Iconoclasts, skedaddle or else you’ll get hopelessly pushed to the wall, even trampled upon for heresy. Ardent, die-hard admirers, say hello to eccentricity in its raw corporeal form – Mr. Zimmerman. The pianist you say? No for crying out loud! That’s sacrilegious! We meant Bob Dylan! The god, the legend, the transnational iconic idol whose poignant lyrics have brought listeners from all over the world to their knees from a sense of reverence for the man. Dylan’s repertoire spans folk songs, blues, rock, and his heavy, abstruse allegorical compositions.
Dylan’s lyrics drew on political, social, philosophical, and literary influences and flew in the face of pop music traditions of the 60’s. His music also struck the right note with a social and cultural mass movement in the US triggered by the Vietnam War, and some earlier events that galvanized sections of American society to band together to “stick it to the man”.
Enter Bob Dylan, the maverick formerly known as Robert Allen Zimmerman or simply Bobby Zimmerman.
Fast forward to today and we train our sights on a little known corner of the world where the maverick singer and songwriter is still revered like a deity – Northeast India.
Here, in the town of Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya, Dylan’s birthday is marked with an annual music festival where the faithful gather from all over, play his songs and, amid hysteria and high jinks, pay tribute to his musical genius. Lou Majaw, Shillong’s most venerated musician and devout Dylan fan has been organizing Dylan’s birthday celebrations since 1972. According to Majaw who was born into an impoverished family, Dylan’s stirring compositions gave his life new meaning. Hosting Dylan’s birthday in such a manner is Majaw’s way of paying obeisance to the maverick singer and songwriter. What Majaw started as a small private celebration with close friends in 1972, grew into an event that has been steadily drawing Dylan fans from all over the country. Such is Dylan mania here that in 2007, several hundred guitarists came together in an attempt to set a new record for the world’s largest guitar ensemble. On another occasion, the party converged on the busiest thoroughfare to pay tribute to Dylan’s musical genius making way every so often for cars to pass. Children too can’t remain on the sidelines and are swept up by the frenzy into busting out renditions of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.
Bob Dylan’s early bard and troubadour image thrown in with his later non-conformist and free-spirited notions have made him among the most enigmatic and mystical figures in popular Western music. The bard has regaled listeners across the world with songs like ‘All Along the Watchtower’, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, ‘The Times they are a Changin’’ and many, many more. His mesmerizing aura has earned him sobriquets such as The Voice of a Generation, The Voice of Protest, or simply, The Bard.
No factoid this – besides his storied contributions to popular music and songwriting, The Bard is credited with introducing the Fab Four to Mary Jane aka marijuana at a party in New York’s Delmonico Hotel!
Now, we’re just hoping he undertakes a pilgrimage to his own shrine in North East India.