Sonam Sherpa, Parikrama's guitar ace and a leading figure in Indian rock, passes away at 48

Anurag Tagat

Feb 14, 2020 17:19:26 IST

For all the years that Parikrama have spent around the world and across India riding the rollercoaster of rock, they had a mighty lead guitarist in Sonam Sherpa. The Kalimpong-origin, New Delhi-based axeman, who gave us the inimitable soaring solo on 'But It Rained' about three decades, passed away earlier today at the age of 48. The cause is reported to be a heart attack while Sonam was in Kurseong.

Subir Malik, co-founder and bandmate of Sonam, told EastMojo, "I heard the news a few minutes ago. I am myself in a state of shock and on my way to the deceased's home in New Delhi to meet the family. Sonam was in Kurseong to record the music for an upcoming movie. I am told he suffered a massive cardiac arrest there. It is not yet clear at this stage where the last rites will be performed."

 Sonam Sherpa, Parikramas guitar ace and a leading figure in Indian rock, passes away at 48

Sherpa joined Parikrama right around when it was formed in 1991. “All of us used to love the classic music, like Pink Floyd, The Doors – that kind of got us together. But now we’ve incorporated a lot of Indian sounds,” he said in a video interview. A guitarist since the age of 9 (and adept at the blues harp since he was 12), Sonam got into proper rock mode only by the time he was 21, inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Guns N Roses and more. “My mom bought me my first guitar and sent me off to start my guitar lessons. Luckily for me, my teacher was a really cool guy and he really inspired me to take my music seriously and enjoy it,” he said in a 2011 interview.

While he went on to form fusion band Mrigya in 1999, Parikrama remained the constant in Sonam’s life, spending year on year at gigs across the country, being part of writing songs like 'Gonna Get It', 'Am I Dreaming', 'Vaporize' as well as their latest release, 'Tears of the Wizard'. Joining the brigade of vocalist Nitin Malik, Subir Malik and others in its first iteration, Parikrama was born – much like many Indian rock and metal bands – to play covers of their favourite American and European bands. While covers are still a part of Parikrama’s set even today, the band have often taken on playing two-hour sets comprising just their own material, which leans on hard rock and heavy metal.

By 2003, even as Parikrama were going strong, Sonam started the Parikrama School of Music in Delhi. Soon enough, he was also involved (with the Malik brothers Nitin and Subir) in writing and recording for jingles, film scores and even an Indian drama film called Manjunath in 2014. Along with this wife Dina Ralte – who also teaches at the Parikrama School of Music – Sonam released an album called I Pray For You in 2015.

With Parikrama, Sonam went on to perform not just at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, but also with British metal legends Iron Maiden in 2007, including the Download Festival. Amongst his peers who flew the flag of rock music high and wide in India, Sonam is remembered as an axeman who was always kind. Long-time friend and fellow seasoned rocker Bruce Lee Mani of Bangalore band Thermal and A Quarter said in a post, “From watching you at Autumn Muse circa 1994, playing a crazy solo while spinning around on the stage hanging and jamming and travelling with you... you were one of the warmest, kindest and most generous human beings I've met - apart from being a MEAN player of the blues! Gone too soon, Sonam da.”

Mumbai metal veteran Sahil Makhija aka The Demonstealer mentioned in his tribute to the guitarist, “Like most people, Parikrama was one of the first Indian bands I watched and he was a great player and fantastic showman. And the few times I got to meet and speak with him he was always super nice and humble. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.”

Sonam is survived by his wife Dina and son Nathan. The future of Parikrama, currently, remains to be seen and further official statements are awaited by the band and its members.

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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2020 17:31:52 IST