If my ears were ringing with songs from the soundtrack of the Marathi film Natrang the last time I wrote for Music Matters, this fortnight I’m going around humming and trying to sing Bengali and Assamese songs, even as I take delight in the news that the Natrang soundtrack won a National Award for its music composers. Now I have two more gorgeous Indian voices to thank for filling my ears and my heart with the wonderful sounds of their music. Despite the fact that one of these voices hails from the state of West Bengal, and the other from Assam, I think of them as Indian, and take pride in their being fellow countrymen and women. You will agree, won’t you, that some people around these parts need to be reminded these days that we are Indians, even though we may belong to different states, castes, communities, creeds?
Riveting: Mahanta is at ease with folk as well as electronic music. Subhamoy Bhhattacharjee / Mint
I first heard Bengali singer Lopamudra Mitra when I bought her album Chhata Dharo on www.emusic.com and was struck by her expressive singing on the tracks “Tomaye hrid majhare rakhbo, chhede debo na…” (a sample is available at www.emusic.com) and Mahut bondhu re. She sings in a voice that is sweet but not syrupy, at times poignant, and at other times playful, dramatic but never melodramatic. Above all, it is a voice that rises above the craft of singing to communicate and express and touch the hearts of listeners. That is exactly what she did when I heard her in concert for the first time earlier this month. As she concluded her recital with the Bengali classic Beni Madhab to an audience that for the most part was unfamiliar with Bengali or her music, the audience rose to its feet spontaneously to give her a standing ovation. I do so wish that the record labels that produce and distribute her music had been there to savour the moment and the experience. Perhaps they would have been prompted to distribute and promote physical sales of her music nationally and internationally instead of restricting themselves to Bengal. Fortunately the world of online distribution makes it possible for music lovers to discover music and artistes who would otherwise have remained unfamiliar. Mitra is, of course, a star in Bengal, but what a pity it would be if music lovers in other parts of the country remained ignorant of her splendid voice and dignified persona.
Delhi-based Assamese singer Angaraag Mahanta, who goes by the name Papon, is another voice that is riveting and superbly expressive. Extremely popular with young listeners, Papon sings and composes, and like Mitra, is deeply influenced by the folk music of his home state as well as with Hindustani classical music. He is at ease with lounge and electronic music and wields laptops, processors and gadgets with the same familiarity that he tunes an instrument. His website www.papon.co.in has lots to say about him, his background, influences, accomplishments and more. But for me, the proof of the pudding remains firmly in the eating, which is why I would recommend you skip the site, go directly to www.myspace.com/papon and switch on a track titled Jonaaki raati or try out Dhouwe Dhouwe. And don’t bother about not being familiar with Assamese, or the song texts, and what they mean. Listen, and the music will reveal its stories and secrets as it always does to listeners. It will also introduce you to a beautiful Indian voice, and you know as well as I do that we need more Indian voices these days.
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org