If you remember the song Humma Humma in the movie Bombay, you remember the world of music he opened to you thanks to indie and folk pop star Remo Fernandes.
Today, Remo, laureate Padma Shri who began his musical journey with a mouth organ, before mastering other instruments, celebrates decades of his time navigating the music scene in India and Portugal via his autobiography. eponym, Remo (Harper Collins).
The desire to write an autobiography first sprouted about six to nine years ago, when Remo wrote three chapters.
âI’ve always loved writing and wanted to sum up the Goa I grew up in,â explains the musician who moved to Portugal in 2015-2016.
Remo has returned to writing during the pandemic as part of a list of things he wants to do. It was right after he finished another thing on the list: a music project for Mother Teresa. When the world locked in 2020, Remo had been in Goa for quite some time. Unable to return to Portugal, he found inspiration in his old house in Goa which has a front garden and rice fields behind.
âLoneliness was exactly what I needed to remember,â the boy Panjim said. âWhen I first started I had no idea how a book was structured. I had a literary agent recommended by my friend Amitav Ghosh, and that’s where the subject took shape.
The hardest part? “You might want to be very honest when writing, but you have to remember to protect the privacy of the person involved in the episode.” That, and reliving a car accident after a performance at IIT Kanpur when he lost four of his band members who had played with him for 12 years. âI was touched in a palpable way when I wrote these two chapters because it was like losing a family,â said the 68-year-old.
Come on, Goa, gone
One of the biggest moments in Remo’s book is his memories of the start of Goa’s independence.
âYour roots are part of you because your childhood was either so beautiful that you loved it or terrible. My roots are simply happiness in the Goa where I grew up. I know people who still fall in love with Goa from that time. I was eight when the Portuguese left and until I was 18 nothing had changed in Goa. There were no illegal structures, nothing. And there are no Goan books on those days, only by those who moved to Goa much later, âhe explains.
âI miss the simplicity of life, the honesty and the warmth of people, and everyone has more free time. There is violence in Goa today, which was unheard of at the time, âhe said.
Musically too, it’s rare to find gatherings today where people just pull out instruments and jam. âToday people choose recorded music,â he says.
What about the EDM festivals the state is now famous for? âNinety-nine percent of Goans don’t identify with the music that is played there. You could host these festivals anywhere else in the world and they would get the same audience. EDM and techno began with the installation of foreigners in Goa. There is even a trance known as the Goan trance because it comes from the state. But it’s music produced for the holidays and a totally different parallel in terms of culture, âexplains Remo.
Ask him about Bollywood and Remo says he doesn’t think much about it. âI respect originality and creativity. Today, a lot of importance is placed on simplistic melodies that anyone can catch after just one listening, thus replacing the essence and the soul. Another tendency is to make sweet, melodic songs that sound the same. Everyone looks like an American artist of their choice, but in Hindi, âhe says.
He mourns the disappearance of indigenous individuality. âOur folk music is more punchy and has a flavor that appeals to everyone,â he says. âWhen I first went to Bombay as a student, I formed a group with people from the slums who got on the local trains and played fiery rhythms on their beaten drums. It is the originality that we lack today.
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From Brunch HT, December 12, 2021
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