Saturday, June 8, 2002

Remo returns with New Age music
Melvyn Lobo

Remo Fernandes continues to enthrall with his music
Remo Fernandes continues to enthrall with his music

INDIA Beyond marks the return of Remo Fernandes to the pop arena with what is billed as "New Age music". The 12-track album is a clear departure from the singer’s signature rock style that produced such eternal classics as Goan Crazy, Bombay City and Politicians Do Not Know How to Rock and Roll.

Remo is now more into hi-energy instrumentalisation, yet his lyrics are sublime and reflective. There are snatches of the past — a tribute to friends lost in a road accident, yearning for love that was never realised, a seafarer’s dream, a bitter-sweet account of birds devoured by a domestic cat...

The album charts Remo’s past in parabolic curves — now harmonious, now disruptive — as it draws upon the brutalities and beatitudes of life. The dimensions are kaleidoscopic and endlessly faceted. And Remo orchestrates all his skills as a composer, lyricist, arranger, audiographer, not to mention a singer and player of a variety of live instruments.


When he was barely six years old and his talent was getting recognised, Remo received a mandolin from his parents as a birthday gift. He mastered the instrument within months and before long, landed himself in his school band at Goa. From there, began a musical odyssey that took him to all the famous cities of Europe — Paris, London, Venice, Rome and Madrid.

When down and out, he had to sing for his supper on street-corners and in subways. Then a sabbatical in Africa exposed him to the primal rhythms of the jungle and desert, which were to be integrated into his native Konkan mando, the Goan fado and the classical Indian tradition.

Strains of all these influences are traceable in his compositions, which accounts for the unique position he enjoys in the international pop circuit. He has performed in front of several heads of state and delirious audiences round the globe. He is also the proud winner of the grand prix at the Dresden Festival, the ultimate dream of every rock star.

"He is brilliant," says ad guru and close friend, Frank Simoes. "I have all his albums and when I listen, the magic still enthralls. With India Beyond, Remo has found a new voice and an unassailable place under the sun. He has taken all of the experiences of his life, good or ill, and created the words and music to express them in the purest, most moving of forms. Each composition stands distinctly apart, wholly sufficient unto itself."

The Lady in White is about the quest of every man for an elusive mirage, yet as real as the heart’s yearning. "I uncover, recover, discover...I’ve loved her for years," runs the refrain, the full panoply of wind, percussion, strings, muted brass and chorus weaving an irresistible tapestry of longing and regret.

Birds in Bad Weather is another significant number. Here Remo sings of two birds who take shelter in a window ledge and survive fierce winds and monsoon storms. Their eggs hatch and one fine morning the household cat, who has been marking time, brings the drama to a swift and bloody end. The song mourns the brief but brave existence of the chicks.

There’s also Solita, another gripping account, of a yacht which sails each day with a chosen few along Goa’s beautiful coastline. Remo captures the routine with imagery replete with sunbeams on the waves, acrobatic dolphins and frolicking gulls, many-splendoured sunsets, a serene moonrise...

Then there’s Fish in a Fishbowl and The Empty Stage — touching soliloquies on death and eulogising young lives. To quote Remo himself: "Your melody is a silent prayer. Play on, play on!"