Friday, Apr 22, 2022 08:30 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, Apr 22, 2022 02:58 [IST]
A SE special story….
If there is a name in Nepali music that needs to be reckoned with, Bipul Chettri stands at his epitome. The songsmith humbly denies that he represents the Nepali music in the current era, claiming that he is tiny drop in a vast ocean of Nepali music and just glad to be contributing.
That humbleness defines Bipul Chettri and his travelling band's music. The music and lyrics right from the Sketches of Darjeeling in 2013 to Samaya (album) in 2021 is defined by his humility and something that has truly defined the Nepali music scene for almost a decade now.
It was his humility that brought him to Pakyong town, to be a part of the new district celebration as organized by event debutants Pakyong Music Institute (PMI) event management group led by talented guitarist Nagen Chettri from Pakyong, who serves as the Chief Executive Officer with PMI.
For Bipul, "Sikkim is like coming back home, I feel relaxed. Performing in Pakyong, we are thrilled, the place is very spacious, different from Gangtok, more greener and population is also less. And I won't mind living here".
The sold out concert at St. Xavier's School ground on April 16 had everyone waiting for the lyrics to say, "Timi Janey Siliguri, Mo Janey Sikkim Tirah".
He shares, "The song 'syndicate' is synonymous to people in Sikkim and Darjeeling Hills. Wherever I go it becomes the final song, all over the world, people just love and relate to that song".
Samaya, his third album
Bipul's latest venture in music is his third album Samaya released in 2021 amidst the pandemic. On the album, Bipul shares, "Samaya is a low key album, it is not as superhit as other songs. I didn't want it to be commercial success but more of a personal expression. I am very happy with the songs that we have in the album. I have deliberately made every album to sound different from the one in the past. As an artist you want to challenge yourself, as an artist the journey has to be something new".
The travelling band
With Bipul serving as the vocalist, guitarist and much of the lyrics, the frontman covers most aspect of the music. But the men behind the music are equally to be reckoned with Pranai Gurung as guitarist and backing vocalists, Rahul Rai on bass, Aman Singh Rathore on drums, Kiran Nepali and Prince Nepali on Sarangi and Tungna, Achint (Shivam) Khare on keyboards, Binaya Man Amatya as sound engineer and Sonam Tashi as the band manager. His sound engineer and the band manager are on their toes with the sound department, every time Bipul and the band takes the stage, arranging all the music from a distance listening from the crowd's perspective and what comes out is magic.
Speaking on his band mates, Bipul shares, "Travelling band and my band mates are professionally very high, they have their own set up and play with their own bands. Pranai is a very sort after guitarist in India currently in the jazz circuit, Rahul plays with the likes of Mohit Chauhan in his assemble, Aman has his own band called Advaita doing really well. Shivam has his own set up. We play together as friends and family. With me, they come and play with my music and they support, they don't look for critical acclaim when they play with me. They play with me because we have a camaraderie together, otherwise they have all achieved what they want. We as a band we know each other, there is no ego. We enjoy wherever we go, we respect each other. Sonam Tashi the manager keeps everything intact and makes my life easier".
Talking about his band manager, who acts as a shield before Bipul Chettri, he shares, "Sonam Daju is all in all, I don't think I would have been able to do all of this without him. He takes care of my media, the creatives, he takes decisions on the band's behalf. If there is someone in Bipul Chettri's band or an organisation, Sonam Da is always there. The band is there definitely but he is the most important person in all of this".
Rising trend of Hill Music
Upon being asked about the rising trend of good musicians, singers and even bands coming up in Nepali music, where does Bipul Chettri see himself, Bipul answered, "I don't really see myself along with them, I am a little senior to all of them. People like Gauley Bhai are coming with a very creative approach to Nepali music, I am very happy if I had any role in inspiring them. I am very happy and proud that so much talent is coming from our Hills. And rightly so, they deserve all the credit and good to see they are challenging them. Even from Sikkim, Tribal Rain is such a great talent and I am very excited to see so much of raw talent coming from this side".
Commercial success vs Artistic Approach
On balancing commercial success and artistic approach, Bipul shares, "Things will always change, with life everything changes. The music and the taste changes. But not necessarily you have to change. You can take a bit of that and mix it up with what you have. And then make it fresh. In the current popular culture, whatever everyone is doing is great. But I still feel music has to have some organic, it has to be Live. Of course in today's time electronic music is great, the arrangements that comes from a computer. I am more inclined to real music being played, there has to be synthesis. In pop music the self life is very less, they get popular but in 6 months to a year it finishes. It becomes a recycled product. When a song is made, it has to have some life, it has to be eternal. For that music which is organic and really well thought over compared to what is made instantly for some instant gratification".
In terms of his writing, Bipul feels he is getting more matured in writing. "When Sketches of Darjeeling came, I was very immature and new. But now, with time you learn a lot and go deeper, you understand your strengths and weaknesses. You try to become better.
Bipul the music teacher
Something that gets missed out in the musician persona of Bipul Chettri is that he serves as a music teacher in an international school in New Delhi. "I work in art department of Vasant Valley School run by India Today group. I am a music faculty and it has dance and drama. I have been doing this before touring with music, they know me as Bipul the teacher. But since they knew me from before, now there is some difference in how they approach knowing that I am a musician too. Pranai Gurung is also a music teacher in Delhi running his own institute. I also learned that the event organizer Nagen Chettri is also a music teacher. It's a great initiative here with Pakyong Music Institute to transform the culture and the society and I wish Nagen Chettri all the best".
The Calcutta Connection
The common note between Nagen Chettri and Bipul Chettri is the Calcutta International Music Festival, where both of them have participated. Bipul was surprised to know of the same. He shared, "I was there at the inception since 2009, I did participate for 4-5 years. That festival opened my eyes in the Western Classical genre and it gave me in-depth view of music and the dedication required, and what it takes to be a classical musician".
Connecting more with Nepal
On why Bipul connects more with Nepal when compared with other artists from Darjeeling Sikkim hills, he shared, "I don't know, it's like an artist will never know why he is an artist that is getting popularity. It is a difficult question. What touches people here in hills, touches people in Nepal as well. It could be a numerical aspect of it, maybe the freshness of the music. I don't see Nepal as having a stronger audience than here, Nepal or any particular geography, it is personal expression of my feeling. When I wrote Sketches of Darjeeling, I never thought that it was for Darjeeling or that is for Nepal, it was just what I was and it came naturally and organically. It was more of a personal expression. Being from the hills and being a Nepali, I carry ethos of being all Nepali".
Representing the Nepali culture
In all his humility, Bipul denied being a representative of Nepali culture or music currently. He shared, "I can't say that I am that big to be a representative of Nepali culture, our culture is so big and I am a tiny addition to it, contributing the same. I don't think i represent the culture. I have played in festivals where people are non-Nepali speaking like NH7, Northeast Festival or Rangoli, they like feeling, they like the vibe, they like the music and I have learned that they are not there for the lyrics. It's a proud feeling that I have been able to sing Nepali and move people".
Life after being a father
Bipul Chettri came up with the song Aashish in 2019 as a dedication to his daughter, the video to the song was shot in Kalimpong by talented Sikkimese director Tribeny Rai. On being asked how much has his music changed since his daughter came into his life, Bipul shared, "Having a child has changed me, I see my music from the child's eye, everything becomes new, you get excited by small things. You become a child again, you relive your childhood through the eyes of a child. With Aashish, there was total change in looking at things, every day when I see her, different and new, the energy transforms to create new and fresh. It's a beautiful experience".
The journey ahead
"I am not sure where my journey is going, I am trying to find myself through songs, it is an ongoing experience and a constant search."