Angaraag Papon Mahanta. The only producer in the Coke Studio at MTV Season 3 lineup who is known less as a composer and more as a singer. But whoever has heard his The Story So Far or Tokari from the final episode of last season would have no doubt regarding the Assamese powerhouse’s skills as a composer. And the teasers promised a folk-rich episode, so there was much excitement leading up to this one. And here are my thoughts after watching it.
Baisara Beera – Staying true to his roots, Papon kicks off the episode picking up a lovely Assamese Holi geet and fusing it with an equally beautiful folk piece from the other end of the country, Rajasthan in a loosely desh raag-flavored mélange. The rich arrangement too sees a lovely fusion of folk and western – Sugana Ram’s ravanahatha, harmonium stud Akhlak Warsi, Aslam and Hanif Dafrani’s dholaks all seamlessly melding with Kalyan Baruah and Deepak Saikia’s guitars and Tanmay Ray’s drums among other things. Icing on the cake is of course the singing – Papon is flawless as usual with the nuanced rendition, and giving him solid competition is Bhojpuri star singer Kalpana Patowary.
Khumaar – Papon’s sonorous rendition of the pleasant tune rules supreme in the pop-based Khumaar, even as Kalyan Baruah and Jeenti Dutta provide a breezy guitar-led template to go with him. That shehnai from Omkar Madhukar Dhumal (the same person who played shehnai in Amit Trivedi’s Season 2 episode) in the second half is a nice touch.
Tauba – This one sees African and Latino elements combined in an addictive package, with some Assamese folk thrown in for good measure. Once again the guitars are fabulously employed, particularly towards the end, and so are the African rhythms (Sanket Naik, Kirti Prabar Das) and the accordion by Sameer Chiplunkar. On the vocal front, the chorus comprising of Shannon Donald, Crystal Sequeira and Gwen Dias is spot on, and the outlandish sounds from Papon & co. in the interludes lend well to the African-ness of the song. Oddly enough it is the lead singing by Benny Dayal that is found wanting among all this, in comparison.
Benaam Khwaahishein – First ghazal of the season. First ghazal on the show in fact, unless I am missing something from Season 1. And a piece quite fitting of that honor too, if it is. Firstly there is a beautiful (bageshri raag?) tune from Papon, and then there is an outstanding rendition by Anweshaa Dutta (the same girl who at the age of 13 did that brilliant singing of Mere Dholna from Bhool Bhulaiya on Voice of India) with excellent support from Sanket on the tabla and Pritam Ghoshal on sarod. Nirmalya Humtoo Dey’s duduk cameo only adds to the beauty of the song. The pick of the episode, this one.
Dinae Dinae – More Assamese folk in Papon’s voice, this time with the man strumming along on the tokari as well. In the first half that is. In the latter half the song takes a surprise yet smooth turn towards Punjabi folk, and in comes Harshdeep Kaur singing what she does best. The song then heads towards a crescendo-esque finish with both singers combining their styles. (Incidentally Papon & Harshdeep are the only vocalists to have featured in all three seasons of Coke Studio at MTV)
Jhumoor – Final song is where Papon presents a North East folk composition without fusing it with any other genre (discounting the electric guitars and drums that is, they have been pretty much omnipresent in this episode). Dulai Manki and Simantha Shekhar give an authentic rendition of the Assamese tea garden song alongside the composer. That surprise change in pace in between acted as a deterrent for me, but nice listen otherwise.
So Papon delivers in Season 3 what Shantanu Moitra did in Season 2 – a winning set of songs replete with folk and classical elements.
Top Recos: Benaam Khwaahishein, Baisara Beera, Dinae Dinae