REMO ROCKS AGAIN!
Independent…strong…free… that’s how Ayn Rand describes her hero Howard Roark in Fountainhead and that’s how pop star Remo Fernandes truly is. Listen to the tracks Bombay City, Humma Humma or the latest The Lighthouse Symphony from the film David and there will be no uncertainties as to why the legendary Remo Fernandes left a thriving architectural profession for music. Like the book’s protagonist, Padmashree Remo believes in originality at all cost, is someone who would gladly let it all go rather than compromise on his music. Succeed he’d rather but on his own terms even if it entails standing alone.
Here is singer, composer and a music director Remo talking about things very personal to him.
1) There aren’t many by the name Remo. What made your parents decide on this name.
You are observant. Yes, I believe there wasn’t a single Remo in Goa when my parents named me so. A good friend of my mother’s, who lived in Bombay, had named her own new born son Remo, so my mother asked her if she could use the same name. My parents always chose rare names; when they named my sister Belinda, I believe there was no one else by that name in Goa either. And really, Goa was ‘small’ enough then for people to know whether there were others by the same rare name or not. Remus and Romulus, by the way, were the mythological founders of Rome, suckled and brought up by a she-wolf in the forest when abandoned to die there as babies.
2) You were born in Goa at the time when it was greatly influenced by the Portuguese. How influenced were and are you by the Portuguese culture and their way of thinking?
Very, very much. I’m sad to say that the greatest influence on me from those days is something that hardly exists today: and that is, the value of a person’s word or promise. I was brought up to believe that a person’s spoken word meant as much as, if not more than, a written contract. Breaking one’s word was losing one’s honor. And honor and respect were everything. Besides this there was a civic sense which made people feel responsible for the cleanliness of not only one’s home, but also one’s surroundings, the whole city, the beaches, in short the whole of Goa. People were embarrassed and ashamed to be seen breaking these codes of conduct. Today there is no shame. I see plastic bottles and wrappers being flung out of passing Mercedes and BMWs. If our rich, educated people are so filthy, how can one expect a sense of hygiene from the poor in the slums?
3) You took off for Europe to follow your passion in music but were there times, when you faltered and wondered if you were doing the right thing.
I’m afraid you got this wrong. I took off for Europe to ‘see the world’, not to pursue a career or passion in music. Although based in Paris, I spent two years and a few months hitch-hiking around France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, England, and also Tunisia and Algeria. I earned my living playing the guitar and singing in underground metro stations, on pedestrian streets, in restaurants where I passed my hat around after singing. I visited museums, monuments, art exhibitions, concerts, and places of interest in every country I visited. I learnt how to speak French quite fluently, and also to make myself sufficiently understood in Spanish and Italian. I met a huge number of diverse people while traveling. They were perhaps the most educational two years of my life.
It is upon returning to Goa that I decided to start a professional career in music, drawing and writing. Of course, music took over totally, being my main passion from childhood.
4) What do you think of the people of Goa? Do you feel they are lagging behind in the national scenario?
Goa is a very small place with a very small population. Considering this, I think we have enough Goans who have made a mark on an all-India level, and are still doing so, in different fields. We even have Goans who have truly made marks on a global level, such as painter Francis Newton d’Souza, and presently the 6th Top CEO in the world, yet another Francis d’Sousa. [pullquote] Dear Goan youth, I’m bored of seeing you post photos on Facebook of yourselves partying. I’d love to see photos of yourselves getting involved in doing something for Goa for a change. [/pullquote]
5) Do you really agree to the common notion that goans are `susegad’?
Of course we are. Or else how would people from all over India and the world come here and mint money out of Goa’s greatest bounty, tourism? While most of us are left twiddling our thumbs?
6) There are music bands mushrooming in Goa. Do you think there is real talent there or is it a mistaken passion for music?
I’m afraid I measure talent by originality only. However well musicians may copy the original record, whether Bollywood or pop or heavy rock, I can only appreciate them as I would appreciate good photocopying machines. Considering the number of bands and musicians Goa has, I’m afraid there is very little originality being attempted. And by originality I don’t mean writing songs in the style you normally play, such as country or pop or rock; I mean creating your own style, your own rhythms, fusing Goan Dulpods with Hip Hop for example – why not?
7) What is your opinion about the politicians in Goa.
People who selflessly work for the betterment of Goa are a breed apart. They are like Mathany Saldanha, who did not need a minister’s position to carry out the wonderful work he did for the ramponkars, for Goa’s Movement for Special Status, and so on. But politicians are politicians. They play games, tell lies, break promises, they manipulate, they form alliances with people they denounced as criminals just yesterday – they do whatever it takes to be and to stay in power. But some are less bad than others, that’s for sure. And we have to be content with these.
8) Do you feel Goa should belong only to the Goans? Do you feel we should allow foreigners to set up business here?
However much you may love your friends, you cannot invite them and their families to move and come stay in your house, can you? Especially if you live in a one-bedroom flat? Goa is tiny. That is why she simply will not be able to withstand a free-for-all onslaught of people from elsewhere [India and abroad] coming and building and settling here. Special Status is the only thing which will stop this. But our builders, and our politicians, are two powerful lobbies which will lose a lot of revenue if that happens. Our mainstream media is reluctant to lose huge expensive advertisements from builders. And people with mammoth tracts of land to sell also don’t want Special Status for Goa. However much of these very people may scream and shout that they are working to ‘save Goa’, they are the ones who care least for Goa, the ones who will not rest until every square inch of this land has been exploited and destroyed for their profit.
9) What advice would you give to those who want to settle in Goa?
Go home. Come, enjoy Goa, but if you really love Goa, you will go home after your lovely holiday. You will not see Goa as just another investment proposition for a house or a flat or an office. And you will not want to see her beautiful nature covered with concrete, even if you wish one of those pieces of concrete were yours. If you really love Goa, enjoy her – but do not try to posses her.
10) What would you say about the drug menace and the rave parties in Goa.
If you wish to talk about drugs and rave parties, we should also talk about alcohol and Goan dances and weddings. The number of homes and families destroyed in Goa every year due to alcohol isn’t a joke. Yet we think nothing of allowing an adolescent son to taste his first beer, or an adolescent daughter to taste her first port wine. We truly feel it is ‘part of our culture’, and are actually proud of it. While we condemn drugs, let us not forget that alcohol destroys more lives and homes in Goa than all the drugs put together.
Dear Goan youth, I’m bored of seeing you post photos on Facebook of yourselves partying, in clubs and discos and bars and beaches and weddings and at home. I’d love to see photos of yourselves getting involved in doing something for Goa for a change. Forming movements for ecology preservation, drives against plastic and garbage, using your awesome youth power to make your government afraid of you – not afraid of your violence, but afraid of your vote. Make your Sarpanch, MLA and Minister realize that if they don’t do their job, they’ll be packed off real soon. These are the photos and pages and posts I’d love to see on Facebook. I would also love to see you party, of course. All work and no play wouldn’t make Goa what it is.
- Interview By Maria D’costa