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Bhaanu Mendiratta, New Delhi Guitarist and Composer, Passes Away at 31

The artist founded blues/funk/jazz band Soul’d Out and also performed with artists such as Sanjeeta Bhattacharya and Shilpa Rao

Anurag Tagat May 19, 2022

New Delhi guitarist and composer Bhanu Mendiratta.

Versatile guitarist and composer Bhaanu Mendiratta, part of the New Delhi indie circuit for more than a decade, died earlier today. He was 31. Friends and former bandmates of the artist told Rolling Stone India the cause of death was suicide.

Since 2011, the guitarist was co-founder of blues/jazz/funk act Soul’d Out and led roaring jams with vocalist Chetan Dominic Awasthi aka Chezin, saxophonist Abhay Sharma, drummer Abhijit Sood and bassist Sajal Sharma. They released their only album to date, Hurry Up, in 2015. In 2016, the band embarked on a 12-city tour, which also served as a fundraiser for the underprivileged. It gave Mendiratta and members of Soul’d Out a chance to jam with the likes of Indian Ocean, Karsh Kale, Raghu Dixit and more.

Along the way, Mendiratta was also part of rock band Half Step Down and performed live with singer-songwriter Sanjeeta Bhattacharya as well as singer-composer Shilpa Rao. In 2017, he was also part of The Whistler Project, performing classical guitar alongside cellist Nawa Lanzilotti and multi-disciplinary artist Manu Sriram Kamath.

Abhay Sharma, who knew Mendiratta from the time he was 17 years old, says that Mendiratta was diagnosed with schizophrenia around 2019. “He went to rehab in 2020 and came back in late 2021 and then I think he did go back again,” Sharma, who went on to form funk/jazz-fusion act The Revisit Project, says.

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Sharma and Mendiratta spent a good part of their friendship talking (and sharing) music, playing video games and even becoming family friends. “He was a sweetheart and always kind and caring with his friends,” the saxophonist says. In Soul’d Out, the majority of the songwriting came from Mendiratta and Chezin, with Sharma handling arrangements later on. “He was a genius when it comes to songwriting, he was a brilliant blues guitar player. All of The Revisit Project stuff I write is actively inspired by how Bhaanu went about doing things.”

Even as Mendiratta went on to write his own music and upload demos to his YouTube page, Sharma says he often used to run song ideas for The Revisit Project by him. “If he liked it, I went ahead and wrote for the band. If he’d said no, I would wait on the tune. One of the major reasons I started writing was because I was kind of envious of how he wrote — it pushed me in a good way. I don’t think I’ve ever met another guitar player like him in my life.” Sharma adds.

New Delhi’s indie rock community mourned Mendiratta’s untimely death. Singer-songwriter Pragnya Wakhlu shared on her Instagram stories, “He [Mendiratta] was a troubled soul. It frigtens me to see how many musicians are going through so much internal pain…. reaching a point where they just can’t cope with it anymore.” Wakhlu says she and Mendiratta had played together a few months ago and the guitarist had “the most creative musical ideas.”

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Singer-producer and guitarist Rohan Solomon said, “Rest in peace Bhanu [sic], will cherish the memories of sharing the stage with you.” Drummer and producer Corridors aka Rijul Victor shared a photo of Mendiratta on Instagram and said, “So unfortunate to hear this news this morning. RIP Bhaanu! He was battling some major demons for those who know. Just super upset knowing such an extremely talented musician is gone.”