Padma Shri Guru Rewben Mashangva promotes ethnic Tangkhul Naga folklore through songs


Imphal (Manipur): Guru Rewben Mashangva, a folk singer from Manipur is among the 102 people who have been conferred the prestigious Padma Shri award by President Ram Nath Kovind this year.

Often referred to as the ‘King of Naga folk-blues’, the 60-year-old singer belongs to the Tangkhul tribe and was born to a carpenter’s family in Ukhrul district.

Before establishing himself as a common face at festivals across the country, Mashangva’s musical journey started in his youth after he realised that woodworking was not for him.

“I tried my hand at carpentry like my father and used to take wooden pieces to melas to sell. I was more fascinated by artists who came to perform than making sales,” he told ANI.

In pursuit of folk sounds he thought lacking in his generation, Mashangva traveled across the state from village to village on foot, trading sweets with gray-haired seniors in exchange for a few lines of traditional melodies that recount life in the village.

“Those old guys loved me because I visited them every single day and I brought them their favorite sweets. I put in a lot of effort even though I didn’t have formal education in music. I just pickup up everything on the roadside,” he said.

Mashangva’s also reminisced about his first guitar made by his father out of a piece of wood and some barbed wire, starkly different from the shiny Gibson he is often seen with on stage.

“It sounded really terrible but I managed and did my best to create some kind of sound,” he said with a chuckle, adding that as a die-hard fan of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, he often tried to imitate artists he saw on TV and heard on the radio.

Apart from the guitar, he also plays other musical instruments as well such as the harmonica, a four-hole flute known as Yangkahui, the tingteila (folk fiddle), and a rare cowbell percussion instrument.

“I’m really glad that the government conferred the Padma Shri in recognition of the preservation of traditional folk music,” he added, claiming to be the only man actively promoting ethnic Tangkul Naga folklore today.

Mashangva’s other laurels include the All India Radio-approved Artist of the Year, Manipur State Kala Akademi Awardee 2005 for Tribal Folk Music, NETV People’s Choice Nominee 2006, Folk Musician of the year, North East Excellence Award 2009 by Indian Chamber of Commerce among others.

At present, he runs a private Folk Museum of the Tangkhul in Ukhrul, Manipur, and holds the position of Director of the Naga Folk Music Academy. (ANI)