MAESTRO ANTONINHO DE SOUZA
A Legendary Goan Musician
Being the son of a clarinetist, music mingled in his genes. But sheer hard work and his passion for perfection in music formed the sheet anchor of the resounding success that Antoninho de Souza achieved, says Braz Fernandes in our Goan Legends Series.
ANTONINHO Servitas de Souza was born in Anjuna, in the family of Santano de Souza and Amelia Noronha on February 19, 1917. After completing his primary education upto Primeiro Grau in Portuguese, he shifted his residence to Marna in Siolim, to learn music under Siolim's famed maestro Zeferino D'Cruz. The late Zeferino de Souza taught him to play the violin, clarinet and other instruments.
By nature, Antoninho was a perfectionist. His passion for music, goaded him to excel in the field, which was a magic carpet which took him to places beyond the borders of native Goa. He had the privilege of performing at the princely darbar of Darwani in Central India in 1938. At that time he played the first violin and earned a princely salary of Rs.38 per month.
Following a six-year stint at Barwani, Antoninho turned his sights to Bombay, where everyone desirous of success longed to be. It was not long before the Goan musician's profound talent received due recognition in the metropolis. He was appointed to play for none other than the famed Mehli Mehta, father of one of the world's greatest conductors, Zubin Mehta. From 1941 to 1947, the Mehli Mehta Sextet regaled the affluent, beautiful guests of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay. At that time, Zubin Mehta was a young boy, who would watch curiously as her father performed, Antoninho said.
Subsequently, he was engaged as a copyist at the All India Radio station in Bombay besides playing the first violin on Joseph Kauffman's orchestra. Though his penchant for music would suffice to earn him enough name and fame in Bombay, the blue-blooded Goemkar began to miss his favourite fish, curry and rice. He would feel homesick and that's perhaps why he set sail to maidhes Goa.
Proficient performers rarely lack opportunities even in Goa. Antoninho de Souza was entrusted with the task of running the orchestra of "Emissora de Goa" (now Akashwani) as its music director. He held the post for 22 years, composing a series of melodious Konkani mandos and dulpods, which were regularly broadcast by the radio station, which competed with some of the best stations in the world once. Antoninho's most memorable and evergreen composition is the Konkani hymn "Orassaum Fatima Saibinnink". Antoninho composed the hymn in 1949 when the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought to Goa from Portugal.
He scored a lot of religious music, particularly for the mass. One of such compositions happened to reach Italy, earning him enough admiration there. He also composed music for the mass in Portuguese. In this connection, he was felicitated in Portugal, where he earned plaudits from Europe's music lovers.
Antoninho de Souza never stopped learning and teaching music, which even touched him spiritually. He remained a bachelor, wedded to his music alone. He could not, however, produce maestros like him under his baton because he was too strict a master when it came to teaching music.
The passionate musician did not have patience where teaching was concerned and this scared away his students. His sharp ears could detect the slightest mistake of any musician or singer. When he came across any fault, he would blow up instantly. However, this drawback was more than compensated by his unfailing love for music and his beloved Goa, which reflected vividly in all his compositions.
One of the last stalwarts of Goa's musical pantheon, Antoninho de Souza breathed his last on June 9, 1989, at his humble abode at Vaddi-Aframent in Siolim. In death he joined his master Zeferino and equally proficient musicians Reginald Fernandes and Joaozinho Carvalho (Johnson & His Jolly Boys). The likes of them are unlikely to pass by ever again, music lovers exclaimed on the maestro's sad demise.