British Singer, Konkani Song
Peter Barnett, a professional British singer, takes Goa by storm as he croons in Konkani.
IMAGINE THE surprise of audiences in Goa when Peter Barnett went up on stage and sang in perfect Konkani! Peter Barnett, 45, who returned to Britain from a holiday in Goa in June, said: “I was invited by a friend – whom I met and worked with on P&O Cruises – to sing two songs in the Konkani language in the tiatr ‘Mogachi Maim’.” Tiatr is the most popular and commercially successful form of Konkani drama. The performance was in the south Goa town of Margao, and perhaps made him the first European to sing on the Konkani stage in Goa.
“The audience response was initially one of surprise. Some probably came as they saw the adverts in the local papers but didn’t believe a European could do such a thing. They were wonderfully friendly and called me back on stage again and again,” Barnett said. “There was initial curiosity, studying my every word. Then came my realisation that they understood everything I was singing, and great warmth and instant acceptance. This was followed by massive support and appreciation, and the encores I had to do. It was a fabulous experience after I learned to speak some basic Konkani working on ships over the past seven years,” he said.
“My experience before the show was probably the most nervous I have ever been before any performance in my life. Goan dramas are also very lengthy,” said Barnett. As a singer, he worked for P&O Cruises and made friends with many Goans, who work on international cruise liners in large numbers. Having an interest in languages, Barnett said he learnt “basic Konkani from the boys on the ship. I would say that I have a basic knowledge of the language, so probably know only about 30 per cent (of the language).” For the drama, the first song was written for him by the play’s director with whom he had worked on board a ship. The second song was ‘Pisso’, made famous by Goa’s nightingale, singer Lorna. He worked on songs from February till April on board the ship itself. “I think it was a great idea on the part of (director) Joaquim Jack as we made a little bit of Goan history there in that GVM theatre in Margao. The other artistes were so welcoming and presented me with a lovely award to mark the achievement,” recalled Barnett.
He said he is now auditioning in London to get into one of the big musical theatre shows or a tour. “The most difficult part of learning the songs was some of the nasal sounds that we don’t have in the English language and sometimes Joaquim would keep repeating the word. At times, very frustrating! The easiest part was singing ‘Pisso’ as I have been a Lorna fan for years and learned that song back in 1999,” said Barnett. Barnett started his singing career in a close harmony group in Britain. “I went to dancing school when I was younger, but concentrated more on the singing. I have done a little bit of TV work and two films, but I love singing live on stage best of all.” And he loves Goa too. “I first went to Goa on holiday in 2000 and stayed for two months. I had a wonderful time and met up with lots of friends from the ships I have worked on over the years. My favourite food is chicken xacuti (a spicy local dish) and a nice veg pulau,” he added with enthusiasm. “I would love to be in a Konkani film, as long as it is a singing role!”
The performance was in the south Goa town of Margao, and perhaps made Barnett the first European to sing on the Konkani stage in Goa