Papon headlines Guwahati Unplugged 2018
GUWAHATI: “Hello!!!” said Papon sweetly adding, “It’s always a great feeling to come home and perform.” Croons of approval! Opening bars of “Jonaki Raati…..” The auditorium erupted. It was yet another evening of delight to see Papon after a brief hiatus here in Guwahati performing with his band and headlining Guwahati Unplugged 2018 on 2nd June.
The evening opened in the soothing environs of the Srimanta Sankaradeva International auditorium (with no clue as to why we need to add that ‘International’ bit in the name) featuring singer, songwriter, composer and producer from Jorhat, Shankuraj Konwar. Currently based in Mumbai, he got the crowd pepped up with his self-produced first single “Ki Bedonate” from his WIP (Work In Progress) debut album “Baartalaap” alongside the celebrated poet Maitrayee Patar. The band had to push their guitar-based sound to its extreme with Sankuraj on piano — which got the most set list space — before they could scale back the walls of tune and leaping forward artistically. His lyrical style is mostly influenced by intricate, darker aspects human emotions. Sankuraj was indeed captivating and personable and set the tone for the evening.
Ravi Shankar’s Dhwani Collective featuring Bhargav Das was the next featuring band which took control of the stage from the word go with its vibrant, funky, energetic and versatile music. Their work of music itself is a melting pot of Indian classical vocals, electronica, folk music, rock, jazz and various other unclassifiable sonic oddities all thrown into one big delightful mess.
“Ours is a one-day music festival geared to celebrate folk along with contemporary music covers. This music festival is all about unadulterated, pure sound, music without any dilutions, and we intend to go ahead with similar projects at regular intervals,” mentioned Kirti Prabar Das, the backbone of Guwahati Unplugged 2018. Kirti has an impressive list of associations. As a percussionist, he was a part of the East India Company and Folktronica and has performed with the likes of Sachin Jigar, Sanam Puri, Ayushman Khurrana and also with Midival Punditz and Bartender.
Finally, with the clock striking 9 PM and with his spirited display of voice and blended music Papon took charge of the stage with Kalyan Barua and Jinti ably on guitars, Manas on a pounding bass guitar, Munu managing a hundred keys Kamlesh Sagathia on world percussion and Tonmoy on drums. Moreover, one must admit that Papon is quite an arresting performer. Few artists have the magnitude to cover genres like Electronic fusion, Indian and Assamese classical and folk, acoustic folk, playback singing, jazz and ghazals.
Likewise, Papon’s set was a clever combination of songs, both new and old, Assamese and Hindi, and the startup pack for me that evening was “Mon Mur Uree Gusi Jai” closely followed by “Jonaki Rati,” and it translated beautifully live. Trust Papon’s chutzpah when it comes to a live performance - especially when it’s unplugged - earning him a rapturous standing ovation. In between, Papon invited Kirti to jam with him on one of his favourites, “Aailoi Monot Porey.” His guitar playing was gentle and his voice never once faltered.To keep the flow of the concert intact, Papon deployed brief moments of silent pauses in his rendition for dramatic effect. “Having missed performing during Bihu for the last two years in Assam due to prior commitments, this concert is one I will cherish,” maintained Papon and took off with his Bihu classics and created another kind of zing amongst the fans in the house. “I am glad to see my fans in my home state, especially the ones who have travelled long distances to be here this evening with us. I am indeed very pleased,” affirmed Papon with a gleam in his eyes.
“He is an easy-to-listen artist and is best when the session is unplugged,” shared vocalist Sumon Dutta, front man of Chrystal Palace Band, Moonwind and SKD fame. A multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and singer presently, all said and done, Papon is one of the most recognizable and sought after voices in India. Deeply rooted in folk, Papon has a wide variety of influences and is considered to be an extremely versatile artist. “Kyon” from the film Barfi, “Ziyen Kyun” and his endless hits followed suit alongside his string of hits. It was indeed a musical feast with a balanced sound arrangement by engineer Lee.
However, Papon made the most of his return to the spotlight, delivering his melodious delights with élan. Moreover, being childhood friends, I have been closely appreciating Papon through his teens that his keen sense of melody and skill on guitar keep even the slightest of his songs interesting. Let’s agree, all said and done despite odds, few artists have the wide appeal of Papon. We all have that itch to scratch and this is my way of doing it. Interestingly, Guwahati Unplugged was one of few shows I watched from start to finish. It was a highlight and I headed home on a high!