Have you ever felt the pain of a heart-break or grieved the loss of a loved one? Are there days when you wake up and are immediately saddened by the nostalgia for the past? ‘Jadu ni rwchapmung’ is the traditional lyrical poetry of Tripura that captures the many shades of life. Today Sadagar Debbarma, at age 92, still keeps it alive with his rich voice.
On a beautiful day, as you step out to the local village market for tea, you might be lucky enough to run into a frail thin old man carrying a small musical instrument called Sarinda. Whatever you do, don’t be tricked by the frailty of the shoulders for you may have just met Sadagar Debbara, one of the finest singers of Tripura. At age 92, Sadagar is a veteran Jadu Kolija/Rwchapmung singer whose large and jovial personality defies any limitation set by his age.
Sadagar is a travelling singer who is often spotted at markets and at functions where he sings to everyone’s delight. A one-man band, Sadagar plays his music on the sarinda and serenades the crowd with his magical voice and personality. He is so famous that even his village is called Sadagar Para after him.
I had the opportunity to meet him recently at a gathering held at my village of Subha Chandra Para. He agreed to sing for me along with accomplished singer Rainya Lekhi who is a resident of my village. Rainya Lekhi was born to a poor family and so she never got a chance to go to school. This adversely affected her singing career.
The duo sang many songs for us listeners. In between the songs they told me that Jaduni Rwchapmung is one of the oldest artforms of Tripura. It dates back to the start of the history of the Borok people. It used to be composed of lyrics that dealt with the realities of human life. Emotions such as happiness, loss, love, and nostalgia are incorporated in the tune.
Sadagar started composing and singing at a very young age. He has sung on the radio and on Doordarshan. He says that he started singing in Kokborok language after encouragement from a politician friend. "When I was young, a politician friend said to me that we must do whatever is in our hands to protect and encourage our language. Hence, I started writing poems and singing them." Sadagar is also a skilled workman who can build many different types of traditional musical instruments. This includes the instrument called sarinda and flutes. As he is quite aged now, he is unable to make new instruments. However his home has many samples of his work.
Same is true for Rainya Lekhi. She has been singing from the time she was a teenager. They have performed together many times.
On this day they sang a song:
Tabukni somoi tabukni jora rogo
Eeeeee…..agini chamungbo kwrwikha tabukni somoi rogo
Eeeeee….. khulasa o mayani gwnang songbow
Eeeeee….. agini tongtwibo tongui maliya tabokni jora rogo
Eeeeee…..oi agini tomung tongnaibo kwrwi agini chamung chanaibo kwrwi mayani gwnang songbow…...agini tomungbo tongnai kwrwi tabokni somoi rogo
Ooooo….. khulasa mayani o gwnang songbow
Eeeeee….. tabokni somoi tabukni jora rogole agini tongtwibo ma tong langlia agini chatwibo ma chalanglia tabokni jora rogo….. tabokni jora rogo
Eeeeee…...o khulasa mayani gwnang songbow chagoro tongthokroro khulasa mayani gwnang songbow tongrwrwk kha marwk marwk o khulasa mayani gwnang songbow tongrwrwk tongthok rw rwk tabokni jora rogo.
The song is a lament for the times gone by when people were more empathetic towards each other. The song talks about how greed has seeped into the current times when the rich want more and more.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.