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Reginaldo Fernandes: A votary of Konkani

K nown as ‘ Romanxincho Patxai’ (king of fiction novels), Reginaldo Fernandes was born on June 14, 1914 in the village of Siolim. While he needs no introduction among Goa’s older generations, Fernandes, who wrote extensively in Romi Konkani, is virtually unknown to the younger generations as little effort was made to recognize him and his works.

It was only last year, however, that the Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) honoured the late author on his 101st birth anniversary by naming its conference hall after him. DKA will remember this great son of the soil by way of a special function to be organized on Tuesday, on the occasion of his 102nd birth anniversary.

Besides being a prolific writer, Fernandes was an outstanding playwright, musician and lyricist, too. He was a multi-faceted personality with a rare combination of talents. Yet, he was tempered with humility and a kind disposition.

As a novelist, he created a special niche in the hearts of readers of Konkani in the Roman script. Fernandes is the only author in the history of Konkani literature to have written and published about 200 books’romances’, as they were called by the peoplein Romi Konkani. While not all of his books are presently available, it is interesting to note that Fernandes started out by printing the names of his books alphabetically for the convenience of his readers. Brazinho Soares from St Cruz, who has a massive collection of Konkani books written in the Roman script, has about 100 titles by Fernandes in his possession. The libraries of Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, Porvorim and Goykaranchem Daiz, Margao, too, have preserved his literature.

Fernandes’ novels, which were based on fiction and romance, were hugely popular among patrons of Romi Konkani from the 1930s to the 1990s. His first novel was published in 1932, and his last, titled ‘Perdida’, was published in 1994. His forte lay in his imaginative approach to the subjects and the effective descriptions of the situations in the stories. As expected, his novels became best sellers and the 5,000 copies he printed flew off the shelves in no time. Many of his titles went on to be reprinted because of demands from his readers. It is unfortunate, however, that the pundits of the Konkani language did not find any merit in his literature, probably because it was written in the Roman script.

As a musician, Fernandes has hundreds of compositions to his credit. He was also an excellent violinist and trumpeter. At the peak of his career, he founded his own band, ‘Reggie and his Melodians’. Prior to that, he regaled audiences all over the country as a key performer in several bands, such as ‘Nellie’s Dance Band’, ‘Vincente Carmine and his Orchestra’, ‘Mikey and Johnie’s Orchestra’ and ‘Alfred Rose’s Rose Buds’, among others. He has also contributed to the music of the Hindi film industry.

Apart from this, Fernandes was a fine lyricist who made tremendous contributions, by way of Konkani songs, to the then ‘Emissora de Goa’, now popular as All India Radio, Panaji. His compositions were sung by Allen Costa, Ansu Rodrigues, Georgina Jacques and Johny Sylvester, all permanent artistes of Emissora de Goa at the time. He composed solos, duets, trios, mandos and dulpods. The popular song, ‘Adeus Korchea Vellar’, will always keep him alive among Goans, as very few functions culminate without the rendition of this classic in Goa or abroad to date.

Fernandes has penned over 100 Konkani songs and set them to music. On perusing the lyrics and melodies of these songs, one realizes he was a great composer. This justifies the preservation of his creations for posterity and underscores the need to publish a book of his songs complete with the notations.

As a playwright, Fernandes wrote and presented many tiatrs in Goa and Bombay, the cast of which included great names of the tiatr stage, such as Jacinto Vaz, C Alvares, Souza Ferrao, Robin Vaz, Rico Rod and M Boyer.

I have sweet memories of this simple and humble man when Johnson (Joaozinho Carvalho), yet another superb musician from Siolim, used to provide music for my compositions of mandos and dulpods in the 1970s and ’80s. Sometimes, when Fernandes accompanied Johnson as the second violinist, the duo produced excellent and award-winning performances. Despite all the acclaim, Fernandes remained a down-to-earth man and even respected his juniors. This was his greatness.

The creative work produced by Fernandes was most certainly unique and meaningful. After having served his mother tongue, Konkani, selflessly for almost seven decades, he died on November 13, 1994. He was honoured by the Goa government with the state cultural award a few months before his demise.

Kudos to the DKA for helping the great man come alive through his works among the generations of today.

(The writer is an ex-deputy speaker of the state legislative assembly and has authored several books and plays in Romi Konkani){TOI]

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