Sunday, March 23, 2008

While Remo cleared his throat…

While Remo cleared his throat…
By Cecil Pinto

May 23, 2003

Living in Panjim has it's disadvantages, and its
perks. One of them is that you suddenly become very
popular when there's a major night event to be held in
the city. Friends who have not communicated for years
suddenly call up, very concerned about your health
and family, and then casually ask if they can stay
over after Remo's Grand Fiftieth Birthday Concert on
the 8th of May, 2003.

This is how I reunited with my old classmate Rock
from Aldona. After the obligatory phone calls he
turned up at 6.30 in the evening at my flat on the 8th
of May. Alone. We were joined by two more friends,
who also had conveniently renewed their friendship
with me, Frank and Joy (yes I have a male friend named
Joy!) and their respective wives and children. Quite a
bunch. After a few pegs of Rum we proceed to the
Campal venue, just a five minute walk away. Four
slightly high menfolk - three with wives and children
in tow. It was 8.30 p.m. and we hoped to be decently
late enough but learnt that the show had just started
an hour back. Remo had explained that there was a
printing mistake in all the newspaper advertisements
and posters, which nobody noticed - including him.
from a guy who can detect a wrong note from a mile

As the Savages belted out some hard rock we asked
around about what we had missed. Apparently Remo had
made a spirited appeal regarding his newest cause -
Goans First! "We must always give the first
opportunity to our fellow Goans", his voice had
bellowed over the sound system (brought in from
Karnataka), as Mike from Bangalore fine-tuned the

My friend Rock had spirited in a 1.5 litre (not 1
litre) PET bottle with a potent mixture of Rum and
coke. We had all watched apprehensively as he passed
the metal detectors but fortunately there was no major
beeping sounds. There was enough explosive substance
in that bottle to flatten a three storey building. Of
course once Rock was in we all did our bit to help him
consume the mixture. I asked a friendly policeman why
the metal detectors had been installed at every
entrance. He told me it was to count the number of
spectators. I wonder what the actual count was? The
next day had reporting a conservative 8,000
while reported an optimistic 25,000. From
stage Remo himself (outdoing Simon & Garfunkel in
Central Park, New York) claimed he could see "20,000
people, maybe more".
But there were people streaming in and out from all
sides so it was a bit difficult to judge. Maybe Remo
was seeing double, like my Rum enhanced friend Rock
was, by then.

Speaking of double, there were two huge projection
screens set up on both sides of the stage where one
could see close-ups of the action on the stage as well
as occasional documentaries on Remo's childhood,
adolescence, youth, middle age, old age, past
performances and hairstyles. It was educative to see a
long haired rebel of the Eighties go full circle and
mature into … well … into a long haired rebel in
this century. And of course there was the obligatory
documentary on The Social Cause Of The Moment - this
time it was SARS. Thousands of illiterate, panic
stricken individuals had come many miles to know if
they had to throw out their 'Made in China' MP3/VCD/CD
players. It was very enlightening. In fact I heard a
sweet young thing nearby tell her boyfriend.
"See, I told you we don't have to wear those stupid
surgical masks when…." I couldn't get the end of the
sentence because Remo boomed in instructing Mike to
cut the whatchamacallit on the left whatchamacallit
something about 'spills' and 'monitors'. This is a
distinctive trademark of Remo's. Adjusting the sound
mid-song in full view, and hearing, of the audience.
Like his famous 'throat clearing' demos. Which I will
get to later.

The audience was fantastic, spanning all age groups.
Some people had even brought their own chairs. There
were aunties and uncles and grandfathers and
grandmothers and teens and toddlers and middle aged
men with paunches.

And it looked like, except for us, everybody had a
mobile. Including Remo, on the stage itself. He had
some conversation with Star News (which was broadcast
to the audience) but nobody quite understood what it
was all about. In fact a ultrasonic radiographic
picture taken by a NASA space satellite shows that
there was more electronic radiation from mobiles on
8th of May at Campal, than at Congress House in
Panjim every time the Chief Minister goes on a foreign
tour. That is something.

Typical conversation (1): " Where you maaan? I'm in
front of the SARS stall on the right hand side of the
stage. No, no! If you are facing the stage
dummy. Yes Ok! You saw the set of four big yellow
lights? I'm next to that.
Where? You're under the same lights? Just behind me?
You can see me? Wow?
What would we do without mobiles?"

Typical converstion (2): "Sis? Hello Sis isn't
anyone else at home? Just call me back ok! Just call
and speak something. Anything. Doesn't matter what.
Why? Incoming is free. That's why! No everybody else I
know is at the concert. And outgoing is expensive. So
phone me up now.
Let everyone hear my polymorphic ring and by
bright-as-a-torch-bluescreen. And get totally
impressed by how I can talk casually on a mobile for
so long! Sixty seconds pulse for the landline? Why
does that bother you? Daddy pays the bills at home."

As the Valadares sisters displayed their multilingual
capacity the Rum starting having effect and we
middle-aged men sang along with gusto.
Unfortunately we were so far away from the speakers
that not only we were not singing on the same pitch
(not cricket) we weren't even singing the same songs.
We reminisced loudly about the time we were in school
(yes school) and used to cycle (yes cycle) all the way
from Aldona to Xavier's College in Mapusa for the
Annual Fete just to hear Remo belt out his catchy
'Graham Bell' and 'O Panjim'. Some of the
twenty-some-things around us looked at us
suspiciously. They hadn't realised that Remo had been
around so long as to have fans in their early forties.

