Genius and legend are terms that are rather loosely bandied about. Included amongst the few to whom the terms fit to a 'T' is Akshaya Mohanty (1937-2002), arguably the pre-eminent creator and culture-market of post-independent Orissa.
An immensely imaginative man of many parts, Akshaya Mohanty especially excelled as a singer, composer and lyricist. In a journey lasting close to half a century, Akshaya gave identity and direction to popular Oriya music.
Akshaya Mohanty's journey as an artist started in the 50's with just a healthy musical curiosity and without initiation in formal rules and theories. He kept exploring in the fields of rhythm, harmony, orchestration and most importantly lyrics. He rose to an unprecedented adulatory fame in the 60's which, coincidentally, was the decade of the Beatles in the West. And like in case of the Beatles, with a deft combination of prolifically inventive lyrics and refreshingly apt melody, his music invariably registered. For as long as he lived, Akshaya, through his music, conjured up blushes and tears, thoughtfulness and titillation as probably no one else has.
From the pious 'Kene Gheni Jauchha' to the patriotic 'Saata Daria Paare' ; from the forlorn 'He Phaguna Tume' to the flirtatious 'Raja Jhia Sange' ; from the plaintive 'Rakata Tala Mala' to the pensive 'Chakori Jhara'anaa Luha' - Akshaya has been the most significant contributor of 'classics' to the Oriya popular repertoire.
As a sensitive short-story writer and novelist, Akshaya Mohanty was palpably personal. He wrote simply and directly without prudish sensibilities. There was a celebration in his prose, of love, women, relationships and physical sensation.
Stylistic departures in Oriya modern songs apart, Akshaya Mohanty made invaluable contributions in the fields of ballads ( Baji Rout, Kanchi Vijay, Konark Gatha, Raandi Pua A'nta ), folk and choral songs. As a composer, he was an adept communicative creator. He was a musician, yes, but posterity shall remember him as a musical thinker.
Music before him was pedantic, Music after him has been tasteless exhilaration. Combining, as he did, taste with electricity, Akshaya Mohanty was the bridge - a colossal bridge.