Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Tiatr" produced copious volumes of music-song

"Tiatr" produced copious volumes of music-song.
Named after the Portuguese 'Teatro,' the Konknni stage was Goa's largest of performing arts, mainly among Catholics. It sure featured names like Kamat de Assolna but bulk was Goan Catholic, some with curious stage names like Titta Pretto
and Jhepsis Hitler!

"Pai Tiatrist" Joao Agostinho (JA) Fernandes, actually "Irmao" of pioneer Lucasino Ribeiro as JA himself always protested, wrote original plays and music right from his
first, and history's second, Tiatr. JA set Tiatr in the seven-Acts format, and between the Acts, songs that could be solos, duets, trios or quartets. With his own wife, he introduced women to the stage. His themes were clearly aimed at social reformation.

Thence, the world of Tiatr produced many giants. They would take a tome to even be briefly discussed. I'll restrict to a few whose song-music so impacted my young mind that I remember them to this day. I was not old enough to see some of them live, but heard their renditions from vinyl records or from 'Akashvani' (in those times, "Aqui Portugal, fala Emissora de Goa.")

Personally, my greatest Tiatrist was singer-actor Kid Boxer. Not just for his song, but for his courage of conviction. Allow me to leave the best for the last, later in this article, when I'll elaborate.

One colossus of the Tiatr world was Minguel Rod. He strode the Konknni stage at a precocious age, entering when he himself was only 13. His songs attacked social ills, which is natural as he hailed from a poor tribal background of Cortalim.

His verse-lyrics were absolutely original -- even if his tunes at times were borrowed. His imagery and satirical bite was not. A song went like, "(The landlord's) house was massive/ built of rock-solid stone/ but a wall collapsed/ when a pig's tail accidentally brushed against it." Credited with revival of the Tiatr during its gloomiest days, Minguel produced colourful titles like 'Lembddo Santan' and 'Pobre Fidalgo.'

Year 1955 was tumultuous for the Portuguese in Goa. August 15, India's Independence Day, saw several "Jai Hinds" shot dead or injured at border points of Patradevi, Molem and Polem. On October 5, Portugal's Republic Day, hundreds of natives converged at Cortalim. Everyone from Governor to gun-totting soldier quaked, until it was discovered it was not an internal 'Satyagraha.' Minguel Rod had died. Like
several Tiatr greats, at a young age: 32. "Aqui Portugal" announced the demise in all its six language news bulletins. And annual radio tributes until liberation.

Anthony Mendes is my best Konknni comedian-singer, not because his ancestral house was a whistling distance from mine. Such was his singing, dancing and acting talent that he was about to be inducted in Hindi films, when he too departed -- also at a relatively young age. Upon his death, Alfred Rose composed and sang a tribute to him. Several times during its rendition, Alfred broke down, and with him, most in the

Anthony need not have uttered funny Konknni lines to have the crowd in splits. He achieved that by merely twitching his bushy whiskers or squinting his saucer-sized eyes. Or a faked movement of his agile body -- or even with an equally spurious
Padri-style short quote in Latin! He scripted Tiatrs but only one, "Joao Paddekar," was staged in Goa.

Typical of his song lyrics:
"Ho tuzo guneaum, muzo guneaum, kestaum pettota /
Beijeam svater, vontt poleancher, thapttam suzota"
(on domestic tiffs between spouses, where, instead of
kisses, slaps resound off cheeks.)

After him, Jacinto Vaz and M. Boyer held the flag of stage comedy high.

In this galaxy, the greatest in his day was Alexinho de Candolim. He sang and also penned some pretty powerful Tiatrs, including his famous "Sonvsarant Konn Konnacho," and his trademark last, "To Bhavtto Dhormancho." Alexinho died at age 49, in 1964.

Young Menezes was the first rapid-fire ("jet-speed") singer. He liberally used Konknni adages in his songs, including one titled 'Hotel de Jakin!' Like his senior fellow villager Alexinho, Young's songs rhymed perfectly.

Trio singers -- three actors interspersing in a song -- were popular on the Konknni stage. The most legendary was Kid-Young-Rod (Kid Boxer, Young Menezes and Minguel Rod).

Among the famous Trios was Rom-Rem-Rod, who sang on the abominable murder of a Taleigao housewife, her daughter and a yet unborn child. That crime, a few years from liberation, shocked Goa, earned Malayalees local hatred and, in a long time, the Aguada gallows a trophy.

The generally accepted "Trio Kings" were Conception-Nelson-Anthony. Their political satire was so devastating that they invited post-1961 official wrath on the Tiatr
fraternity -- special guys. More about them below.

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Alfred Rose must be the most prolific of Konknni 'cantarists' (singers). He wrote and sang so many songs that he lost count of them. No chronicler can fix the number of 'cantaram' he penned. He set most of them to music himself, sang a few hundred, solo or in duet with wife Rita, or others. Most, however, were sung by other artistes.

Alfred did a wide variety of songs, from serious to satirical, melodic to mournful. Like Alexinho de Candolim before him, many of his songs carried a strong social
message, even if at times he sounded like a Sunday 'sermao.'

Some despised the nasal in his otherwise versatile soprano voice. And, even though original most of the time, Alfred sometimes borrowed popular Western tunes. But, as one of his greatest fans and my friend Filipe Dias of Madel-Margao says, "Alfred's
music was customer-oriented. When fans requested him to set songs to particular Western tunes, Alfred obliged."

