Bipul Chettri is the man behind the popular songs Wildfire and Asaar. A quick look at the SoundCloud comment box of both the numbers tells us he has established quite an illustrious fan base within a short period of time.
But the man confirms that it was never about fame. “All I wanted to do was produce good music.” If you haven’t listened to his songs yet, well, you should. His voice talks to you; it is like he is singing to you – just for you. He transports you to a different world, where everything is alright and even if things are not, his voice leads you to believe that they will. Many of his fans conclude that it is his unique voice quality that demands listening to his music on repeat.
He is married to Sanjugeeta Moktan, a lawyer by profession, who is a music enthusiast herself. His childhood friend, Pujan Shrestha, always knew that his musically enthused friend would be famous someday. “We studied together. We were classmates in St. Augustine’s School, Kalimpong,” says Shrestha. Chettri started playing the guitar in the third grade and notation reading since grade six. A prodigy, indeed!
Now he teaches music to children. He is the head of Arts department at Vasant Valley School, New Delhi, India. It could be that since he had a great teacher he knows the difference a good teacher can bring about in a student’s life. His music teacher at school, Chandra Mohan, introduced the Beatles, Bob Marley, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder and others to his students. Young Bipul was chosen as the lead singer in the choir group when in grade 2. “He became a school sensation when he sang a song called Paradise by Phill Collins. I guess then nobody expected a little boy (accompanied by a senior guitarist) to sing a song with such passion and love,” reminisces Shrestha. He received a standing ovation from the audiences. Chettri inherited music genes from his father, late Nirendra Mohan Chettri, who was in the British army, and also a musician.
It would be wrong to say that he is gifted because that would strip him off his years of learning, perseverance, passion and his daily struggle to better himself. He is not just a singer and composer, he is also a poet, a storyteller. He loves to read a lot and houses a good collection of books – from philosophy, religions and poems. He loves jamming with his guitar on most mornings. Many confess that Chettri’s music is refreshing, technically sound and the production is of a high quality; that the lyrics are cleverly woven and there is folksiness to his songs. Like most folk songs, he sings of the past related to a place.
And indeed a place speaks a lot about its dwellers. “I think the place has a lot of music in the culture itself,” says Chettri. Courtesy to the British Raj, the people of Darjeeling were exposed to all kinds of music. “In Darjeeling you don’t learn music to make it big or to get rich; you just play because you love music. Most people there play the guitar, but only the talented take up music seriously,” says Dinesh Rai, an accomplished musician who also hails from Darjeeling. Yanik Shrestha, a man who wears many hats, grew up in Darjeeling and in some ways the songs are reminiscent of the good old days spent in the place. “He has this folksy touch. I think there should be more like him. I simply love his production, composition and his lyrics. His songs take me straight back to Darjeeling,” says Shrestha nostalgically. “He revives the sound of folk in a whole different category and that’s the magic. Sticking to his Nepali roots but putting in some really sweet melodies...what more can be said about him. More artists need to head his direction!”
Chettri has reinstated the habit in many to listen to Nepali songs. “The originality of his music comes from years of dedicated practice and his love to revive the Nepali folk language that is seldom seen these days. He still has many songs and music to record that will be loved by the audiences and it will be a huge contribution to Nepali Music Industry in years to come,” says Shrestha.
“Wildfire is folk rock and brings a new sound to this genre. The singing is technically typical folk but the overall sound is well-composed folk rock,” says Dinesh Rai. He adds, “Other folk rock songs are on the heavier side with pounding drums and loud bass; however Wildfire depends on the softer finger picking sound of the guitar which is soothing and lively.”
However, many music experts opine that he doesn’t have the amazing vocal depth but he’s definitely got a natural and soulful voice which makes him a good singer. They claim that because we have a dearth of good musicians, composers, singers who produce pure Nepali tracks, his coming is received with fanfare. However, they don’t deny the magic in his voice, words and melody.
Many who know him personally maintain he was never very ambitious and didn’t choose to be popular but he’s got it in him to be this big so he deserves it. They doubt he even tried hard to make it big. He is just passionate about music. “Since my school days it was evident that music was what I wanted to do,” says Chettri. He was inspired and influenced by various musicians during different phases of his musical journey. As most people do, he too started with rock music and as he grew older, he ventured into other forms like blues, jazz, folk, country and classical music. He feels lucky and blessed to be able to pursue music as a career. “I was always fascinated with the sound of raindrops on the roof tops as I grew up in Kalimpong and thus Asaar took shape. After Wildfire I had no inkling how people would receive it but turns out it did fine,” Bipul confesses.
Sketches of Darjeeling is his first album and is under progress. Wildfire and Asaar are from the same album. “It should be out by early next year.” Every writer wishes to publish a book and every singer wishes to release an album and he is no different. “In all the songs of this album, I am exploring different elements that make the place Darjeeling – the culture, the people, the mountains, the weather, and everything in between. This album has mostly Nepali folk rock music. There will probably be an English number as well… I guess you’ll have to wait and see.” He calls nature as his inspiration. “It is also a mixture of everyday life and a bit of nostalgia.” He doesn’t know what the future holds for him but as of now he just wants to concentrate on his upcoming album.