For some, age is just a number.
For Shillong’s “godfather of original music”, Lou Majaw, age is an invitation for getting younger. The pioneering singer-songwriter is busy churning out album after album even though he’s well into his 70s.
In the last six years, he has released four albums, with the latest Matter of Respect, just a couple of months back.
Majaw is India’s first rockstar. With his band, The Great Society, he introduced eastern India to Rock n’ Roll, Reggae and the Blues since the ’70s.
Eventually, this band went onto becoming an institution that would inspire thousands to pick up the guitar and sing without a care in the world. His songs are simple takes on life, love and nature, but a deeper lesson will reveal to the listener that there is much more than what meets the eye. They might also help the listener understand the man and his beautiful worldview.
Heavily inspired by Bob Dylan, he has been organising an annual concert on the troubadour’s birthday since 1972. Beyond the obvious joys of a concert, this also presents an opportunity for budding artists to test their mettle as Majaw is always overjoyed to see new people singing their own songs, and by extension, their lives.
What does Lou Majaw represent?
I’m a human being and a performing artist, nothing heavy duty. People put these tags of a rockstar, great musician etc, I’m not one of those things. I simply love what I do and I want to do what I love. In life, you gotta separate the wheat from the chaff – you look beyond the trees and see the forest.
What still keeps you going at this age?
For Lou Majaw, music is life. And music has no age barrier, or sex or anything. Music is sex in a way. Sex requires bodies, but music requires the meeting of souls.
I look at things from a simple view. When a person is alive, what is he doing with life? I am doing my thing. As for the music, I’m not a creator. Lou Majaw is a medium – it comes to me from up there and through me, it goes out to others.
You have championed English music in the hills? What does it feel like?
For most people, English music was a trend or a happening thing, but to me, it came and flowed easily. I come from an area where different people speaking different languages lived. So, English was the common language. Also, handling the guitar satisfies the soul, brings so much joy and hope. Without hope, what is life?
You have worked with so many people. Who are your favourite collaborators?
I wish I had the honour to work alongside more musicians. But undoubtedly, my favourite collaborators would be Master Arjun Sen – a fantastic human being and composer – and Sumith Ramachandran, a very gifted person.
Both of their outlook towards life is so human – they have no ego, no rockstar business.
I also have a lot of respect for Uday Benegal – he writes beautifully. I’ve seen him write from the ’80s when Rock Machine was the backing band for Gary Lawyer.
The kind of commitment that they had was really impressive. At the moment, there is a guitarist from neighbouring state Assam called Pankaj Das. When the pandemic gets over, we’ll sit together and see where it takes off from there.
Do you think the music has changed? What will you tell the youngsters?
What started with Blues, Jazz, Rock n’ Roll, was turned into varieties of rock like psychedelic, progressive, alternative and God knows what by the younger generations. At the end of the day, it’s music – it’s trying to rock n roll and sing the blues away.
Also, I’ve noticed a trend of young musicians calling themselves singer-songwriter-composer. Do they even know the meaning of these words? I wonder!
The only thing I can share with them is be true to yourself, be true to your art, respect the instrument you’re holding – it should be a part of your body. If you don’t take care of it, then who are you fooling?
**The interview has been taken and written by Shaswata Kundu Chaudhuri**