A Surrey-based sitar virtuoso might be the first person to ever play the instrument at the base of Mt. Everest.
Last month Sharanjeet Singh Mand made the trip to Nepal with a group of 11 people, and carried his delicate sitar up the famous mountain to its base camp – near the top of the world, so to speak.
For Mand, the highlight of the 10-day trek was playing his sitar near the mountaintop on April 26, for a video now posted to his Facebook page.
“To be able to be there with my instrument, it was special, and I wouldn’t have felt complete without it there,” Mand said Tuesday (May 3).
“It was windy and cold, and playing the instrument and keeping it in tune was a challenge,” he added. “It’s a very delicate instrument, and extreme cold can damage it, so I had extra pairs of everything in case anything breaks on it. It was all good, and I’m grateful for that, and also for the sherpa for being so careful while carrying it.”
Mand said he and the sherpa took turns carrying the instrument up the mountain, for six to eight hours a day in low oxygen.
Now back home in Surrey, Mand lived in Newton prior to a recent move to the Ocean Park area of South Surrey.
“As a child I always had a fascination with climbing mountains and of course Mt. Everest,” Mand explained. “Here I’ve been hiking and I met people who were planing a trip there, but then COVID happened and that got delayed, but it finally happened this year. I might go again.”
Mand has done “what others can’t even imagine,” said his proud sister, Raman.
Born and raised in India, Mand moved to Canada in 2014.
In 2019, CBC Music named him among Canada’s top 30 classical musicians under the age of 30.
“It’s a milestone in my life,” Mand said at the time. “And it’s the first time an Indian classical musician has been on the list, and that should open so many doors for other musicians, other ethnic musicians. That is something I’m really happy about.”
Mand has been playing sitar for more than a dozen years, and also teaches others. While in high school, someone challenged him to play the sitar at a time when he was studying science, not music.
“I used to listen to opera and classical music as a young child, and I eventually asked my parents for a sitar,” he recalled.
“I fasted and didn’t eat in order for them to get me a sitar,” Mand added. “I was doing a hunger strike – that is how much I wanted it. I was doing well in science and they were concerned about me playing music, so they were reluctant. But as soon as I sat with a sitar, I just felt complete. It was very beautiful for me.”