Remo plays the wonder, with traditionals

| 15 February 2002 23:27 IST

Over 5000-strong crowd was waiting for him, impatiently… eagerly… curiously...

Remo, the star of pop fans otherwise, had suddenly become attraction of every music lover, may it be a classical singer like Usha Amonkar or a layman, who had never heard Remo singing in his life.

They knew him as a pop star, singing English songs, playing ‘westernised’ band or nowadays it was Hamma Hamma or O Meri Munni. But the first All India Konkani Sangeet Sammelan was a much different occasion. Oh no, not because Goa’s international star was to sing Konkani songs. In fact he already had one Konkani album to his credit.

Remo was scheduled to perform at 10.30 pm on 10 February in the Mogubai Kurdikar Nagar of the two-day festival. The whole musical fiesta was delayed by over two hours. As she had to fly early morning for Mumbai, perhaps Indian classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar was the only one who decided to go to bed early, skipping the historic moment. But others waited, till 00.15 am, when Remo appeared on the stage.

Wearing a creamish kurta and a jacket over it, he entered, not with his regular band but four gentlemen, wearing dhoti, kurta, jacket and the mundashe (towel wrapped in traditional style around their head). They sat down on the ground – one with traditional ghumat (earthen pot with skin on one side and hole on the other), shemell (wooden instrument with skin over it, to be played with two sticks), kansalle (two metallic round-shaped disks) and tabla.

Ending the suspense he had built over a week with a pre-announcement of his unique performance, Remo picked up his flute and started playing it on the beats of ghumat, shemell and kansalle. The whole crowd was hypnotically listening to it, with total silence, only to respond with thunderous applause a minute after he stopped playing.

He then pulled his guitar and tried out a Brazilian tune, blending it with traditional Konkani music. And then his Konkani songs! While he finished at 1 am, nobody was sitting or merely standing; whether the kids, young turks or the white-haired elders, all of them were dancing like mad…

Remo decided to play this wonder, only after attending the seventh Goa Yuva Mahotsav last month in Valpoi, in deep north of his motherland. It was a festival of performing art for the college students and youth, where he personally witnessed the ethnic folk songs, dances and the instruments they were playing. Getting charged with the whole atmosphere, he had played his flute on the beats of ghumat there for a while. That is the moment he decided to go ahead with this unique experiment, to perform at the national musical festival, going traditional.

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, after the most successful and widely acclaimed show in Margao at the festival, interviewed Remo Fernandes, the heart-throbbing pop star of the youngs, who had now also become talk of town for the elders. After his recent ‘spiritual’ album Beyond India, the creative artist appeared to be in altogether different mood. It seems something is in the making for the music lovers on the earth.

What was your experience at Yuva Mahotsav in Valpoi ?

It was a discovery of my own roots - much deeper than I'd known them before. This took me back to pre-Portuguese days, to rustic but fascinatingly beautiful and rich forms of music, song and dance I had never witnessed before. And in those roots I recognised the origins of the comparatively recent mando and the dulpod.

What inspired you to put up such an experiment ?

I've always enjoyed playing with folk musicians, in India or abroad. One of the rarest experiences I've had was playing with aboriginal Didgeridoo players in Australia. Of course, I had played with Goan folk musicians before, at the Zagor and at Sao Joao festival in my Siolim village. But here was my first opportunity to play with an ancient Goan folk troupe, which was already well organised and rehearsed into a tight combination, and which had ancient rhythms and patterns perfectly worked out. I could not dream of passing up such an opportunity! And I am really grateful to the Konkani Bhasha Mandal (organiser of the music festival) for providing me with it.

How did you experience it personally ?

Jamming on the spot with a new set of good musicians is a very exciting experience anyway. But add to that the emotional feeling of jamming with ancient Goan folk rhythms. The emotional aspect of performing this for an audience like the one at the Konkani Sangeet Sammelan, where there were revered intellectuals and writers and poets and painters and artists of all kinds, besides thousands of lay people (both Hindu and Christians) drawn together by nothing but their love of Goa and Konkani... it turned out to be one of the most exciting and satisfying on-stage experiences of my life!

What are the follow-up plans of the experiment ?

I have been very strongly inspired at these two functions (Yuva Mahotsav and Sangeet Sammelan), and very definite concrete plans have started taking shape in my mind. But I shall not talk about them until they are fully executed and completed.

What's your opinion of Konkani music ?

This question is very vast, because there are so very many different kinds and formats and periods of Konkani music... but I love them all, the way a child loves his mother's milk.

Do you plan to bring Konkani music in your future albums, more prominently ? (not merely out of love for Konkani etc but if you find it equally appealing)

Of course. I have always included Konkani songs in my albums and in my concerts, not because of a sense of 'duty' towards my mother-tongue, but because I genuinely feel that these songs are more than beautiful enough to be side by side with the best selections on a national and international level. And yes, I plan to release a purely Konkani album soon. In fact two of the songs are already half completed.

Indian classical vocalist Dr Kishori Amonkar, at the Konkani music festival, criticised the concept of fusion, calling it unnatural and unscientific. What are your comments on the concept of fusion ?

I have no wish to be drawn into a silly controversy over such things. Music is to be played and felt with your heart and soul and even body, not to be bisected and argued about through words and intellect. I love ALL kinds and forms of music - as long as it is inspired and comes straight from the heart. If she does not like fusion, that's entirely her choice.

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