Rocking the folk

Rocking the folk

Assamese flavour

Rocking the folk

Angaraag Mahanta ,popularly known as Papon, was exposed to the world of music at a tender age. The Assamese singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist is trained in classical and folk music.

Apart from the soulful Assamese tunes, he has also rendered popular numbers in Bollywood. The singer is also part of Season 5 of ‘MTV Unplugged’. In a chat with ‘Metrolife’, he talks about his musical journey and his band called ‘Papon and The East India Company’.

Take us through your childhood!

My childhood was all about music as I hail from a family of musicians — both my parents were legends in this field. I went through all the training required in classical and folk music. I finished schooling, and then went to Delhi to complete architecture, but eventually for some reason I didn’t follow architecture. Then I joined English honours but didn’t complete that either. As that was the time, when I somewhere in the middle had realised that music is what I had to do. Slowly I was heading towards production and start learning about it on my own.
Your father, the late Khagen Mahanta, was a notable name in Assamese folk music. Was there any pressure on you the first time you went on stage?

Not on the stage but yes, in general there was always some kind of expectations people had on me since childhood. Initially I wasn’t into music so much and took it up quiet late, but yes for a long time there was definitely a lot of pressure building up.

Since when have you been singing?

It was only in 2004 that I have started singing professionally. And I remember my first album was released in 2006.

If not a singer you would be....?

A farmer, I would love to do farming.  

Tell me about ‘Papon and The East India Company’?

‘Papon and the East India Company’ is an electric folk-fusion band which was launched in 2007. Back then I had already released my album called ‘Jonaki Rati’, only after which I started playing in Assam. When I was in Delhi, I performed along with the ‘Midival Punditz’, and did various other electronic music. I was exposed to folk music by my father when I was a kid. Considering my knowledge in folk music I wanted to do something interesting with this genre. That’s when I thought of fusing folk with contemporary and electronic music. That’s it. I got my team of six from Delhi and launched this band.  

The turning point in your life?

The ‘Jonaki Rati’ album was the turning point in my life, it changed everything. It was only after this album that people started to recognising  my voice, music and my ideas. It has become a cult album and is still popular back home.
Your inspiration?

My parents, definitely. Apart from them I draw my inspiration from ‘Pink Floyd’, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jagjit Singh, Peter Gabriel and Kishor Kumar

Favourite song?

It is difficult to say, as it keeps changing. It totally depends on my mood. There is no one particular song that I have heard all my life till now.

From a folk music singer to singing for Bollywood...

    I try to give my hundred per cent to everything and belong to a song that I am singing. So I never think of it as a folk or a Bollywood song. I just keep giving the best I could…make the song my own and deliver it to the audience. I still work on both folk and Bollywood, one can see me working on one in the morning and the other at night.

Plans for future...

Just keep making better music and travel the world. And yes, probably go into farming later in life.

We have seen you in the previous season of ‘MTV Unplugged’. What’s new this season?

Last time, I had done the whole episode but this time it’s only two songs. It is a mixed episode of love songs. By now we have understood the various styles we can concentrate to create a different perspective to the song to make it more interesting. ‘Humnava’ and ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ are the two songs I am working this season.

(As told to Surupasree Sarmmah)