© Legendary Musicians of Karachi
Growing up at Fatima parish; I was somewhere between 13 and 15 years old when our parish priest at the time Rev. Fr. Kieran Smith caught me at the church compound playing marbles with a few other boys. He enquired if we wanted to come to church where he would have the older musicians (parishioners) teach us how to play instruments. He further encouraged by saying that he would buy the instruments for us.
So there we were 4 or 5 boys that thought ‘Why not give it a go’! We started playing simple tunes for the evening mass and from there formed our own band. The ‘Rebels’ with Merwyn Correa on drums, Roland Rozario on guitar, Randolph Monteiro on bass and me on the piano. Within a couple of months we started playing close to 30 tunes; music like ‘Limbo Rock’, Ode to Billy Joe, Wully Bully.
Then we played during the ‘Tombola’ breaks and got paid Rs. 1 and 50 paisa which we spent on Lassi and Bakar Khani after the session was over.
Next the famous Xavier Sisters heard about me and after Clarence Andrade left for Canada they were looking for a man on keys. My mom approved on one condition that they would pick and drop me home and pay me. I was simply thrilled to perform with such beautiful and talented girls playing on a YC-10. It was then when I started to take serious interest in complicated tunes. I would practice in church (especially the afternoons when the priests were asleep) solos for ‘Evil Ways’ and ‘Highway star’. It somehow came easily to me. My brothers Paul and Gabriel Rodrigues went for classical training to the legendary FX Fernandes. At that time he was the ‘only’ piano teacher in Karachi.
Then I wanted to give back! So I formed an ‘all girl’ band’ called ‘The Record Breakers’ with Lolly Almeida (my best student), Mariette, Janice, Mildred and Maria Wallis. It was fun watching them sing and play Paper Roses, Crocodile Rock and the Carpenters tune every Sha La La every Woh ooh Oh….still shines… Can’t remember the name of the song but I would teach them all the instruments and may I add compete with Alan Goveas’ girl band. Those were great times!
Then the other bands started calling ~ Max Dias, Jeffrey Besterwich, John Rodrigues my brother at Sind Club a ‘no name band’ and Saturday nights became a regular gig. This was sometime 1973-74.
Then a new band ‘The Blackjacks’ were forming with Bobby Fredericks, Anthony D’souza (TJ), Glen Boyle, Ronnie Remedios and myself and we started at the then new 3 Aces disco; playing 6 nights a week. We sounded good and had loads of fun!
Next my ‘dream band’ with ‘The Familiar Faces’ at the Nasreen Room with ‘the’ great Ivan Menezes (RIP), Donald D’silva, Titus Nunes, Hilary Fialho, myself and Alex Gomes when he would come back from extended vacation. We were the highest paid band back then and the Hotel Intercontinental treated us well. Plus some exclusive customers like the Pir Pagarro group came in and would buy us tons of beer and tip us well. They would dance to ‘Beautiful Sunday’ and Donald sang like a bird, ‘Goodbye my love Goodbye….Daniel’ …..Sweet voice.
Some difference of opinion occurred, I can’t remember! Ivan, Donald myself left the stage in 1976 and formed our own group and we used to rehearse at my apartment in Plaza. We brought in Anthony D’souza (TJ) on drums and started ‘gigging’ when that fateful Saturday in June or July 26 occurred. I was leading at the boy’s choir practice at Fatima Church when Ms. Venetia Pinto came up to me to tell me that Ivan Menezes had a major bike accident. I didn’t think much of it cause we were scheduled to play that night at the Metropole for a wedding.
“No! No!” she said. “He’s dead!” I was in shock and part of me died that day. I still think of that evening going to his house feeling his body; still warm. He looked normal except for his head! I cried miserably. Still do sometimes when I think of him. What a tragedy! Losing someone so young and talented and it hurt even more because I was learning so much from him. He was brilliant on that guitar and would show off by playing behind his back or neck. He was a Superstar! That band ended there.
