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“The Indian army is also grabbing our land. This saddens me to my balls”

Lou Majaw gets together with ex Great Society bandmates for Mumbai show

Lalitha Suhasini May 31, 2012
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Lou Majaw. Photo: Kunal Kakodkar/Blue Frog

The 65-year-old enfant terrible from Shillong is known for his riotous stage act and Bob Dylan worship. Marching across the stage in denim hot pants and mismatched socks, Lou Majaw’s stage histrionics, including pulling out a toy gun and breaking it as an expression of non-violence, have often had us in splits. When we tell him this, he retorts with a snarky “Thank you, I didn’t know I was such a clown.” We caught up with Majaw ahead of his show in Mumbai for which he reunites with former Great Society bandmates Sam Shullai on drums and Ferdy Dkhar on bass. In an interview filled with third person references, Majaw proves that he’s a thorough entertainer off stage as well.

How do you prepare for your show Lou?

There’s no preparation. I play my guitar every day. I play it in the morning. The guitar is my partner; we sleep in the same bed. How else to put it?

 

 There’s no backstage ritual? No rolling or drinking?

I used to do all that. I’ve stopped all that. Only music gets me high now, so now we just get together and say “Let’s go have a good time.”

 

 You’ve been part of many bands ”“ The Great Society, Ace of Spades ”“  which one would you want to reunite if you could?

Well, I started the Great Society and Ace of Spades. Everything must pass. It didn’t turn out right. Two members of the band (The Great Society) ”“ Sam Shullai and Ferdy Dkhar ”“ have come back to Lou Majaw. So tonight’s show is almost like a reunion. Lou Majaw’s doors are always open. Lou Majaw never throws anyone out. You throw yourself out or kick your own ass.

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Yeah both Sam and Ferdy were in Soulmate.

Soulmate. They’re nice guys. But it’s sad that Sam was thrown out of the band. He’s such a fantastic drummer. Ferdy’s such a good bassist. That’s hurting me. I heard Soulmate two years ago in Guwahati at an event where I was invited as the chief guest. Rudy’s son was the new bassist. He’s nice but he’s not out to be a bassist. Everyone has their own chemistry and how to run things. I don’t deal by friendships or by being related to me. I deal by being related to the music.

 

There’s another new film documenting your life and work titled Guns and Guitars.

Yes, it’s by Bidyut Kotoky. I haven’t seen any bit of it yet. To tell you the truth, I haven’t seen Forever Young (Ranjan Palit’s 2008 documentary on Majaw) from beginning to end. Guns and guitars have a connection with the entire North East. People gunning for everyone all the time and people holding onto the guitar for sanity. In Shillong, everyone’s screaming their lungs out saying that Assam is encroaching upon our land. But we are so screwed up from the inside. The Indian army is also grabbing our land from within. But no one is bothered about it. This has been happening for many years. Pardon my language, but this saddens me to my balls. The army just grabs and grabs. Hundreds and thousands of acres of land have been grabbed.

 

The film also features other young bands in the North East. Why do so few bands get out and make it big?

They are trying to. They are just not making the right move. Everyone wants to be a champion immediately. A grandmaster like Viswanathan (Anand). They don’t know the rules. They don’t know the game.

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What are the rules of the game?

Determination, sincerity, love for music, hard work and discipline. Now everyone is smoking and drinking their ass off until 3am. They get on stage with a nasty head during sound check. Discipline is number 1 in every field. There is a system in every field. I’m no teacher. I’ve been through all that myself ”“ drinking and smoking like a moron. I always carry a baby chillum as an eye opener. Later on, I realised that my love for music is more than everything else.

 

Are there enough venues in Shillong to support music? I’ve only heard of Cloud 9.

Every Sunday there’s music at Café Shillong. The responsibility (of programming artists) has been given to Lou Majaw. So there’s always a guy or two singing, playing the guitar or violin instead of loitering and wasting their time. The artists get their meal and pocket money, but most importantly, they get to share their songs, hardship, pain and rainbows. There’s also Tango, which is a tiny, dingy space; Matter of Taste, an eatery; and Djabo, a pub ”“ all of these have some kind of support for bands. We’re also trying to have a regular music night every Friday at Cloud 9. I tried convincing government-run establishments like Pinewood Ashok to host weekend gigs during the off season and daily shows during Spring when tourists come in. I gave them the idea 20 years ago. They shelved it. What to do? Politicians turn to the left and smile and turn to the right to cry.

Lou Majaw & Friends perform at Blue Frog on May 31, 9 pm onwards. Entry Rs 300.

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