Music And Dance in Goan Culture

There’s no doubt that Goa is visually extremely appealing, but there’s more to this state than just its beaches. Shobhika Jaju lets you in on the multifarious forms of music and art that define the culture of Goa

Ancient treatises like ‘Sangiut Ratnakar’ and ‘Sangiut Samayasar’ make a mention of the Goan music. The Goan folklore music can be broadly categorised in two main sections: Hindu and Christian. The music of the Muslim community is largely restricted to the fatiahs, and eulogies sung by them during their religious festivals. The Portuguese with their advent led to the development of the omnipresent talent of music in Goa. Knowledge about both Western Classical and religious music was imparted which blended with the already existing Indian music and gave rise to a new stream, namely the Goan Christian Folklore Music.

The classical Hindu music of Goa was traditionally the preserve of Hindu temples but gradually the patronage given to the temple girls, ‘Bhavins’ and ‘Kalavonts’ disappeared. ‘Bhajan’, a branch of Hindu devotional music though survived. The ‘Kirtans’ are songs sung in praise of God. ‘Nabat’ involves playing music at sunrise and sunset.

The Mando, a famous folk song and dance form of Goa was introduced by the Portuguese. The origin of the word Mando can be traced to the Konkani word ‘Mandd’, or village square. Mando speaks about the aristocracy in Goa and in its many ways bears the impression of the Portuguese way of life which many Goans imbibed in their life. The dancers wear colourful and unique costumes which add to the beauty of this dance.

‘The life of a rabbit, mother, is spent in the woods. How long can I stay, mother, in my father’s house.’ These are the lyrics of a Konkani Durpod. If sung by a young man, it is the plea of the son telling the mother to let him live his life on his own. If sung by a peasant girl, it is the lamentation of a wilting soul. The Durpod is almost always sung together with the Mando and is more native than the Mando with more resemblance to the soil.

A popular Goan Dekhni, ‘Aunv Saiba poltori vetain’- Sir, take me across the river is a very expressive Goan statement on the briefness of life. The protagonist here is the ‘Kalavont’ who begs the boatman to ferry her across. It is the day of her lover Damu’s wedding and she must dance at the ‘Mattov’ or pandal. The boatman offers her jewelleries and flowers but she resists his advances and begs him to let her go. But the boatman seduces the kalavont and her song dies in a mournful and desperate refrain: ‘Maka naka go’- please no, I don’t want it…..

The Goan Trance is a form of electronic music that developed around the same time as the Trance music which became popular in Europe. It originated around late 1980s and early 90s in Goa. The hippie culture largely contributed to the development of this genre. One of the oldest musical instruments of the Goan folk culture is the ‘Ghummot’. It is largely played during the various festivities of the Goan communities. The Ghummot is a delicate instrument. It is open-ended from the narrower part and is covered with the wet skin of a monitor lizard locally known as ‘Garr’ through the help of a ‘Sumb’ or local rope tied to the instrument’s neck. The Ghummot is an integral part of the Mando as it lends the basic beat to the melody.

The Kansaiim, Madheim and Bonkanv are other traditional musical instruments of Goa. Musical instruments of Muslim origin include shehnai, toblem, nagaro, arab, satar and sarangi. During the early 1900s, the local Christian women played the viola, violin, the mandolin or the piano and were familiar with ballroom dance.

The Fugdi is the most popular folk dance form performed by the Goan women. The name is believed to have evolved from the sound of puffing which the women make while performing this traditional dance. It is danced to a fast rhythm and accompanied by folk songs which are part of the memory heritage of the community. Fugdi is a way by which the women express their innermost devotion to the deity and hence the tradition of Fugdi has been maintained in Goa.

The Dhalo is another folk dance form performed by certain communities of Goa. The women sing about the clothes, ornaments and looks of Gods. These performances are traditional with minimal use of props; rather the hand gestures and mimicry play an important role. After the prayers, the women split into two rows or ‘Fanti’, facing each other, holding themselves with arms around one another. They sway, bend and move forward and backward, singing in unison.

Kunbi is a tribal folk dance which is peculiar to the Kunbi tribe of Goa performed to the rhythms of Ghummot. It is a group dance and song sequence, thoroughly rustic. Corredinho- Portuguese, Goff, Godde- Modni, Dhangar, Hanpet or the sword dance, Virbhadra and Samayi or the Lamp dance are some other folk dance forms of Goa.

Tiatr is a popular folk drama form of Goa. The main story is interspersed with musical and humorous interludes. The dramas contain six or seven acts called ‘Podde’. Another version of the Tiatr, called ‘Khell Tiatr’, is usually performed only during the festivals of Carnival, Intruz and Easter.

During the state festival of Shigmo or Holi, folk dancers in colourful traditional costumes, carrying multi-coloured flags perform vibrant dances to the beat of huge drums. ‘Rombat’ which is a procession of men and children in traditional dresses is performed. The ‘Dhakto Shigmo’ and Vodlo Shigmo are two most common forms of Shigmo.

The Carnival arrived in Goa with the Portuguese. During the carnivals and other celebrations people entertain themselves by organising ‘Felos’ or short plays which usually deal with some historical event in the region. These are music, song and dance interspersed with witty dialogues. The Goan art forms have a rhythmic charm, a lot of variety and are full of vibrancy. These art forms show the diversity of influences which makes Goan culture so distinctive and unique.

Text: Shobhika Jaju

Images: Joyel Fernandes

Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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