It was quite a few years ago when music buffs began to tout Angaraag Mahanta as the next emerging artiste to watch out for. Back in Assam,he was already quite the rockstar,performing Assamese folk to full houses. Elsewhere in the country,fans began to notice his warm,raw style,and the way he and his band The East India Company reinvented traditional Assamese folk,fusing it with electronic music.
Popularly known as Papon,he is known just as much for his contemporary projects,Bollywood songs as well as his folk projects. Hes sung for films such as Barfi!,Special 26,Dum Maaro Dum,among others,and his collaborations with Karsh Kale and the Midival Punditz have also won appreciation from fans.
Mahanta,who will return to the city to perform at the fourth edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender,is already excited about several more new films and collaborations. While he recently recorded Maula sun le re and Khud se for Madras Cafe,hes also experimented with a Punjabi and Tamil song.
Mahanta says he enjoyed the experience of singing in a new language,and adds,While it takes double the time to sing in a language you dont know,its interesting to be able to convey your stories to more people. The singer has also just finished working on a collaboration with Scottish singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni. Their soon-to-be-released album Troikala is part of a British Council project. Rachel came with a song she wrote with India in mind and I added a few Hindi lines to it. The music just flowed, says Mahanta,who is keen on working with Peter Gabriel and Norah Jones.
Of his recent reappearance on the television show Coke Studio@MTV as an episode producer,Mahanta says,When youre producing a whole episode,everything changes. There are many more people to work with,and many different styles. I loved working with such a variety of styles from Assamese folk to beatboxing to new age electronica to ghazals,and so much more theres such different styles of music across my songs.
Mahanta produced six tracks for the episode with three new compositions and three reinvented folk songs. One of the reinvented folk tracks,Baisara beera is a Rajasthani song he learnt from his father,an acclaimed folk singer in Assam. He used to just keep singing these songs and I absorbed them subconsciously, says Mahanta,who was introduced to music by his parents.
Of his own contemporary take on their traditional music,he says,Initially,my parents were concerned. But then they understood that I was still keeping the essence of folk music intact. Folk is coming back into our lives with a now tag to it. The same stories from thousands of years ago still talk to us. Its an interesting place in the world with regard to new sounds.