“IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP, IF YOU WANNA ROCK N ROLL”-AC/DC
In India, Whenever we hear that quote, the only state that comes to our mind is Shillong even if the music scene of states like Bangalore and Mumbai have created a hub of musicians and genres flourishing each day at a higher rate. Shillong’s Polo ground have been famous for witnessing some of the best rock concerts in the state. And, also the Pub scene of the state is a hype. But why Shillong? What makes it so special for the musicians of North East region of India, India as a whole and the overseas? What pulls them here a lot? Did Shillong really reinvented the good ole term “sex, drugs and rock n roll”?
And most importantly, Why Shillong is only seen as the utmost land of opportunity for the aspiring musicians from North East and why Rock n roll is prevailing prominently here? Contrary to the popular belief, back in the 90’s or so, Shillong crowd opted to see two artists from the international circuit to play here, they were the American rock band Guns N’ Roses and the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Also, a major credit that goes for shaping the musical demography of Shillong is obviously Mr. Lou Majaw, when he initiated this tradition of celebrating the life and music of Bob Dylan each year during Bob Dylan’s birthday where he plays the most popular songs of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and his original compositions.
Also, the most prominent pioneers of Shillong’s Rock n Roll culture is definitely the band Soulmate, when they popularized Blues rock into the region. But they were not only popular in Meghalaya but in India as a whole and is one of the oldest bands from the region to perform at international stages.
Other international rock artists to grace Shillong’s gig circuit were German Hard Rock band
Scorpions during their Humanity:-Hr. 1 album tour in 2008, American Death metallers Dying Fetus during their Reign Supreme album tour in 2012 at the fest called Rain Revolt, along with American alternative rock band Hoobastank playing at Polo Ground the same year, Megadeth at Nh7 weekender 2015, Steven Wilson in 2016, Switchfoot in 2017, Karnivool in 2019, Defeated Sanity, Dehydrated, Skinned and the likes have also graced Shillong’s gig culture, even Eric Martin of Mr. Big and also, Slash from Guns N’ Roses were to be played here. Yes, Shillong loves their metal raw and extreme or powerful and melodic. That’s the beauty of it.
Also Shillong is not void of underground metal bands, from Plague to Dymbur, Shillong has had home grown Rock n metal bands of its own. And some of them also had the opportunity to represent India overseas, known being Soulmate and Plague Throat.
But why Shillong is called the Rock capital of India and not Bangalore? Because Shillong is already known as the Scotland of the East, and Scottish people used to value their own art and culture in the 18th Century, likewise Shillong have always given priority to its rich culture, heritage, art, tradition, folklore and urban and sub urban lifestyle. It might come as a surprise that the current Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Mr. Conrad Sangma is himself is a rock music enthusiast and the Shillong government once sponsored the band Plague Throat during their tour of Wacken Open Air at Germany. Yes, Shillong breathes Rock n’ Roll and this is why it is the rock capital of India.
Also, In Shillong, from a cabbie to a shop vendor, everyone is akin to be playing oldies by Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. Local radio there often hosts live session with their home bands and plays their music to uplift and encourage them. Shillong’s Doordarsan network have also been credited for telecasting music by their bands and interviewing them and not just that, they have also given platform to the other musicians from North East India.
I guess this the one of the reason why most gig organizers opts for Shillong to host a music fest with bigger bands and artists from rock n roll genres itself.
But rock is not the only music prevalent here, other genres like folk, jazz, pop, rap, hip hop, rnb, and traditional Khasi music is also getting a revival now in Shillong and other parts of Meghalaya along with EDM, ever Since Nh7 Weekender was brought to Shillong in 2015. And this year Nh7 Weekender even hosted live art and Stand Up comedy. So yes, Shillong is indeed a hub of rich art and culture and such inspiration should be taken by Assam also and other parts of India, people shall never leave roots behind and only gets attracted to what is into trend more. If I were to say, Shillong Chamber Choire is a musical group that performs in traditional attire
more often, Lou Majaw is seen in his extravagant look with a pair of beach wear shorts, slippers, ripped sleeved t shirt and his signature Satchel and a rusty looking guitar, and members of Soulmates flaunts their gypsy look more often, that’s their mantra of fashion and music, it’s not about trend but tradition and roots, which most musicians today tends to forget. Also, if we were to say Shillong’s tourism business and travel trend have also been boosted up for things like good food, good people, good culture, good ambience, good herb and good music itself. Shillong sets that sort of example itself, which is why it is the Land of opportunity or more likely a cloud of opportunity itself for the aspiring artists from India. Bands and crowd here gets accommodated and treated like a respectful guest in the lieu of, “Atithi Devo Bhaba”, Think of a big concert here and the organizer would spend all the effort and money to see their guests happy. However, there is a blind notion that Shillong’s music is more like the rave culture of Goa, but this is nowhere true, they have strict rules for booze and drugs here at pub gigs or an open concert and the places are well secured. So yeah, visit Shillong once and experience it’s craze for all things rock n roll and you will have a great time.