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‘A Kind Soul, An Incredible Showman and A Role Model’: India’s Rock Fraternity Remembers Sonam Sherpa

Palash Sen, Uday Benegal, Bruce Lee Mani, Randolph Correia and more share memories

Rolling Stone India Mar 02, 2020

Guitarist Sonam Sherpa passed away last month.

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The recent death of Parikrama guitarist Sonam Sherpa came as a blow to the music fraternity in India. The 48-year-old musician, who was the founding member of the iconic New Delhi band Parikrama, suffered a cardiac arrest during a visit to Kurseong, West Bengal.

A well-respected guitarist among his peers, Sherpa was influential to many musicians, all of whom remember him as a kind soul with unimitable stage presence and top-notch chops. Rolling Stone India spoke with some of them:

Euphoria frontman Palash Sen. Photo: Courtesy of Rongali Festival/Photocraft Studio

“Sonam, we are indebted to you.” – Palash Sen (Euphoria)

Obituaries for rock stars are irrelevant because rockers don’t die, they just move on to rock another gig in another time and space. Earth was just another date. Sonam thank you for the music, the memories and the joy. We are indebted to you.

“He played with such conviction” – Mahesh Tinaikar (Indus Creed)

Indus Creed’s Mahesh Tinaikar. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

I didn’t know Sonam or interact with him even though Indus Creed and Parikrama shared the same bill often back in the day. But we watched their act and I was always impressed with Sonam because he played with such conviction and he seemed so deeply rooted into blues and classic rock. I could tell there was no bullshit there. I actually met him a few years ago backstage at some gig and he was there with his little son. He introduced me to his wife and son. He came across as a kind and gentle soul.

Thermal and a Quarter’s Bruce Lee Mani. Photo: Ron Bezbaruah

“One of the biggest takeaways was his showmanship.” – Bruce Lee Mani (Thermal and a Quarter)

Since we were both guitarists, we’d talk guitar and playing. He was just that kind of guy, a big, warm, generous and happy being. One of the biggest takeaways was his showmanship. He’d do all these crazy things when he was playing. He’d transform into this beast on stage, but off stage, he was this really happy, giving, mischievous fellow. He had this pretty cool slide and I just remarked, ‘Hey that’s a pretty cool slide. I’ll see if I can get one.’ He just slipped it off his finger and gave it to me. It was the first time I was meeting him.

Bengaluru-based musician Suraj Mani. Photo: Courtesy of Motojojo Co.

“Saw him first in 1994, ripping out a solo on stage” – Suraj Mani (The Tattva Trip, formerly Motherjane)

I remember seeing Parikrama for the first time in Bangalore in 1994. This guy, Sonam, was standing in the middle of a fire and ripping out a guitar solo. It made me realize one thing, you become a rock star at the junction of who you are and who you want to be. He was a sweetheart and he had a joy about him.

Anirban Chakraborty. Photo: Jai Sangoi

“He was a guitar player who truly had a sound of his own.” – Anirban Chakraborty (formerly of Orange Street)

Sonam had this green Kramer guitar. It was the first point of understanding who Sonam is. He plays a green Kramer and he’s from Kalimpong and he’s in Delhi. He was a guitar player who truly had a sound of his own. When you went up to him, though, you realized this was a very simple guy. No rock star attitude. I remember the school [Parikrama School of Music] he started in Delhi. That truly became one of the places where my generation of people who have kids sent them.

Uday Benegal of Indus Creed. Photo: Pranab Doley

“A quintessential Nineties rock guitar hero.” – Uday Benegal (Indus Creed)

While I didn’t personally know Sonam Sherpa, his energy and presence as a quintessential Nineties rock guitar hero was inescapable. Indus Creed and Parikrama crossed paths many times over the years on the road and Sonam’s brightly colored bandannas and explosive guitar playing were as forceful as his quiet nature was offstage. His passing will be not just a loss for his bandmates – who are undoubtedly more family members than colleagues to him – but also to the wider indie scene across India.

Pentagram’s Randolph Correia. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

“We always geeked about guitars.” – Randolph Correia (Pentagram)

I remember meeting Sonam in 1995 when Pentagram and Parikrama played a show in Delhi together. He was real humble, spoke kindly and was a really big-hearted person. Since then, we always geeked about guitars, rock-&-roll music and our favorite guitar players whenever we’d meet and had a laugh about it all too. It was nice to have a guitar buddy like him and I will really miss him.

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