Remo got his first musical instrument when he was four years old. As his memoir shows, he has never stopped since then
My first musical instrument
When I was about four years old, my father bought me a mouth organ. I guess it was the smallest, simplest musical instrument he could think of for a child. When he returned from la Fábrica (that’s what we called his cold drink factory) that evening, he couldn’t find me. Mom told her that I had been sitting under the bed and crying for half an hour, and she wasn’t quite sure why. He found me there with the mouth organ in my lap.
“What’s wrong, son?” ” He asked.
“I can’t play this song! I sobbed.
“Which?” he asked, surprised.
I played the introduction to The blue tango, hit the wrong fourth note again and sobbed louder in angry frustration.
Father understood immediately. His eyes shining with excitement, he told me to get dressed and get in the car. He led me to Pedro Fernandes, who owned the one and only music store that handled the whole Panjim musical and possibly all of North Goa, and requested a Hohner mouth organ. professional chromatic with a side button for sharps and flats. It came in a pretty box with a red velvet lining inside.
Back home, my dad explained how to hit the “hidden notes” by pressing the most important button, and I was delighted to finally be able to play the melody.
“What made you choose The blue tango as a first piece on the mouth organ? ” He asked.
I did not know. I just loved the melody. I still love him.
A few days after playing the mouth organ, I wanted to do something that I had seen doing at a party: play with one hand, while keeping the rhythm of a maraca de l ‘ other. The available maracas were too big and heavy for me. Father improvised and found me a small metal container; it was flat and circular, and he filled it halfway with green, smooth seeds. It made a great maraca sound, and I was in business.
I played for the mother and father, who had to sit in the living room; I drew back the curtains on the door and entered as if I were going up on a stage; Mother and father were made to clap, after which I would bow, sing and play. After Mother and Father clap again, I would make a final curtsey, pull the curtains aside and walk out of the room / off the stage.
I then performed and sang at every family reunion and birthday party when I was asked to perform, and always looked forward to being asked.
Music at home and in Goa
My father had purchased a German Nordmende radiogram from the one and only Panjim dealer called Senhor Mungró. A roentgenogram was a beautiful piece of highly polished teak or rosewood furniture in which several pieces of music reproduction equipment were housed, or almost hidden.
The one Father bought had a central valve radio, driven by a powerful, high-quality amplifier. Underneath was a stunning speaker set camouflaged behind a rich woven fabric set behind an intricate wooden grille.
There were also two speakers on its sides. At the top there were two horizontal doors that opened upwards: one to reveal a four-speed Dual record changer, on which you could stack up to twelve records of all sizes, and the second door revealed a tape recorder. with Telefunken coil. On the front, on the left and right sides of the cabinet, two beautiful rounded doors opened onto compartments with vertical slots where records were stored.
The roentgenogram began Father’s record collection. It was an eclectic mix of large brass bands, western classical symphonies, Brazilian baiãos, forró, bossa novas and sambas, solo singers and South American harmony groups such as Trio los Panchos and Trio los Paraguayos, popular Italian singers such as Renato Carosone and Caterina Valente, English and American singers whose names I don’t remember but whose songs I still hear in my head, a beautiful orchestral instrumental titled Anastasia which always made me feel sad, cheerful Portuguese folk songs, plaintive Portuguese fados of which Amália Rodrigues was the reigning queen of all time, and of course the rare and rare 78 rpm records which had then been composed of beautiful Goan Konkani mandos and popular songs.
Father loved Konkani’s songs, and I particularly remember one, Shivole, Sonar Khetti, Father’s favorite, because it was Siolim, his beloved village; I had to re-record my version in 2021, in tribute to Father and his composer, Cruz Noronha. After Goan’s mando and other folk songs, fado came second on his personal chart list.
On the first monsoon night of that year, there was a particularly spectacular thunderstorm of thunder and lightning. I was afraid. Father decided to teach me to appreciate the power of nature and not to be afraid of it. He turned off all the lights, put a classical symphony at a very high volume, and made me sit on his knees on the dark veranda.
