Lou Majaw: India's Very Own Bob Dylan

© Art Collide/YouTube
© Art Collide/YouTube
Photo of Ujwal Dey
27 July 2016

At the ripe age of 69, Lou Majaw is a living rock ‘n’ roll legend in India, having completed 51 years in the music industry this year. Yet in Lou’s own words, ‘He has not just been there and done that but is still doing it and always will.’ This is his story.

Lou Majaw! You mean India’s Bob Dylan?’ Yes, that is how Lou would best be described. Ask any seasoned aficionado of Western or Indian rock, from India, and the chances are that this is what they will tell you of Lou Majaw.

Lou was born in Shillong, the capital of the state Meghalaya, known as the Abode of the Clouds, in 1947, in India’s northeast. Since childhood, music spoke to Lou in a way nothing else did. Lou’s intense love for music was kindled while in school where he played a variety of instruments for the school band. His search for a better life took him from Shillong to Kolkata in his youth, where he shuffled many an odd job to support his dreams of being a musician. He sang for a number of local bands at pubs and weddings, performing covers of great rock ‘n’ roll artists from the ’60s. He honed his skills as a performer and took all of what he had learned in Kolkata back home to Shillong’s fast booming music scene. Kolkata had taught him lessons not only of music and performance but also of life.

There were a lot of novel sounds and styles evolving during the ’60s and early ’70s. Lou was inspired by the new sounds of the biggest musicians and bands of that era such as Cliff Richards, the Beatles, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones. This reflected in his writing and in the music of the bands he subsequently fronted on his return to Shillong, such as the Autumn Dogs, Super Sound Factory, and The Fentones, amongst many others. By this time, Lou’s bands had moved beyond performing covers of popular rock songs and ballads to original material which stayed true to his rock ‘n’ roll spirit. Some of Lou’s most recognizable music has been created with his bands Little Richard and The Small Frys, Oracle Bones, The Great Society, Ace of Spades, and Lou Majaw and Friends.

Lou’s music evolved to take a variety of forms such as classic rock, blues, reggae, etc. while maintaining its rock ‘n’ roll roots. However, it was Bob Dylan and his music which came to define Lou Majaw the most. Lou first heard Bob Dylan’s ballads over 40 years ago as a youngster in Kolkata, and their effect on Lou’s life was hugely transformational. Dylan’s music left a marked impression on Majaw. On the 24th of May (Dylan’s birthday) 1972, Lou organized a concert in Shillong where his band the Ace of Spades performed covers of Dylan’s songs as a tribute to Dylan and his body of music. A tradition was, thus, born which has become an annual homage to this day.

With his silver mane and easygoing charm coupled with that rock ‘n’ roll swagger, Lou is easily recognizable wherever he plays. When he is not serenading the crowd, strumming his very own acoustic ballads or those of Dylan’s, he is an artist transformed. Lou’s oft-seen singing style of strutting about with maximum energy in shorts on stage is most reminiscent of the legendary Australian band ACDC’s former vocalist, Brian Johnson.

Lou Majaw made it his mission to bring Dylan’s music to as many people as possible, and with the success, longevity, and acclaim his Dylan tribute concert has earned over the decades, you could say he has achieved that! Lou’s musical legend will exist beyond his tributes to Dylan’s music. He has made his mark as one of the biggest performers to ever come out from India’s northeast.

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