Reading Of melodies and journeys by
By Salil | Issue No.2 Journeys | |

Of melodies and journeys

Edith Melo Furtado

(In conversaton with singers Verónica da Silva and Carolina Figueiredo)

I received a Youtube link, as a ‘must listen’ in early December. The show had taken place in Lisbon. I did listen and just could not switch off! A month later, the show travelled to India, Goa, to Kala Akademy. On 14th January, soprano Verónica Milagres da Silva and mezzo-sopranno, Carolina Figueiredo accompanied by pianist Carlos Garcia, sang to a packed, delighted audience. The repertoire included our timeless folk classics such as “Undramojea mama”, “Farar far” or the mandós and the delightful, much less heard today, the “Barra de Damão.” It was a walk back to a cultural tradition, to family ‘soirées’ and gatherings where music made by family and guests was taken for granted. The music took us on a journey to our school and college days, to the choirs where we sang all these classics under the baton of Maestro António de Figueiredo (Carolina’s grand-uncle).

Verónica is the daughter of a Goan, Milagres da Silva, from Loutolim, who left Goa immediately after the Liberation, in 1961. Her mother is Portuguese. On the other hand, Carolina has all her roots in Goa. Born in a highly musical family, Carolina sang and played in her father Fortunato’s family group, the Grupo Musical de Macau, Família Figueiredo, since her childhood, having performed in Macau, Goa (at Kala Akademy and Clube Harmonia), Portugal and Australia.

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Carolina Figueiredo (left), and Veronica Milagres da Silva, in concert. (Photograph, courtesy Frederick Noronha)

How did you both discover each other ?

As members of the Gulbenkian choir, we chanced upon our common ‘Goanness’ when a colleague asked us to sing Konkani songs. Both of us knew the same songs. It was a great surprise for us! We decided to go back to our roots together. It was meant to be.

How did Carlos Garcia join you? He has no Indian (Goan) ancestry to be drawn to this kind of music…

Verónica: As the project of working on Goan traditional music grew on us, we felt the urgent need of a pianist. Carlos imbibed the soul of the music we sang, went on to make his own musical arrangements. He fitted perfectly. Later, (coincidentally?) Carlos learnt from his family that his grandfather had worked in Goa for two years and left behind writings produced in Goa. Nothing happens by chance …

What does this project mean to you ?

Carolina: This musical project is truly a journey and in so many ways! A journey in time : I am reliving through the “PortuGoesas” experience, my childhood performances. Singing at Kala Academy, in the same auditorium, twenty years later, brought so many memories to my mind …

It is a journey of research: the first step as far as repertoire is concerned was to bring from Macau all scores and lyrics my family used to perform so many years ago. My dad, who passed away twelve years ago, left everything catalogued and well organized in the care of my mom, and she sent me everything. Later on, Veronica travelled to Goa for her holidays and brought with her some books with scores and lyrics of mandos and dulpods, which were our second step for choosing our repertoire.

Verónica: It is a journey in many ways and a response to a calling. Last March, on my visit to Goa, I discovered mandos written by my great-grandfather. We started working on new repertoires. We composed our own rhapsody of dulpods. On April 14, we are doing the premiere of a Konkani mass composed by Jerónimo da Silva. Carolina and I are recording our first CD to be released in May.

As a youngster, I took great pride in my Indian roots. I was also Portuguese but it was like … I was special … different. When I entered my thirties, the call was stronger. I started to move towards my father’s family, my past, my ancestors. It was also about discovering the food, the habits. Interestingly, the Indian genes in me have always been rather dominant. My mother says I’m the most Indian of my siblings, the way I move my head, so typically Indian … On one of the international performances of the Gulbenkian choir, the choreographer decided that the costumes should be Indian. In my Indian clothes, in a non-Indian setting, I felt … this is me. I feel comfortable and complete when I’ve added an Indian accessory to my clothes.

I was already in this process. When I started on this journey together with Carolina, I knew this was my answer to a long standing call. This explains me to myself: my gestures, my preferences, my way of relating to people … I’m more Indian in all this than Portuguese … I feel fulfilled … here was the missing link to my existence … when I climb on stage to sing Goan music, I feel I’m facing not just an audience, but a gathering of friends. I’m singing what is mine. I’m sharing, not performing. With this journey, I don’t feel less Portuguese but now I have a sense of completeness … my journey going out from within me.

 

Dr. Edith Melo Furtado retired as the Head of the Department of French Studies, Goa University. She has to her credit research on French, Portuguese and Goan literature and culture, and has contributed papers to international conferences in these subjects. The French Government honoured Dr. Edith Melo Furtado with the “Palmes Académiques” for her contribution to the promotion of French language and culture in Goa.

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