We felt the powerful spray of rain on our faces; the whole black street was lit with brilliant silver lightning every few minutes, revealing familiar trees bent in half by the wind, the lightning punctuated with deep and loud rolls of thunder able to shake the house to its foundations; and providing a musical background to it all was Beethoven’s Fifth, since the electricity had not yet failed because of a fallen tree or branch. Father kept whispering softly and soothingly into my ear, trying to explain to a five year old the beauty and power of this scene.
Today I love to sit on my veranda on stormy monsoon nights, enjoy the surround sound of some of nature’s most vibrant energies, smell the wetland of Goa and sip a glass of something straight from my heart. from the soil of Goa. But that night, I burst into tears. Over Mother’s protests, Father abandoned his very specialized lesson in music and nature appreciation, took me inside and turned the music off. But the experience has stuck with me forever.
Every little party or gathering in Goa had music at the time. Not music played by a record player, but music played by the revelers themselves. Violins and mandolins would come out once the mood was right, the piano lid open, and people coughing and tuning their voices which, softened by a few choice golden lubricants, rose into a glorious song.
The instruments were exchanged hands, different people would sing “their” songs, and on the third, people would get up to dance. The music, singing, dancing and drinking continued until the buffet was declared open – which was invariably delayed as much as possible, lest the guests think the host was mean and stingy by putting on an end to the festivities.
And then everyone, now hungry but still unwilling to stop singing and dancing, walked to a popular marching tune, the couples arm in arm, into the dining room and around and around. the dining table, guitarists and violinists and mandolin players follow with their instruments. The pianist invariably remained to play alone in the hall.
Once the music was over and everyone gathered around the table, the most eloquent speaker in the assembly was asked to raise the much-needed twig or improvised toast. In my parents’ circle, this task usually fell to Senhor Vasco Alvares, the tall, stout, cheerful but irreverent man who was one of the pillars of Panjim society, and a good friend and party pal of Father.
His toasts were always a pleasure to listen to; they had just the right mix of pathos, emotion, family values and, most importantly, naughty humor that got everyone from us kids (when we got it) to older grandparents, was present in uncontrollable bursts of laughter.
And then, before attacking the obligatory succulent piglet and turkey and king mackerel and lobsters and fried rice, Parabens a voçê Where Happy Birthday was sung in harmony by all, their enthusiasm heightened by their gratitude to the gracious host for this great feast, he in turn thanked the congregation for decades and even generations for their proven warmth, love and friendship.
After dinner was over, the feast invariably stopped, a custom that anyone except a Goan would consider rude; and everyone left shortly after, but not before a long farewell with lots of hugs and kisses on both cheeks. Pleasantly tired from the songs and dances, still humming a tune and feeling content with the large buffet, the families walked by moonlight and yellow lampposts to their cars and returned home where cool and comfortable beds provided them. were waiting.
Moonlight was a very important part of evenings and nights. Even in the cities where they existed, the street lamps were so faint that you could see and feel the full power of moonlight and starlight. Even more in the villages, where there was no electricity at all.
Music played a very important role in the daily life of people. You didn’t have to think of yourself as a musician or a singer to know how to play an instrument or sing a song – well, everyone knew how to do these things, it was as natural as speaking or writing. without seeing himself as a speaker or an author.
Once, at such a party at Tio Renato’s on the way to Altinho, my cousin Jorge, who was at least thirteen or fourteen at the time, got me drunk on champagne. I must have been six or seven. When he saw that I was starting to pass out, he panicked at the idea of being discovered by his parents and mine. He sneaked me up the stairs to our car, which was parked on the main road with everyone else, made me sleep in the back seat and left me there to sleep.
Her “good deed of the day” was discovered a little later when Mom started looking for me. I think he got more headache from his dad’s slap the next morning than I did from my very first hangover – which, coming from the French champagne, probably shows that I started off well.
Extracted with permission from Remo: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes, HarperCollins India.