Michael Martins, Maestro Par Excellence

Michael Martins, Maestro Par Excellence

Maestro Micael Martins on GOAN MUSIC
Forward by:
Themistocles D'Silva

Micael Martins, musician, folklorist, and musicologist.
Studied music at the Colegio Musica in Margao in the early twenties and taught music in Goa till 1946.
In Bombay, Martins studied under Prof. Craen, Adrian de Melo and Dominic Pereira.

Performed for Cecil Mendonza's Bombay Symphony Orchestra, Paranjoti's Bombay Madrigal Singers' Organization and Arnaldo de Andrade 's Tuna Portuguesa. Prof. Martins has composed over 80 works; including 'Carnaval em Goa' (1953) and the Mando and Dekni Sequences (1955-1967). He is best known for the grand concert, GOA SINGS, Religious Music and Folk Dances, performed by the Newman Choir, in 1977, (available in Library of Congress, U. of Chicago, Central Library, Panaji and perhaps at other libraries), and SONG OF GOA, An Anthology of Mandos (a collaborative effort with Jose Pereira) and published in Boletim do Instituto Menezes Braganca.
These are a few of his accomplishments.
He now lives in retirement in his native village of Orlim, Salsete. He is 84.

Reproduced below is a curtailed (actually the last part is lost) version of an article he wrote many years ago on GOAN MUSIC. To some older folks this will bring some happy memories.

Walking down the red mud roads even in remote villages in Goa, when everything seems to be calm and quiet, night has set in, and everyone is getting ready for some peaceful night's rest, it is not unusual to hear someone producing some soul-lifting melodious sounds on the violin or a bevy of youngsters singing and dancing to the tune of an instantaneously-improvised 'band'. This is characteristic of Goa, and a part and parcel of its culture. This has even been observed by many who have come in contact with Goans outside Goa. It has puzzled many of them. Very often they find it difficult to understand how almost a whole race could be so music-minded, music-loving, and music-knowing. It will not be out of place, therefore, to explain this phenomenon a little.

One of the benefits that Christianity can be said to have brought to Goa is music. It was brought by the missionaries or the religious congregations that came to Goa from Europe. What they brought is what is commonly known as Western music and was used by them to make the faithful participate in the Church services through the hymns, litanies, psalms, salves, etc. The early acquantaince with music and its spread among Goans was due solely to the establishment of catechetical classes (escolas de doutrina) which were established in Goa in the early years after the Portuguese captured Goa in the sixteenth century, and, which later in the nineteenth century, came to be known as parochial schools (escolas paroquiais). It is in these schools that children were taught not only the 3 R's but also music. Thus it was the Church that laid the foundation of music in the Goan, and has been responsible for the rise of a whole generation of musicians among them.

Music in these schools was imparted by teaching young boys how to play the violin – at least the elements of it. In course of time, these youngsters perfected the art to an admirable extent and took to playing the violin at village functions, be they at a Church service, a litany at the foot of a Cross or in the house of a fellow-villager, a wedding or social function. They [also] learned to play Church music like hymns, psalms, salves, litanies (ladainhas) and even Mass itself in Latin, Konkani or Portuguese. They composed their own music for many of these occasions, and made a mark at least in their own villages as violinists, organists, composers and 'mestres' (choir masters). The compositions of some of them in several villages in Salsete, in particular, including "Motetes Quaresmais" (Lenten Hymns) are well-known in Goa and will long remain as original compositions of high standard.

Among the musical creations of the Goan, the "Mando" is supreme and stands as a class apart. It is the synthesis of the many and varied forms and types through which his creative genius manifests itself. It is the highest lyrical-musical expression of his creativity. He presents, in a way, his emotions, his love-life, his reactions to the historical events through which he lived and the poetical happenings he was witness to.

