Arts and Entertainment

Meet the man behind the song that has all of Kathmandu singing along

  • Chirag Khadka’s song ‘Budi’ is everywhere--from microbuses to restaurants. This is the story of the song and the man behind it.
- ABANI MALLA, Kathmandu

Apr 26, 2019-

A faux-reggae beat plays over the strumming of a ukulele, accompanied by the strains of a sarangi. The melody is infectious and the lyrics catchy. Played over the speakers of innumerable microbuses, and restaurants and bars across Kathmandu, this song has become an earworm for city residents, something people hum unconsciously even if they don’t know who sings it or what the words are.

Eh budi / Ma manche nikkai risah ali moody / Tara maya timlai nikkai garchu budi / Tope tani aakasha ma udi udi udi udi

So given the ubiquity of this song, it is no wonder that the music video for ‘Budi’ has over eight million views on YouTube.

Chirag Singh Khadka, who goes by 5:55 (pronounced panch pachpanna), can’t seem to believe how popular little ditty has become.

“When I heard a crowd of thousands singing the lyrics to my song, I had goosebumps,” says Khadka, recalling his concert at Bhrikutimandap during the Holi festival in March.

Khadka, who chose his stage name after his time of birth, now relishes hearing his fans chant his name during live performances.

In the video for the song, 26-year-old Khadka walks around the streets of Kathmandu, walls covered in graffiti in the background, before transitioning to a more greener space, surrounded by trees. His attire too changes from a colourful hippie-styled poncho to a hoodie that reads ‘Jai Shambho’ on the front, an apt choice given that the whole song is a stoner’s love-letter. As Khadka sings about his girl, weed and his plans of putting them together, a light smoke blankets the video while doodles animate the frame.

And although Khadka sings the song for his budi, the stoner couple in the song is imaginary and based upon Khadka’s own “evaluation of two stoned people in a comfortable relationship.”

In early February, a high Khadka was wondering about a ‘chill relationship’ might be, after listening to his friends’ experiences of their normal ones. That’s when he came up with the concept of the song.

“It came to me like magic,” says Khadka. “I felt it in my heart and wrote the first verse and hook right away.”

It took Khadka five days to complete the rest of the song, and as soon as he was done with it, he recorded a ‘raw version’ on his roof, playing the ukulele. He uploaded it to his channel that very moment and as of today, it has 1.1 million views.

When he left his job at a beer company in March 2018, Khadka hadn’t anticipated such a reaction from Nepali audiences. With no background in music and unemployed, Khadka says that mass appreciation of the song’s raw upload encouraged him to work further on a music video and launch the song officially. It became a hit within a few weeks and there’s been no looking back since.

“When I decided to resign from my job, I felt that doing something I want to do will ultimately make me happy,” says Khadka. “And I knew that it’s possible to survive and be satisfied by pursuing it.”

Before releasing the song, Khadka’s YouTube channel wasn’t as popular. But when he published the raw version of the song, he started receiving feedback that appreciated his simple yet witty play on words. Even Girish Khatiwada, Nepali rap pioneer, commented: “This has been my favourite” in romanised Nepali.

Khadka also attributes his other songs ‘Topendra’ and ‘Maya’ for helping him grab the attention of Nepali listeners, which according to him, helped ‘Budi’ gain massive views.

The final version, uploaded this February, features beats by Ness Studio’s Brijesh Shrestha, sarangi by Hemanta Kancha Rasaily, and the video by Jholey Prakashan. It has helped Khadka’s subscriber soar from 4K to 153K subscribes within the time span of two months.

Following the massive popularity of the song ‘Budi’, the audiences for his older songs have also been growing. His first song Atti Bho, uploaded to his channel in 2013 when he was a Bachelor’s student, has received 60K views, which otherwise only had a very small view-count.  

But unlike his fans, his family’s reaction has ranged from lukewarm to wholehearted support. “My father used to tell me to turn off the loud music and that pursuing music and growing long hair would do me no good,” he says. But now his father enthusiastically greets him with a “Jay Shambo” every morning.

Due to his family’s reservations over him pursuing music, Khadka wasn’t initially open with his family about his music. “But that became a core reason for me to prove myself and work more passionately,” he says.

But now Khadka has opened up. And his music going viral has definitely helped his case, even though the song is mostly about enjoying life while getting high.

A fond weed smoker himself, Khadka says that it helps him relax. He frequently advocates for the legalisation of marijuana in the country through his songs. Even ‘Budi’ portrays his love for the plant.

“People say weed is a gateway to drugs, but it’s not true,” says Khadka. “I’m not telling people to consume it, I’m just letting everyone know about the positive sides that most people aren’t aware of.”

His audience too seems to have embraced Khadka’s ‘stoner relationship’. Now, Khadka is busier than ever, with new songs and videos lined up. This year is the year of rap for Khadka, and just the dawn for 5:55 in the industry, he says. But he hasn’t forgotten that ‘Budi’ is the song that made him popular and he knows why.

“Budi is simple and I think that anyone can relate to a chill song,” says Khadka.

Published: 27-04-2019 07:01

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