His earthen voice and sonorous magical compositions have established him as one of the greatest musicians of all time, not only in Assam but across the country.
His fresh experiments with traditional Assamese folk music, ghazals and electronica created such a wave that he got an ardent fan following, much before Bollywood happened to him. Bagging several awards for his work, Angaraag Mahanta, popularly known as Papon, dons multiple hats of being a composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, as he can play tabla, acoustic guitar, harmonium, piano and khol with equal ease.
In a casual chat, Papon talks about his life, musical sojourn, family and much more.
Your musical journey.
I was born into a musical family and that’s where the journey began. When my mother was expecting me, she was teaching as well as learning Indian classical music. My father was a folk legend of Assam. He performed folk music for years and played a big role in popularising it. He was a respected and loved figure in Assamese folk music. But it took me a while to realise that I’m good at it myself and not taking it up simply because my parents are musicians.
When I was in Delhi, I started jamming and doing jingles for documentary features and that was the time when I started thinking about music as a profession. Then I made my first Assamese album and that pulled me towards making it a profession.
Success in life
It wasn’t tough or easy because I never set out to reach a goal. I wanted to make music because I love music. There have been different moments, achievements but what matters the most is happiness that music has brought me. I have enjoyed every moment of it. Yes, it took some time but my patience worked for me. I’m happy with what comes my way and don’t worry about how much I should or ought to get.
Attribute your success to…
Firstly, to my parents. I was lucky to be born in the family where I got musical upbringing. Also, growing up in the North East gave me an exposure to different styles of music. Later, shifting to Delhi exposed me to the new sounds of Asian underground, as well as newer rock influences. All those influences that I had grown up with, and all these new sounds that I was exposed to, helped me find my own sounds. Then I wrote Jonaaki Raati, and that was the turning point. Jiyein Kyun from Dum Maaro Dum (2011) was another important milestone for me.
Future of independent music
There’s so much happening in the music scene and people internationally are reaching out to us, which is a great feeling. The kind of support that we are getting from the industry and the scale that it’s on is just phenomenal.
I actively supported the Assam River Dolphin Conservation Project and helped get it a lot of attention. I have been involved in raising awareness about Clean the Brahmaputra mission. I had raised `17 lakh for Assam Flood Relief through a concert that I had put together with friends from Bollywood.
Your craziest fan moment
It’s amazing to get so much love, from fans all over the world. Some fans have got my name tattooed and that is a big deal for me. When we travelled to Serbia, there must have been only four Indians in the whole auditorium, including the Indian ambassador. The rest of the audience didn’t even speak English. But they loved and responded to Assamese folk and fusion songs. They didn’t want us to get off the stage; the connect we had with the audience was amazing.
Your acting debut
I have been signed on to be a part of Nagesh Kukunoor’s new project, tentatively titled Music Men. The film’s plot revolves around five ‘losers’ who come together to form a band with a sole aim to prove that music never dies.
Your future projects
I’m writing new music and finalising songs, both in Hindi and Assamese that I want to record. Hopefully, I shall have the album ready for release this year.
Your most recent vacation
A reunion with my friends over the past 20 years from Delhi in Shillong during Christmas-New Year. We travelled to Nameri National Park and stayed at an eco lodge without phone network and internet. Then we went to Kaziranga National Park, where we stayed at Agoratoli for New Year’s eve. This experience of staying in a forest, cooking and eating our food in the open, close to nature, made for a memorable holiday.
Written by Rajany Pradhan