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Remo Fernandes

Remo Fernandes Onstage [2]
Background information
Born 1953, Panjim, Goa, India
Origin Siolim, Goa, India
Genres Fusion-Indian rock
Occupations Musician
Labels CBS, Polygram, Magnasound
Website Official website

Remo Fernandes (born 8 May 1953) is a popular pop/rock/Indian fusion artist and playback singer from the state of Goa, India. His musical work is a fusion of many different cultures and styles he's been exposed to as a child in Goa and in his later travels around the world. Such influences include Goan and Portuguese music, Sega music from Mauritius and Seychelles, African music, Latin music from Cuba and Nicaragua, the music of erstwhile European communist states, those of the dancehalls from Jamaica and Soca from Trinidad.[1] Writing and singing songs in English made his success more distinctive in the context of the Bollywood dominated, Hindi language based, Disco music scene that was popular in the 80s and 90s. His music, reflecting life and socio-political happenings in India which every Indian could identify with, became popular largely with the growing, English educated, Indian middle class. A popular stage performer in India, he has also taken part in many music festivals around the world.[2] He now writes and sings his songs in five different languages, English, Hindi, French, Portuguese, and Konkani.

Contents

Early years and musical influences

Remo Fernandes was born to a socialite Panjim family of Bernardo and Luiza Fernandes in 1953.[3] He recognizes himself as a Goan Catholic. Remo was eight when he was introduced to rock by a cousin returning from London brought along a record called 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & His Comets. He claims that it changed his life forever.[4] He spent the next decade of his childhood listening to music of that era's most popular icons:

"After about a decade of going crazy over Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, one of the greatest influences in my life was the psychedelic music of the 70s, especially the movie 'Woodstock', which I watched over and over again. That was the time when rock broke all barriers and became experimental; Jethro Tull fused it with western classical, Blood Sweat & Tears fused it with jazz, Santana fused it with Latin, Osibisa fused it with African... rock truly became the voice of global youth, no more the prerogative or monopoly of America."

In an interview to 'The Week'.[4]

In school Remo developed natural guitar playing skills and along with a talented peer group friends, Alexandre Rosario, Nandino Lobato Faria, and Caetano de Abreu; formed a school band named the Beat 4. After graduating from school Remo went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the city of Bombay(now called Mumbai). His love affair with music continued, often bunking classes to work on his guitar technique. He began writing his own songs, playing solo or playing with different bands including one called the 'The Savages' led by Bashir Sheikh. Being one of the few cities in India at that time with a niche audience for Rock Music, he played in concerts and venues such as Shanmukhnanda Hall, Rang Bhavan, and in all the major college campuses of Bombay. He tried to bring an Indian element to the music he played tuning his guitar to make it sound like a Sitar and taught himself to play the Indian flute.[4]

After graduation, Remo came back to Goa and immersed himself in its once famous Hippie culture. He met a group of traveling European artists who named themselves the Amsterdam Balloon Company, playing in their parties at Baga and helping organize concerts for them. Much Later in his life, Remo would team up in Amsterdam with Lucas Amor, one of the violinist in this group, and cut a song called Venus And The Moon. He formed a fusion band Indiana with two others around this time.

Between 1977 and 1980, Remo traveled to Europe and North Africa, hitch-hiking around eight countries during a span of two-and-a-half years, often singing and passing a hat around in underground stations and pedestrian streets to get by.

"I'd met a lot of European hippies in Goa; I wanted to be an Indian hippie in Europe"

Remo commenting on his first trip to Europe.[1]

He performed in shows with fusion rock bands, such as playing an electric guitar with Rock Synergie in Paris. Almost settling in the West for good, he changed his mind and returned to India.

Pre-fame years

After returning, Remo continued to write some of his most memorable socio-political songs, but had to face rejections from Indian record companies. At that time no recording company in India was willing to release his music because it was in English, and did not believe there was a market for such music. Apart from this, in 1980s, there was no air play on radio and television, they were both monopolized by the government, who seem to refuse to accept pop music's existence. Remo Fernandes recorded his first maiden album Goan Crazy and a subsequent album Old Goan Gold, on a four-track cassette Portastudio recorder in his home. In these albums he played all the instruments, sang all voices, and was the only composer of its music and lyrics. He engineered the recording and mixing and designed the album covers. He had cassettes produced in Bombay and personally went about distributing the cassettes from shop to shop on a yellow scooter along with an illustrated book of poems he wrote, postcards and t-shirts he designed to promote his albums.[2][3]

1986 was a turning point in his career when three things happened. First was being invited to play at an official government function in Goa for the then visiting Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. There he sang a song titled 'Hello Rajiv Gandhi' causing a controversy in the local press and then in the national one. But on mailing a press clipping to the Prime Minister and getting a reply back from him saying he'd loved the song and found nothing objectionable in it, this letter, together with the whole story with pictures, was carried in countless national publications.

