A primary school teacher by profession, Sarbeswar Bhoi of Kalahandi is also a well-known singer, lyricist, composer, dancer and actor. Among the many awards he has received is the prestigious Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar of the Kendra Sangeet Natak Akademi for his contribution to Sambalpuri music.
He has a number of popular songs to his credit including “Khala Khala Jharana Pani,” “Likri Jhikri,” “Chumuka Chumuka,” “Serareta Saringi,” “Baja Baja Ghumura” among others.
Son of Paan and Purusottam Bhoi, Sarbeswar was born in Rekhpur of Kalahandi district. “I belong to a family where everyone is a musician, so I was drawn towards music from my early childhood,” said Sarbeswar. “I learnt Odissi songs from my first guru Sri Santosh Das and Sri Karunakar Das of Kalahandi. But I discontinued learning Odissi when I had to appear for the high school certificate examination. I have never stopped singing, though; while doing graduation, I participated in many song competitions and won a few awards.”
Sarbeswar is not only a popular folk singer but he is skilled at folk dance too. Whenever he sings folk numbers, he likes to step to the beat of the songs. He plays some folk instruments with ease. About his favourite genres, he said, “I am more comfortable with folk songs. Personally, I prefer traditional Bangri, Boria, Dalkhai, Rasar Keli, Jai Phool and Ghoomara songs. These songs have inspired me to pen lyrics. I play dhol while singing. Most of my hummable numbers extensively use traditional western Odisha instruments like dhol, nishaan and taasha which makes our folk songs soothing to the ears.”
He continued: “After winning many district level song competitions, I was invited to join Pratibha, the popular folk music group of Odisha, by Dhyanananda Panda, chief of the group. I have performed not only in Odisha but across the world with my group. I always write my own songs and compose the music. In 2006, Subham Music of Odisha offered to record my song ‘Pakhanupare Jharana Paani.’ The song became an instant hit and made me a star overnight. After the success of this song, I received more offers to record songs and all became popular. Later, I sang a number for Odia movie Aadim Vichar. The movie received the national film award for best feature film in Odia, 2014. Though I got several offers to sing in films, I was reluctant to work for commercial movies and turned down all offers. But I worked for art films like Pahada Ra Luha and Pheri Aaa among others.”
Sarbeswar is also a good actor and recently featured in an art film Pheri Aaa. He won many accolades for his acting. He received a national award for acting in Mig Nina, a folk play aired on Doordarshan.
About participating in stage shows, he said, “I always love to perform on stage along with other folk artistes of my group. Many times, people request us for an encore, which inspires me to write more songs. Recording a song is a good experience but performing on stage is always energising. I have stayed away from commercial songs as I want to popularise traditional folk music and set up a music school where I can train aspiring singers.”