Celebrating Braz and Jazz

(L-R) Louiz Banks, Jarryd Rodrigues, Karl Peters, Braz Gonsalves, Lester Godinho

"Raga Rock" was a much-deserved tribute to Goa-born Braz Gonsalves. Thanks to this presentation by Panjim-based Communicare Trust run by Nalini Elvino de Sousa, Goa got to sing paeans to a Jazzman who keeps a low profile after decades of showmanship in the Indian metros.

At the Kala Academy, on 14 June, I was charmed by the sight of a senior citizen at the entrance, welcoming guests with a gracious smile. Many passed him by, unsuspecting that he was Braz Gonsalves himself. For sure, many jazz aficionados have heard of the man and enjoyed his music; very few would have met him in person.

With Maria Meireles, Sharon Gonsalves and Yvonne Gonsalves

A few minutes later, the very same man wearing his trademark flat cap stole the show. At 86 years of age, he regaled a packed auditorium with his magical, golden saxophone. He was joined by his good ol’ boys: Louiz Banks (who formed the great Indo-Jazz Ensemble, with Braz); Karl Peters, India’s foremost bass guitarist, and drummer Lester Godinho, not forgetting his own, musically talented wife Yvonne ‘Chic Chocolate’ Vaz, daughter Sharon, son-in-law Darryl Rodrigues, and the youngest – and perhaps the most talented of them all – his grandson Jarryd Rodrigues. “Grandfather meets grandson,” boomed Banks, who also remarked that “the legacy of Braz Gonsalves is in the safe hands of his grandson Jarryd.” They made an amazing duo.

What a spectacular evening of jazz! And the music will play on, if the revelations on stage are anything to go by: Jazz pianist Jason Quadros, Portuguese-born soprano Maria Meireles, Anthony Fernandes (bass) and the ‘cool’ Coffee Cats comprising Ian de Noronha (keyboards, bass and melodica), Neil Fernandes (guitar and vocals), Jeshurun D’Cruz (drums), Jarryd Rodrigues (alto and soprano saxophone), Gretchen Barreto (vocals), Ajoy D’Silva (trumpet), and Lester D’Souza (tenor sax).

Cartoonist Alexyz presents his work to Braz and Yvonne

The music segment (vocals and instrumentals) was preceded by a musical skit in which sixteen children recreated the story of Braz Gonsalves’ life which began in Neurá-o-Grande, a village my ancestors hail from. And that was an added reason for me to celebrate Braz and Jazz!

(L-R) Emmanuel de Noronha, Braz Gonsalves, Oscar de Noronha and Vera de Noronha, backstage, after the show

Naval Band enthrals

What we know of the Indian Navy is that it safeguards the nation’s maritime borders, enhances international relations through joint exercises, port visits and humanitarian missions, including disaster relief.

What we know very little about, however, is that the Navy prides itself on its band. They perform at events of national and international significance. Those include the Republic Day Parade and the celebrations that culminate in the Beating Retreat ceremony in New Delhi.

Interestingly, the Band, formed way back in 1945, accompanies naval ships on goodwill visits to foreign shores. It has woodwind, brass and percussion sections. String instruments include the violin and the double bass; and among the Indian instruments are the tabla and the dholak. The Indian Navy musician officers, playing in ensemble with the bands of foreign nations, double as unofficial musical ambassadors of the country.

The sixty-six men Indian Naval Symphonic Band is in concert in our State, performing under the baton of the Director of Music (Navy), Commander Vijay D’Cruz, who is of Goan origin. He is assisted by T. Vijayraj. Their repertoire includes fanfare, waltz, folk, swing, fusion, hymns and patriotic music; of which my favourites were 'Le Mariage de Figaro', 'Skater's Waltz' and 'Abide with Me'.

Commander's D'Cruz's composition, ‘Folk Tunes of Western India’, which took the audience on a journey through the states of Western India including Goa enthralled the audience. ‘American Patrol’, a popular marching tune composed by Frank White in 1885, and ‘Shanmughapriya’, a ragam in Carnatic music, followed.

Today’s show at Dinanath Mangueshkar auditorium of Kala Academy was packed to the rafters. It was beautifully compered by Genevieve da Cunha, wife of commanding officer of INS Mandovi, Captain Sanjay da Cunha, whose family hails from Curtorim.

A beautiful mix of great social propriety and bonhomie marked the event. It was a treat to see the officers and their families interacting among themselves and with their guests.