True to its name, Freak Street lures all kinds of eccentric people to its hookah bars, tattoo parlors and cheap cafes. The place, believed to be the last stop of the great hippie trail, is said to have gained a reputation as being the place to find enlightenment. So, it is only fitting that 22- year-old singer/songwriter Rohit John Chettri finds inspiration here.
The first thing you’ll notice about Chettri is his hair. His wild, unruly curls make him appear younger than his age. The second thing you’ll notice about him is his expression: thoughtful and solemn which makes him look older than he really is. This contradiction exudes a very endearing quality which adds to his quirky side that is manifested through his personal style. Chettri is definitely a man of his own.
Since he was 7, Rohit had taken a liking to music. Influenced by his father, he learnt how to play various musical instruments like the tabla, guitar and harmonium. His singing experience started from his childhood, singing old Hindi and Nepali songs with his father playing various instruments. Till date, he has done back-up vocals for the band Wholehearted at Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory, covered Jason Mraz's Butterfly with Ashesh Kulung Rai, composed Bistarai and has recently performed Pani Paryo at Kantipur FM.
Chettri came up with the lyrics to Bistarai when he was in his house, ditching school. At the time, a bus was ambushed, causing the death of 19 passengers. A compassionate Rohit found himself writing the song. The lyrics of the song with its melancholy theme, has really reached out to those who have experienced love and loss in their lives.
When asked what inspires him to write, he replies self effacingly, “I can’t write just for the sake of writing, just as I can’t sing just for the sake of singing. I can’t just sit down and think to myself that today I am going to write a song. There needs to be something to strike the mood for me. It needs to be spontaneous and sudden for me to really get into it.”
The spontaneity is also carried over to Rohit’s sartorial choices. Give Rohit a pair of jeans and a hoodie, and the man is in his element. Chettri looks entirely comfortable with himself in his scarf, jeans, hoodie and chucks. “I am a struggling singer and like most other struggling singers, I am unable to invest in high end brands often,” says Chettri. “But just because I don’t have that luxury, does not mean I don’t try to look presentable every day before stepping out. I believe that looking presentable really affects my level of confidence and if all it takes for me to feel self assured is for me to dress up properly, then I don’t see any harm in it,” he adds. His casual style is what really highlights his crazy hair and personality.
So, what better way to highlight his clothing style than putting him in his comfort zone in clothes that scream ‘street’.
“It’s all really fascinating, the streets,” says Rohit, “especially those in and around Jhochhen. It’s where all of Kathmandu’s style is on display, from high end brands to cheap clothes, all the faux pas, tattoos, spirited foreigners, everything.”