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Rock Veteran Valentine Shipley Passes Away in Nagpur

The New Delhi-bred singer and multi-instrumentalist had been part of India’s music landscape for more than 30 years

Anurag Tagat Dec 21, 2020

New Delhi-bred, Nagpur-based musician Valentine 'Val' Shipley

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Valentine ‘Val’ Shipley, amongst the early names in New Delhi’s music circuit and part of band such as Parikrama and Silk Route, passed away earlier today due to a heart attack, reports say. He was in his mid-50s. 

Known often as a one-man band, Shipley was also the nephew of musician Van Shipley, a Lucknow-bred guitarist, violinist and sarod artist who worked extensively in Bollywood through the Forties and Fifties. For his part, Valentine Shipley — born to a father who was a reverend and a mother who was trained in Hindustani classical vocals — became a multi-instrumentalist who could get behind piano, drums, bass, ukulele, harmonica, tabla and more. 

Like his uncle Van, Shipley too was often part of the film music world, working with everyone from the late ghazal artist Jagjit Singh to Abida Parveen as a performer, arranger or accompanist. Shipley was a graduate of St. Xavier’s College in New Delhi, quickly finding friends amongst bands such as Indian Ocean, Parikrama and more. Founder of the influential community Friends of Music, Shipley intended to make music as inclusive as possible. A thorough entertainer, the artist was part of several festivals and toured Europe as well over the decades. 

Shipley told Press Trust of India in 2016, “We are far away from the real recognition that artistes and bands deserve. In India, everything is centered around Bollywood, which is absolutely fine but according to me, there does exist another world if you are confident enough to explore it.”

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More recently, the artist had moved to Nagpur and often livestreamed his jams and evenings with covers of blues, rock and jazz songs. He was also performing gospel music as a solo artist as well as with his daughter, Diva Shipley. On December 20th, Shipley even performed via Zoom for a music school in Gurugram. 

Tributes for the musician arrived on social media from various established artists. Indian Ocean’s bassist and vocalist Rahul Ram said, “Val and I knew each other for over forty years, from our time studying at St. Xavier’s, Delhi. We lived quite close to each other, and Val would often drop in while visiting Delhi, and we would raise a glass or two. I’ll miss you, old friend. Val knew over five thousand songs, and had the unique ability to hold an audience for over an hour just by singing and playing his guitar. We’ve shared the stage often, both formally and at informal jams, the latter usually with a bunch of fellow Xaverians.” 

Guitarist and songwriter Anurag Shanker (from rock band Last Remaining Light as well as contemporary group Namit Das + Anurag Shanker) mentioned that his connection to Shipley first arrived via his father Pramod Shanker, who also worked in Indian music extensively. “My music found a new purpose after watching you play and I have acquired so much from you during the early days we spent together. You were the constant burst of energy, warmth, excitement and nostalgia all bundled together and that spot will stay vacant in our lives from now on. A life well lived to the fullest and like the troubadors that he adored and looked up to,” Shanker said. 

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