Remo – More than just a music star
Remo has followed in the footsteps of all the other Goan celebrities who have achieved the pinnacle of success in their respective fields – Mario Miranda, Charles Corea, Frank Simoes and Wendell Rodricks, among others. Like the other Goan greats, Remo is more than just a music star – he was also a Goan cultural ambassador, and perhaps still is despite being now a Portuguese citizen.
His autobiography ‘Remo’ is very well written. I loved his writing style. Not surprisingly for a songwriter – Remo has always had a sense of words. It’s really about his life, although I would have been happier to know a little more about his music and his creativity. The triggers and sources of his music and how he became a songwriter and musician.
Remo begins with his youth. Not much different from the upper class of Goan, Remo says his first language was Portuguese, then he admits to knowing a bit of Konkani, the state language. Not unusual for Goan’s upper middle class. The Portuguese silently instilled in the people that Portuguese was for the upper class and Konkani for the masses. He also confesses that he was not really aware of India, another common trait among upper class Goans of the time.
Although he points out that his family was educated rather than wealthy, there is no doubt that Remo was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. A dad who bought him his first guitar. And when he lost his guitar while traveling in Europe, a father sent him a new guitar from India.
Remo has been fairly honest and forthright about his life story. Some of the sexual encounters that the book is liberally sprinkled with read almost like a Mills and Boon novel. Not many people have perhaps shared their most intimate moments and fantasies. Whether it’s Remo, a young child, attracted to his neighbors swimming in the open air and gazing at their nipples in fascination, or the many other sexual encounters that appear periodically throughout the book, like when he’s having trouble unhooking a woman’s bra.
The book is in many ways a good documentary on life in general in the 60s. The Hippie Revolution had tremendous effects on young people all over the world and it also reached India. In many ways, Goa may well have been the epicenter of this revolution. Unsurprisingly, drugs and rock & roll were deeply ingrained in the youngster’s psyche as it formed a kind of core of the hippie way of life.
Remo goes into the details of his musical evolution with the different groups he has formed. There was a certain indignity around music and bands in the 60s and 70s and I think that is reflected in the book as well. Like all fathers, his father berates him for choosing to live as a musician rather than an architect whom he had qualified. For a parent in the ’60s and’ 70s, having a child who wanted to be a musician was not considered exactly ambitious. In addition, the bands were in many ways low life. It is only now that there is an air of respectability around the musicians. Remo seems to have ended his musical career in India when he made his debut in Bollywood. In many ways, because most of the music in India is music related to movies (there is almost an umbilical cord between movies and music), even today reaching the peak of one’s musical career, c It’s making music for a Bollywood film unlike the West where music survives on its own as an art form.
The book takes us through Remo’s travels around the world and especially in Europe and North Africa, including countries like Tunisia. Back in the days when Remo was traveling in the 1970s, it was certainly unusual for an Indian to have traveled so much. The journey is such a profound experience that changes most people, and it also seems to have enriched Remo’s life. Move from one country to another and do concerts here and there.
Her hectic life may also have had an impact on her general well-being. Later in the book, he confesses to having even seen a psychiatrist while he was married to MichelÃ©.
The book ends with his life in Porto. Like many other Goans, returning to Portugal has always seemed like a delayed dream. But many like Remo have made it a reality. The books end with his life after his divorce from Michele and the new love of his life Zenia to whom he dedicates his autobiography.
Drugs, sex, music, women are a common theme in the lives of most rock stars and Remo’s book is full of them too. I’m pretty glad he took the trouble to document his life. After all, Remo was one of the highest paid music stars in the country, and it is interesting to know any star’s life, its trials and tribulations.
In short, a very good read. I would recommend anyone who knows Remo or even those who don’t know Remo to read it. Few Indian celebrities have documented their lives as honestly and frankly as Remo has.
(Prabhakar Mundkur is an advertising veteran, writer and musician.)
About the book
Remo: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes
Harper Collins India
508 pages, Rs 613 (hardcover)
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