Tenho o destino marcado, desde a hora em que te vi. O meu cigano adorado, viver abracada ao fado. Morrer abracada a ti.” (My fate was sealed from the first moment that I saw you. Oh my beloved gypsy, to live in the arms of the Fado. To die, in yours.)
It is a Sunday morning and in a small room in a building in Ponda, Goa, celebrated Goan singer Sonia Shirsat belts out the famous Fado O Rua do Capelao with passion as her student Swizel Costa, 19, sits transfixed by her golden voice and the charm of this traditional genre of Portuguese music. Quite similar to the ghazal, Fado—characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics suffused with a sentiment of melancholia—was living in the shadows for many years after Goa’s liberation in 1961. But today, it is enjoying a renaissance spearheaded by the globally-acclaimed, who is grooming Goans like Swizel in this genre of music riddled with nautical metaphors.
Fuelling this renaissance is the Taj Group-sponsored Fado de Goa project, which has roped in Sonia. It spreads awareness about Fado, inspiring young talents and moulding them into singers. “We host awareness sessions in educational institutions and socio-cultural clubs and select interested participants for the first level of training, comprising ten classes of two-hour duration. They learn the rules and the history of Fado and master five different Fados,” says Sonia, who is well-known in the Fado circuit and has performed with celebrity Fadistas like Katia Guerreiro and Maria Ana Bobone.
After a written and oral exam, talented singers graduate to the next level of one-on-one sessions with Sonia. Since the inception of Fado de Goa in 2016, 195 people have attended the first level classes and 38 are undergoing advanced training, says the singer, who was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2016.
“For us, it’s been encouraging to see what we have achieved in one year,” says Bosco Furtado of the Taj Group. “Those who attend the first level can confidently sing a few Fados and they make an informed audience during concerts.”According to Orty Soares of Semana da Cultura Indo Portuguesa, an outfit promoting Portuguese culture and Fado, this type of music was mostly confined to elite Catholic circles in Goa earlier. “However, it has gained respectability now, crossing religious boundaries,” she says.
A celebration of Saudade (intense nostalgia), Fado’s charm is so infectious that it entices people across age groups. A case in point is Anupama Prabhudesai, an Indian classical music teacher and student of Sonia. “Fado is passionate poetry which I love and I got acquainted with it thanks to my two daughters,” she quips. Cosme Araujo, a mechanical engineer and a budding Fado singer, says even his children are showing interest in this music after watching him practice at home.
The future of Fado is secure with the GenNext as more youngsters are swayed by its charms. Some of them like Nadia Rebelo, 22, are following in Sonia’s footsteps. “The liking towards Fado is definitely increasing and I’m sure the coming years will only get better,” says the upcoming Fadista. Her friend Daniella Fernandes, 21, a prize-winning singer, also agrees.
She and her cousin Poorita Vaz, a Class IX student, are under Sonia’s tutelage. Maria Ines Figueira, director of Portuguese cultural foundation Fundacao Oriente’s India delegation, is also optimistic about the future of Fado in the country. Firmly entrenched in Goa’s ‘musicscape’, Fado’s strains are even being heard outside the state with Spic Macay hosting workshops in schools in different cities across India.