World Music Day: Goa's love affair with music

World Music Day celebrates the power music has to unite people
Music is a universal language of love.
Music is a universal language of love.Photo: GT Digital

Every morning, the antenna of the radio set was moved back and forth just to catch the signal to the station that played Konkani melodies. At times, getting it just right took some time, the volume was increased, one more attempt and then, the sudden blast of music to which the rest of us woke up.

A ritual, followed by the Morning Prayer, was letting the music decide your mood while you prepared to take on the day. This musical way of life seeped through generations.

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Back in the day, Goan music consisted of instruments such as dhols, tablas, ghumats and shenais that were mostly played at festivities especially in Hindu temples.

However, when the Portuguese ships touched the shores of Goa, they came in with their love for music. Instruments such as the piano, mandolin, violin and trumpets were introduced to Goa by the Portuguese. It is also because of their 450 years of rule that Goa was exposed to different kinds of music in the form of 'records'.

Goans received better music exposure, thanks to the Portuguese!
Goans received better music exposure, thanks to the Portuguese!Photo: GT Digital

With such influences, the music in Goa ranks high with the folk music that is still preserved in rural villages, the Western introductions and Goan music artists creating a mark worldwide. From being a source of entertainment and a form of expression, music has also become a refuge to many.

It's said 'when words fail, music speaks'. When cooking meant connecting three stones and placing an earthen pot to cook the produce, a good mix of the birds chirping and the simmering curry was combined with the women humming tunes mindlessly.

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Simple melodies do the magic of de-stressing you. Like a tiny child who has no understanding of the lullaby her dad sings to her, yet the soothing music let’s her sleep peacefully in his arms. Maybe it’s also because music is a love language.

Love that’s expressed as a to-be bride/groom is bathed with roce (coconut juice), the most experienced singers of the village gather to perform the customary mandos and dulpods that revolve around stanzas of nostalgic love and historic narratives.

Goan weddings are truly a musical celebration full of fun, laughter and energy from jiving on La Bamba to grooving at the sangeet performance.

The customary 'ghumat troupe' at the Shigmo festival.
The customary 'ghumat troupe' at the Shigmo festival.Photo: GT Digital


Enter a Goan restaurant, apart from the aromatic smell of some delicious food, there’s always some jazz or a live band performance to enhance your dining experience. No picnics and long drives are complete without music. Screaming the lyrics and enacting a few moves is how long journeys are enjoyed.

Music fills the air at Goan festivities, such as Carnival or Shigmo. The energetic dance performances on the lively numbers simply make you happier. A mood lifter as some may state, play Goa Amchem and you will notice a Goan tapping their feet to the rhythm.

Though sometimes off-tuned, it’s common for a passerby to hear a violinist or pianist practicing at their homes late in the evenings. In fact, teaching an instrument was something schools took upon themselves, inculcating the love for music in children at an early age. And, with the number of talented musicians Goa has, the saying holds true that 'music runs in the Goan blood'.

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Just like the highs, music also is a comforter during the lows of life.  Like the memories of loved ones, music remains with you long after it's played. It lets one find solace by healing the wounds that bleed within.

Music has the ability to pierce into the deepest parts of our soul, no wonder Goans venerate their gods with music. Walking into a Goan church, the glorious hymns sung by the choir, transposes you to a different place. And, it not only helps one connect with their gods, but also enriches the bonds within a community.

Catholic feasts are incomplete without the brass band.
Catholic feasts are incomplete without the brass band.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Muslims offer devotion with the rhythmic recital of the words. Every village has a skilled ghumatkar, whose presence is required at every aarti during Ganpati celebrations. If there's any delay, a child is sent to fetch the violinist, until which, the cross litany doesn’t begin.

Each saint and every festival in Goa has a dedicated song that's of religious and cultural significance -- encapsulating the essence of Goa.

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As a form of expression, music timelines the history of Goa and the social conditions. For centuries, music has held stories and information for the next generations.

Based on varied themes, Kantaram  (songs), sung by tiatrists, are cheered most when they're creative, satirical pieces that mock politicians. Entertaining tiatrs have music provided by a live band that consists of a drummer, pianist, guitarist, bass etc.

A glimpse of an onstage tiatr performance.
A glimpse of an onstage tiatr performance.Photo: GT Digital

Listening to music at one’s convenience in Goa only became possible with the introduction of radios in the early 1960s till the 1980s. Nowadays, with technology, times have changed, but our love for music hasn’t.

Goan streets are full of music-lovers with plugged ear pods and young artists are constantly creating music at their well-equipped studios.

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Music has brought people together. Sharing customized playlists to friends, dedicating songs on the radio, breaking into the latest trendy tracks at work, feeling the trance vibe at music festivals, the list goes on.

Music has always been innately human to Goans. It is part of us, like a background score through all our experiences. Without music, life would have been far less interesting.

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