The 'Mando' has its origins in the folklore and folk-songs which were common among the people of Goa for many generations before the Portuguese appeared on the scene. They were given an artistic form and turned into near-classics by the composers of Salcete in the nineteenth century and have continued since then as classics – both in song and dance. No important function of the cultured, aristocratic society or a wedding in those families would pass without the 'Mando' being sung and danced by particularly the more mature, refined, elderly peple of the village or the guests present at the function. That tradition was created and preserved by the aristocrats of certain villages in Salcete, particularly, Loutolim, Curtorim, Benaulim, Raia, Chandor, Verna and others. [These ] are also the villages that gave birth to several musicians and composers who originally produced some of the best 'Mandos' of Goa.
[Here the technical aspects of music have been omitted in order not to bore the reader]

The classic 'Mando' always begins on the fifth note. It is sung in two parallel voices, the third and the sixth, and oblique marches are used to produce the musical harmony and beauty which are the essence of the 'Mando'. If such an artistic finesse has been given to it, it is because the composers have been able to bring about a fusion of the harmony normally associated with the music of the West and the 'secular' (popular) music of India influenced by the religious music of Christianity.

The instruments which have made such a production possible are the "gumott" (batuque) which is a purely local percussion instrument without which the singing of the 'Mando' would be unimaginable among its real , original 'creators' and lovers, and 'rebec' (violin) to accompany the 'gumott' and create a melody. In other parts of Goa and elsewhere in India various other musical instruments like the guitar and even the piano have been used for the same purpose but in Salcete, the birthplace and home of the 'Mando' the use of such instruments would have until recent times been considered a 'sacrilege'.

Unlike the western ballroom dances, the 'Mando' is danced, though in pairs, with the men remaining at a distance from the ladies in keeping with the oriental style and custom. The movement of the dance is from front to back and from right to left or by the crossing over of the patners from one side to the other.

The original costume worn by society ladies for the 'Mando'dance was 'Toddop' 'Bazu' or 'Fota'. The lady would hold a fan in her right hand which she would move according to the rhythm of the music and with her left hand she would hold the 'Toddop' which she could lift a little whenever necessary to facilitate her movements whilst dancing. The man holds a handkerchief in his hands, one end of it by the right-hand fingers and the other by the left-hand; he moves it up and down, left and right, depending upon the rhythm of the music. The men, as the music becomes more lively and quick with the animated 'dulpodas', taking the place of the more placid, sonorous 'Mandos', join in by clapping with gusto, thus taking the dance to a climax.

The 'Mando is and has been accepted as a classic – a manifestation of the cultural ethos of the creative self of the Goan.
Posted by
Themistocles D'Silva
on GoaNet Tue, 20 Oct 1998


A brief sketch of a Goan Virtuoso
By: Dr. Bossuet Afonso

When I first went to visit Prof. Micael Martins in his native house at Orlim in Salcete after a gap of nearly twenty years, I had anticipated that I would probably meet a frail 80-year-old musician barely able to take the violin, his most favourite instrument, on his shoulder.

Instead I found the professor as he has always been, in his most exuberant mood, gushing forth with enthusiasm much akin to the manner in which he taught and played music. If Prof. Martins had stuck to his job as an apprentice in the General Post Office in Panjim, few outside Goa would know about him and fewer still would come to know about the richness and vibrancy of Goan folk music for which Prof. Martins deserves the utmost credit.

But the professor is a modest man, whose genius can only be ascertained from a number of his original compositions and variations, piles of which lie on a desk in his native house. These are a testimony to the fact that despite opposition from his father and financial constraints during his student days, the young Micael knew that the prescience of the late DR Bossuet Afonso, a renowned ophthalmologist and his mentor, that Micael would extensively be known as an accomplished violinist and conductor, heralded a different career for him and was determined to work towards it to be complacent and leave behind his pursuit of being a virtuoso musician. So overwhelmingly was his determination to do so that he did his entire music studies in French under the late Prof. Jules Craen who prepared him for the LTCL (Teacher) diploma and also musicology and later on in 1965 the LICL

Prof. Martins taught a number of students. Besides being in charge of the choral group of the People's High School, he imparted training in solfeggio, Portuguese, Spanish and Hawaiian guitar to students in Panjim and Bardez. Not many of us are probably aware that he conducted the first Konkani opera in 1968 in one act in the compound of St. Pius High School at Orlim and also the first ever religious concert in Goa in Panjim Church in 1966. In appreciation for these services rendered during the Marian Year programme in 1955 Pope Pius XII sent him a certificate showering his benedictions on the entire Martins family.

