Pardon me, but I’m not a Bob Dylan fan. I mean I know he’s a musician and he won the Nobel peace prize in Literature, but that’s about it. I’ve barely even heard any of his songs.
But there’s a huge population in Shillong in the north eastern state of Meghalaya that is a crazy arse fan of Bob Dylan. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Shillong has come to be known as the rock capital of India. The city is host to some of the best music concerts in the country and internationally like NH 7 Weekender. More recently, Shillong gained popularity after the Hindi film ‘Rock On 2’ was shot here.
(L) Hand painted ceiling tiles at Dylan’s Cafe; (R) Bob Dylan mosaic portrait near the entrance
It was 24 May, and we had just arrived in Meghalaya, after a long drive from Guwahati. Our guide, Arham messaged us to meet him at the Dylan’s Cafe in the evening. It was Bob Dylan’s birthday and there was no better place to be than at a cafe built as a tribute to the musician. At that moment, we considered ourselves very lucky!
Bob Dylan may have never visited Meghalaya but his fans in Shillong couldn’t care less. They love their idol so much that on 24 May each year, they celebrate his birthday by organising gigs and performances by local artists. Lou Majaw is one such musician and a crazy Bob Dylan fan, who is locally known as Shillong’s Bob Dylan. 24 May has gained increasing popularity in Shillong over the years, so much so that music lovers from across India find their way into the city to be part of this unique gathering.
The cafe itself is relatively new, launched only in 2016. One could tell that the owners were crazy Dylan fans too. I mean everything about the place screamed Dylan – from photo frames to cushion covers, books, paintings and merchandise. The ceiling is a collage of personalised hand painted messages from visitors. A huge mosaic portrait of Bob Dylan adorned one side of the wall, while vinyl records hung from the ceiling along the stairway to the upper level. Make no mistake, this isn’t a pub. There are no DJs or exploding music. Just some passionate musicians performing live and a bunch of music buffs karaoking to Blowin in the wind and Mr Tambourine Man over beer.
And how was the food, you may ask? That was okay, but you’re not going there for the food, are you?
All things Dylan
Leaving you with a performance at the Dylan’s Cafe by a musician from Kolkata, who did a cover of ‘No women, No cry’ by Bob (not Dylan) Marley.
Good to know
Dylan’s Cafe timings
They are open from 11.30am to 10pm. Gigs mostly happen in the evening, 8pm onwards
Meal for two
1000 bucks with beer
Dylan’s Cafe address
Opposite St. Edmund’s School, Fruit Garden, Risa Colony, Shillong 793003, India
Where to stay in Shillong
We stayed one night at the Sha Ri Loum homestay in Shillong. A lovely bungalow property with spacious rooms and a resident cook. Another night, we stayed at Saw Aiom. Very peaceful location near a stadium which kinda makes the weather a bit chilly
Other posts from the Meghalaya series:
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