Imagining Peace from Iceland to Guwahati

Last year’s autumn would remain engraved in my mind for ever; it was the time I decided to come out. To make it simpler for those who don’t know, I had shut myself out from the rest of the world after indulging in too much of worldly pleasures and external gratifiers, and it was in autumn last year that I decided to face life once again. I was shaken at the prospect — numb, afraid, would I really be able to shake off the ghosts of the past?

Autumn is surely a musical time in our region, and it was so last year as well. While the hymns being chanted to appease Goddess Durga were reverberating all over the country, the frequent gigs and jamming sessions in Guwahati made it all the merrier. As I watched the idols of the Goddess in the numerous ‘mandaps’, I prayed that her helping hand reached out to me and washed away the past follies that lingered throughout my entity. The musical atmosphere prevalent in last year’s autumn definitely helped me forget my worries and instead count the blessings.

It was during these very days last year that Dhruva (of ‘Friends’ fame) was busy working on his peace concert, which he said was his way of celebrating legendary musician John Lenon’s birthday. He decided to start a John Lenon tribute festival to mark the icon’s birthday as well as to try and use music as a tool for bringing peace in our strife-torn region. So while Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono unveiled a 65-feet tall Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island in Iceland, local musicians from Shillong and Guwahati were rocking together at city-based lounge Crest to mark the icon’s birthday. Lenon’s 67th birthday celebrations in Guwahati will remain engraved in my memory, and I guess that being part of the celebrations and listening to the cries of Imagine that rendered the air gave me the strength to carry on in my new found life.

In retrospect, the transition has been remarkable; from just another legendary musician, John Lenon has now become an indispensable part of my life. Once again this year, I joined Dhruva, his band Friends and other friends as they celebrated the legendary musician’s 68th birth anniversary. The celebrations began on October 7, on the eve of this year’s Durga Puja, when I joined Dhruva, Nomoni and a few other musicians from Philippines and Mizoram to cut the birthday cake made especially for the occasion. It was the moment we had all been waiting for and it had finally arrived, and so had John Lenon.

For those who don’t know, founding member of the iconic Beatles, John Lenon was truly a legendary musician. To be very frank, Beatles happened very late in my life. I can’t say that I grew up with the Beatles for I didn’t. However once I started to understand the essence of their sound, I realized that the Beatles was not just a rock band; it heralded the change in global lifestyles. Even if John Lenon had retired as just one of the members of the Beatles, his artistic immortality would have already been assured. But it was something else that Lenon was looking for; something he sought to realize through his own brand of songs that suggested not merely a profound musical and literary sensibility — a genius, in short — but a vision of life that was simultaneously reflective, utopian and poignantly realistic. And that something remained elusive for the ‘restless voice’ throughout as he was assassinated on the night of December 8, 1980.

To look at it, it was only after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970 that the figure the world now recognizes as ‘John Lennon’ truly came into being. His new avatar was a radical one, which led many to regard him as a gentle prince of peace gazing off into the distance at an Eden only he could see. To quote Anthony DeCurtis: Lennon came to view his life as a work of art in which every act shimmered with potential meaning for the world at large. It was a Messianic attitude, to be sure, but one that was tempered by an innate inclusiveness and generosity. If he saw himself as larger than life, he also yearned for a world in which his ego managed at once to absorb everyone else and dissolve all differences among people, leaving a Zen-like tranquility and calm. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one, he sang in ‘Imagine’, which has become his best-known song and an international anthem of peace.

The highlight of this year’s celebrations would undoubtedly have to be the peace concert, aptly titled ‘Give Peace a Chance’. The show was organized at the rooftop of Crest, a city-based lounge and was made possible with the financial support of Airtel. The telecom major’s decision to sponsor an initiative which uses music as a tool to bring peace is indeed commendable. Mizo band ‘Cosmic Fish’ was the first group that evening and as they belted out popular numbers with music blasting from track records, Lenon fans were assembling at the open-air rooftop venue. Before going any further, I should make mention of my brother-cum-friend D’Com Bhuyan, who hosted the show that evening and who made the evening all

The first serious musical outfit to come on stage that evening was Shillong-based band ‘Fourth Element’. I have been hearing about this newly emerged rock outfit led by senior musicians of Shillong for quite some time now, but this was the first time that I saw them perform at our own backyard. Led by Ribor on the keys, Sam on the drums, Bassist Larry and the young Sarah Lee on the vocals, the group performed a captivating set of their own compositions. Playing a mixture of Blues and jazz, this band surely holds a lot of promise. It was then the turn of the Shillong-based ‘Voices’, famous for its voice modulation techniques. Led by talented singers Max and Ronnie, they began with Lenon’s popular Something in the way she moves. They also performed their hit original Voices. The highlight of their performance would undoubtedly be their rendition of the number This boy, which also saw Guwahati boy Bulbul accompanying them on the bass guitar. Dhruva finally took over the stage and as he sang the opening verses of Imagine, the assembled chairs soon gave way as the crowd jostled for space to wave their hands up in the air. I should make special mention of talented Shillong-based RJ-cum-musician Wari and Guwahati-based musician Rittick Phukan who performed as guest artists that evening. An impressive end to a memorable evening.

From the underlying mood prevalent throughout, it was evident that John Lenon was sorely missed in Guwahati last Saturday. But I would like to tell his fans that he was as many times present — evoked by all of us, who find ourselves and each other in the music he made and the vision that he articulated and tried to make real.


About Aiyushman Dutta

Who am I? Yet to find the answer. For the time being, u can call me a writer, maybe a journalist and a music entrepreneur or an errand boy! Whatever suits your fancy!

Posted on January 15, 2010, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day, Musicians/ Bands and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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