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Folk strokes

neha mujumdar
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interview Musician Papon speaks on his story so far

On an upcoming episode of Coke Studio , Papon will play a ‘tokari’, an Assamese folk song. The song is one of many songs reflecting his preoccupation with the folk music of his home state: beginning in 2004, he has released six albums of Assamese folk. “I totally owe it to my father,” he said, referring to vocalist Khagen Mahanta. “I got real and honest folk at home. The journey began from there”.

Papon would watch him perform folk music at performances, and marveled at the extent of his father’s connection with the audience. “I saw that super power of folk music,” he said. “I felt like there was a possibility to go beyond that. Maybe I could tap into folk, give it a modern perspective in terms of sounds, while keeping the folk nature intact.” Papon (whose full name is Angaraag Mohanta – he uses his ‘pet’ name) found a musical influence in his mother, as well, who dabbled with classical music. His route to the full-time musician’s life wasn’t straightforward. He studied Architecture in Delhi, and began to rediscover his music – “apart from my parents’ shadow,” he put it. The singer shot to mainstream fame after songs in Bollywood’s Dum Maaro Dum (“Jiyein Kyun”) and “Zindagi Aisi Waisi” in I Am Kalam . Recently, Papon released his debut album of Hindi music, The Story So Far , which has been nominated for an award from the Global Indian Music Academy.

For the musician, working with folk music is riddled with the question of ‘authenticity’. “It’s important to find someone genuine, who has the right information in terms of melody. The source has to be important. The music has to be as close to the flavour as possible.”

Working predominantly with folk also translates into a constant sense of spontaneity: Papon doesn’t plan out his explorations. “I don’t plan to work anywhere specifically. If there’s a possibility to work with someone who works with an interesting form, I’ll know. You can’t plan.”

An upcoming project, named Troikala, sees Papon work with percussionist Bickram Ghosh and Scottish musician Rachel Sermanni in a project initiated by the British Council. Musicians from both countries exchanged ideas through the internet - “rough sketches,” according to him.

“Folk music all over the world has some similarity,” he explained, on the process of collaborating on this project. “I could connect to the music. While jamming, we found that we weren’t thinking about genre. It was spontaneous, not forced.”

neha mujumdar


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