Democracy, Gandhi on U2's mind ahead of India gig
- The concert in Mumbai on 15 December marks the final stop on the Irish rock band’s Joshua Tree tour
- Gandhi and his principles of non-violence are an important pillar of what our band stands for, says U2
New York: The first time he travelled to India, says U2 frontman Bono, he was on a literary journey, reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. He’s making an actual trip now, for U2’s maiden India concert—with thoughtful observations that could have been plucked out of Rushdie’s playbook.
“You get the sense it’s a cauldron of ideas, an anarchical and entrepreneurial culture," says Bono.
Bono, Rock’s do-gooder-in-chief, is perched on a caramel leather sofa alongside lead guitarist The Edge, in New York City’s Electric Lady Studios, to talk about the 15 December concert.
The show at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Mumbai marks the final stop on U2’s Joshua Tree tour after other Asian cities such as Seoul, Manila and Singapore. “The concert will bring the curtains down on a 32-year-old album that has travelled the world," says Ashish Hemrajani, founder and chief executive of BookMyShow, the entertainment platform responsible for bringing U2 to India. “It will be nothing short of historic."
The set list will pay homage to the eponymous Grammy Award-winning 1987 album, often credited with the Irish rock band’s stratospheric ascent. “There’s a whole Irish-India connection," Bono explains, underscoring a relationship that dates back to Mahatma Gandhi. “And our current Prime Minister... his father’s from Mumbai".
“We’ve looked towards Gandhi and his principles of non-violence as an important pillar of what our band stands for," says The Edge. “We’re also fascinated by the country’s combination of the very ancient and the super-modern."
Bono describes The Joshua Tree as an album dedicated to the landscape of America, a mythological America. “Because it’s not just a country, it’s an idea. Just like India is an idea—it’s the largest democracy on earth and it’s a stupendous, awe-inspiring achievement. You can see democracy shrinking as a force all over the world, but in India, no... But India needs to be careful. Because democracy is something we should never take for granted."
The Edge adds, “The questions that we’re asking in the album are still important questions to answer now. The principles our band has kind of always believed in—human rights, justice issues, pluralism—are somewhat under threat."
There’s also a tangible link between India and Bono’s campaign for people with HIV/AIDS to have access to antiretroviral drugs—India is the chief producer of cheap generic versions of these lifesaving medicines.
Ultimately, to invoke that famed quest from The Joshua Tree album, U2’s long-awaited trip to India might just help the music legends find what they’re looking for.
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