- Brian Mendonça
Tucked away in bucolic Bardez is Foxes Retreat, Arpora -- a perfect place to coax the muse and be creative. We were all there for a songwriting workshop on a Spring morning in the first Sunday of April. The first of its kind in Goa, the organizers felt there was a need for fresh songs with new words. The old tunes were there but where were the new ones? This was a beginning.
Getting to Arpora from Vasco was a feat in itself. Tigers roamed in Mangor Hill once, I am told. It was time to get to know the foxes -- time to get wild. Forty kms. stood between me and the foxes’ lair. But I was determined to be there by 10 a.m. This meant we anticipated Sunday morning Mass on Saturday.
Leaving home I promised to be back by lunch. The workshop was till 12. What could anyone tell us in 120 minutes, I wondered. Still, this was a heady initiative. We were all singing someone else’s songs. Why not write our own for a change? Last month I attended a creative writing workshop on the short story. I was keen to see compare notes and understand the creative process in songwriting.
With no traffic, I was at the O Coqueiro circle at Porvorim in 45 minutes. As I tumbled down the hill towards Saligao, just before the Saligao circle, I saw church- goers spill out of St.Anne’s chapel on CHOGM road. At Siridao the faithful decked in their best rushed to and fro across NH17. It was the feast of the chapel of Jesus of Nazareth in Siridao village, traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. At Saligao circle I turned right on to the road heading to Mapusa, turning left a little way down towards Nagoa. Right behind the imposing Holy Trinity Church, Nagoa-Arpora peeps St. Joseph’s High School, Arpora. By then it was 9.45 a.m. and the Sunday Mass goers seemed to be thinning.
I turned right at the school in to Lobo Vaddo (Lobo means ‘fox’ in Portuguese). Foxes Retreat was at the top of the hill with a mud road plunging down to the property. Here was a stillness seldom seen or heard. In the sprawling spaces with the cuckoo’s cry in the distance, the boughs bent with mangoes, as coconut trees stood tall. Cyril Fernandes, with forty years of songwriting behind him, took us through the high notes as well as the low ones on his guitar. We seemed in the company of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen – and of course the Beatles. Carl de Souza, the gracious host, impressed upon us that we are songwriters – we can change the world with our songs. ‘You are the flame,’ he said earnestly. Those precious 3 hours kindled a reawakening in our beings through the medium of song. It was the music of the spheres in tune with the hideout in our hearts.-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 10 April 2016. In pix above Carl at the mic and Cyril on the guitar at Foxes Retreat, Arpora, Sunday 3 April 2016; pix below - a section of the participants and Brian in yellow tee.