Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Goan music: a long, twisted, and often colourful road across time

Goan music: a long, twisted, and often colourful road across time

By Valmiki Faleiro valmikif at gmail.com
[First published in Herald, in 2008]

Among my many debts of gratitude, one I owe to Goan music. To
cantorists and lyricists of Konknni songs. To those who set
the verses to music, and produced a repertoire very dear to a
substantial segment of Goans. From old-world gramophone
records, transistor radio and the first cinema, it was the
music that took me to the songs. The songs then took me to
the lyrics.

That is how Konknni songs, among few other things like
Konknni-speaking friends -- and the ever witty, wise, and
often wacky, world of Konknni adages -- improved my otherwise
severely limited vocabulary of the mother tongue. To them all
who scripted, scored and sang all those great Konknni songs,
here is a humble salute.

I met Frank Fernand, producer of the everlasting
songs in his early-1960s films 'Amchem Noxib' and
'Nirmonn,' in the late 1970s. I carried his angst,
on the disdain of Goa's elite and government
towards Konknni, in a Sunday piece in the
Margao-based West Coast Times I was then with. He
introduced orchestral music to Konknni song and
adapted the Tiatro celluloid. To me, he's also the
greatest Konknni music composer.

Frank Fernandes -- born Curchorem, May 3, 1919-- played the
violin and trumpet like they were toys. He was maestro to
Bollywood greats like Shankar-Jaikishan and Kalyanji-Anandji.
He set the tunes of [the prominent Konkani films of the
yesteryears] Amchem Noxib and Nirmonn to musical magic. This
great son of Goa passed away in Mumbai, April 1, 2007.

My good neighbour and friend, Francisco C. Colaco, no less a
cardiologist than the singer he also is, opines that late
Chris Perry was the greatest. I have no problems. Both Dr.
Colaco and I were blessed to be born in an area, 100 metres
in radius, that gave birth to several Konknni greats (the
list is long, but allow me to mention a few):

Joao Agostinho Fernandes, Pai Tiatrist (father of the Tiatr).
Mestre Fancu of the Holy Spirit Church and its music school,
who spawned a generation of famous musicians. His
reconstructed house at Tepodi Pandd, leading to the house of
some Tepodd -- catch Margaoites nicknaming people charitably!
-- still stands, as does the original quaint residence of the
Pai Tiatrist at Modsai.

Roque Bernardo Barreto Miranda, scion of a great literary
family, kept Konknni traditions alive with his Enfiada de
Anexins Goêse (Imprensa Nacional 1931). Amazing that such a
tiny geographic area also produced the likes of Mestre Nunes
Fernandes and Anthony Mendes, to me the greatest Konknni
comedian. His role of compounder in the film Amchem Noxib is
yet unsurpassed. And, of course, Chris, Joe and Paul-Perry.

Another 100 metres from here, then tiny Pequeno Madel gave
Goa musicians of the meter of Mestre Agostinho Carvalho. Also
the much decorated singer-comedian, Manoel Santana Aguiar
(State Award-1985, Sangeet Natak Academy's-1995, and Padma
Shree in 2005 -- an award every decade!) Born in Madel, M.
Boyer settled in Santemol, Raia. His stage brother, the
unique Jacinto Vaz, Goa's own Charlie -- Sir Charles Spencer
-- Chaplin, came from Mandur, Tiswadi though.

I am under no illusions that any justice can be
done to the world of Konknni music within one or
even a series of newspaper articles. Permit me,
though, to reminisce a bit.

Half a century ago, when I was a child, Konknni was shunned
both in schools and in upper class homes. Konknni, our
identity and heritage, thrived on the laps of the red
lateritic soil of the central of Parashurama's seven
Konkanas. Our ancestors made that identity bud, bloom and
blossom. Konknni writers, musicians and songsters kept the
language going.

Some have chronicled Goa's film and stage music. Andrew Greno
Viegas, who fell to cancer at 40 last year, was among them.
Between his lab assistant's job, he collected memorabilia of
Konknni song, wrote, and brought out the book titled 50 Years
of Konknni Cinema (2000). He worked at building an
encyclopaedia of recorded Konknni music.

There is the almost self-effacing Bonaventure
D'Pietro of Anjuna. He not only writes copiously --
his Songit, Doulot Goenkaranchi (2004) is a
treasure -- but plays and produces Konknni music as

We have our own inimitable storyteller, Mario Cabral e Sá,
who, between his many books, edited Location Goa (2006).

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