x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Indian singer takes acoustic folk music to the next level

Angaraag Mahanta, better known as Papon, is on a mission to combine folk music with electronic beats into what he calls "folktronica".

Angaraag Mahanta, better known as Papon, has cut a popular Assamese album and has also collaborated with Midival Punditz on several tracks, including Vande Mataram. Getty Images
Angaraag Mahanta, better known as Papon, has cut a popular Assamese album and has also collaborated with Midival Punditz on several tracks, including Vande Mataram. Getty Images

The Indian singer Angaraag Mahanta, better known as Papon, is on a mission to take the folk music of his native state, Assam, to the global stage by fusing it with electronic beats, creating what he calls "folktronica".

Born to the music legends Archana and Khagen Mahanta, Papon was introduced to Assam's folk beats as a child. "Back then, I thought that folk could be mixed with something else so that it can be appreciated by more people," he says. "That's what I'm trying to do now."

The singer, who won't disclose his age, formed his band, Papon and the East India Company, in 2007. The market for acoustic folk was not big back then, but the scene looks more promising now, he says. "We started mixing ambient electronic with folk and it just happened. Today, folk is counted as a mainstream genre."

Papon's discography includes popular Bollywood songs such as Zindagi Aisi Waisi (from the 2010 film I Am Kalam) and Jiyein Kyun (from 2011's Dum Maaro Dum). He has also developed a sizeable following after a recent appearance in the MTV programme Coke Studio, where he got to play to thousands of viewers his brand of sound.

Early this year, Papon released his first Hindi album, The Story So Far, which bagged him a nomination at the Global Indian Music Academy Awards.

"Folktronica is not big yet, but it is going to be bigger," he says.

When asked whether he prefers a live stage performance or a studio recording, he replies: "I enjoy both equally. There are two sides of me - one loves interacting with people, because music is all about human stories. I love going live – I'm possessed when I'm on stage. On the other hand, when making music in the studio, it's you and your world. When you close your eyes while recording, everything around you is how you want it to be."