Jazz Goa keeps on jazzing (Archives 2004)

From the archives of Heritage Jazz: August 2004

Jazz Goa Keeps on Jazzin’
A report by Stanley Pinto

Goa has provided India with some of the finest jazz musicians that ever set a
stage on fire. Yet strangely, there hasn’t been a meaningful audience for jazz
in Goa itself.

But that’s finally starting to change. A ginger group anchored by a resourceful
young fellow called Armando Gonsalves has started Jazz Goa, an accumulation of a
few hundred die-hards who meet at surprisingly regular intervals to enjoy
concert jazz. Jazz Goa is attracting growing crowds and, more importantly, a
growing list of performing Indian and visiting international musicians. The
concert last Saturday was a fine example of a cult in the making.Gonsalves Mansion, in the stylish Campal area of Panaji, is the perfect
location. A long corridor overlooking the street seats a hundred or more people.
A balcao halfway down the corridor transforms into a stage. Rooms off the
corridor vend food and drink. And the street outside is perfect for dragging a
chair into for happy al fresco listening. Strings of lights festoon the
mansion’s balcony and limn its rooflines. It’s all nothing short of magical.

Last week’s concert kicked off with S Harikumar and H Subramanium, an amazing
violin-and-ghatam duo from Kerala, in a recital of ragas and bhajans that
morphed into a long fusion session with Colin D’Cruz on bass, Lester Godinho on
drums and Jazzy Joe on tenor sax and clarinet. Mr Harikumar, the violinist, is a
student of the international violinist-icon L Subramanium and the musical DNA
was out there to see and enjoy.

Then came Jazzy Joe. Bandleader in Calcutta’s legendary 60s, the sprightly
almost-80 is an ancien of unquestioned heritage and stature. Jazzy Joe ran the
rest of the evening like a traditional Goan mistr, to the delight of all

Supporting the changing front line was Goa’s indispensable rhythm section:
George Fernandez, Colin D’Cruz and Lester Godinho. Fortunately, they are
versatile and greatly gifted musicians, at home in almost any genre of jazz.

Others who were spotlighted included the fine jazz professional singer Belinda
Oliveira; Mr Jerry Fernandes respected violinist and Phalke Award recipient;
Hema Sardessai the celebrated local blues chanteuse. And because Jazz Goa’s
mission includes the encouragement of young talent, young Veama Braganza, a
singer in the Whitney Houston-by-way-of-Lorna style, a six year-old violinist
and two young arrivals from Kenya who played boogie-woogie piano. All good fun
that the audience took in its stride.

And then there was this piano player with a composition called “Song For Michael
Frederick: Those Whom The Gods Love Die Young” in honour of the late Michael
Frederick D’Souza, who passed away recently and to whose memory the evening was
dedicated. Uncharacteristic modesty prevents me from naming the
composer-pianist, but the song and he were (ahem!) brilliant.

The evening ended the next morning. It could have run on to 12 noon. But I can’t
help wondering how long Jazz Goa will run on. The concerts are free though the
cost of each one runs into five figures. The libations are sponsored but their
sale and the returns from the snacks contribute less than a quarter of the
costs. In the end, Armando and his friends make good several thousands each. As
a project it’s untenable and as a labour of love it’s unfair. Yet the organisers’
misplaced Goan sensitivities prevents them from charging the audience a small
fee that would give Jazz Goa a lease of life. Someone should do something about

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