You realise, when you hear his voice, that his songs are not lucky accidents. They have—each of them—stories, incidents to tell. Bipul Chettri patiently tells you how Syndicate or Siriri or Junkeri got made — the songs he put into his new album called Maya.
“Maya was basically a connotation of love; there is an underlying message of it. When I started writing the songs, the first ones had that content of love. So, I thought I will make the full album into that,” Bipul says, on a phone call from New Delhi, where he works as a teacher of the music department at the Vasant Valley School.
His is an amazing story, no matter how many times he has narrated it. A story about this man, who grew up in Darjeeling with his guitar and his music, and three years ago, quietly popped out his debut song Wildfire and later an album Sketches of Darjeeling, becoming one of the most popular independent musicians in the country, known for his Nepali folkish sounds. “I never tried to make it folk. I have never studied folk. It has somehow come out like that. But, I don’t think I can put any of the songs into a genre. I’d like to term it all as just music.”
Music, he says, comes to him when he travels — when there is a gentle wind on his face, like when Siriri got written. “Sometimes it’s the words that come first, sometimes it is the music. When I’d visualise some idea, there’d be some feeling that I want to pin down. And then, I choose a way I can get the idea across — through music or words.”
Syndicate tells the story of a man who gets infatuated with a woman at a bus depot. Junkeri is about two lovers on a starry night, watching fireflies and contemplating running away. That is his favorite. That and Kahiley Kahi. “Kahiley Kahi was written by my father,” Bipul says. As a child going to Class III, Bipul sang Buffalo Soldiers at school.
There have been many more of course. At the age of 13, he picked up a guitar. One of his tracks, Allarey Jovan in Maya, is in fact about the carefree and beautiful youth he has had in the hills of Darjeeling. It has a few melancholic references too. “Stuff about my life when I was growing up, the good things and shortcomings back home. The change came when a dam was built and the river stopped flowing, when the river became stagnant,” he pauses, perhaps philosophically.
Why did he have to wait so long, you can’t help asking. “I was studying back then—taking my diploma, trying out independent music. But then I felt a lack of connection and I did this.” And now, he is where he belongs.