Singer Remo Fernandes Talks About His Concert In Mumbai, His Journey, And More

Singer Remo Fernandes Talks About His Concert In Mumbai, His Journey, And More

He will be performing with his his band The Microwave Papadums on May 4, at the Shanmukhananda auditorium

Verus FerreiraUpdated: Friday, April 26, 2024, 10:42 PM IST
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Pic: Courtesy of the Artiste

Three days before his 71st birthday (May 8), Padma Shri awardee Remo Fernandes known for several breakout hits, is in the country and is all set to rock Mumbai. He will be performing with his his band The Microwave Papadums on May 4, at the Shanmukhananda auditorium. Ahead of his concert, The Free Press Journal spoke to the singer on his life in Portugal, his home state Goa, journey in Bollywood, and his music.

Excerpts from the interview:

What playlist have you picked for your concert?

I myself am never sure of the playlist in advance. The list depends upon the moods; ours, and the audience.

Can you tell us the story behind the name The Microwave Papadums.

I was looking for a name which fused ancient India and the high-tech west, which is what our music is about. My sister, who lived in Europe, one day told me she roasted papads in a microwave oven there. These gadgets had just been released and were the latest craze in the West. I jumped up and wrote the name down lest I forgot it.

In 2000, you lost four band members in a tragic accident. What’s the new line-up you will be playing with and is drummer Santana Carvalho, the only surviving member of your original band also in the line-up.

So we have Mukesh Ghatwal on bassboards, keyboards, Vishal Phaterpekar on Indian and western percussions, Santana Carvalho, who’s very much with us, is on drums and Zenia Pereira is on backing vocals and moves. I’m on electric and acoustic guitars, flute and main vocals.

You visit Goa every six months, what is it that you miss about Goa?

Most of all I miss my home. I find the real Goa I used to know within my compound walls, and mercifully we have a large compound all around the house. Just outside the compound, it’s a different Goa today; the disorganised traffic, the over-construction, the blatant corruption, all these certainly aren’t the things I miss.

In our last conversation, you had mentioned that your sons have made some contributions to music.

They keep writing their own songs, rather good songs, if I do say so myself, whenever they feel like. But neither decided to make a career in music. Noah the elder one works in programming and animation in Amsterdam, while Jonah has started the first zero-waste store in India, which is growing stronger after the pandemic.

How important do you think was Bollywood in cementing your musical career?

All-important, in the sense that in India you may produce fabulous music in English, and only a small section of people will know you. But you have one hit in a Hindi movie, and a small acting role in it (like I did in Jalwa), and overnight the whole country knows you.

In your book, Remo: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes, you have a playlist that follows your life with the songs you wrote. Tell us about this playlist.

I would rather urge people who like to read to pick up my autobiography and listen to the playlist themselves. I assure them it’s not a long boast about my ‘achievements’; it is rather a description of my Goa from the 1950s, of my times as a student in Mumbai in the 1970s, of my hitchhiking across Europe and North Africa in the 1980, right down till today.

Sometime back you had worked on an Opera that you had written as a tribute to Mother Teresa. What was the project all about?

The first thing I’d like to say is that it isn’t a religious work; it’s a narration in music about the life and work of one of the people I admire on this earth. I was inspired to write two or three songs about her, and I started recording them.

But more and more ideas for more and more songs came up whenever I completed one, and before I knew it, I had a whole opera in my hands, with an overture and all.

How do you spend your time in Portugal and have you done any songs in Portuguese?

I spend my time living a relatively quiet life in a place which reminds me of the Goa I grew up in, and of the Goa that might have been, a disciplined, clean, where laws are enforced and obeyed by all, where courtesy is shown by every driver in the streets and highways.

We enjoy doing road trips within Portugal and plan to extend them into different surrounding countries in Europe now that we have visited most of Portugal. I have my home recording studio there too, and create and record a lot while there. But I have not, and do not intend to, try and ‘make it’ in Portugal. I have been inspired to write some songs in Portuguese though, the last one being Fado da Terra Lenta. The video is on YouTube.

It’s election season in India and we are reminded of your super hit Politicians Don’t Know To Rock & Roll. Thirty years later, what do you think of its relevance?

The only comment I can think of making is that nothing has changed in 30 years, and nothing is expected to change. There’s another song of mine which does the rounds in Goa at every election time, and that’s Vote: Tit for Tat. This video is on YouTube too.

What is it that you hate doing?

Having to try and convince a bunch of musically ignorant record company executives of my music’s worth. I gave up doing that as soon as I started a million years ago.

How do you look back on your 50-year-long career? Ever thought of taking a break from music?

For someone who never tried to ‘make it’ and never followed the commercial path, whatever has come my way has been a blessing indeed. Only when I take a break from life, I will take a break from music.

Because to me music is life.

What music inspires you?

All kinds of music which comes from the composer’s heart. When it does, it shows.

What is your take on the current music scene in Goa?

It has always lacked originality. Goan bands and musicians are good at doing cover versions. Unfortunately very few venture to write original songs of their own.

How important do you think was Bollywood in cementing your musical career?

All-important, in the sense that in India you may produce fabulous music in English, and only a small section of people will know you. But you have one hit in a Hindi movie, and a small acting role in it (like I did in ‘Jalwa’), and overnight the whole country knows you.

What kind of songs are you recording nowadays and how often do you go on tour?

As always, I write songs as and when inspiration strikes, about the things and situations which catch my attention the most. Unfortunately, in India the concept of ‘tours’ does not exist. I do individual shows when they come along, in India and abroad.

Playing faves with Remo

Favorite Destination: Wherever my fancy takes me.

Favorite Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Little Prince, Siddarth, The Alchemist.

Favorite food: Goan of course, but without too much oil and chillies

Favorite Movie: Too many to name.

Favorite Musician: The Beatles.

Favorite Singer: Freddy Mercury.

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