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Preserver of Indian folk

ISP Kolkata Bureau

He is 102 years old and is aptly called by the media as a living legend.  Mangala Kanti Roy, the renowned Sarinda player from West Bengal is in news for he has been conferred with Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award this year in the Art (Folk Music) category. 

Talking to media after the announcement of the award, Roy was elated and expressed happiness to be one of the Padma Shri awardees announced on the eve of India’s 74th Republic Day.

He has been playing Sarinda since he was 5 years old and has travelled across India for shows including in Delhi, Kamakhya to Darjeeling. Roy is one of the oldest folk musicians in West Bengal and is famous for producing unique voices specially bird calls through Sarinda. He has been promoting and preserving the Sarinda instrument for eight decades through workshops and performances. He is also engaged in teaching the younger generation the art of folk music through his classes for the teenagers and children.

However, Roy laments that folk art could never give me financial security and despite recognition and appreciation, he always had to struggle to make ends meet. The centenarian artist hails from Dhaolaguri village of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal. His source of income all through his life has been the contribution he gets after playing the folk instrument. 

“I feel happy to have gotten this recognition so late in my life. I have been playing Sarinda since I was five. I have travelled across the country with the instrument and performed before the people. The art, however, never gave me financial security and I had to live under challenging economic conditions,” said Roy, talking to the media after the Padma Shri list was announced by the government. The West Bengal government had in 2017 conferred on him the ‘Banga Ratna’ award. 

He is one of the oldest folk artists in India. The artist has three sons and one daughter but prefers to live alone. “I feel very much alive when I play the instrument. It gives me immense satisfaction. I cannot describe the feeling in words. I feel as if I’m the richest person in the world.” Roy told media persons visiting his home. 

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