Like music generated by the Konknni stage, it's not possible to discuss Cantaram save in passing. My personal choice always was songs that spun on humour. Names like Anthony Tuloo ("Lion of Cantarists"), Francis de Monso, 'Big Shot', Pascoal ("Master") Fernandes, Robin Vaz and Hermenzildo Francisco Camilo (H. Britton) will long be remembered for their melody-comedy.

In this genre, singers like Kid Boxer and Minguel Rod were
incomparable. Minguel's witty 'nightmare' still resounds:

"Angan tem asa nhoim re edem mottem bobor / Kai bore pole
tache mou-mou robor / Ratchem sopnant ieun korta tem mhaka
zobor / Mat apunn khuim rauta ti sangonam re khobor.

"Poir rati tannem sopnant ghott dhorlo maka / Ekar-ek beij
diunk laglem paka-paka / Tea vogtar saiba kainch anink mhaka
naka / Zago zaun tor polloi zalear mazor lenvta mhaka.

"Kal rati ani ek pautt jiu khoxen mhozo bhorlo / Oklecho pai
soirik gheun amgher so pavon sorlo / Oitana khoxen mhunno
babu apunn chol'lo / Zago zaun tor polloi zalear nakar
bhonvta zorlo.

"Ekech muttin zorleache dant hanvem moddle / Zago zaun tor
polloi paichea oklache arxe foddle / Pain kalukant chor mhunn
maecher borech oddle / Maein chobko marun paichea khoddeache
kens thoddle.

"Kestaum hem kabar zatoch auchit jhem mhaka poddli /
Oklechi mae ieun nhoim re soirik mhoji moddli /
Te tiddkin dhorun tika hanvem *charains* korun oddly /
Zago zaun tor polloi novich kamboll pinzun soddli."

In the general female genre, amongst the shiniest stars: Lorna (Sorg Tujea Dolleanim, Sorga Rajeant, Sopon, Noxibac Roddta -- all fused in Chris Perry's
music magic, and trumpet, as in Piso and Bebdo), and Rita Rose (Bottateanchi Bhaji, Ankvar Ravtelim, Kalliz Ostorechem, and in duet with hubby Alfred, Osoch Fottoitai, Tum Mojem Sukh and Anvdde Tuje Sompoi -- from 'Boglant.')

Let's move to another genre of Goan songsters.

At a time when Goa's independent identity was under grave threat, in the run up to the Jan-1967 Opinion Poll, several gifted Goans used their pen, voice and music to save the day for their homeland. Men like Dr. Manoharrai Sardessai, Adv. Uday Bhembre and Shankar Bhandari worked hard, through their song, to stem the tide of public opinion that was almost sure to have forever obliterated the idea of a distinct Goa.

Songs like "Goenchea Mojea Goenkaranno" and "Goenkar zaiat zage" sung by 'Goyem Shahir' Ulhas Buyao and "Don Pana" by Assolna-born vocalist Carmo Rod, still echo. In easier times, men like Bhembre wrote songs like "Chann'neache Rati" (sung
by Buyao), while Buyao himself produced quality songs, the most hilarious of which, to my mind, is "Gagar kiteak foddta re?" rendered, with equal finesse, by Varsha Usgaonkar.

"Dorya Deger" by Santosh and Mamta Prabhugaonkar, with pleasing vocal skills, delivered a powerful message on inter-caste marriages. These are included in Buyao's album, "Roop Tujem Laita Pixem."

Mangalore also produced a rich harvest of cantaram. Helen D'Cruz and Henry D'Souza created radio history with "Ye, ye, Katrina" (1971), one among many in their repertoire. Then there were Jerome de Souza, Lourdes Collaco, Agnes D'Souza, among
others. Wilfy Remimbus and Eric Ozario were giants on Mangalore's music matrix.

In this penultimate piece, some more 'firsts' in Goan music:

The first recorded Konknni song (on a vinyl gramophone record) was by Joao Agostinho, the Pai Tiatrist's "Mog mirmiriancho" (HMV, 1910), sung by him with his daughter Sofia. The first recorded Konknni audio cassette was by Alfred Rose. The
first Konknni audio CD was by Remo Fernandes. To Remo also goes the credit of re-doing old classics like 'Rajan & Prema' and 'Kustoba Rane.' The (unofficial) title of "Nightingale of Goa" was bestowed by a Portuguese governor on yodeler Dioguinho D'Mello -- who died, sadly, both blind and a beggar.

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A big e-welcome to you. Tumcam Maie-mogacho ieukar. Enjoy Life - This is not a rehearsal! Konkani uloi, boroi, vach ani samball - sodankal. Hich Goenchi osmitai ani amchem khalxelponn. Goenchi amchi Konkani bhas! Ekvottachem saddon Goenkaranchem. This is Gaspar Almeida from Parra, Bardez, Goa, based in Kuwait and am connected with the website created by Ulysses Menezes, and as Moderator of the famous first of its kind Gulf-Goans e-Newsletter (since 1994) and The Goan Forum and several Goan and Indian associations and forums and e-forums in Goa, India, Kuwait, The Middle East and worldwide.