Ahead of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Bangalore edition, Hindustantimes.com caught up with Papon, the musician who has taken MTV Coke Studio by storm.
Papon released his debut album, The Story So Far (Times Music) in 2012, which won a GIMA award. He also has six Assamese albums to his name.
His band, Papon and The East India Company, is an electric folk-fusion band from New Delhi, formed in 2007. The band, now based out of Mumbai, comprises Papon (vocals, guitars), Brin (live electronica), Jeenti (guitars), Kirti (World percussions), Aakash (bass), Tanmay (drums) and Birinchi (keys). -- Bacardi NH7 official website
Papon will be performing folk rock with his band on Sunday, November 24 as a part of the Bacardi Arena in Bangalore.
In the true NH7 Weekender spirit, he says, "It really is the happiest festival around."
You're back again at Bacardi NH7 Weekender. The music festival scene in India seems to be growing rapidly. Why do you think so?
Audiences in India are listening to new sounds, and welcoming more bands and artists with different kinds of music. The internet has come of age and people from India have started to get a taste of music from across the world, and have become more receptive to different genres. Audience for live music has also grown across the country.
...and Papon and The East India Company is definitely a regular. Do these festivals create new avenues for your kind of music?
I really enjoy playing at music festivals. We do reach newer audiences each time we play at a new festival, and it’s also the best audience to play for – people who are there for the live music experience – it’s a real audience.
Barfi!, Soundtrack, Dum Maro Dum, Madras Café, Satyagraha. You're the common musical strand for all these Bollywood big banners. Why the shift from independent music to mainstream Bollywood?
There hasn’t been a shift at all. I still write and perform a lot of independent music, as you noted in your question as well. I enjoy both very much – Bollywood as well as my independent music. Bollywood has really opened up to all kinds of different sounds and genres. It’s a really interesting time for Bollywood now. There are a lot of independent musicians who are a part of Bollywood and in turn the industry has opened up to many different sounds and genres – from drums and bass to folk.
There seems be a hint of Assamese folk influence in all of your music. Tell us your personal favourite mix?
One of my recent favourites is Tokari Geet from MTV Coke Studio last year. It’s a good mix of folk, electric and electronica, and has so many elements. Sometimes a track comes together well, and even when we perform, the whole band really enjoys playing it live.
Of course, you've been an indispensable part of popular musical TV shows like The Coke Studio and The Dewarists. What was the experience like?
I’ve really enjoyed working on both The Dewarists and MTV Coke Studio, and it’s been fantastic that our songs have also been so well appreciated.
There were so many memorable moments on my recent episode of MTV Coke Studio. In my episode there were so many different tracks, musicians and styles, so it was also a really great learning process for me. When I first started working on MTV Coke Studio, I thought it was going to be very hectic and perhaps a bit serious. But when we started rehearsals, it was so much fun! I really enjoyed working with all the musicians on my episode. I also loved working with such a variety of styles – from Assamese folk to beatboxing to new age electronica to ghazals, and so much more – there’re such different styles of music across my songs.
Speaking of styles, Papon.in reads you take inspiration from "Mongoloid notes, local river song influences, Indian Classical music and ghazals and even new-age electronica." That's a wide range! Tell us one interesting thing about merging such varied sounds.
It has a lot to do with my upbringing and the variety of music I was exposed to while growing up – my father is folk musician and mum is into Indian classical. Growing up in Assam gave me a lot of exposure to rock and blues as that’s very big in the North East, and then I moved to Delhi where electronica was beginning to take off. The music I was exposed to was very different at different times, and that diversity does come through with my music as well. Everything is good music to me, and I don’t think of genres when I compose my songs. Each journey of sur and taal seems interesting to me and all that naturally just mixes.
You've been to music festivals around the world, including those in Switzerland, Singapore, Indonesia and Norway. How does the international audience react to your music?
We’ve had really good shows, and that shows that people have enjoyed our music. Sometimes international audiences are even more receptive to different genres and styles from across the world! So we usually have really great gigs. It’s the kind of audience that India is now building.
Lastly, any particular expectations from Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Bangalore this year?
We’re designing a special set of festivals for Papon and The East India Company, so we’ll have a new set, and definitely a few new songs as well. I’ve performed at Bacardi NH7 Weekender before and have always had a great concert. It’s a great festival, with lots of music and a really great vibe. It really is the happiest festival around!