Second was singing to an audience in Bombay at a concert called Aid Bhopal, held to raise funds for victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, in which he sang two songs 'Pack that Smack' and 'Ode to Graham Bell'. To his surprise, the concert with both his songs, were televised by Doordarshan on four successive Sundays at prime time. In a country with just one monopolistic television channel at the time, that was a tremendous exposure.

Third was composing and performing the title song for the hit movie Jalwa, which was released the next year, this last event made him instantly famous due to the popularity of Bollywood cinema and of the Hindi language.[4]

Career

After breaking out with his first hit album "Pack That Smack" in 1986 and "Bombay City" the next year, he became the highest-selling English rock musician in India and the only one in the country to be awarded Gold Discs in this category [2]. "Pack That Smack" became his first album to be actually released by a recording studio, CBS, at a national level. This was an anti-drugs themed album, especially against addiction to Heroin which contained songs such as Down with Brown, Just a Hippie, Mr Minister - a satire on politician who become inactive once elected to power and So Wie Du - a recording of his performance in Dresden. "Bombay City" contained hits such as "Ocean Queen", "Against you/Against me" and a hilarious take on the condition of telephone services in India with the song "Graham Bell".

Around this time, Invited to attend international music festivals and concerts, Remo again started traveling around the world. His first international event was at the Dresden International Song Competition in former East Germany that attracted competitors from socialist and communist countries. There he won three awards, the Press Critics Award, the overall Second Prize, and the Audience Favorite Award. He once represented India, when it was invited, in the Tokyo Music Festival. He also took part in the Festival of India in the USSR, the MIDEM '96 Music Festival in Hong Kong, besides Festivals in Germany, Bulgaria, Macau, Seychelles and Mauritius. As a stage performer he has by now been to every single continent in the world.

Although the 15-minute title song Jalwa for the movie of the same name released in 1987 made him instantly famous in India, he still resisted the urge to join the commercial Hindi film music industry, as he felt that he would have to compromise his artistic values by doing so and because his command in Hindi prevented him from writing good lyrics.

The next album he released was in 1992 with Magnasound titled "Politicians don't know to Rock'n'Roll". Released in the backdrop of communal violence spreading in India, terrible events such as the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya, the album expressed the depression of the times. It included songs such as "Don't kick up the Rao" -a tribute to the then Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, "A song for India", "How does it feel?" and a song about safe sex titled "Everybody wants to".

In 1995, Remo Fernandes finally moved into Hindi Pop and film music to become a playback singer, by teaming up with the legendary director Mani Ratnam and composer A. R. Rahman. He sang the song "Humma Humma" in the Hindi version of the hit movie they produced - Bombay. The song went on to earn Remo a Double Platinum.

"Huya Ho" was the next song he composed for the film "Khamoshi: The Musical" which was released in 1996.

In 1998, along with his newly formed band called the Microwave Papadums. He released his first and only Hindi/pop album to date titled "O, Meri Munni"(About this sound sample ) and in 2000 became the first Indian solo artist to have a song officially released solely on the Internet. The "Cyber Viber" generated 16,000 downloads in 2 weeks. Other artists in India who also released top hit songs on the Internet that same year were both Mumbai based artists, Pentagram & Dementra.[5]

Other collaborations and work

In 1995, during the Channel V Music Awards, Remo, on a bass guitar, and Roger Taylor, on drums, played with Led Zeppelin band members, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.[6]

When Pepsi USA entered Indian markets in the 1990s as Leher Pepsi, they signed up Remo for an endorsement deal and got him to star in their first two launch ad films, making advertising history in India.

In February 2005, Remo collaborated with Jethro Tull along with renowned Indian percussionist Sivamani, for a concert held in Dubai. They performed tracks such as Mother Goose, Locomotive Breath, and Remo's now very famous Flute Kick also informally called "the flute song".

Until recently, remo has participated in, and helped popularise a local festival called the Siolim Zagor.[7]

In 2001, Three Microwave Papadums band members; Dharma, Selwyn and Victor and Remo's personal assistant were killed in a motorvehicle road accident in Kanpur.

In 2003, on his 50th birthday, Remo held a reunion concert with many of his former band members from Beat 4 and The Savages.

Personal life

He currently resides in his ancestral home in the village of Siolim, in Bardez district of Goa. He is married to a French lady named Michelle, with whom he has two sons Noah and Jonah.

Awards

  • Padmashri, 2007

Song Samples

References

External links

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