Both in learning music and teaching it, the humble maestro displayed his ardent passion, for it, occasionally stamping his foot like a pedantic teacher, in case a note with the right timbre was not struck. Of his radio programme on the Aguarela Musicals a music critic wrote "… executed with a sure touch and expression evoking in a well balanced musical harmony, the customs of our land and the occupations of our people"

Prof. Martins also wrote his own compositions. Mention must be especially of the Arraial, the Geisha, Orfeon and the Ave Maria which received favourable reviews wherever performed. He worked assidously for the promotion of Goan folk songs and dances like the mando, dekni and fugaddi. The Fattradache Velleryh (on the shore of Fatrade) is perhaps his first work of this kind using Goan fisherfolk themes. In this respect he was a stickler for authenticity. Consider, the fact that for the concert Goa Sings (a compilation of songs originally written by Prof. Martins) performed by the Newman Choir in Bombay in 1977, many of the costumes which were about 100 years old were personally collected by Prof. Martins from families resident in Goa.

For his concert the professor performed on the best known varieties of violins such as the Amati, the Stradivari, the Deconat, the Guaneri and the Meinzel, making sure that he did justice to an instrument whose musical range comes next only to that of the human voice.

Whether it was a symphony from Bach or whether it was a concert of his own compositions, Prof. Martins left his indelible mark on the audience as a virtuoso performer and conductor.

It should not be misconstrued that the Maestro had a penchant for music of the Occident only. Hindi film music was another genre which fascinated him. He was the leader of the Ranjit Movietone Orchestra and of the Films Division Orchestra from 1946 to 1949 and played under the late Mr. Vasant Desai an Indian film music director in the Raj Kala Mandir. Other illustrious stalwarts whom he occasionally played for included names like Mr. C Ramachandra, Mr. Naushad, Mr. Laxmikant Pyarelal. Mr. R D Burman, Mr. Anandji Kalyanji, Ms Sharda, and Mr. Buppi Lahiri. In 1962 he was awarded the "Ashoka Pillar" award by the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a tea party held at the Prime Minister's residence and in 1964 composed the scores and directed the orchestra and choir for the documentary film 'Goa'. In 1980 he was elected Fellow of the International Biographical Association and was invited to present a paper on Goan Music at Amsterdam in July that year: Four years later he was awarded the Statue of Victory "Personality of the year" (1984 world culture prize) by Central Studi Ricerche Delle of Italy in recognition of his services in the field of music.

Prof. Martins has myriad publications and papers presented within and outside the country in Konkani. English and Latin such as Song of Goa (an anthology of mandos with Dr. Jose Pereira's cooperation), The Goan Music (a paper written in English in the book 'This is Goa') and 'Orlim's contribution to Goan Music' (X1 Semana De Orlim)

Today the people of Goa in general and particularly Orlim join hands to honour one of the sons of the soil who through sheer self determination has become a legend in the field of music. For a man whose students have described as patient and encouraging, always ready to teach with humorous anecdotes of his own personal experiencence, no superlatives can suffice to describe Prof. Micael Martins.

A Musical Vitruoso
Dr. Bailon De Sa

As we grow older the older our traditions grow, unless special efforts are made by succeeding generations to preserve them, old age inexorably overtakes us and we pass out ultimately into the unknown, leaving behind perhaps some contribution in any branch of human endeavor. We are watching in Goa a gradual transformation of almost everything we had close to our hearts. Values, traditions, mode of life and even Goa's natural beauty are being mutilated and eroded; in fact, the very essence that was Goa Sunt lacrimae rerum.

