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Netherlands to get a taste of Konkani jazz
Just one week from now, a 30-strong delegation of Goan musicians will strut their stuff at the prestigious Amersfoort Jazz festival near Amsterdam. Konkani music, usually limited to the coastal corridors of Goa, north Karnataka and Mangalore, will now enter Dutch territory and hopefully enthrall the over 1.5 lakh people who converge in the city for one of the Netherlands' biggest outdoor festivals spread over three days.
On the afternoon of May 14, Mumbai's reputed Monsorate Brothers, originally from Goa, will unite on Amersfoort's main stage to showcase Goan music and culture. Individually, they play with some of Bollywood's biggest names. Ronnie, 56, programmes for Himesh Reshammiya, Joseph and Blasco work with Leslie Lewis and Adnan Sami. Bosco, along with his brothers, played in the first Jazz Yatra in 1978, while Rex is one of India's finest jazz drummers and the only Monsorate not usually associated with the film industry.
At any rate, jazz is not alien to Goa. For years, Goan jazz musicians have continued to make a mark on the hotel and yatra circuits in Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta. Braz Gonsalves, who formed the Louiz Banks Brotherhood in Calcutta, is widely regarded as the greatest saxophonist India has ever produced. Joe Pereira, known as Jazzy Joe on the jazz circuit, was not far behind. Anibal Castro on trombone and Chic Chocolate on saxophone formed the core of the Mumbai jazz scene in the '70s, as did drummer par excellence Leslie Godinho, and much later, his son Lester.
The music the Monsorates will perform at Amersfoort is "jazz-cum-Konkani, some folk songs and some of the modern era", according to Ronnie Monsorate. Since they play on all three days, they're planning "two-three different styles of music" but stressing that they'll be "projecting Konkani". Accompanying the Monsorates will be other young Goan singers Sidhanath Buyao, Olavo Rodrigues and Veeam Braganza, generally seen as the future of Konkani music. Apart from the musicians, Goan architects and jazz lovers will also be present in Amersfoort to study the city, which has a lot in common with Panaji, the capital of Goa.
Armando Gonsalves, who's organizing the Goan presence at the festival, says this is an opportunity to showcase Goan music to the world. "If we can enjoy Spanish music, there's no reason why we can't enjoy Konkani," he says. This project is part of his 'Konkani Rocks' campaign, which took root after he noticed that many Goan youngsters were reluctant and ashamed to speak their mother tongue. "The people of Goa were more inclined to English music thus treating Konkani in a step-motherly fashion," he says. "We are proud of our language and this is one way of showing it."
The Goa-Netherlands connect goes far beyond a bunch of Goan musicians on an Amersfoort stage. Earlier this year, a delegation of Dutch musicians, including some of their best jazz names, performed a series of concerts in Goa, as well as held seminars on heritage and environment. Earlier, in December 2009, Saskia Laroo, Holland's best female trumpeter, played Konkani folk songs at an epic concert in Goa Velha. Down in Amersfoort, the Goan delegation hopes to replicate that by getting the huge audience to sing "at least a few lines" in Konkani.
Amersfoort has more than its fair share in common with Panaji. Both are tourist centres, quaint towns with heritage houses, mid-city waterways, scenery, a rich history and famously friendly people. "We have an environmental conference planned in Amersfoort so we can study waterways there;this is a bid to improve the water canals in Panjim," says Gonsalves, who is CEO of Heritage Jazz, an official partner of the Amersfoort Jazz festival. "Amersfoort's canal systems are about the best in the world."
Plans are also under way to designate Amersfoort and Panaji as twin jazz cities, the first concept of its kind in the world. If that happens (a treaty is expected to be signed during the festival), many possibilities in the fields of art, culture and music will be opened.
Heritage Jazz is also working to import foreign musicians in large numbers to participate in jazz projects such as the recreation of the 140-member orchestra led by Anthony Gonsalves four decades ago. "We intend to try and recreate those days of pride and honour," says Gonsalves, "and for that to happen, we will have to work with musicians from Goa as well as from abroad."
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