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Khagen Mahanta was an exponent of Assamese music industry. He is credited to have popularized the folk and traditional music front of Assam. Khagen Mahanta is one of the respected music personalities in the field of Assamese folk music. He is also known as the ‘King of Bihu’. His Bihu songs, Borgeet and folk songs are listened to by all generations.
Life of Khagen Mahanta:
Khagen Mahanta was born on 1st January 1942 in Nagaon to Satradhikar family Harendra Nath Mahanta and Laxmipriya Devi. He started learning Satra music from the age of seven and was very much influenced by his father. He showed musical talent from his childhood and at the age of fifteen, he started performing gin musical concerts in Shillong. Further on, he married the nightingale ok Assamese folk music, Archana Mahanta and has a son and a daughter. His son, Angaraag Mahanta is a popular singer himself today and has carved a unique style of his own singing. Duet performances of Khagen Mahanta and his wife Archana Mahanta are popular among the audiences. Khagen Mahanta learnt to play the tabla early in his life. He learnt it under the guidance of Sushil Banerjee. He was inspired by his father who saw the talent and passion for his signing and encouraged him. He died a sudden death at his own residence in Guwahati on 12 June 2014. Mahanta is survived by his wife Archana Mahanta and son Angaraag Mahanta.
Career of Khagen Mahanta:
Khagen Mahanta started performing at the age of fifteen. He started performing in music concerts in Shillong. In the year 1958, he got the opportunity to perform from Delhi Doordarshan television center established that year. The program was very well accepted by the viewers. Mahanta gave his first solo performance in 1959 when he took part in the All Assam Inter College Music competition. He also took part in the All India Inter University Youth Festival at Mysore and bagged the first prize by playing the khol. The All India Radio bestowed upon him the title of ‘A’ grade artiste as he contributed to almost all genres of Assamese music including Lokageet, Okoni geet, musicals and drama.
During the Language Movement of Assam in 1960, Khagen Mahanta became an active member of the Harmony Group founded by Bishnuprasad Rabha, Hemanga Biswas and Jugal Das. The group performed all over Assam urging for peace. Khagen Mahanta had a gramophone album by 1961 and his songs were broadcasted from the Akashvani Radio Station in Guwahati from that year. Khagen Mahanta also performed in the World Peace Conference in Calcutta in 1961. He is well known mostly for singing folk songs of Assam and children’s songs. He has also directed and sung in numerous plays and musicals. Khagen Mahanta appeared thrice in the National Programme of Music from All India Radio, Delhi respectively in 1968, 1970 for folk songs and in 1992 and 1993 for Sugam Sangeet. He produced ‘O Mur Deshar Manuh’ which was sent to China under the Programme of Cultural Exchange of the Asia Pacific countries in 1990.
He has also directed two Assamese films ‘Nishi Ujagar’ (tele film) and ‘Juj’ (feature film) which was awarded the Rajat Kamal in 1990. He performed in the India International Music Festival during March 1993 organized by Sangeet Naatak Academy and ICCR in Calcutta. He also directed music films like Meghamukhi, Mainajan, Juj and Nishi Uajagar. He has rendered voice for 23 different Assamese films and also acted in the Assamese film ‘Shakuntala’ in 1961. His works have been well appreciated by the audiences of every generation.
Awards and Recognitions of Khagen Mahanta:
Khagen Mahanta was awarded by ‘Bastra Diya Sipini Samaaj’ with commendation prize in the Akashvani Annual Awards Competition in 1984 and 1989 by merit certificate for composing music for radio documentary ‘Legend of Lohit’ in 1989. He was also selected as a member of the bench for finding a solution of the unification of the three ‘Gharanas’ of the traditional devotional songs of Assam in 1990. Khagen Mahanta received the Film Craft Award in 1987-88. He was also awarded the ‘Srimoyi’ award in 1994 and ‘Sangeetacharya’ by Jitendra Nath Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in September 1999.