Assamese singer and musician Khagen Mahanta — known as the ‘King of Bihu’ — passed away at his Guwahati residence Thursday. He was 72. Considered a genius by most, Khagen Mahanta had added a new dimension to Bihu songs by bringing them from the rural areas to the modern stage. His position in Assamese music was thought to be only next to the legendary Bhupen Hazarika.
A winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1992, Mahanta was known for picking up Bihu songs from different parts of Assam and presenting them in his inimitable way, prompting Bhupen Hazarika to call him Bihu-samrat.
Mahanta, along with his wife Archana, was also known for popularising various forms of Assamese folk songs during his singing career, which spanned six decades. Once associated with Balraj Sahni, Bhupen Hazarika and Hemanga Biswas in the Indian People’s Theatre Association movement, Mahanta sang his first song on the All India Radio in 1960, the same year he acted in Bhupen Hazarika’s Assamese film, Shakuntala.
Mahanta sang songs about the plight of the peasants and downtrodden, the best among them being “kolore patote kauri pore, agloti sit mor lore-sore.” His son Angarag (Papon) is also an artist and was the first to sing a Bihu song at Coke Studio @ MTV in 2013.