Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

Majaw aa gaya


Artiste: Lou Majaw & Friends

Venue and date: Blue Frog Mumbai, May 31 2012

Genre: Rock, folk-rock

Rating: ****

FOR those who don’t follow Hindi, the headline is a pun on the sentence ‘Majaa aa gaya’, which means ‘We had fun’. Surely, those who attended Lou Majaw’s concert at Mumbai’s Blue Frog on May 31 returned home with a similar sentiment. As expected, the gig was brilliant, and what’s more, Majaw was performing in Mumbai after a long time.

Based in the north-east Indian city of Shillong, Majaw is one of India’s most-respected and talented rock musicians. He’s been on the scene since the mid-60s, and has gained a reputation of being a Dylan specialist, as his concerts are filled with the folk-rock hero’s songs. From 1972 onwards, he has held an annual festival to celebrate Dylan’s birthday on May 24, thus attracting a lot of Indian and international attention.

Now at 64-plus, Majaw exudes the energy of a 30-year-old. He always wears shorts and T-shirts, and with his long hair which has now thinned a bit and greyed, looks every bit a rock star. On stage, he moves like one too, swinging like a cross between Chuck Berry and Mick Jagger. When he sings or plays his guitar, you’re amazed that he’s self-taught.

On Thursday night, Majaw began with a few solo numbers, including the folk anthem ‘500 Miles’ and Pete Seeger’s ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’. Then, his band came along, and a majority of what followed was vintage Dylan. Over the next two hours — 10-minute break included —he played classic Dylan tracks like ‘Is Your Love In Vain?’, ‘License to Kill’, ‘Lay Lady Lay’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘Blowing In The Wind’, ‘Forever Young’, ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’, ‘Just Like A Woman’, ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ and ‘Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35’.

Accompanied by his tight lead guitar-bass-drums band, Majaw improvised on many songs, adding bluesier or peppier solos. Guitarist Barry was a treat to hear, and had some fantastic riffs through the show, including on some non-Dylan fare.

Having seen Majaw a few times in more open Bangalore venues, one felt the raised Blue Frog stage restricted his movements a bit — he couldn’t come into the crowd, like he’d have loved to do. Moreover, a fever may have prevented him from taking off his shirt in typical fashion.

The audience, too, was much lesser than one expected. It wasn’t spilling over the sides, as one witnessed when Indian Ocean, Advaita or Swarathma played at the same place. But that’s probably because those bands have younger audiences, who may not really be into Dylan or old-time Indian rock heroes. For whatever reasons, even the pre-event buzz seemed inadequate — the huge vinyl near the entrance mentioned all programmes of the week, except  this one.

The previous time Majaw was in Mumbai, he received the Jack Daniels-Rolling Stone India ‘Years Of Excellence’ award. For someone who’s been at the forefront of Indian rock music for over four decades, that was a well-deserved recognition. Hopefully, he’ll perform in the city regularly from now on. To return to the headline, Mumbai-ites would be definitely happy to say ‘Majaw aa gaya’ (Majaw has come) more often.

RATING: * Terrible; ** Hmmm… okay; *** Decent: **** Super; ***** Simply out of the world


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