One of the pioneers of Indian rock scene passes away at 48 without a full-length album

Sonam Sherpa, the 48-year old lead guitarist of Parikrama, one of India's earliest rock bands, passes away after a cardiac arrest. The band has never released a full album as it believes in giving its music free. Source: BCCL
Sonam Sherpa. stood up and played his riffs long before rock music became a fad in India. Now, at a time when more youth anthems are hip-hop or EDM, Sherpa has passed away at a young age of 48— not leaving behind a single album. The lead guitarist of one India’s oldest rock bands, Parikrama, reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest in Kurseong while recording music for an upcoming movie.

There are a handful of rock bands in India that can proudly claim that they have been around for 30 years. Parikrama is one of them and Sherpa, along with mates Nitin Malik and Subir Malik, have hung around right from the start⁠— at the dawn of economic liberalisation in India⁠ where not just foreign goods but even culture flowed in freely— and they never really stopped until today.

And, all their music is available to be downloaded freely on their website.

The band opened for rock icons Iron Maiden in India, Parikrama's 1996 single ‘But it rained’ featured in Rolling Stones’ top 25 Indian rock songs of the decade, and they have played thousands of concerts across India.

Watch video: Parikrama's biggest hit, 'But It Rained', a song inspired by the kidnappings in Kashmir.

“I just didn't realise there were metal/rock bands of this quality in India. I was so impressed by their ( Parikrama’s) playing and attitude and professionalism and all of the Iron Maiden band and crew watched and listened to their entire set backstage,” Rod Smallwood, the manager of Iron Maiden said.

At one point, a Parikrama gig was almost inevitable in any college fest in India. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students thronged to watch them rock it!

Watch video: Parikrama performing a 'hate ballad', Vaporize, at BBC's Download Festival in Donington Park in Leicestershire, UK.

Sherpa was the most famous among a generation of top-notch artists, who flooded India’s rock music scene in the 1990s and 2000s, from the east and north-eastern part of India. Born in Kalimpong, Sherpa went on to set up a school for aspiring musicians in New Delhi’s Hauz Khaz.

Sherpa, or Parikrama for that matter, never became icons in the fullest sense but for the time they remained active, they put out some memorable music and thousands of concerts across the country. The band even composed music for independent movies like Manjunath (2014).

Watch video: 'The Rock Song' from an independent production, Manjunath. It's a movie based on a true story of an IIM (Lucknow) graduate who joined a government company and lost his life fighting corruption.

Sherpa was, arguably, one of the most understated stars⁠— in a genre that celebrates outrage— who played the lead guitar for Parikrama, a rock band that was formed in 1991 and peaked in India in the mid-2000s.

Iron Maiden even invited the band to perform in the UK. For a band that had painstakingly created a market for a relatively new genre of music in the country, Parikrama never cashed in on the fan following they had built one good at a time.

“They are yet to release a full-length album, because they prefer giving out their music for free. They have had millions of downloads from their site and other related pages. They did release a free multimedia CD of their singles and videos in 2001. The band does not have any policies against their music being copied and distributed. They have made their music available for download on their official website,” the band’s Wikipedia page explained.

The early 1990s was a watershed moment for rock and metal music in India, as the Rolling Stones described it, for rock enthusiasts in India. Alongside Parikrama, there were colleagues from Indian Ocean, Pentagram and Indus Creed showing the way to thousands of India’s homegrown rockers who followed them.

And one of the pioneers, Sherpa, has breathed his last today.

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