New Zealand, jazz, and Molbailo Dou
Ben Fernandez and his troupe in Auckland, New Zealand have been creating waves on social media for their unique jazz take of the evergreen Konkani tune ‘Molbailo Dou’ from the film ‘Amchem Noxib’, discovers NT BUZZ
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
Even 55 years after the Konkani film ‘Amchem Noxib’ directed by Frank Fernand hit the big screen, the tune of ‘Molbailo Dou’ from the movie continues to be much loved. And now New Zealand based Ben Fernandez who is of Goan origin has come out with a cool jazz rendition to the popular tune at a concert in Auckland.
The jazz pianist, composer and educator has over the years performed in around 25 countries at events like the Cannes Film Festival – France, a party for president Bill Clinton in Mumbai, Afro-Asian Games Closing Ceremony – Hyderabad, and worked with performers like Louiz Banks, Shaan and Gary Lawyer. To celebrate his 50th birthday in November 2018, he decided to organise a concert ‘Memories are made of this – a celebration of life’s journey’ featuring the Ben Fernandez Quartet which also comprised of Andrew Hall – saxophone/vocals, Ron Samson – drums and Russel McNaughton – bass. The concert which was held at Lewis Eady Showroom, Epsom, and also featured a few special guests, including his son, comprised of classical, jazz, pop classics, originals, world music.
Among these was a different take on the tune ‘Molbailo Dou’. The video of the performance which has since been uploaded on social media has received a lot of attention.
“I am very proud of my Goan heritage and my concert had to include a Konkani tune. Each of the tunes selected had a specific memory or life story attached to it. I also chose this tune because my father-in-law Balthazar Fernandes was the assistant music director to Frank Fernand for the original recording of this tune. He also did the original orchestrations for this tune and the others in the film ‘Amchem Noxib’,” discloses Fernandez.
This was the very first time that the tune was performed by Fernandez with his band. The group has been performing together for ten years now. In fact, the band members heard the tune for the first time at the concert rehearsal. “I have played other Konkani / Portuguese tunes before with my band in New Zealand, but this was the first time we did ‘Molbailo Dou’. However, it’s a great tune with a lovely catchy melody and so it was quite easy for all the musicians to contribute to making the tune sound the way it did,” says Fernandez.
And the audience loved it, he reveals. “I had a few people in the audience who were from Goa. I dedicated the tune to them and to my family and friends in Goa. We had initially planned on a two-hour concert. However with encores, we played for almost three hours. It sure was a great way to celebrate my ‘50th Birthday’,” says Fernandez, who tries to play Konkani tunes regularly at his various gigs and events.
He has also previously composed a tune called ‘Song for Feli’ in memory of Feli, a trumpet player from Curtorim who was tragically lost his life in a scooter accident. Besides this, he also composed the music for the signature tune for the local Konkani radio station in Auckland which has a weekly programme in Konkani called ‘Susegad Danpaar’.
“I have been listening to Goan music ever since I was very young. Some of the tunes I play and enjoy are ‘Bandra Festak’, ‘Bebdo’, ‘Cadiza-za-za’, ‘Cecelia’, ‘Tambde Rosa’, ‘Maria Isabel’, ‘Maria Pitache’, ‘Claudia’, ‘Kai Borelo Komblo’, ‘Tuzo Mog’, etc,” says Fernandez, who hails from a family of musicians with origins in Curtorim. Having learnt the nuances of jazz from teachers like Dee Wood, Johnny Fernandes, Johnny Pereira and Mike Machado, Fernandez and his wife moved to New Zealand in 2004 where he studies jazz further at the New Zealand School of Music in Auckland. “I did my Bachelors of Music with Honours and then went on to do a Masters in Music at the University of Auckland. My Masters project in fact was on how we could use elements of Indian music in jazz improvisation,” says Fernandez. Apart from performances, Fernandez also conducts workshops on improvisation and jazz at various places around India like Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Bangalore. “There is a huge interest in jazz and improvisation in India and there are some amazing young musicians playing some fantastic music,” he says.
And his love for Konkani music will also continue. “I am planning an entire concert of Konkani music with my band probably in April or May at Auckland this year,” he discloses.