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Shyam Sundar Mandi, Baha, Banam, Dong, Tirio
Address: Vill & P.O : Bhurkundabari
P.S: Neturia
West Bengal
42 year old Shyam Sundar Mandi is a talented musician from Bhurkundabari village in Purulia. He learnt his first musical instrument, the Huka Banam from his father. His father would always carry his banam with him wherever he went,  with the young Shyam Sundar faithfully following him around. When his father worked on his fields, he would keep his banam in Shyam Sundar`s safekeeping encouraging him to try his hands on the instrument. Making tentative attempts at first, Shyam Sundar, with instructions from his father, gradually learnt to play the instrument.  When he finally was able to play a tune, Shyam Sundar requested his father for a banam of his own. He was about 10 years old then. His father then taught him to make his own "mini" banam, using for the sound box, the hard shell of a ripe bael fruit and the skin of an Indian bullfrog ("shona byaang"). Thus Shyam Sundar became the youngest person in his village to master the Huka banam, an instrument which only about ten other elders in the village were familiar with. 

Meanwhile, under the tutelage of his father, he also began to pick up traditional songs as well as master the tirio (long flute), and the traditional drums, tumdak and tamak. Thus, as he grew older, he became one of the most versatile musicians in his village. He went on to teach the drums to youngsters in the village and especially how to dance and drum at he same time, an essential feature of Santal celebrations.

He was about 30 years old when he actively began to lead performances, both festival celebrations in his village as well as at fairs in neighbouring villages. A group of men and women, with the tirio, banam, murli (short flute), tumda`k (madol/cylindrical drum) and tama`k (kettle drum) would regularly travel to village "melas" to sing and dance before the crowds. Depending on the distance, they would either walk or cycle down. Encouraged by the praise they received, the Bhurkunda musicians decided to participate in village and district level competitions as well. They participated in programmes held around Purulia, Jharkhand and even visited Kolkata for a programme, often organized by tribal cooperatives ("LAMPS" - Large Area Multi-Purpose Cooperative Societies). They are invited to participate in about 3 programmes each year. Financially however, this amounts to nothing, a mere Rs 3000 or so, for a large group of 50 people! Perhaps only the travel costs are covered. But these Santali musicians perform, not for the money, but for the love of music and therefore, are not disheartened in the least. 

For the last three consecutive years, they have had the privilege of participating in musical programmes at All India Radio, Kolkata. It is Shyam Sundar and his group`s deepest desire now to appear on Doordarshan. 

Shyam Sundar was one of the three master trainers who participated in a Huka Banam workshop that Daricha Foundation organized in collaboration with Anthropological Survey of India in January 2016. This was the first time that such a workshop was held and Shyam Sundar tries to continue with his teaching. Whenever he gets some free time, he can be seen strumming on his banam or sharing his music with others in the village. 

Meanwhile, the shy, simple, reticent Shyam Sundar continues to look after his fields and like others in his village, anxiously hopes for a decent monsoon each year. 

Shyam Sundar Mandi : Santal Musician