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Guitarist Valentine Shipley, who crossed genres and cultures, passed away in Nagpur due to cardiac arrest

It was Valentine’s interest in varied forms of music that he brought out an album with the title The Memorable Ghazals of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh by Valentine Shipley (2005)

Written by Suanshu Khurana | New Delhi |
Updated: December 21, 2020 10:11:34 pm
Van Shipley, Valentine Shipley passes away, Valentine Shipley demise, indianexpress, valentine shipley, guitarist Valentine ShipleyValentine Shipley was 50. (Source: Valentine Shipley/Facebook)

“When this Covid gets over, I want to play at Madison Square Gardens,” said Valentine Shipley on Sunday evening (December 20), in a Facebook Live, where he was in conversation with Lorraine Aloysius and Aubrey Aloysius, CEO and Creative Director respectively of Lorraine Music Academy. Nephew of the legendary guitarist Van Shipley, a multi-faceted musician, who spent a considerable amount of time with famed bands Parikrama and Silk Route, died on Monday morning at his residence in Nagpur because of a sudden cardiac arrest. He was 50.

“What a beautiful soul, it’s unbelievable. Val and I go decades back — same school, same neighbourhood, same band,” said Subir Malik, the lead keyboard player with Parikrama, one of India’s oldest rock bands in the country. Their unique sound and original music had the nation in thrall of them. Shipley joined the band in its early stages as the rhythm guitarist and was with it from 1992 to ’94.

Born and raised in Delhi, Shipley grew up in a home where music was significant. His uncle Van Shipley is still credited as being the first electric guitarist in the country. A significant name from filmmaker Raj Kapoor’s coveted team of musicians, Van Shipley was also a violinist and played and composed for a plethora of Hindi films. His violin solos in Barsaat (1949) became so famous that a violin in Kapoor’s hand made it to the logo of RK Films. He spoke fluent Urdu, was friends with Talat Mahmood and taught Valentine everything he knew about the guitar and remained his inspiration till the end. In fact, it was Van’s concert at Wembley Stadium that had goaded Valentine to play at another prestigious venue — Madison Square Garden.

Valentine began his career with Parikrama, but he left because he wanted to explore more. A nomad at heart, he liked different cultures and different genres. He soon joined another band with another sound — Silk Route. Valentine went solo soon after. He travelled all over the world and performed his music.

“When I joined Parikrama, he was the rhythm guitar player. Since then we became good friends and played so many concerts together. We made so much music together because it was so easy to collaborate with him. And very recently we spoke about doing something together. He was so full of life and could adapt so many styles in his playing,” says his friend and violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava.

Van Shipley, Van Shipley passes away, Van Shipley demise, indianexpress, valentine shipley, guitarist Van Shipley Valentine Shipley with Parikrama in 1993. (Picture courtesy: Shakeel Qureshi)

His debut instrumental album titled Shararat (2006) became the number one selling album at the time in India in the instrumental category. A few years later, he created Friends of Music, a platform for the promotion of original music and did a slew of gigs with many musicians in Delhi.

It was Valentine’s interest in varied forms of music that he brought out an album with the title The Memorable Ghazals of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh by Valentine Shipley (2005). He took the most famous ghazals by the couple and performed them on the guitar. But it was not just ghazals on guitar, the improvisations that Valentine attempted were unique. Here was a rock musician who understood the world of ghazals so well and was bringing a unique sensibility to how ghazal could be interpreted. “Val knew over 5000 songs and had the unique ability to hold an audience… by just singing and playing his guitar,” wrote Indian Ocean frontman Rahul Ram on his Facebook.

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