Goan beats

In the 1970s,Miguel and Lisette Cotta were music teachers,and for many years before that,they entertained Goan audiences singing popular folk songs.

Written by Zaira Arslan | Published: March 22, 2012 1:32:57 am

Once popular folk music of Goa,gets a fresh introduction at NCPA’s ongoing Living Traditions series

In the 1970s,Miguel and Lisette Cotta were music teachers,and for many years before that,they entertained Goan audiences singing popular folk songs. After their children Franz Schubert — named after the famous Austrian composer — and Chantale Marie Cotta were old enough,the entire family began performing on a Portuguese variety programme called ‘ Renascenca ‘ on All India Radio in the 80s. This programme was discontinued in the mid-Nineties and the family then moved to playing regularly at five-star hotels.

Ever since,despite the demand for Goan folk music steadily decreasing even at traditional occasions such as weddings,the Cottas — perhaps currently the best known musical family in Goa — have kept the music alive. On Thursday,the National Centre for Performing Arts,Nariman Point,brings them to Mumbai for the second evening of Living Traditions 2012: Goa Gala and their first performance in the city. The four Cottas will perform a number of different types of traditional Konkani songs. Their primary focus,however,will be on the Mando where Konkani songs are set to Latin-American tunes that speak of love.

On Wednesday evening,Sonia Shirsat inaugurated the Goa Gala event singing Fado — a genre that can be traced from the beginning of the 19 th century in Portugal. Traditionally,these were sung by the wives of seafaring men when their husbands left home. “Fado is semi-classical in nature,one that I would compare to Hindi ghazals,” says Shirsat. The 32-year-old first sang Fado in 2003 but is now one of the only and best known ‘fadistas’ in India.

Nearly three decades ago,Goan folk music was popular only at restaurants,hotels and weddings in Goa. Apart from Mando and Fado,there are three other major categories of Konkani songs. The first comprises songs that have primarily Indian beats,for instance fugddeo and dhalo. The second,of which Dekhni is one,is an Indian melody set to Western music and the third,such as in dulpod,combines local and global music.

Goan music has also been used in a number of Hindi films. For instance,the song Na Mangun Sona Chandi from the 1973 film Bobby is an adaptation of Dekhni — a traditional Goan art form that combines song and dance. The incredibly popular Eena Meena Deeka from the 1957 film Aasha also has elements of Goan music in it.

However,in recent years,Goa has seen a decline in the number of places one may hear its folk music. “These days everyone is into popular music so it has become very rare to see places that play folk music,” says Franz Schubert Cotta. The family that was once a prominent feature at Goan weddings,with guests dancing to their Mandos,now rarely performs at such event. According to him,there have been small attempts to revive folk music,but these are few and far between. “Mando festivals are being held occasionally in Goa that are open to everyone.”

Fado,on the other hand,has enjoyed more popularity in recent times. For instance,a restaurant in the Cidade de Goa hotel has a Fado night every month. “Fado is now making waves in the West and with some competitions in Goa,it’s making a comeback here too,” says Shirsat. “There is experimentation. That’s good as long as it doesn’t take away from the flavour of the genre.”

Dr Suvarnalata Rao,programming head – Indian music at the NCPA,believes folk music still has its audience. “It is alive in small pockets in Goa,but having said that,it is also evolving everyday so some of the repertoire is lost,” she says. Of Goa Gala at the NCPA,she says the idea is to familiarise people with not just the music,but the music as a part of the city’s cultural identity. “We will also have introductions to the events,talking about the influence of Portuguese culture,” she concludes.

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