When I first heard him on Sound Cloud, his first song “Wildfire” stayed on loop for months, for a soul displaced by love and matrimony from the hills of Kalimpong, “Wildfire” was the elixir of reclaim of those burning hills, “Dadhelo” and otherwise, be it politics, loss of culture, identity, economics or just the forest fires across the valley, the simple lyrics with the folksy Nepali tune lead to an amalgamation of more than 2,40,000 plays on the music platform! Wildfire raged thereafter adding the fuel to this young musician’s heart and passion. The Sketches of Darjeeling was born, a full fledged album with six originals, all except one song written and composed by the singer as a extension of the everyday life from his hometown in the hills of the eastern Himalayas.
“Mountain High” with its Tibetan chants of the “Om Mane Padme Hum” alongside the sounds of the dungchen, the singing bowls and the cowbells could easily take you back to the mountain tops where the chilly wind blows prayers and a sinking feeling of joy, sadness and coming back home in the evenings to the hearth that once was yours. “ Asaar” and the pouring rains back home, the sound of the raindrops on the tin roofs, the gurgling springs with a profusion of onomatopoeia, this gem of a song composed by Bipul Chettri can recreate the magic of the rain in the hills even in the Sahara! “Dadhelo” the wildfires, an annual ritual of the hills conjures more than an image of the burning hillsides, it’s a metaphor for the passion, the desires raging in the hearts of the youth from the hills, including Bipul himself says the musician par excellence. It was of course this desire and passion that lead this lad from a nodeoscript hill town of Kalimpong to make a journey to the Hindi heartland of the country and make music of the Nepali kind, winning hearts and souls alike. Bipul says his biggest inspiration is his father who wrote the song “ Ram Sailee” which is an ode to his father and my personal favourite with the bestest lines defining a lost soul faraway from his home….”ram sailee, mothe zindagi ko khoj ma, gum khaye yesai birano sahar ma….” ( searching for life in a strange city…)
The success of his first album filled with folk tunes and stories from back home made Bipul Chettri a sensation not just with the people from Darjeeling and Kalimpong but all with “Pahari roots” or a connection with the hills….a balladeer was born and we loved him even more for the songs that come thereafter. Be it his “Maya” album with a soulful rendition of the lovers sitting amongst the fireflies in “Junkeri” or evoking the romance in a starry night of the hills with “Nau lakhey Tara,” the soul chilling “Siriri” or the irresistible “Syndicate” his songs, lyrics and music touched the core of everyone from the hills of Darjeeling. “Syndicate” took me back to my college days at North Point where many a love story missed or flowered in those rickety Land Rovers of yore!
The songs and music of Bipul is probably an extension of his soul which he too like many of us have left behind in the hills, valleys and the ridges where we played. A music teacher at the Vasant Valley School in the national capital of Delhi, this musician sure lives his life in the hills with his music in which he has earned a degree from the Trinity College, London. Traversing between teaching children to writing and composing soul stirring songs, Bipul Chettri and the Travelling Band has performed at sold out concerts in the USA, UK, Dubai, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Nepal. A recording on Sound Cloud led this young lad from the hills to become a performer cherished by one and many around the world but when you see him on You Tube or other platforms in conversation with the media or his fans, he still remains the lad from the hills….casual…relatable…simple…still a bit shy….a perfect pahari…..
As for me and I can surely vouch for many more like me…whenever I miss the ridge where we played, those hills, rainy days, the fireflies and nostalgia takes the front seat in life, there’s always the songs and music of Bipul Bhai!!!!