20-26 December 2013 #686

The sound of our soul

A singer from Kalimpong revives our love for Nepali folk songs with his earthy jhyaure melodies
Ayesha Shakya

Out beyond Bollywood hits, American pop, and adhunik Nepali songs, which are more often than not an amalgamation of the other two, is Bipul Chettri’s music.

The tinkling of cow bells and the soothing interlude of ‘om mani padme hum’ in his latest offering Mountain High has echoes of the Himalayas. “Mountain High is about my spiritual home, a place where my soul rests in peace, a place where I am pulled by a strange sense of familiarity,” explains Bipul. “The song is about the outer mountains reflecting the mountain of love and compassion within me.”

In Asaar, the singer reminisces about a loved one and recreates the gentle monsoon mood from his hometown of Kalimpong, India with the gentle strumming of his guitar.

Wildfire, which introduced Bipul’s music to listeners and gained him loyal fans, is more upbeat. He says the debut song was inspired by the wildfires of Darjeeling and also depicts the dreams and passions raging in his heart.

In an industry where artists hesitate to embrace their roots, the 33-year-old stands out from his contemporaries. Although the songs are minimalistic, Bipul’s poetic lyrics about the city where he grew up and his surroundings bring us closer to home. As he poignantly rekindles the nostalgia he feels for his past, listeners are pulled into his reality, making us experience Bipul’s emotions and thoughts as our own.

While most of us stumbled across Bipul around nine months ago when he first uploaded Wildfire on SoundCloud, a German-based online audio platform, the singer’s journey began during his young days at St Augustine’s School in Kalimpong. He later got a diploma in classical guitar from Trinity College, London. “Music was something that came easily to me since I was a kid. It was this incredible discovery that I was never tired of doing and talking about,” he wrote to us in an email. “Music gave me a sense of identity and influenced my life in a way that I could not have imagined.”

Taking inspiration from his day-to-day life to compose music, the earthy jhyaure melodies that Bipul creates perfectly encapsulate the Nepali folk-rock genre and are hugely popular among Nepalis both at home and abroad as is evident by the outpour of support on his SoundCloud account. To fans, his music is ‘soul-gasm’ because the artist pours his heart out to make music not just for our ears, but also our souls.

“The best part of my job is the love and warmth I get from the audience. It feels incredible to know that my songs have touched so many souls and that I can bring a smile to the faces of complete strangers. It is overwhelming,” he admits.

Bipul, who currently heads the Arts Department at Vasant Valley School in Delhi, is working side by side on his album The Sketches of Darjeeling, slotted to release early next year in the Indian capital. While the music teacher has kept a low profile so far, performing only at select fundraising events, he says he is keen to sing in front of Nepalis in Nepal soon.