Viral Anti-Viral world Tour,Florida, USA on 17 April 2020.

He was featured as an international blues educator in Central Iowa Blues society for the month of Februrary, 2020 at Where in The World : A Blues Ambassador’s Travel series.  

He was featured on KFMG Radio 98.9 FM Des Moines, Iowa on 11 February 2020.

He was interviewed for www.blues.gr, Greek Blues Union with Michael Limnios in October, 2019

A feature story on him was part of a Vicksburg Blues Society’s screening and presentation at Vicksburg Blues Challenge held in September 29, 2019. This was presented by Mississippi, Ambassador of Hall of Fame and president of Vicksburg Blues Society, Shirley Waring.  

His country blues originals and covers were aired on July 2020 and July 2019 for an entire month on Blind Dog Radio (Blues Hall of Fame Radio) Ukraine, and featured on Highway Blues 2NVR - FM 105.9 (2nvr.au.org), Australia on July 4, 2019.  His music is now increasingly being heard by in different countries in the western world, like USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Ukraine, Brazil, Israel, Chile, Ethiopia and in many others.

He did collaboration with a renown Italian harmonica player, Grammy nominee Fabrizio Poggi on Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues”.

A legendary blues artist Rory Block watched his interview on Blues Radio International and congratulated Prakash for his wonderful slide playing and International feel, in her home concert series on 21 April 2020.

Prakash has it in his heart that one day, he will play the Blues with a national guitar in Mississippi. For him it's the Mecca of the Blues ...the land that gave birth to blues, the land in which  he says 'is sacred to him."

You may find some of his country blues originals, covers  and the "Blues in the schools" video clips on his Facebook page, ReverbNation and YouTube channel - "Prakash Slim".