It was a cold winter forenoon in Delhi and Manasi was listening to some light music by a well known singer from her home state while getting a massage – a popular practice among the people in Delhi where winter tends to be harsh. Suddenly, the masseuse started laughing, taking Manasi by surprise. When she asked her why she was laughing without any apparent reason, the masseuse’s answer stunned her.
“Woh gaana sun ke”, said Sunila- the masseuse, a semi-literate woman from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The song was “10ta Bele Chala Karjalaya, Panchta Hele Phera Bharjalaya..…” by Akshaya Mohanty, the legendary Odia singer, held in awe by music lovers for his versatile and quite often, avant garde songs. Songs that often make people blush or laugh hard, because of their apt description of mundane everyday things and universal human behaviour.
Like most gifted artistes, Akshaya Mohanty’s music too has had the ability to go beyond and above the boundaries set by languages and cultures and as was revealed in the case of Sunila, social and economic status too!
Indians from other regions who have lived in Odisha for sometime, usually leave Odisha with a lasting memory and love for Baramajaa, Rasagola, Machha Jhola and Akshaya Mohanty’s songs.
Santosh Singh from Bihar was brought up in Odisha as his father was working in a Central government organisation and was posted in Odisha for more than three decades. After his father’s retirement, they returned to Bihar but Santosh’s love and attachment for Odisha shows from his Facebook posts, which are often songs by Akshaya Mohanty like “Jajaabara, Maana Morra”, “Aije Banalata Pahada”, and he claims that Akshaya Mohanty is his favourite singer.
Such is the popularity of his songs that some of them have found a mention/ been used in strange set ups. For instance, “E Duniya re kehi na kehi kahara ta chaamcha…” – a very popular song, in the movie TALVAR, where a police personnel when requested to sing something loudly to establish some angle regarding the double murder case, starts singing this song.
Akshaya Mohanty, the unorthodox and experimental artiste, known mostly for his peppy youthful songs, has also penned some of the songs that he sang and is so close to his roots that it reflects in some of his very popular songs like “Jaare Bhasi Bhasi ja, Nauka mor Bhasija…” the song which reflects the importance of river Mahanadi for Odias. Written in colloquial Odia, the song is about a boatman teasing young women by the river bank as his boat travels along with the river’s flow and takes him through the different districts of Odisha – from Sambalpur to Cuttack and then Talamala.
And then “Smruti Tume Shrabana Rati….” a beautiful song that talks about the various memories that make a permanent home in the heart and mind of Odias about their youth and love. A line from the song “Smruti tume tuttho patharare phika alataaro daago”, shows how closely he was attached to the things quintessentially Odia and that subsequently found a place for themselves in his songs.
Among Akshaya Mohanty’s many popular songs, is the song “Punya Ra Nadi Teere”, arguably the most brilliant, which reflects his sensitivity and depth as an artiste who can do justice to complex feelings and emotions and has the ability to give goosebumps to the listeners. In this song, considered to be incredibly beautiful by most Odias, love is personified at one point and is described as unsought for and unwanted but turns up as a guest in every house, “Akhoja, alodaa chira dina hele atithi se sabu ghare….”
The Odia society has gone through many transformations, thanks to the IT revolution and globalisation, but what has remained unchanged and from the look of it, will be for a long time, is Odias’ love for Akshaya Mohanty’s songs….. In fact globalisation means, one nowadays gets to listen to his songs while having dinner at a restaurant in Delhi or while driving around in a car at night in Mumbai or a picnic, somewhere in far off America….. “Bhasa Megha muje bhasi jaaye duure…Nila Akashare…”