Atrociously ugly buildings, mountains of garbage, bad roads, bad transport system, strange outsiders. Even our villages are losing their uniqueness. The old pastoral beauty and charm are being shattered. But above all, below this foulness our old traditions and mode of life are gradually sinking. However, there is one fragment of our heritage that is fast disappearing, namely, our folkloric music which was an integral part of our social and cultural life.

Years ago, while I was a student in Bombay Prof. Antsher Lobo. a brilliant guitarist had started a Goan Folksong and Choral Society with the view to building a permanent structure of Goan music. He used the dakni, the mando and the folksongs of our peasantry, to weave by transforming their structures for the performances of his Society. After some initial and brilliant successes, for some strange reasons it faded out, or so I was told, and the founder till the last turned into a sheer musicologist He wanted to give a "scientific" structure to our music. He came to see me once with an elaborate plan but before I could give my "considered scientific opinion, Antsher was no more. Antsher added to his musical talent, had the gift of showmanship. Almost at the time moved about in musical circles, there was Micael Martins quietly, without fanfare, teaching. studying, composing and producing some excellent music. Rooted in the soil and soul of Goa Prof. Micael Martins, loved tradition and while himself being vastly talented, loved to admire and preserve our musical heritage. Thanks to him we have been able to preserve in the pages of the Institute Menezes Braganza some interesting vignettes of our local music. Along with his distinguished co-worker. Dr. Jose Pereira. he has also collected, researched and published a whole catalogue of mandos, with their origin, authorship with relevant testimony. The Song of Goa is a treasure.

It is interesting to recall the genesis of the love and cultivation of the musical talent of Goans. In 1545, the Viceroy Joao de Castro. was ordered by the King of Portugal, John III, on the pious insistence of St. Francis Xavier, to establish what were called Parish Schools in all the villages where Christians lived. They were directed by the church choirmaster under the supervision of the parish priest. The students were taught the three R's, besides music (solfeggio), violin and the organ. Both Antsher and Micael Martins owe the foundation of their music to those schools. as also hundreds of musicians of the past generation. Micael Martins has gone through great labour in compiling a list of eminent Goan musicians who were once the leading lights of western music in India. Besides dominating Bombay and Calcutta with their musical talents they swarmed in the palaces of the Maharajas and Rajahs of India conducting their bands and delighting them with their musical virtuosity.

On a personal note: Prof. Micael Martins mentioned to me more than once that he owes his knowledge of harmony to the late Dr. Bossuet Afonso whom he visited often. It was also he who advised him to forsake his job at the Post Office and proceed to Bombay. It was a felicitous advice. Bombay for Micael was like a catalyst that opened out new musical horizons where he could display the best of his musical talent.

We hail Prof. Micael Martins on his 80th birthday and thank him very profusely for having salvaged for posterity our musical traditions while contributing at the same time his own compositions to the deposit of our musical heritage. Those traditions are enshrined not only in our classical and glorious mando and other forms, but even in the little musical snippets of our peasantry and fisherwomen as they move about the village advertising their wares. Most of this is unfortunately fast receding into oblivion. Whenever we feel nostalgic we can always turn to his labour of love which we could call — The Song that was Goa. (more so. appropriately in time to come Ed).
Ad multos annos.

Photograph and articles on display were sent to GOACOM by Dr.Themistocles D'Silva of North Carolina, USA.
The articles were scanned from the brochure entitled "Celebration of Life – Micael Martins , Maestro par Excellence" published in 1994 to mark the 80th birthday of the Maestro.
In due course further articles on the work of Maestro Martins will be added to the display.
The scanning technique is prone to errors. GOACOM will be obliged if these could be brought to our attention.