Sunday, January 24, 2010

Music from the margin

(H Kerious with his grandson)

H Kerious Wahlang is a poet/ Khasi (folk) musician based out of Meghalaya. A self-taught musician, who makes his own musical instruments, Kerious stays in a village near Shillong. He has been on All India Radio since 1979. Kerious is okay with rock'n roll but wants people to listen to his music also.His voice is divine. His poetry beautiful. When we reached his home Kerious cancelled another appointment and stayed back for a recording/filming session. Kerious got emotional after his performace with the marangthin ( seen here in photograph) and broke down.

Making Music

(Lou Majaw/Shillong, January, 2010)
Anjum Hasan in her essay, Shillong, Bob Dylan and Cowboy Boots captures the spirit of music in Shillong and the magic, music and madness of Lou Majaw. " Shouldn't a singer who takes the risk of living entirely by an image of the 1960s western pop musician, who genuinely considers himself an artist, who displays a great deal of cheek and naughty humour, who sings with seductive charm, be the most sought after role model of Shillong's west-infatuated youth? But he isn't. His concerts are only attended by faithfuls, and are rarely sell-outs. I don't know how many young people would be able to identify his songs. He is recognised on the streets of Shillong less for his music, and more because he has great style......And the west is near, and yet so far. Bob Dylan could be a local hero, the way devotees sing happy birthday to him each year. But despite these birthday parties, he will never age. The words of his songs will remain frozen in memory, Cowboy Boots will do Dylan-voiced imitations every 24th of May, while all around him life in Shillong ebbs and flows to the rhythm of some other, less audible music."

True to his promise Lou Majaw, arrived with his six year old son. Majaw, in his signature shorts and shades walked in like a rock star. And without wasting any time started to sing. A self taught musician, he has been walking along the long and winding roads of Shillong for the last six decades, spreading the spirit of music
Shillong's western music soundscape and indeed India's has always had a definite space for Majaw. He started his career in Calcutta in the Sixties. Majaw shot into prominence with the Great Society, a seminal band that was formed in the late 70s. "I came across Bert Cooper. He was a drummer. There were two of us. Then I came across Arjun Sen. That's how the Great Society was formed. We made a contribution to the field of music, through poetry, music. that's it" But what would make a permanent impression on the rest of India, would be the Bob Dylan concerts Lou decided to organise in Shillong in 1972, to celebrate the birthday of Bod Dylan. Majaw's dream is to sing on stage one day with his son. His son is called Dylan.

Monday, January 18, 2010


(Manjula Rabha)
Photo@Arijit Sen-All Rights Reserved
(Birobala Rabha)
Photo@Arijit Sen-All Rights Reserved
These are some of the faces from Thakurbilla village. Post office: Borjhora in East Garo Hills. When iPods, LCD screens, Macbooks and Big Bazaars are ruling India, almost unknown to the rest of the country, some women in this village are slowely but surely fighting superstition, age old beliefs and witch-hunting and the brazen murders that take place in the name of witch-hunting. Leading the fight is Birobala Rabha. She is around 75. Birobala was one of the one thousand women nominated in a group for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. We visited her village for filming a report. There was warm food, adda, music and stories. In 2010, when urban educated India are immersed in the "art of living" , Birobala and her village appeared to be refreshingly, utterly, wonderfully resistant to regressive beliefs. Also with Birobala is Manjula Rabha. Manjula lost her mother to witch-hunting and she has given her life to this cause. She is also a poet.

Manipur: Schools reopened after 6 months. Government employees are now on strike in the state.