For Lou Majaw, the greatest day of his life was when his son, Little Dylan, was born in 2003. Until the Nobel happened for the idol he named his son after.
Majaw, 69, has been religiously celebrating Bob Dylan’s birthday in Shillong every year since 1972, the year the state of Meghalaya was carved out of Assam. His obsession with the American singer-songwriter earned him the nickname - Dylan of Shillong.
Majaw said the Nobel Prize for Literature going to Dylan was an indication, in the ‘Tambourine Man’s words’, that the times they are a-changin’.
“This is the greatest news on earth, man. And it calls for celebration,” he said.
Shillong would be hosting a two-day music festival from October 21. Dylan’s songs are not likely to be played out, though the Nobel Prize might lead to some last-minute changes.
But Majaw, who continues to “rock as hard as a teenager” in his sleeveless tees and frayed tight shorts, is expected to do what he has been doing every May 24 - honour Dylan on his birthday.
Celebrating Dylan’s birthday is Majaw’s way of saying thank you for giving direction to his music career. The Shillong-based rocker considered self as a strummer-screamer until he heard the seminal album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
The edgy, angry Dylan of the 1960s and 1970s reflected on the creations of Majaw’s erstwhile band that included songs like ‘Dance your ass off’.
Having grown up in a poor Khasi tribal family struggling to make ends meet, Majaw was inspired by Dylan’s earliest album to dream big.
His family had neither a radio nor a guitar. Young Lou listened to Bill Hailey and Elvis Presley on his friends’ radio and strummed the only guitar in school when it was his turn.
That was before he was ‘blown away’ by Dylan.
Majaw played with several rock groups and in bars in Calcutta, where he cleaned cars and did a porter’s job during the day. He returned to Shillong after making a name for himself in India’s western music circuit.
“Shillong, my little kingdom, makes me happy. But I will be happier if Dylan comes here someday, maybe to hear us sing him,” Majaw said, admitting the Dylan birthday show has been drawing in fewer people over the years.
But Shillong does have the Dylan fans. This is evident from the popularity of a café named after the legendary singer.
Dylan Café, opposite the landmark St Edmund’s School, was opened in January this year and is among very few themed tribute cafes’ in India.