Parikrama’s lead guitarist Sonam Sherpa, who passed away on Friday due to a cardiac arrest, had held the mantle since the band’s inception in 1991 and toured almost every corner of the earth. He developed his distinct tone and style of play, earning him a cult status.
The Kalimpong musician is being remembered not only for his riffs or solos but also for his gentle demeanour. For every person associated with him, it’s his good nature that first comes to mind, music later.
“He was too young to die and one of the nicest people I have ever met. Maybe, he was called by God to play a gig in heaven. I met him sometime back and he told me if I ever needed a guitarist, I could call him. I was always touched by his humility. Such a great guitarist but he never showed off and that’s something we all need to learn,” says Euphoria’s frontman Palash Sen, who dedicated his latest concert in Bengaluru to Sonam Sherpa.
Bandmate and fellow guitarist Saurabh Chaudhary is yet to come to terms with the loss of a friend of over two decades. “I was really young when I joined the band in 2000 and he helped me a lot to develop my own style. He was always calm and composed. For 20 years, I played with him and he was part of my family. I am not sure how I will cope with this,” Chaudhary says.
Sonam Sherpa was the founding member of Parikrama, along with Subir Malik (keyboards), Nitin Malik (vocals), Chintan Kalra (bass), Prashant Bahadur (guitars) and Rahul Malhotra. Over the years, the band has become one of the most recognised rock outfits in the country.
Sherpa’s style, heavily influenced by American rock and a fair bit by the blues, was something every budding rock guitarist tried to emulate. His music school, which started in 2003 in Delhi, has produced countless musicians, not just guitar players.
“I know a lot of young musicians who have been influenced by Parikrama’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll. He was a very good guitar player. He stitched together the band’s music and stage shows with his playing style and flair for showmanship. I will always remember his humility and his laughter. He was a good man,” says Rudy Wallang, the lead guitarist of India’s leading blues band, Soulmate.
Sonam Sherpa never quit learning. Srijan Mahajan, Parikrama’s drummer, says he kept updating himself with new styles. “While travelling, he would watch instructional videos and practise playing on the neck. He always wanted to learn, and that inspired and pushed me,” recalls Srijan.
Sherpa’s success boosted the music scene back home in Kalimpong. Making a career in music was unheard of in the region during the ’90s but now, scores of talented musicians have sprung up. “We used to hear a lot about him. He was probably the first musician to leave this region and earn and establish himself. He has definitely inspired several youngsters from Kalimpong to pursue music,” says Pranai Gurung, lead guitarist for Bipul Chettri and The Travelling Band.
A prayer service was held on Sunday in his hometown where his mortal remains were buried. He will, however, continue to live in the music he created. “It’s a lesson for everyone. He was just 48. Life is uncertain and we should all live it like Sonam. Make music, enjoy music and most importantly remain humble,” adds Palash Sen.
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