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Living The Dream: Rohit John Chettri

“I wanted to become a police officer or join the army when I was a kid,” explained Rohit when I asked him if he always dreamt of becoming a performer when he grew up “but then I came across music.”

Sadly, not everyone gets to live out their childhood dreams; reality seems to get in the way. Sooner or later, would-be secret agents and astronauts ditch their stick-guns and helmets in pursuit of a socially orthodox lifestyle. Rohit John Chettri, however, is currently part of the greatest rock bands of Nepal: 1974AD and has just embarked on a promising solo career too. As far as I’m concerned, the kid is living the dream.

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Rohit came to prominence with his first single Bistarai Bistarai which shot him and his long tangles of bushy hair to popularity. Social media was taken by storm and the nation plunged into the captivating tunes of the single. Because I sometimes tend to be a pessimistic jackass, I would be quick to sort Rohit into the one hit wonder basket along with Bhim Niroula, COD, Jabeek and Pramod Nirwan. However, Bistarai Bistarai didn’t come off as the typical pop song that would fizzle away faster than a street-side soda. There was undeniable maturity in the music which justified the hype it received. He followed up with his rendition of Jason Mraz’s Butterfly where he collaborated with the talented Ashesh Kulung Rai, silencing any would be critics. Including me.

As it turns out, when you’ve got the musical talent and voice like Rohit’s, you get a whole lot of attention. Luckily, the 24 year old isn’t a complete stranger to attention. He first performed on stage in school when he was seven, singing in an interschool competition.

TNM: “Do you still remember how it went?”
RJC: “I had the choice of either sketching or singing, for the competition. I chose the latter. My dad asked me to sing for him before the competition and I sang him Karna Das’ Jindagi ko k bharosa. I ended up singing the same song in the competition too.”

TNM: “And I guess that’s where it all started?”


RJC: “You could say that. At least that’s when I started loving being on stage. I loved being on stage and watching people perform on stage. The energy you exude as well as the one you feed off of from the audience is exhilarating. And as a kid, your audience appreciating your performance was always motivating.”

As a young kid, Rohit was exposed to a diverse genre of music. His mother, a kindergarten teacher, was more of a ghazal and classical music lover. His father, an accounts teacher, had regular jam sessions with his friends
at home where he sang Nepali songs and penned lyrics. Even at an early age, Rohit learned to appreciate what people would consider a more mature form of music. However, later on, he was introduced to other genres of music which in some way or the other helped shape his art today.

RJC: “Music taught me what life is all about. Both my parents were into music so I was listening to Ghazals and classical music at a really young age. As I got older, I started listening to what the slightly elder brothers were listening to, that’d be your MLTR, Bryan Adams etc. Guns and Roses, Limp Bizkit and the likes followed. By the time I was in the 9th grade I was into Heavy Metal and even a little bit of rap.

I guess everybody goes through these phases where a certain type of music catches your fancy, but it helped me understand things in different ways because each genre has a different way of presenting things. Metal has a lovely aggression to it while pop songs portray things in a different manner. Different music types have different feelings in them and that has taught me different things.

Listening to Gopal Yonzon’s songs as a kid, I think, evoked a feeling of love and devotion towards my country because his songs were always very patriotic.”

TNM: Is there any particular musician or artist that has inspired you?
RJC: “That’s always a difficult question, and honestly I don’t
have a particular answer for
that. Everyone has affected and influenced me one way or the other.”

TNM: Did you always want to be a musician when you grew up?

RJC: “I always knew I wouldn’t abandon music. I’d always have done something in the music field.”

Over fifteen years after he first sang in front of an audience, Rohit John Chettri has released his first solo debut album which is named after his single, Bistarai Bistarai. The name holds even more meaning, considering the fact that it took him two years to release the album after the single was out.

RJC: “Bistarai didn’t take too long, and didn’t cost me too much either. But the entire album required a
lot more money. You have to pay the musicians, pony up for the recordings, mixing and mastering, cd prints and even the publicity events. I’m from a normal family and I don’t have all the money in the world, so it was a very long process to get the album out.”

TNM: How did you accumulate the money for the album?

RJC: “My gigs were my bread and butter. I was doing up to four shows a week, no excuses. Not feeling well? Go perform. Sore throat? Still perform! It was gig after gig for me, that’s the only way to collect the money.”

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TNM: Did you really sell your bike to make the video for Bistarai Bistarai?
RJC: “No, I was just messing around with that line in the video. But it definitely took a toll on me financially.”

