Delhi-based folk singer Bipul Chettri is a rage among Nepali-speaking communities. It comes as no surprise that he’s mobbed at concert venues for selfies by his army of supporters. He also has a huge fan-following on social media too. Syndicate, one of his most popular songs, recently crossed the 8 million views mark. But ask Bipul about his rising popularity, he almost snaps back.
“I am not a star. I like to see myself as a working-class hero,” he says.
Bipul, who broke into the independent music scene about four years back, still has a day-job, which he insists helps him “pay his bills”. He is a music teacher at a south Delhi school by day and a rockstar by evening — two roles he plays with ease.
“I am like Batman! We do this two different things,” he says while breaking into laughter.
“If you want to do the kind of music you like, you need to have a steady job. Warna commercial stuff karo (Or else venture into commercial music). I think this job helps me stay grounded too. That’s how I always wanted to be. I think the music should be big, not the musician,” says Bipul.
Folk music was neither Bipul Chettri’s first choice nor forte. He’s among a handful of musicians from Darjeeling to possess an advanced diploma in classical guitars. But as Bipul ventured deep into classical music, he felt his calling was different.
“I think music is self-discovery and realised that I needed to find myself. My dad was a singer too. So the kind of music I do now is influenced by what I have heard as a kid,” he says.
A song that is very close to Bipul’s heart is Ram Sailee, a piece that his father composed and wrote. But the singer had only heard it in bits, so he completed the rest of the song on his own.
In 2013, Bipul recorded his first Nepali folk song Wildfire. “It did spread like wildfire,” he says.
“I just put it on SoundCloud and the next day my Facebook was spammed with messages. I did not expect it to become such a hit,” reveals Bipul.
The Kalimpong born musician did not take the attention seriously. “I thought it was just a fluke”. But it was after he uploaded his second song online that Bipul Chettri realised he was on to something special.
“The folk music was always there but Bipul brought it out. This kid has started a revolution. Now you will find scores of Nepali musicians trying to imitate his style. But Bipul will remain the first to start it,” says Bipul’s family friend Sonam Tashi, who doubles up as the band’s manager.
When Bipul was forming his band, he did not have to look far to find talent. His schoolmate Pranai Gurung was already an accomplished guitarist in the city and he was more than glad to join the venture. The other regulars in his band are drummer Aman Singh Rathore, Kiran Nepali (Sarangi, Tungna), Rahul Rai (bass) and Achint Khare (Keys).
Gurung and the other bandmates, who all come from distinct musical backgrounds, had to tweak their style to suit to Bipul Chettri’s earthy music.
“Playing in this band is very different. It requires a lot of discipline. We sit together and decide what part each one will play. Apart from my solos, everything I play is fixed,” Gurung explained.
Bipul has released two albums so far and has recently released a single called Gahiro Gahiro, which already has over a million views on YouTube already. He has just returned from a gig in Seoul, South Korea and has a couple of overseas gigs lined up.
“I don’t like to think much about the future. We are doing well at the moment. Let’s see where this takes us,” says the folk singer.
But what Bipul Chettri is certain of is that he has to turn up at school tomorrow.