Let the Lord reign in Nagaland
The financial capital of Nagaland, Dimapur, is burning and what better way to usher in peace other than music? It becomes all the more merrier when the music is about peace. Dimapur was the place to be on Thursday night, notwithstanding the volatile tension in the air, as hundreds of rock freaks braved the ongoing conflicts between the NSCN factions to listen to John Schlitt of Petra fame and his newly formed gospel rock band, Stonejava. John Schlitt and his boys had earlier performed in the capital town of Kohima before the Dimapur show.
John Schlitt is a story of inspiration in the Christian states and the Christian music industry. His story is about drugs and alcohol and how it pushed him to the brink of extinction before the Lord finally reached out to rescue him from the jaws of death. As a Christian artist, he staked his musical genius by taking ‘Petra’ to newer heights. And in 1995 and after 10 years as front man for Petra, John decided to venture forth with his first solo album, Shake. Amidst rumours of his leaving Petra, John made it pretty much clear, amidst increasing doubts, that he would not only remain with Petra, but that he was also fully capable of pursuing a solo career simultaneously – a feat no other lead singer in the Christian industry had ever attempted. John not only made the attempt – but he excelled at it. Now, after more than 10 years, John is back with his third solo album, The Grafting, which was released this year. The Grafting has elements of his rock roots, but concentrates as much on the lyrical content as the music, covering mature-themed topics such as adoption, divorce, third world children, and other issues in today’s adult world.
The DDSC stadium of Dimapur literally came alive with the powerful drum beats and flashy guitar riffs as John Schlitt performed live to quench the thirst of the music freaks present on the occasion and also give vent to their suppressed frustrations. Starting one hour late, not in the customary Indian fashion but due to the breaking down of the generator, the opening saw the screening of Petra’s acclaimed track, Save me, and everybody knew that the moment had indeed arrived. As it was in Kohima where the band performed earlier, a paramilitary unit, armed with rifles was kept ready in the stadium to quell any possible disturbance. However, John Schlitt and his boys still managed to treat the people of Dimapur to a rocking great time of praising the Lord. In the words of John Schlitt’s music director, Roger Woods, “These people are so gracious and yet so poor! I firmly believe that it is these people who finally get all the mansions and penthouses in heaven!”
More than the sheer joy of getting to see five thousand people get together in Dimapur to watch a rock concert, it is the degree of faith in the hearts of the audience that is remarkable. Stonejava too, deserves commendation for these guys took the pains to truck their gear all over the northeast in five big trucks on narrow dirt roads while running their entire paraphernalia from the power derived from huge generators! Given the worsening power scenario in Dimapur and Kohima, this is not surprising but it does take a lot of courage to visit a strife torn region and make use of one’s own resources to perform while not being entire surely whether the show will even be held. These guys did so though and they carried it off perfectly well. Stonejava topped off their set by playing Petra’s most widespread track, No doubt, which sent everyone in a tizzy. Though Creed was well and truly unleashed, it was Petra’s all time favourite, God is too big that caught everyone’s attention. There was a lot of head banging activity on stage and the situation got progressively worse in the mashpit, as the evening progressed. The performing artists were simply awestruck with the fervour of the music crazy Nagas, which can be gauged in the words of Roger Woods, “Dimapur was awesome, huge enthusiasm! We broke the band down on God Is Too Big and let the crowd sing the words alone; it was incredible! They all knew the words to almost every song! The sound was awesome!” Everybody wanted Schlitt to play some of those exclusive Petra tracks and so he did. And in between, the band also played some songs from their new album, The Grafting, which went down very well with the rock outfits.
The air in war ravaged Dimapur saw a speck of normalcy as the visiting band performed songs like Unfaithful, God is too big, Creed, Can’t get away and worship songs of the like of Blessed be the Lord and I am trading. However, the songs that really got the crowd rocking were undoubtedly, Just reach out, Beyond believe and No doubt. Dimapur needed a show like this and we hope that the process of peace, which has been started by John Schlitt and his boys, gathers momentum and normalcy returns to this strife torn land. And to finish off, just like John Schlitt did, I just pray that the Lord reigns in Nagaland.