Thanga Darlong: The Melodious Legend of Tripura

Thanga Darlong with the bamboo musical instrument 'Rosem'

In the serene hills of Tripura's Unakoti district, where the rhythm of life flows with the timeless pulse of nature, there lived a man whose music captured the soul of a culture. Thanga Darlong, born on July 20, 1920, in the quaint village of Muraibari, became a legendary figure not only in his homeland but across India. Known for his exceptional contribution to folk music and his dedication to preserving the traditional instrument, the Rosem, Thanga Darlong's legacy is a testament to the power of cultural heritage and musical passion.

A Humble Beginning

Thanga Darlong hailed from DeoraCherra Muraibari, a small hilly ADC village in Tripura. The village, nestled in the embrace of nature, was home to a vibrant tribal community that thrived on music and dance. Born into a family of musicians, Thanga was introduced to the Rosem, an indigenous bamboo flute-like instrument, by his father, Hakvunga Darlong. His musical journey was further nurtured by his uncle, Darthuama Darlong, setting him on a path that would span over eight decades.

The Rosem: Heartbeat of a Culture

The Rosem, a traditional instrument unique to the region, became Thanga Darlong's lifelong companion. With its melodious tunes, it mirrored the natural beauty and cultural richness of Tripura. Despite facing numerous challenges, including limited resources and the hardship of life in a remote village, Thanga's dedication to the Rosem never wavered. He practiced diligently, often playing for hours each day, driven by a passion that transcended material needs.

Recognition and Legacy

Thanga Darlong's talent and dedication did not go unnoticed. He was honored with several prestigious awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2014, the Academic Fellowship Award in 2015, and the Vayoshresta Samman in 2016. In 2019, he received the Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honors, recognizing his invaluable contribution to Indian folk music.

In 2016, Thanga was featured in the documentary *Tree of Tongues in Tripura*, directed by Josy Joseph, which highlighted the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of the region. His journey also earned him a place in the 2024 edition of the Guinness World Records as the oldest professional male folk musician, a testament to his enduring spirit and passion for music.

A Centenarian's Commitment

Even in his advanced age, Thanga's love for music never diminished. He was the last known person in Tripura to play the Rosem, a symbol of a fading tradition that he valiantly kept alive. His grandson, Talnghninga Darlong, often shared stories of how Thanga, despite his frail health, would devote hours to playing the Rosem, embodying the essence of dedication and resilience.

The Darlong Community

The Darlong community, a sub-tribe of the Kuki, numbers over 9,000 and largely resides in the hilly terrains of Tripura. Known for their hardworking nature, they primarily engage in 'jhum' cultivation and livestock farming. Music and dance are integral to their cultural identity, and Thanga Darlong emerged as a beacon of their musical heritage. The Darlongs speak a language related to the Kuki-Chin linguistic family, further enriching the cultural tapestry of the region.

End of an Era

Thanga Darlong passed away on December 3, 2023, at the age of 103, marking the end of a remarkable journey. He left behind a legacy that will inspire generations to come. His life is a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving cultural traditions and the impact that one individual can have on the world through dedication and passion.

Inspiring the Young Generation

Thanga Darlong's story is more than a tale of musical excellence; it's a narrative of resilience, cultural pride, and the timeless power of art. For the young generation, his life offers a profound lesson: no matter how humble your beginnings or how great your challenges, dedication to your craft can lead to extraordinary achievements. Thanga Darlong's music will forever echo in the hills of Tripura, inspiring young artists to embrace their cultural roots and pursue their passions with unwavering determination.