Once Upon A Time in Goa

Joaquim Correia

Two generations after the Portuguese rule ended in Goa, the music and dance of former times is not forgotten. Goa still retains links with the music that shaped an earlier generation, suggests a new book. From Western music to prominent bands like Johnson and his Jolly Boys, radio programmes and family celebrations, the traditions live on.

Goan music consists of erudite Western music and Jazz, Portuguese music, Anglo-Saxon folk music, Latin American and Brazilian popular music, Goa Trance, some Indian film songs, Hindustani music, devotional Hindi music, Konkani music from outside Goa, and a lot more, suggests a new book on the subject.

Titled 'Once Upon A Time in Goa', this book by the Portuguese author, Joaquim Correia, promises to focus on "music and dance in a charming region and its diaspora". Collating details from near and far, Correia describes "memories of the fifties" (1950s). These come in the form of the bands and parties prevalent in daily life here, just before the Portuguese left.

Intriguingly, the Portuguese author has been able to dig up advertisements, photographs, cartoons and news items from another era. Correia writes: "Among the various orchestras, Johnson and his Jolly Boys, or simply Johnson de Siolim, stood out. The late caricaturist, Mario Miranda ... has often sketched the artistes’ performances.”

Correia covers the traditional theatre of Goa, the Carnival and Holi festival, military bands at the fag end of Portuguese rule, events like the First Goa Motor Rally around 1959, the Last New Year's Eve, with the Radio Serenaders (led by maestro Carlos Rodrigues) performing, among other topics.

"The Emissora de Goa (Goa's radio station from its Portuguese days) was by far the most listened to radio station, and this did not happen by chance! Its broadcasts were built with the listener in mind, in an attractive and innovative scenario, only having as its competitor the official radio of Ceylon, especially when it announced the Binaca Hit Parade with Hindu music themes," writes Correia.

The Emissora de Goa first appeared in 1946. Initially, it was run as Radio Goa, and became "one of the most heard frequencies in Asia". It broadcast from 7 a.m. to midnight, in Portuguese, English, Hindi, and even Urdu and Konkani. It had music, football and sport, and a lot of other content in its mix.

There were also celebrations in grand musical homes. Backpackers and adventurers travelled overland from Europe to Goa later. Academic institutions also lent their bit, with the Liceu and the Escola Medica annual ball being major and exclusive events.

Goa also saw its links grow between music, the diaspora, sport, and even Bollywood. The music of Goans in the diaspora is a chapter and more. In Portugal itself, Goa has its strong contingent of musicians and singers.The book terms Goa's pop star Remo Fernandes as 'the Bob Dylan of India'. Fado in Goa, and many of its prominent local singers, is also focused on. There is also a section dealing with "books, records and other memories." Many books are related to music.

The book is quite comprehensive, and has been praised for being a useful text for anyone interested in the subject. Earlier, a book on parallel lines - but not the same text - was published in Portuguese, in Lisbon.

Correia's earlier work was titled ‘A última dançaem Goa’ (The Last Dance in Goa), and was published in 2018. Some of the text also touches on Goan music in Africa, including Mozambique and the other former Portuguese colonies. One chapter covers Goan music in Portugal between the 1960s and our time.

The book is divided into roughly four parts: (i) Memories of the Fifties: the bands and the parties in daily life; (ii) Proud to be a Goan Musician; (iii) the Fado, Mando and other Stories: Traditions that still stand in Goa and Portugal; (iv) Books, Records and other Memories.

The book is available in Mumbai and Goa, at St Paul's Bookstore at Bandra and in Goa at Varsha Bookstall (Panjim) and DogEars Bookshop (Margao). It is also available with the publishers GPR Associates (+91 98670 74769) or Goa1556 (+91 98221 22436).

Author Joaquim Correia was born in Coimbra, Portugal in 1951, and lives there. He studied in Portugal and Angola, where he also did military service. He is the author of several works related to research, particularly in the musical field. He lived in Macau for 11 years – his starting point to discover the East. A man of seven professions – besides his military service, he was a lawyer, professor, library technician, researcher, writer and a consultant.

Anish Esteves