Love and Longing in Mumbai's Jazz Age     
-  Text by Naresh Fernandes

For the African-American musicians, Bombay provided
refuge from the apartheid in the US Men like
Weatherford and his sidemen, such as the saxophonist
Roy Butler, spent long years shuttling between Europe
and the subcontinent, where racial barriers seemed
non-existent, at least for them. Butler's years in
India as a Weatherford sideman, he told Storyville,
were among his happiest-the work was relatively easy,
the pay and conditions good, he was treated splendidly
by both management and clientele, and enjoyed the
luxurious life under the British Raj. The Taj
management, on its part, honoured Weatherford by
naming a dish after him: Poires Glace Weatherford.
(The absence of colour prejudice was only to be
expected. After all, industrial baron Jamshetji Tata
was moved to build the Taj after being prevented one
leisurely Bombay evening from dining at the
European's-only Pyrke's Apollo Hotel. Later, he
famously hung a notice in the Taj forbidding entry to
South Africans and dogs.)
Weatherford's sidemen were an eclectic lot and opened
Bombay's ears to a wealth of new sounds, the Cuban
drumming of Luis Pedroso and the Spanish brass of Luis
Moreno, among them. Butler, who was known as the
Reverend in acknowledgement of his abstemious ways,
helped Weatherford drill the band. Moreno
characterised Butler as the "gentleman of the
orchestra". Moreno added, "He never drank in his life
and if someone said, 'How about a round of drink?' Roy
would say, 'I'll have an ice-cream. You enjoy beer, I
enjoy ice-cream.' Butler went on to lead his own band
at Greens, located where the Taj Intercontinental now
Both Weatherford (who married an Anglo-Indian woman,
before dying of cholera in Calcutta in 1945, aged 41)
and Butler recruited Goan sidemen, plugging Bombay
into the source of jazz. The trumpet player Frank
Fernand, who played in Weatherford's band with his
Goan compatriots, Micky Correa and Josique Menzies,
says that his stint with the American taught him to
"play like a negro". Moreno helped Fernand develop the
ability to hit long, high notes, eventually extending
his range up to E flat. Butler, it must be noted, was
less than thrilled with his Goan employees. "My short
stretch as a 
bandleader in India was not too earth-shaking," he
told Storyville. "The local musicians were not too
familiar with jazz at that time. I understood that
there are some very good jazzmen out there now, but
the time was too short for anything to develop, good
or bad." For their part, some of the Goan musicians
weren't overly impressed with Butler, either. They
believed his decision to stay in India was motivated
by the fear that he wouldn't find work in the US. As
Fernand put it, "The faltu fellows stayed, the good
ones went home."
But by the '40s, Bombay's swing bands had earned a
solid reputation. After listening to Mickey Correa and
Frank Fernand play their hearts out in the outfit
fronted by Rudy Cotton (a Parsi who had been born
Cawasji Khatau), one contemporary correspondent wrote
that "the band really jumped, just another bunch of
righteous boys who helped to prove, if proof were
needed, that this jazz of ours has developed into an
international language". 