Of course those were the good old days. Simple
lyrics.. "Graham Bell, Graham Bell/ You're dead and
it's just as well/ Cause if you saw the phones in Goa/
You would jump into the well". How much simpler can
you get? Simple clean lyrics that even cretins like us
could understand. People in my age group don't buy
Remo's music now. For two reasons. 1) We don't quite
understand the strange chants he records these days.
(2) We have CD writers.

By this time the wives were getting bored and the
kids were getting restless. My little Fabian was more
interested in the bright quarter moon in the sky, than
Remo's jokes, and Frank's son Jeff thought it was his
duty to run around every group singing " Bob the
Builder! Can he fix it! Bob the Builder …"

Then came the moment we were all waiting for. The
1.5 litre bottle got over! Should we wait to hear
Remo, Bondo, Lala and Abel (minus Abel) of Remo,
Bondo, Lala and Abel fame? Remember the moonlight
parties? Remember a time before Rave and Trance and
Acid music took over completely? Our wives did not
know what we were talking about. They never will. Some
things are best experienced - not explained. The music
started but there was something missing (besides
Abel). We discussed and reached a decision right
there. We knew what was missing. We needed more Rum!!!

So off we went to refill the PET bottle and to drop
the wives and kids home, as we should have done in the
first place.
Rock was the smart guy who had kept his wife and kids
at home in Aldona and come alone. Remo's show has to
be enjoyed with intoxicated old friends and not with
sober wives and cranky kids.

By the time we got back Remo held centrestage and
was belting out vintage classics like "If I become a
millionaire" and it was great to see so many people
knew the lyrics and sang along. After every two songs
Remo cleared his throat in style "dum dhak chiikka
thik rak thak sak vooo la la" and the crowd cheered as
he trailed off into "Ocean Queen".

I'm sure even Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones can't
get away with clearing his throat on mike - on stage.
Or maybe this was a symbolic gesture of Remo's
regarding SARS, which attacks the respiratory tract

By this time my friend Rock was Rummed to the gills
and was in his element.
"We want more! We want more!", he began chanting
"M-O-R-E!! M-O-R-E!!
R-E-M-O!!" and the people adjacent to us were amazed
to know that 'm-o-r-e' is an anagram for 'r-e-m-o'!
Rock was quite surprised too! Although he is the guy
who brought it to their attention.

Remo then sang "Everybody wants to…" his famous song
about the fear of AIDS. It went down quite well and
was better than this totally made-up fear of SARS. As
Remo suggestively voiced "Everbody wants to ….". I
looked around for that sweet little thing and her
boyfriend. They were nowhere in sight. After all,
everybody wants to…

Then, while Remo took another break to clear his
throat, "Dhak chakalak wooo widdyoup haa rup tup shup
…" , Rock started yelling "We want Konkani!
We want Konkani!". Everyone nearby joined in the
chant. The politically correct chant of course should
have been "Amkam Konkani zai!". Anyway we were
standing somewhere near the left side speakers.
Simultaneously somewhere far away, probably in Verem -
for all we could discern in our condition, someone
started the Goan Party Anthem "Tambdem Rosa" which was
taken up by that side of the crowd. The chants were
carried forward and backward by the crowd and met
somewhere at mid-pitch (remember the venue was a
cricket pitch) and cancelled each other out.

Sensing the mood of the audience Remo obliged by
singing 'Damulea Lagnak'.
But I think he was running short of time. He sung at
breakneck speed with the rest of the band trying to
keep up. Specially the Jimi Hendrix wannabe.

And the sleeveless muscleman drumming on what looked
like a totally flat-four burner gas range. This
superfast version of 'Damulea Lagnak' sounded quite
trendy actually. But nobody could sing along!

Just before singing his final song Remo asked
everyone to give a big hand to his band the Microfine
Papads for playing live.
The audience obliged.

Remo also took a swipe at all the other musicians,
including Michael Jackson for not playing live. But
then these days everybody takes a swipe at Micheal
Jackson. Rock loudly recollected how fifteen years
back Remo used to play at The Haystack, in Arpora,
fully backed by a live twentysix member orchestra.
Never any sequenced music for Remo. No sir!

By this time Rock was in his element, and the
refilled PET bottle was nearing its end, like the
concert. I was in quite a good mood too. Rock hunched
over close to me and whispered conspiratorially.

"Tell me," he said, "who has been on stage throughout
these last four hours?".

"Remo of course!", I replied.

"No!", whispered Rock, "Even he stepped off stage
many times. Only that guy with the videocamera has
been onstage, at centrestage, for the last four
hours continuously.".

"So what of it?"

"Don't you see? This is one big farce. Nobody
actually sang or played live.
They were all just miming. All the music and backing
voices were controlled by this videofilming fellow
through his camera, which is not actually a camera but
a midi-sequence player. "

"And the main vocals?"

"All miming. Everybody! Including Remo. That
videofilming guy sang all the songs. You don't know
what you can do with this modern equipment. He's a
one-man-band and everything is controlled through
that fake camera. I have read about these things"

By this time the music had reached a crescendo and
Remo signed off with his signature "Jalwa". We all
had a great time.
Specially Rock, who didn't
remember much the next day. . And we hope Remo will
continue to entertain us with his wonderful music,
showmanship and songs (particularly the earlier ones).
Just keep on rocking Remo, and don't listen to what
anyone says. Especially guys like Rock!

Greet your loved ones in Goa with flowers!
EXPRESSIONS - The Flower Shop
World famous all over Goa!

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