Can’t remember the year when I joined ‘Underground 4’ with Errol Dsilva, Alan Dias (Lumboo), Malcolm Goveas and myself.
Incrowds, Talismen, Dads Gratitude and Underground 4 playing at Horseshoe on Drigh Road were bands I liked to listen to i.e. locally. The October Cherries came in from Singapore and they were just too good. The bass player was the lead singer and played multiple instruments. All of them did for that matter. They performed at Samar.
I have to add that Fr. Kieran Smith helped us buy the drum-set from them. He needs to be mentioned for the music that came out of Karachi. He encouraged us i.e. the Fatamites and many musicians are truly grateful that he crossed our path. They don’t make priests like him any more. He is still living in Atlanta and I do get my Christmas Greetings from him to date. I love that Priest! He even helped me move to the States. He gave me a name, address, phone number if I needed help in Mountain View. I cannot forget his generosity. He was truly God sent. A Holy Pious Man he is!
I moved to the US in 1980 after the Bhutto debacle in December 1979. Before that I would like to mention Asghar. He needs to be remembered as many musicians of that period knew him well. Ashgar had that major motor cycle accident on December 31, 1979. I had given him my ticket to walk in with Ludy Pinto for the St. Patricks church dance. I later walked in with the band.
Tragically that night I picked up his body hoping he was alive but my hands went through his head and put him in a car. Lloyd, Edgar’s brother-in-law was on the bike and survived just 500 feet down the road next to Crispo bakery but Asghar went right towards Crispo with no helmet.
After that incident I threw my clothes/shoes and left in February 1980 for the United States. (contd. below)
~ Michael Rodrigues, Mario Rebello, Terence Simpson,Ronnie Remedios and Allan Vanderlowen
When I moved to the US, there ‘were’ no Goan (Indian or Pakistani) musicians as experienced as I was i.e. with covers, rock, funk. I offered my services to the Goan committee here absolutely free in 1983. I wanted to build something similar to what we had at Fatima parish but these Goans here wanted no part of it. We had Indians, Africans, English Goans and all sorts of Goans that just shot that idea down! Sad! cause you don’t find people that would give their time for free teaching all the instruments.
I wish I could show off in front of a Karachi crowd right now. I can sing and play any language, any tune and will not tolerate shoddy stuff on stage. I am kinda like Colin DeSouza used to be back then at the Disco 2001! Who can forget Colin DeSouza!
I feel lucky and blessed that I had the opportunity to perform with the best. I taught myself. My own brothers never taught me except kept saying ‘u gotta play scales’!
My first song I wanted to learn so bad was ‘This Boy’ by the Beatles. Now when I think back, thanks to Rev. Fr. Kieran Smith I learned music so fast and back then didn’t even know if I could or even wanted to play.
Moral of the Story! ‘Never shoot a kid down who is ‘trying’ and loves music!’ I was teaching whatever I knew at 18. Running the ‘Boys Choir’, Taught an ‘All Girls’ band, even went to St. Patrick’s church to teach Hilda Pereira and then to St. Anthony’s to teach them the Soul Mass.
The Fatima church inspired and had people bouncing at mass singing the ‘Our Father’ and Holy Holy. Our choirs were the best back then and probably even now and I compare them to what I hear out here in the SFO area. The Adults Choir were ‘Untouchables’ with Professor Terence D’souza on Piano, the director. He was the best forget the rest!
Then came the ‘Girls Choir’ with the Saldanhas. Julius, Desmond and my brother Gabriel. Then my choir mostly a ‘Boys Choir’. I am proud to say that we were the best in that category.
I friggin play with the best out here now. No Bragin! Yes! Braggin!! But ask around in the SFO and SJC area. I love teaching music; whether guitar, bass, piano or voicing. I love it, it makes me happy, it is part of who I am and I can truly say there is no real Goan talent here. If they think I am good; I say we had Edgar Saville, Julius Saldanha, Colin D’souza, Ivan Menezes and then (Iggy) Egan Fernandes!
Need I say more!
Michael with Tehseen Javed
Michael Rodrigues and Southbay Heat