A performer for over 30 years, Lou Majaw describes how he lives music.
The greatest tribute to a singer is living his music. Lou Majaw lives Bob Dylan's music. He was in the Capital recently to play Bob Dylan's songs at Haze Blues and Jazz Bar and for a performance at Delhi's Ramjas College, organised by the Youth Forum. With his unshackled grey hair he resembles a Native American shaman. But on stage he transforms into a quintessential rocker, with 30 years experience of strumming and rocking. Dressed in a snazzy red T-shirt, immodest blue shorts and chunky sneakers he discusses his music before his performance at Haze. "Blowing in the Wind, is not a song of the Century," he whispers surreptitiously, "It's the song of time." The imagery of songs like "Tambourine man", leave you with no place to turn." He was introduced to Dylan around 1965 when he was playing with a band "Oracle Bones" in Kolkata (then Calcutta). A friend brought a stack of flower-power records. "I heard Dylan for the first time, it blew my mind. It's so rich, you just open your eyes and fly." Belonging to Shillong, he has been organising a Bob Dylan concert annually on Dylan's Birthday, since 1972. It's his way of paying respect and sharing his love. For him sentiments prevail over gain. "May 24th has to be spent in Shillong," he insists, flashing a chipped tooth smile, even if it means declining a birthday invitation from Dylan himself!
"What about the more contemporary bands?" He sheepishly agrees with his idol, "The current bands are just fashionable and trendy. They're not musicians." While folk, country, blues, reggae, jazz live forever, current music just survives for a phase. He is unwavering in his loyalties and even about Dylan's "Modern Times" he comments, "Musically it's very rich, even if it doesn't have the imagery of `Tambourine Man'." He refuses to criticise Dylan and truly believes that the rasping texture adds refinement. He has written songs, as a member of Ace of Spades and Great Society. Asked about his own compositions, he says, "I wouldn't say, I am a song writer." With an earnestness that's hard to dismiss he says, "Deep inside I am a bit embarrassed about not being well educated. I dropped out of school," only to continue, "But I am the happiest guy in town." But he's a songwriter in his speech. He speaks of his past struggles in images. "I was lost in the highways. I wandered in the alleyways. But I thank god that I survived." Today he spreads Dylan's music in schools. His performance at Haze starts with just him. Strumming his guitar he envelops the bar with "Buckets of Rain". On request, the band (Arjun Sen, lead guitar, Lew Hilt, bass guitar and Sam Shullai, drums) joins him to belt out "Tambourine Man". He smiles in empathy at lines, "Let me forget about today until tomorrow." His capacity as a performer is evident, the stage is too small for him and he even chooses to weave in and out of the crowd. Departing, he signs off on an avuncular note, "You do what you must do and ya do it well."