The lilting, melodious voice of Angarag Mahanta, known by his nickname Papon, soothes like balm. A popular vocalist and musician, Papon says his music is defined by three things: Assam’s lush landscape, its vibrant folklore culture and his interest in neo-Vaishnavism, a philosophy he staunchly believes in. Born to a proud lineage, his mother sang for All India Radio while his father was known as the ‘King of Bihu’ (traditional folk songs); as a result Papon’s music is a home-grown blend of rock and folk.
Red Bull Media House in association with Jugaadu, a Mumbai-based production unit, has produced a seven-part web documentary series called Homegrown Heroes which traces Papon’s life from his early years until the time he became a full-fledged multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and singer with a devoted following.
In a spontaneous tete-a-tete, Papon talks about initially finding his feet in the budding Assamese music scene, the evolution of Bihu and why it’s so inextricably woven into his compositions along with native stories from the state. The series waxes lyrical about Assam’s natural beauty and its inevitable influence on Papon’s musical sensibility. A trained classical singer, the artist feels it was the move from Guwahati to Delhi that helped him get over his inhibition of singing in Hindi; a good thing because his career as a playback singer for Bollywood movies in Mumbai took off soon after.
The rest as they say is history. Papon’s had a spate of hit songs in award winning movies like Barfi, Dum Laga Ke Haisham and won fans across the country with his solo material, including fan favourite ‘Banao Banao’, 2012 Hindi folk-fusion debut The Story So Far and collaborations with other Indian indie artists such as Midival Punditz.
Papon’s repository of work may not be large, but it has struck a chord with millions of music lovers. Right from his first Assamese album Jonaaki Raati (full moon night) to the haunting “Yeh moh moh ke dhaage…”, his voice spins a magical web. The best thing about shooting ‘Homegrown Heroes’ Papon says, was the chance to revisit his roots and relive some precious memories.
Featured image source: Scroll.in
Written by Ritu Mathur