The year was 2013 and a song was being passed around via SoundCloud. Wildfire (Dadhelo) was the title, and it had a voice of a stranger—Bipul Chettri. But once the number was streamed (and it caught on like ‘Wildfire’), he was no longer unfamiliar! The tune brought back memories of home—it was also a heartfelt body of work from a struggling musician trying to make it in the indie music space. And guess what? Listeners connected with what he had to say. One song quickly became two (Asaar), and laid the foundations for his debut album—Sketches of Darjeeling (2014). With passing time, one album gave birth to another—in 2016, Chettri released Maya. And this is how a singer-songwriter from Kalimpong etched his destiny—which seems rather surreal when we think about it, because, one song was all it took (not to forget the 10,000 hours he spent honing his craft) for Chettri to rule the indie charts and plummet into the cosmos of possibilities.
Since then, Chettri has performed at sold-out shows with his Travelling Band in the US, UK, Australia, Japan, India, Hong Kong, Dubai and Nepal, and there is no stopping them. Looking (at him) and his music we get a sense of positivity, and a thought, that nothing in life is out of reach, you just have to have the courage to dream.
It’s 2017, and Chettri’s musical genius (and hard work) has brought him closer to his biggest concert yet. He and his band members are all set to perform at the SSE Arena, Wembley (for the JOON Festival) this month and the word ‘overwhelmed’ feels like an understatement! The universe really has its strange ways!
We catch up with Chettri, who tells us more about his upcoming performance at the festival, working on a video for his new signal Basant, the challenges he still faces as an independent artist and more.
You are all set to perform at The SSE Arena, Wembley in June (for the JOON Festival). How did an opportunity like this strike? Could you tell us a little about your state of mind when you heard the news?
I think I can speak for the entire band when I say that we were overwhelmed when we got the news that this concert was being held at The SSE Arena, Wembley. It is one of the most coveted venues to perform at for any musician in the world and we consider ourselves extremely fortunate and kicked to be playing here. Well, this came about because two established event companies; Parcha and BFest in the UK got together and developed this festival. So, it’s all thanks to them.
What can the audience expect at the JOON Festival—what is the set list like?
We are going to play most of our regular set list along with the new single, Basant, which has just been released.
You recently released the video for your new single Basant. Why and how did the video come about? What inspired you to etch the number? Fun things you might remember from the entire recording/writing/filming session. Can we expect a full-length album soon?
The video of Basant was actually supposed to be shot in Kathmandu but due to some unforeseen circumstances, it could not be. So we just decided at the last moment to shoot it in Delhi with just the band in it. It was shot in just over 8 hours and edited and uploaded within a week. Everyone involved worked really hard to have it ready so quickly. It was a fun video to shoot as everyone involved in making it were mostly old friends.
The song (itself) was written on a subject, which came to me like a story. I don’t like to elaborate on the storyline per se as it tends to create a fixed concept in people’s minds rather than letting the listener adapt the song to their own circumstances. In general, Basant (or spring) in this tune is a metaphor for a point in someone’s life when things start looking up for him or her. So it is a story about hope and second chances. It is about finding the strength to make a fresh start, and believing that it’s never too late to see your dreams through.
We were also extremely lucky to have had Miti Adhikari, join us to help record, mix and produce Basant for us. For those of you who have not heard of Miti, should go and check him out. He has engineered, recorded and produced some of the world’s biggest acts, from Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Coldplay, Blur, Manic Street Preachers and many more. So we feel extremely humbled and lucky to have him produce this tune for us.
Your second album Maya was up for free download, and it was distributed keeping the audience in mind, are you planning something exciting for your next album too?
The free download concept for Maya was a great success for us in terms of distribution and reach as we found a great corporate partner, (Honda Nepal), to help us overcome technical and marketing issues usually associated with music releases by independent artistes like us. We have no plans on anything for the next album as we are still in the process of writing and composing new tunes. So until all the tunes are ready, we don’t know how and when we will release it.
Sketches of Darjeeling and Maya were well received by the audience. When you reminisce about them, what are the things that come to mind?
Sketches of Darjeeling to me was a personal journey, which I took mostly alone without any expectations of the public at large to the music I was writing. So it was difficult as well as lonely at times as I had no inkling of what would happen to the album. But in hindsight, it was an excellent learning process for me. By the time, Maya, happened, I had the help of some great people as well as a fantastic set of musicians supporting me all the way, so it was much more relaxed in a way.
An emotional moment that is close to your heart?
Every show we play is an emotional moment for us as we get to connect with so many new people, every time we play to a new venue. Off stage, it is when we sometimes get to actually meet the people who come to our gigs and listen to our music.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me means people listening to and enjoying our music.
What are the challenges you (still) face as an artist in India?
Not only here, but also across the world, (independent) artistes still face so many challenges in terms of artist-friendly online/streaming platforms, which is one of the only feasible delivery paths at the moment. Most can’t figure out the actual calculations in terms of payouts as no one has any clue whom to even talk to on those platforms. But on the other hand, it also helps us (independent artists) to connect to so much more people without the help of a large label behind us. So, the challenges are on both sides, as this is an evolving marketing medium, which is yet to find its solid ground.
How do you want people to remember you?
As a simple humanist and a musician.
Plans for the future?
Never made any plans for anything. Too late to do so now, I guess. I take things as they come.
Date: 17th June
Time: 4 pm onwards
Location: Arena Square, Engineers Way, London HA9 0AA, UK
To book tickets for the show, visit the festival’s website here.
Follow Bipul Chettri on Facebook here.