While the relentless onslaught of gigs and shows continued, Rohit was focusing on improving his product. He joined music classes at Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory where he trained under some of the best teachers. He also
did some work teaching music through another school where he sometimes went to orphanages to conduct classes.

RJC: “Music taught me what life is all about. Both my parents were into music so I was listening to Ghazals and classical music at a really young age. As I got older, I started listening to what the slightly elder brothers were listening to, that’d be your MLTR, Bryan Adams etc. Guns and Roses, Limp Bizkit and the likes followed. By the time I was in the 9th grade I was into Heavy Metal and even a little bit of rap.

Later I trained in Eastern Classical Music under Prabhu Raj Dhakal Sir when I was in the 9th grade.”

Classical music is a different ball game and requires a lot of dedication. Rohit admits he hasn’t had enough training and practice in the art but is eager to be able to perform a couple of ragas in the future. Truth be told, he has the potential. His vocal talents are truly spectacular which is evident in his songs and performances. It didn’t take long for the right people to take notice.

One fateful Tuesday-night performance brought along a very welcome change to Rohit’s life. Amongst the unassuming audience members were Sanjay Shrestha, Nirakar Yakthumba and other members of 1974AD. Things unfurled quickly , and in favor of Rohit John Chettri, when he was offered a position in the band. He pounced on the offer in a heartbeat.

RJC: “Adrian (Pradhan) dai and I went to the same church. We even jammed a few times. One time, he took me with him to one of their band practices on his bike. This was back when Firoz dai was still in the band. That was the first time I saw them practice together. Later on, I saw them around when I was in KJC.

1974 AD has always been an important band to me. I grew up listening to and playing their songs. Sanjay dai asking me to join the band was out of this world.”

TNM: What have your involvements been in 1974 AD?
RJC: ”I’m not the only new recruit. There are Prajowl dai, Jacku dai and Pratik who plays the trumpet and trombones. There was a concert that we did, organized by THT, which was one of our first performances. We did a few in Moksh and House of Music. Jacku dai came up with a new composition called Salghari Jhyang.

We also did a US Tour which was an amazing experience. At the moment we are working on an album where I have two songs called bagdai gareko and deu na.”

TNM: Tell us about the tour. It was a first for you, right?
RJC: “It was like something right out of a Hollywood movie for me. I had just been in the band for 4-5 months and I found myself touring with one of the greatest Nepali rock bands It was unreal.”

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TNM: You’re the youngest in the band.

RJC: “Yes, I am. I saved up my deusi earnings to buy their cds when I was young and now I’m a part of the band. Not many can say that.”

TNM: What have you learned from them?


RJC: “I’m continuously learning. Everyone is very professional, punctual and hard working. It’s not an uptight establishment though; as long as you get the work done you’re cool. But you have to be productive and ever improving.”

TNM: What about your solo career?

RJC: “I’m not recording any new songs at the moment but I am working with Fuzz Factory on a music video for a song called Saan nani. It’s going to be different. But I’m still working out the finances.”

TNM: It’s not as glamorous to be a musician is it? What
does that imply about our music industry?

RJC: “Our country has
always been rich in art. We have so many diverse cultures and so many diverse music forms. Each music form has immense potential, yet we’re still constricted to the same old genres. But let’s not even get into that because I don’t see it happening any time soon.
But I do hope a good production company comes up which honestly tries to hunt and refine new talents. There are so many talented musicians who have great ambitions but there isn’t a proper channel for them to find opportunities.”

TNM: How would you describe you music?


RJC: “I’m still learning so many things, I couldn’t possibly pin a definition to it. I’m just going to keep at it and learn as much as I can and hopefully be able to find a definite answer to this question.”

Nepal’s music industry definitely has immense potential and Rohit is an example. However, progress is slow. His first album has set him off on the right track to becoming one of the biggest names in the nation’s music scene. Being included in 1974AD has helped him even further.

Rest assured, the youngster has a very bright future ahead of him. Not only is his eagerness to keep learning a characteristic that is going to help him along the

RJC: “Our country has
always been rich in art. We have so many diverse cultures and so many diverse music forms. Each music form has immense potential, yet we’re still constricted to the same old genres. But let’s not even get into that because I don’t see it happening any time soon.
But I do hope a good production way to success, it is also a testament to his humble demeanor.

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PHOTOS: BIBHAS M. SUWAL

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Ankit Shakya

Ankit Shakya

Editor at Autolife and TNM Magazine

Ankit Shakya is a talented writer who generally focuses on the intricacies of pure storytelling in his writings. Besides, he loves eating, drinking and spending time with his loved ones.