Shillong gears up for annual Bob Dylan fest

Lou Majaw and the Bad Monkeys to perform in Kolkata and Shillong

Come May and the quaint little man in the hill town of Shillong gets ready to pay his yearly obeisance to his idol. Yes, I am talking about the annual Bob Dylan fest in Shillong, led by Khasi guitarist singer Lou Majaw, which over the years has evolved to become a major one-of-its-kind festival in the world. The scene is no different this year and grey haired Lou is once again seen bustling around town, making last minute preparations for his annual tribute.

For the unacquainted, the Bob Dylan tribute fest has been carried out in Shillong on a yearly basis by Lou Majaw – one of the legendry troubadour’s greatest fans in this part of the world. Having begun on May 24, 1972, the fest – one of the numerous Bob Dylan tribute fests all across the world – has continued for almost four decades now. A selective and most devoted group of people, from Mumbai, Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Guwahati and other parts of the North–east region and of course Shillong, gather in Shillong every year to take part in the fest.

The Bob Dylan fest in Shillong cannot be said to be a concert. It is more of a sort of a ritual, yet an unobtrusive one. Though when you compare it with the famed unfussy love of Shillongites for western music, you do tend to feel that it is almost insignificant. But still the Dylan fest is carried out every year in this quaint little town led by the same grinning old man who is part of the lives of every Shillongite. Lou is usually accompanied by the Ace of Spades – which is made up of Lou Majaw on vocals and guitar, accompanied by fellow Dylanites Lew Hilt on bass, Nondon Bagchi on drums.

Very often, the show starts with Majaw playing a couple of solo tracks – Tambourine Man or Buckets of rain – and the band join in shortly. This is the listening part of the show as the audience’s eyes are locked and riveted on Majaw as he sings the gospel… according to Bob. Though this festival has become highly popular and is one of the most highly regarded among all the Bob Dylan tribute festivals of the world, the monotonous nature of the festival never ceases to amaze me.

Bob Dylan is a man who changed people looked at things. Taking the form of story – telling from folk music and the blues, Dylan changed the way popular music would be written. Besides his seemingly effortless genius with lyrics, he has been and continues to be a musical stylist constantly evolving a sound that is his own. As such, the contained ambition of his fans in Shillong – some of whom don’t really know his music but get enveloped by its energy – is something truly remarkable and which is, I believe, the hallmark of the entire Bob Dylan fest. For despite the fact that their actions do not match the ideals for which Dylan really stood for, the power and depth in the tribute cannot fail to move you, to teach you something.

My personal opinions notwithstanding, the Dylan tribute fest in Shillong remains an yearly pilgrimage for all music lovers that ought not to be missed. This time around, Lou will be accompanied by the Bad Monkeys – a highly progressive three-piece instrumental outfit based in Shillong. Made up of Rangdap on Guitar, Gideon on Bass and Noel on Drums, the Bad Monkeys started off as ‘Rangdap’ – a solo project with most compositions by Rangdap himself and Gideon on the Bass. The band released their debut album ‘MAMA’S BOY’ in 2008. Later Noel joined in for the Drums and percussion. With the new line up, the band’s music has opened up to an entirely new horizon that also has a bit of humour and soul into it. The band is presently in the studios recording for their second album, Beyond the fence.

The festival will kick off in Some Place Else (SPE) of Hotel Park at 10 pm today evening. The first phase of the celebrations in Shillong will be organized on Monday (May 24) at Pearly Dew Secondary School in Jaiaw at 2 pm in the afternoon. The fest will then move on to Khyndailad (Police Bazaar). So if you are not in Kolkata today evening, be sure to make it to Shillong this Monday!

LOU ONE-LINER: “There is no such thing as an old song. When you play a song, add some life in it, so the song will breath a new life.”


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 May 21, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Awesome write up man…very well written. I m from Shillong but unfortunately will miss this year’s Dylan fest cause m in delhi…ne ways great job man….spread the word…AND MY HOMAGES TO THE GREAT BOB DYLAN…

    Rock Rules man
    N Shillong Rocks…

    CHEERS !!!!

  2. Ever since I learned of this yearly festival, and seen the passion that goes behind it, it has been a dream of mine to see if Dylan himself will come and bless Shillong. I’ve been trying, and hope to see this dream a reality some day!…

    Best wishes to all of you in Shillong…

    Abe Thomas
    Director Business Development
    Thomas Music Corporation
    Instrumental in Music Education
    ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫
    “To pass through life and miss this music is to miss
    out on one of the best things about living.”
    Art Blakey
    ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫

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