Papon Photo by Nandini Gogoi

Photo by Nandini Gogoi

Indian composer and singer Angaraag Mahanta, better known as Papon, has become quite the sensation in India. With his rugged guitar and electronic sounds he gives a refreshing dimension to folk songs from his native state Assam, where his concert draws thousands of fans. Several of his songs have also been featured in Bollywood movies and he has appeared on the acclaimed TV-show Coke Studio India. Still, up until recently Papon and his band The East Indian Company had never performed in The Netherlands. That all changed on the 28th of October with his concert in Theater De Meervaart in Amsterdam.

It started out as intimate evening with 50 people, organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and The Gandhi Centre in The Hague. After the opening act of Dutch vocalist Angel Aruna, Papon and his band guided the audience through a mix of Indian and modern rock sounds showing glimpses of Assam.

This happened in songs such as “Dinae Dinae” with both Assamese and Punjabi lyrics, or “Bihu Naam” a medley of traditional songs that are usually sung during celebrations of the Assamese New Year. All of the numbers were accompanied with rhythmic guitar, heavy bass and drum sounds. The compositions struck a chord with a predominantly Surinamese-Hindustani audience for whom Assam normally is far away in more ways than only in distance. Papon sometimes also switched to more romantic songs like “Kyun” and “Kaun Mera”, from the Bollywood movies “Barfi’ and “Special 26”.

A small delegation of Indian fans lifted the atmosphere even more by requesting classics such as Dam Mast Qalander and ghazals like Jagjit Sing’s Ahista Ahista. Papon thrived on the enthusiasm and eventually even invited people to dance with him on stage creating a joyful and spontaneous finale.

Born from parents that are musical legends in Assam, they are a huge inspiration for him, says Papon. “I realize it now even more than before” he explained on stage mentioning the passing away of his father just a few months ago.

For him, songs that represent Assam and the traditional folk melodies are more than just entertainment. ”They carry stories and histories within them. We are so used to our ancient cultures staying backstage, I have always wanted to bring them to the main stage and also perform more traditional music at rock festivals”, says Papon.

After the show, new fans rushed to Papon for a photo or an autograph. While many had not heard of him before, it is clear he made a lasting impression on them.

Stefanie Amirkhan

Dinae Dinae – Papon & Harshdeep Kaur – Coke Studio @ MTV Season 3

The queen of sufi-inspired Punjabi vocals & the king of Assamese folk, we see a true meeting of east & west on this track. Harshdeep’s and Papon’s vocals together create a different kind of magic and energy on this unforgettable track.

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