Both Lorna and Chris lived on the edges of a precinct
of cemeteries known as Sonapur-the City of Gold. Lorna
lives to the south of Sonapur, in Guzder House in the
Dhobi Talao neighbourhood. When the wind blows east,
her starkly furnished room is filled with the aroma of
hot mawa cakes and fluffy buns being unloaded from the
ovens in Kayani's bakery next door. In the narrow
corridors of Guzder House, even whispers carry clear
down the hallway, and the mundane details of Lorna's
spats with Chris became common knowledge. "He was a
big gambler," one neighbour recalls. "He'd come in a
car and say, 'Lorna, give me 5,000 rupees.' She'd go
to the bank and withdraw it. All her savings were
wiped out." 
Chris lived to the north of Sonapur, opposite the
church of Sao Francis Xavier in Dabul. Once he got
home, he became a strict but caring father. "He was
very religious," his eldest son Giles told one
interviewer. "We had to recite the Rosary at 8 every
evening. At 12 noon and at dusk, we had to say the
Angelus. If the phone rang during prayers he would
say, 'Throw the phone out.'" Miles, another of Chris
Perry's sons, described his father's devotion to his
art. "His daily routine when he woke up was to first
smoke a cigarette and then blow his trumpet. Only then
would he go for a wash." His son Errol added: "He
always had his favourite instrument close to him. Even
while he slept, the trumpet would be on one side and
mummy on the other."
The neighbourhood in which Lorna and Chris lived had
long been the focus of Catholic migrants from Goa. The
first significant numbers of Goan migrants came to
Bombay in 1822, liberal partisans fleeing political
persecution in the Portuguese colony for the safety of
British India. More followed in 1835 after a rebellion
by mixed-race mestizos deposed Goa's first native-born
governor general, Bernardo Peres da Silva. The
mestizos launched a two-year reign of terror, forcing
da Silva's supporters into exile. As the century
progressed, Goan emigration to Bombay swelled. The
Portuguese hadn't been especially attentive to
developing industries, so the pressure on cultivable
land was intense. Adding to this, many Goans chaffed
under the oppression of the bhatkars, as the feudal
landlords were known. By the 1920s, many Goan men were
being employed as seamen by such British lines as BI,
P&O, Anchor and Clan. They used Bombay as a base
between their voyages. Other Goans found work as
domestic helpers in British households and social
institutions. The early Goan fortune-seekers were
almost all male: The arduous overland journey from Goa
to Bombay, which took between 10 and 15 days,
discouraged women. But the opening of the rail line
between territories in April 1881 changed that. By the
1930s, Goans in Bombay had come to be associated with
the ABC professions: they were ayahs (maids), butlers
and cooks. In a column titled 'Random Jottings'
published by the Anglo-Lusitanian Journal in 1931, a
writer calling himself Atropos noted that of the
37,000 Goans resident in Bombay that year, 14,000 were
seamen, 7,000 were cooks or waiters and 3,000 were
ayahs. A full 700 were estimated to be musicians. (At
least 7,000 Goans were unemployed.)
The neighbourhoods around Sonapur began to fill up
with Goan dormitories known as coors, a word that
derived from the Portuguese cuadd or room. These were
established by individual villages back in Goa to
provide a home away from home for their neighbours who
were too poor to maintain two residences, one in the
village and the other in the city. By 1958, half of
the estimated 80,000 Goans in Bombay lived in such
quarters-which were now being called "clubs", adopting
the word used to describe the chummeries many firms
had established for their single European employees,
writes Olga Valladares in her 1958 thesis titled The
Coor System-a study of Goan club life in Bombay. As
you walk down the narrow lanes of the neighbourhoods
around Sonapur today, you can see fading signboards of
these Clubs everywhere: the Boa Morte Association
(Club of Majorda); St Anne's Club of Ponda;
Fatradicares Club; The Original Grand Club of Pombura;
Nossa Senhora dos Milagres, Club of Sangrem. There
were 341 Goan clubs in the city in 1958, mainly
between Dhobi Talao and Dabul. The seamen who lived in
them found it easy from there to get to the docks and
the shipping offices, while the cooks and domestics
were within walking distance of the produce sellers at
Crawford Market, where their chores began before they
moved on to their employer's establishments each day. 
Life in the clubs was spartan. Residents were allowed
minimal baggage, usually a big trunk. "Life was lived
out of the box and on it," Valladares says. The
club-dweller's box "is not only the repository of all
personal possessions, his wardrobe and his safe, but
it is his dining table at mealtimes and his bed at
night." The altar was the centrepiece of the club. In
addition to statues of Christ and Mary, they contained
icons of the patron saint of the village, decorated
with offerings of flowers. Every evening, members were
required to gather around the altar to say the Rosary.
The highlight of the year was the celebration in exile
of the village feast. Collections were taken up and,
after Mass, there was an elaborate meal, followed by
musical performances.
The music, old-timers recall, was superb. After all,
the musical talents of Goans had earned the community
a formidable reputation throughout the subcontinent.
The Portuguese may have neglected higher education in
Goa, but the parochial schools first established in
1545 put into place a solid system of musical
training. As early as 1665, a Goan choir performed an
oratorio by Giacome Carissimi in seven voices at the
Basilica of Bom Jesu. The recital caused such a
sensation, it led the Carmelite musician Guiseppe di
Santa Maria to declare, "I feel I am in Rome." The
clash of civilisations in Goa created a whole range of
syncretic forms: the Goa sausage was a Portuguese
chorizo with a tear-inducing splash of Indian spice;
cashew feni was drunk in a leisurely Iberian manner
after sundown; and the mando-the only harmonised folk
musical form on the subcontinent - melded saudade, the
nostalgic melancholy that pervades Portuguese fado,
with Indian folk melodies. Transgressing
subcontinental norms, the mando was the accompaniment
for social dancing between the sexes; as the musicians
crooned their songs of yearning, couples struck up
delicate postures of stylised courtship.
Their musical inclination came in handy when Goans
sought work in British India. They soon established
themselves as the musicians of the Raj, staffing the
orchestras established by British administrators and
by Indian maharajahs seeking to appear sophisticated.
In Bombay, Goan musicians took over both ends of the
music business. In 1888, The Times of India mentions a
Goan ensemble playing in the Bombay Philharmonic
Orchestra in the Town Hall. Other Goan groups are said
to have displaced the Muslim street bands that played
at the weddings of the common folk and other festive
occasions. Salvador Pinto, who played coronet in the
Volunteer Corps, is thought to have formed the first
proper street band, writes Bombay local historian Dr
Teresa Albuquerque. She says that the demand for Goan
musicians was so great, one ingenious man named
Francisco Menezes trawled through the clubs to find
unemployed men to march in the processions,
instructing them to inflate their cheeks without
blowing a note. Dhobi Talao's Goans were prominent not
only as musicians but also in the city's musical
instrument trade. L M Furtado opened his store in Jer
Mahal, around the corner from where Lorna lives, in
the 1920s, importing pianos and violins that had been
tropicalised to keep them from warping in the Bombay
swelter. Marques and Company was nearby.
Goan musicians also conjured up soundscapes for the
silent films. Bombay's Watson's Hotel had been host to
India's first cinema screening on July 7, 1896, a show
that advertised itself as "living photographic
pictures in life-sized reproductions by Messrs Lumiere
Brothers". By New Year's day in 1900, the Tivoli
Theatre was screening 25 pictures, with music by a
string band. A portrait photographer named
Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar became the first
Indian to import a motion-picture camera from London
and he shot a wrestling match between two well-known
musclemen in 1897. Other locally-shot films followed,
including Alibaba, Hariraj and Buddha by a Bengali
named Hiralal Sen. A creative flashback projects the
tantalising image of Bombay audiences drinking in
black-and-white scenes from Indian folktales as a Goan
string quartet trots out phrases from Mozart and
snatches of mandos, varying the tempo to match the
action on screen. Goans have stayed in the picture
ever since.

                        (To be continued...... )

Text and pictures at:

- Forwarded by Gaspar Almeida, Associate,

Do you Yahoo!?
Win a $20,000 Career Makeover at Yahoo! HotJobs 

# Send submissions for Goanet to [EMAIL PROTECTED]                       #   
# PLEASE remember to stay on-topic (related to Goa), and avoid top-posts #
# More details on Goanet at              #  
# Please keep your discussion/tone polite, to reflect respect to others  #

Reply via email to