Musician tackles gruelling 10-day trek to play the sitar at Mount Everest Base Camp

27 May 2022, 17:17

Mand performs for a crowd of climbers at Everest Base Camp
Mand performs for a crowd of climbers at Everest Base Camp. Picture: Sharanjeet Singh Mand Facebook

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

29-year-old Sharanjeet Singh Mand trekked up the world’s tallest mountain, bringing his sitar with him...

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At the top of the world, Everest Base Camp sits at a staggering 17,598 feet (5,364 metres) above sea level.

Approximately 40,000 people trek to the base camp on the world’s tallest mountain every year, heavily ladened with climbing equipment and heavy backpacks full of essentials.

But in April 2022, one of these visitors brought an extra item up the mountain; a sitar.

Sharanjeet Singh Mand, 29, is a talented sitar player, originally from India but now living in Canada. Last month, along with 11 others, the musician made the 10-day trek to Everest Base Camp, sharing a tank of oxygen with his fellow climbers.

Once at base camp, Mand took out his sitar and performed for a crowd of adventurers, and was met with cheers and applause by the impressed audience. Watch the performance below.

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On Facebook, Mand shared details of the gruelling trek, asking his friends to excuse his “tiredness”, as it had been a “cold and tough 10 days of climbing in -40% oxygen”.

The musician dedicated his performance to “the great people of Nepal, the selfless heroes, the Sherpas and all the climbers of past, now and future”.

Mand has been playing the sitar since he was a teenager, and in 2019 was named on CBC Music’s Top 30 List of Young Classical Musicians under 30.

The maestro has performed for both Canadian and Indian Prime Ministers, and regularly tours across Canada with other Indian classical musicians.

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In the video of his Base Camp recital, Mand suggests that his performance is perhaps the first time a sitar has been played on Mount Everest.

In 2017, 27-year-old Turkish musician, Anıl Ünlü, played the saz, a traditional stringed musical instrument native to his country, while at the mountain’s base camp.

Heartbreakingly, even though Mand’s sitar survived the harsh conditions of the world’s tallest mountain, the delicate instrument was recently damaged on a domestic flight in Canada while the musician was on the way to a concert.

After getting off a Flair Air flight from Vancouver to Montreal on 15 May, Mand noticed a large crack in the sitar’s body, despite having paid extra to ensure his instrument was taken care of during the flight.

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“This [instrument] is shattered...but I am more shattered,” Mand said in a video on Facebook. “To see your most dearest possession in this shape – not even possession, my companion – in this shape, is heartbreaking”.

“It’s such a nightmare – Flair Air, you need to show some responsibility for this”.

Because of the case which Mand uses to transport his instrument, he says the damage done to the sitar has to have been deliberate.

“No sitar breaks like this inside a fiberglass case with proper padding unless it is dropped from a height,” Mand explains in the video. “[It must have been] treated as a usual piece of luggage.”

Mand describes the experience as “tormenting”, especially as it is not the first time this has happened to him while travelling.

Truly devastating news for a performer who should be celebrating such an exciting last month of musical adventures.