Remo... in search of Music with Soul !

| 13 December 2001 23:36 IST

emo Fernandes, one of the premier in Indian pop music, is still regaling the youngsters in the country and abroad, after his first album ‘Bombay City’ was released in 1987, almost a decade-and-a-half ago. Having born in Goa during the Portuguese regime, he was exposed from his childhood to Latin American, European and Indian music, the ingredients, which are found prominently in his music.

After having attended school in Goa and gaining degree of architecture in Mumbai, he hitch-hiked around eight European and North African countries during two and a half years with a tent, haversack and guitar, playing in underground stations and street corners and café terraces, imbibing cultures and musical styles. He then returned to roots and set up his own recording studio in his ancestral house in the picturesque village of Siolim, in North Goa, while performing all over India and abroad.

Besides being the highest record-selling Indian pop/rock artist in English with albums like "Politicians don't know how to rock'n'roll" and "Pack the Smack" etc, he also became popular among Hindi audience with his famous filmi songs like "Humma Humma", "O, Meri Munni" and "Pyaar to Hona Hi Thaa".

After himself scripting, directing, editing and producing his last pop music video "Cyber Viber", Remo has now developed a different kind of music, which he calls , the music of soul, releasing his album last week - ‘India Beyond’.

Remo performs on stage totally LIVE with his band, without any backing tracks and no lip sync. Besides composing the music, writing the lyrics, engineering the recordings and mixes, and designing the album covers, Remo plays all the instruments and sings all the voices in most of his albums.

After losing his four colleagues including three musicians last year on 18 September in a road accident, Remo appeared on stage only last month in Mumbai at Goa Festival. Following this, his soul-searching album also now contains two songs – ‘A Fishbowl called Life’ and ‘The Empty Stage’ - dedicated to his lost colleagues.

Though pop is primarily the music of body, Remo went beyond it, spreading social messages on drugs, AIDS, corruption, communalism, suppression of women, war and armament and other things. His latest album perhaps is an intense attempt to reach closer to human mind.

The album, interestingly, also contains four folk songs, sung by his Siolim village ladies, known as ‘fugdi’ in Konkani. goanews.com spoke in brief about Remo’s new attempt, which was experienced in Goa by several luminaries while his friend and famous fashion designer Wendell Rodricks unveiled his ethnic Goan collection ‘craftworks’. That is the way his album was released….

goanews : What prompted you to come out with this different kind of music ?

Remo : Ever since I released 'Bombay City' in 1987, a favourite question from journalists during interviews has been "what kind of music do you see yourself making 10 or 20 years from now?" I always answered that, besides rock and pop, I also had this very 'different kind of music' within me which I wanted to produce and release one day. Their next question would invariably be "When do you see yourself creating it?" My invariable answer was "when I'm too old to rock'n'roll."

goanews : Have you reached that age, you feel ?

Remo : Fortunately for me [and perhaps unfortunately for some listeners], I haven't outgrown rock'n'roll at all; and I guess I never will, because I have discovered that high-energy music is a life-time marriage with me, not just a youthful affair. But that 'different kind of music' got tired of waiting bottled up, and did something strange when the new millennium struck – it grabbed me by the throat and told me in no uncertain terms that its time had come. So in January 2000 I started recording this new album in a strangely serene and very private state of mind. No one, even within my own home where my recording studio is situated, got to hear any of it until it was almost complete a year and half later.

goanews : What would you call this music as ?

Remo : If my past music was music for the body [with a few messages for the mind thrown in], this one is an album for the soul. I hope it touches yours.

goanews : Can we call it spiritual music ?

Remo : Yes, you can, but I prefer that YOU use the word 'spiritual' to describe it, not me! Because if I used it, I would find it presumptuous.

goanews : Is this an indication that you are planning to slowly divorce from high-energy pop & rock and diverting to this 'different kind of music' or 'more mature music' as you call it ?

Remo : As I have said it earlier, high-energy rock and I have a lifetime marriage going, not just a youthful fling. I said I don't see myself ever separating from it or outgrowing it. We all have a body AND a soul! But I just feel the need to simultaneously express this other side of me now - and this is a side which has always been there, it’s not new; it’s just that it lay unexposed and unexpressed in my music till today.

goanews : Is it just a milestone or crossroads you have reached ?

Remo : You mean have I reached my final destination in music, or is there still going to be more evolution from here onwards ? Well, I certainly hope so! When we stop evolving, we might as well be dead and extinct.

goanews : No, what I mean is whether you are planning to take a diversion and now concentrate more on such kind of music; or your pop will continue.

Remo : I don't know. I really don't know. I guess musical directions have to be taken when they come to you, not by chasing them. I do know that I will be completing another 'spiritual' album next - in fact I started work on it even before I started 'India Beyond', and it is half recorded already !

I will certainly continue playing pop and rock at my concerts, though, because I just love the adrenaline rush of such music at live performances; but I don't envisage recording a pop album in the near future. But who knows, I just might be in the mood for one next week !

goanews : No doubt this is music of soul, something which is very dear to you. But from market point of view, which audience are you targeting?

Remo : An audience with soul !

goanews : Do you expect your pop/rock fans will appreciate this effort ?

Remo : Hey, some of them have souls too! I love pop and rock, but I love this kind of music as well. And I also love classical, and jazz, and techno, and ethnic, and world music, and so on and so forth... no barriers. People with varied tastes will always have the capacity to enjoy different kinds of music and cuisine and art and literature, and will even be more understanding towards those with different customs and religions. People with limited outlooks will stick to one genre of everything in life - and probably criticise everything else. But they don't know what they're missing.

goanews : You are known for having a good foresight of tomorrow's music today. You were in the field of rock & pop much before it became a common craze in India. In the similar manner, do you foresee a new kind of music lover emerging in India, who will appreciate this 'different kind of music'?

Remo : Yes, I do. Especially in India, because for a while now our music companies and music channels have been pushing nothing but pop and filmi music. I think there is a whole lot of people out there who are tired of it, and are looking for something else... something soothing and calm and sensitive for a change.

goanews : Fusioning folk is a new pop trend nowadays. Rather than this, why did you think of taking original 'fugdi' with ambient electronica ?

Remo : I guess I was doing more than just following a trend or attempting fusion... I was attempting a very deep dive into my own roots, cultural and musical. I have been hearing these very women singing these fugdis in a temple in a coconut grove by the river by my house for years, and I know that their mothers and grand mothers and great grandmothers before them have sung them in the very same rustic way for centuries. This thought gave such a sense of continuity not only to their songs, but also to my own ancestry and origins. I realised that these chants are part of me, of who I am, and therefore in a certain way they are part of my musical roots too. So I used them as short interludes between every two songs, like a little reminder of where I come from.

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