Bob Dylan mania in India's northeast

Wed May 26, 2010 10:06am EDT
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By Rina Chandran

SHILLONG, India (Reuters) - To Bob. Wherever you are.

With those lines, Andrew, a popular musician in India's northeastern town of Shillong who goes by one name, kicked off an annual festival to commemorate Bob Dylan with a concert featuring the music icon's best offerings.

This year, a hundreds-strong crowd clapped, cheered and bobbed their heads as they sang along with bands and musicians who had come to mark Dylan's 69th birthday, which was on Monday.

Their loudest cheers were reserved for Shillong's best-known musician, Lou Majaw, who has organized Dylan's birthday celebrations since 1972 because, he said at that time, the musician's songs had given his life meaning.

Shillong is in a troubled region hit by a separatist insurgency waged by various groups, and Dylan's words against war resonate with many local inhabitants.

Majaw, a stocky 60-something, with silver hair of a length befitting a rock star, acknowledged the fans and bands, and summoned on stage an architect who had come from the southern city of Hyderabad.

Strumming on a guitar and playing the harmonica, Jasper Dasan showed no signs of nervousness as he did a rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind" against a giant poster that said: Bob Dylan's birthday celebrations #69.

"This was a real dream for me, to come to Shillong and sing at this festival," said Dasan, a silver-haired, bespectacled man.   Continued...

<p>Guitarists hold their guitars at a stadium in Shillong, the capital of India's northeastern state of Meghalya, October 26, 2007. Hundreds of guitarists played Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door" in India's remote northeastern hills on Friday, attempting to break the world record for the largest guitar ensemble. REUTERS/Utpal Baruah</p>