New Delhi Preps Multi-Genre Tribute to Bob Dylan This Week
Afro-beat band 4-AF, singer-songwriter Amartya Ghosh and jazz veteran Sentirenla Lucia will pay homage to the Nobel Laureate on his 77th birthday
When it comes to celebrating Bob Dylan’s birthday in India, Shillong musician Lou Majaw has been at it since 1972 in his hometown, inviting musicians from around the country for an annual gathering. On May 24th, New Delhi’s musicians also have more than just a tribute gig in mind to honor one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time.
Sharif Rangnekar, the frontman of New Delhi’s socially-conscious rock band Friends of Linger, is bringing together cohorts from Kolkata, London and the capital’s diverse talent for a night that goes from acoustic sets to a complete band jam session and conversations about Dylan’s works. Rangnekar, who also works with co-organizers Embrace: Music Justice Arts, says, “I used to quote Dylan in articles on business and economics whilst a journalist. I now quote him on human rights and anti-war. What is exciting though is that this is probably the first time that Delhi will witness an evening celebrating the man on his birthday.”
While Rangnekar is bringing out songs like “With God On Your Side” and “I Shall Be Released,” the Dylan birthday gig also includes African band 4-AF, singer-songwriter Amartya Ghosh, Kolkata folk singer Arko Mukerjee, soul singer-songwriter Sumit Sadawarti, London-bred bassist and journalist Dipankar De Sarkar and R&B/soul singer and teacher Sentirenla Lucia.
For 4-AF, which comprises members mainly from Congo, frontman Johny Kunduku says there’s a bit of improvisation in store. “We like to bring in variations to whatever we sing and do that live, at the moment or even when we jam. So probably a song like ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ which is around three minutes, may stretch to five or seven minutes with the kind of sounds we like to bring through our harmonies and instrumentation.”
Quintessential for singer-songwriters, Dylan found reluctant fans in the likes of Amartya Ghosh and Sentirenla Lucia. Ghosh, who will perform some of the best-known tracks like “Mr. Tambourine Man,” agrees that Dylan’s influence is inescapable. “Dylan was my father’s weapon for his Sunday morning loudness-war with the neighbor. Although my first reaction to his voice was less than impressed, his music snuck up on me.” Lucia, who’s taking stage to perform songs like “Lay Lady Lay,” recalls how her cousin brothers would sing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” She says, “The fact is though as I got used to these tunes, I was never a fan of Dylan’s voice as a kid. But because my cousin’s kept singing his songs, my attention moved to his lyrics and we know how great they are.”
If there’s one thing worth praising Dylan for, Nobel prize notwithstanding, it’s the timelessness of the tunes. Ghosh says, “Now I’ve learnt Dylan is a 40-year-old’s time machine; a 10-year-old’s introduction to meaningful music; a 15-year-old’s attempt at being grown up, and a 20-year-old’s translator to the world.”