Music proves strong unifier for Konkanis

| 14 February 2002 23:28 IST

They excelled at national and international level and hypnotised the music lovers in nook and corner of the universe, but came back to their motherland – Goa – to find their roots.

The first historic all-India Konkani Sangeet Sammelan could be thus called quite a success if the organisers – Konkani Bhasha Mandal – wanted to achieve just that.

May it be Padmavibhushan recipient and ‘hard-core’ Indian classical vocalist Dr Kishori Amonkar or Remo Fernandes, the Indian pop singer known for his heart-throbbing fusion of Indian and western, they had something common to share at the Sammelan, in spite of their diverse musicologies.

Konkani music; it’s running in our blood veins, said every musician, singer, composer or a layman listener who gathered at ‘Gantapaswini’ Mogubai Kurdikar Nagar in Margao, the south Goa capital, for the two-day fiesta held on 9-10 February.

"Music is such a power which can eliminate all kind boundaries and barriers and bring together the people with a feeling of oneness. The Konkani music festival has achieved it", says Jose Lawrenco, the joint secretary, proudly.

The Konkani community, for generations together, is divided into four states of Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra due to historical factors like Portuguese aggression in 1510, when thousands ran away to save their culture.

Even after India’s independence, for ‘better prospects’, thousands more migrated to places like Mumbai and even Africa, UK, Australia, Canada and Portugal. Goa however got liberated only in 1961.

On the other hand, the 450-year religious Portuguese rule left the local community, within Goa, divided between religions, linguistic scripts and even the lifestyles. Even majority Hindu community has remained divided for over four decades, on linguistic grounds, with quite a few calling Konkani a dialect of Marathi and showing allegiance to Maharashtra and Marathi culture.

"Cutting across all these lines, we have succeeded in bringing the divided lot together. The cords of Konkani music, deep rooted in our hearts, played the wonder", says Shridhar Kamat, a poet.

It was just not a musical fiesta but confluence of all the Konkanis, spread out in different directions, but serving the music. "The inherent beauty of this beautiful motherland of mine has made by music full with emotions and sentiments", admitted voice-choked Kishoritai, after inaugurating the fiesta.

In fact, the fusion of all the musical trends right from Lisboa having Portuguese influence to Indian classical, blended with folk tunes and popular Konkani songs of the recently concluded century, presented by Fr Peter Cardoz as the welcome song, said it all.

"It was a statement made to conceptualise the music festival, with a difference", states Saish Palondikar, the programme co-ordinator. As a result of tireless efforts of his team of young brigade for the last three months, the youngs and elders – with the kids – literally flocked to the artistically decorated pandal to respond to the music close to their hearts.

Thus came down Pt. Prabhakar Karekar, Pt Ajit Kadkade and Usha Amonkar from Mumbai to present semi-classical Konkani songs and Wilfy Remimbus and Eric Ozario from Mangalore, to remind the Goans about their pre-Portuguese culture they had preserved by running away to Karnataka after Inquisition – the cultural aggression.

The real surprise for the thousands of music lovers gathered there were Konkani-speaking Siddis from Karnataka, of African origin, who played traditional ‘ghumat’ (earthen percussion instrument with skin on one side and a small hole on the other), along with ‘shemell’ (a wooden skin-covered instrument to be played with two thin sticks) and ‘kansall’ (two metallic round-shaped instruments).

Inspired with these traditional instruments of Goa, even Remo suspended all his musicians on the band and enthralled the audience for 45 minutes with Konkani vocals and playing of flute and guitar, but only with these traditional instruments – an experiment in itself.

Large number of classical-listening Hindu community, who never enters the hall playing ‘tiatr’ (traditional theatre of Christians), thoroughly enjoyed melodious ‘kantaram’ (as they are called), may it by stalwarts like M Boyer, Remy Colaco and Antonette or the young Lulu recreating golden voice of bed-ridden Lorna.

Kishoritai gave a standing ovation when Emiliano D’Cruz played classical Konkani flavour on his little violin and enthralled the gathering.

With tears in his eyes, listening to this diverse music of one community, was 70-year old Anthony Gonsalves, who had introduced the concept of orchestra in Bollywood and has played with music maestroes like Naushad, Khaiyam, C Ramchandra, S D Burman and even Laxmikant-Pyarelal, besides classical maestroes like Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chourasia.

The most ethnic among all, however, were the folk dances and songs from different tribes and communities – half of them are dying with younger generation shying away from it. On an open-air round stage with a bullock-car and haystack as a backdrop, the ethnicity of the folk touched the hearts of everybody, whose curiosity was the future of music for the organisers.

"This is just a beginning. We could claim its real success only when we form the Sangeet Natak Academy, document our musical traditions, research on it and recreate the Konkani music, which will shake up the whole musical world", states Damodar Mauzo, president of Konkani Bhasha Mandal.

The dream seems to be coming true as the stalwarts like Kishoritai and Remo as well as Dr Bhaskar Chandawarkar, a proud Konkani who is considered to be the Indian music scholar, have all blessed the project, with a sincere zeal to recreate Konkani music – an echo of their heart-beats.

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