Shiva Shankar Manandhar is highly reputed singer, music composer of Nepali songs (Nepalese songs) and the first ever "hero" of the Nepalese movie, Aama. For nearly a half century beginning from 1950 to late 1990, his name has probably been mentioned more often in books, journals, lectures and conversations about Nepalese music than any other musician.
Singing and composing music for songs of love, tragedy, devotional (bhajan) and patriotism, he pioneered many of the genres of the modern Nepali songs. He has composed music for around 1,200 Nepalese songs. He himself sang about three hundreds of heart rending songs. For these contributions Shiva Shankar was bestowed with dozens of prestigious national awards.
Shiva Shankar was recruited to the service of the state-owned Radio Nepal in 1951 by Bal Krishna Sama, the pre-eminent playwrite of Nepal. Soon he was assigned with duty to explore and mentor new musical talents, supervise, and quality control the songs being recorded in the studio for radio broadcast. Together with his colleague Nati Kaji, he made the Radio Nepal as an institution for breeding modern Nepalese music and songs. All Nepalese singers and musicians of the latter half of the twentieth century came into prominence through this institution. The Radio Nepal fostered not only the in-country musical talents, but also motivated several prodigious musicians of Darjeeling (India), to blossom in Nepal. They included Ambar Gurung, Gopal Yonzan, Aruna Lama and several others.
While working in the Radio Nepal, Shiva Shankar composed music for almost all prominent Nepalese singers. These included Tara Devi (singer), Mira Rana, Nirmala Shrestha, Gyanu Rana, Aruna Lama, Kunti Muktan, Ganga Malla, Puspa Nepali, Narayan Gopal, Prem Dhwoj, Yogesh Vaidhya, Udit Narayan, Dhruba KC, Manik Ratna, Deep Shrestha, Bhakta Raj, Bacchu Kailash, Rubi Joshi, Deepak Bajracharya, etc. He composed music for prominent lyricists such as Ram Man Trishit, Kiran Kharel, Bhabuk, Yadab Kharel, Laxman Lohani, MBB Shah (Mahendra of Nepal), etc. Performing prodigiously at the peak of his creativity for fifty years, he helped Nepalese music attain the summit of popularity, rightfully termed as the “Golden Age”.
Besides creating the popular moving melodies, he also experimented with innovations in Nepalese music. He demonstrated how the folk songs rendered with few simple musical instruments could be enriched with an ensemble of modern contemporary orchestra symphony. A trend of modernization with introduction of pop-style songs he started catalyzed the emergence of the present day full fledged Nepalese pop songs. Although he pioneered changes and innovation, he always advocated for preserving the unique essence of Nepalese style, so that Nepalese songs would not be overshadowed by foreign songs and music.
Shiva Shankar played the leading role of a "Lahure Dai" in the film Aama (Mother)—the first Nepali feature movie (Cinema of Nepal) produced in 1964 (2021 BS) by the Government of Nepal. However, he did not pursue acting career except for a few cameo appearances in documentaries. Nevertheless, he composed music for several movies in the early days of Nepalese film industry.