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Shillong ready for musical combat against AIDS

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Shillong, (UNI): The Meghalaya capital is ready to turn its passion for western music into a tool to combat HIV/AIDS, as the city gears up to celebrate the 65th birthday celebration of legendary English musician Bob Dylan on May 24 with an array of programmes from rock shows to AIDS awareness campaigns.

Started in 1972 by a handful of music lovers, Dylan's birthday celebration would be into its 34th consecutive year in Shillong this year. Celebrated musician of the region Mr Lou Majaw and some of his friends conceptualised the idea of the celebration in the early 1970s.

It was a balmy spring day in 1972, when Mr Majaw and the late Eddie Rynjah cranked out a soulfully supercharged performance at the modest Assam Club here with a small gathering of music aficionados.

The event, titled 'Folklore: Phase One', showcased folk music with Dylan as the central theme.

Thirty-four years have passed and 59-year old Mr Majaw is all set to rock the show once again on May 24 at a performance that he calls a 'celebration' and not a 'concert'.

However, the most significant feature in this year's celebrations would be an effort to spread awareness against the menace of HIV/AIDS through music.

Mr Majaw and socio-cultural organisation Great Society, with support from the UN agency UNAIDS, would join hands with NGO 'Maitri', working here to spread awareness about the dreaded disease.

Other artists to perform at the celebration include India-based English musician Liz Cotton, Delhi-based music director and guitarist Arjun Sen, musician and painter Lew Hilt, drummer Nondon Bagchi and the father-son duo of Anjan and Neel Dutt from Kolkata.

Some of the proceeds from the two-hour concert at the State Central Library Auditorium here would go towards setting up 'Matrigram' - a village for the care and support of children below the age of 10 who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. ''We want to reach out to the youth through music, as they make the best ambassadors. We have joined hands with the Great Society and Mr Majaw, as their spirit could be a guiding force in the war against AIDS,'' said Sanjay Sharma, director of 'Maitri'.

''We already have nine acres of land donated by a philanthropist for setting up the 'Matrigram'. We plan to have 22 children in the village by the end of this year,'' he said.

Nearly 1,000 audiences at the celebrations on May 24, however, would be treated to more than music. A panel of judges would decide a winner from the audiences at a ''Dylan Look Alike Contest''.

Besides, one of the lucky audiences sharing his or her birthday with Dylan would grab a watch from Longines.

''Special merchandise to commemorate Dylan's birthday celebration will also be available at the venue and at select outlets in the city. These would include T-shirts, sling bags, scarves, stickers, coasters, keychains, baseball caps and posters,'' said Sharma.

There would be something for each of the audiences, as the organisers will present ''goody bags'' to all present, he added.

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