This post is a part of the Home Truths series
Picture: Fernando Monte da Silva
Participants fish on the Ribandar side of the Mandovi River, on August 15
Few villages have an anthem that they can call their own, but Ribandar is an exception to this otherwise fairly firm rule. 'Balla Balla Music' is the title track that represents the people and the land, and any native will gladly sing the song, whose lyrics have literally no meaning, but evoke much sentiment in the people that chant it. It is this particular chant that echoed well into the wee hours of the night, at Stage Vibrations, an event that was recently organised by Goa’s iconic band, Purple Rain.
The band in itself is a testament to the village, as all the original members were locals from the area, and 3 of the founding 5, Acacio Tavares, Franky Fernandes and Marcelino Fernandes are still together. They would, in time, be joined by current members, Ashly Fernandes and Emman Dias. While the members just jammed for the love of music for the first 2-3 years, they played their first gig in 1985; which was when they introduced Balla Balla Music to an audience beyond Ribandar for the first time.
Stage Vibrations began in 1988 as a small beat show, but as Purple Rain’s frontman, Franky goes on to say, within no time at all, the top bands in the state lined up to be a part of the event’s roster. Franky also recalls how Chris Bismarck, considered one of the country’s finest guitarists in his prime, who was based in Bombay but also a local from Ribandar, joined the host band on stage at the debut edition of the festival, making it a show that has long-since been etched into the memory of all who were present that night. The band of course went on to discover the potential of such performances after being a part of the massive event, Stage Rage organised by Weird Promotions, at Kala Academy in the mid-80’s. At that juncture, Ribandar didn’t have any such event to call their very own, but that is where Purple Rain stepped in to make all the difference.
However, Stage Vibrations was not to live too long a life-span, and shortly after its 10th edition, Purple Rain called time on the event that had gathered quite a following. The reason for this being the altercations that would occur as the night would go on. While these would occur at most village events, the band felt that it detracted from the endeavour, and as such perhaps the time had to pull the plug on the show, recalls the band’s youngest member, Ashly, who was also playing at the event, albeit having represented a different act at the time.
In 2015, in the wake of live music slowly dying out in a state that was the country’s flagship for it, Purple Rain decided to revive Stage Vibrations, for what was a part of the band’s 30th anniversary celebrations. Granted, an altercation ensued at the end of the night, but it didn’t dampen the band’s spirits; it merely spurred them on to organise yet another edition of the event in 2016, where even more local talent was brought on board, such as Valentinos, whose member Elvis was another founding member of Purple Rain, and Jus’ Leo.
There is more that this village undertakes, than just its wholehearted attempts at keeping the concept of the ‘beat show’ alive. Every year, on August 15, the village comes together to organise the ‘All Goa Fishing Competition’. On this given day, anglers from near and far, come together to quite literally test the waters, and showcase their angling prowess. Spectators, on the other hand, sit by the bank of the River Mandovi, they will take in a gentle breeze and little thermocol plates will be passed out, upon which a mound of rice is heaped and topped with prawn curry that oozes the soul of the locals that toiled over its preparation. This is supplemented by mackerel and clams stewed in coconut milk, prepared by cooks who could vie for a Michelin Star for indigenous cuisine. But while the cuisine is fantastic, what is greater still is the fact the generosity of the people who will take umbrage to ‘local folk’ attempting to pay for their meal.
In similar vein, the entire village comes together on January 1, every year, to organise what they refer to as the ‘Serenade’, and in unison, march along the streets to song and dance, with floats in tow, from Fondvem, in Ribandar, right up to Patto, in Panjim; a tradition that they’ve upheld for 102 years. Shortly after having organised the serenade, in the month of January, the locals gather around once more, to stage the traditional tiatr at the feast of Infant Jesus, or as the natives refer to it, 'Menin Jezuchem Fest'. What is particularly interesting is that this drama is approximately 100 years old, which could even predate the popular tiatr, which dates back only to 1921. In keeping with other local celebrations, Franky also recalls the 'Balla Balla Music Football Tournament' which was organised by Acacio in times gone by, though he admits to that being more nostalgia, than a current happening.
At the end of the day, you can perhaps term Ribandar an enigmatic village, because of all it brings with it. You can perhaps term Stage Vibrations a ‘show’. But if you hang back in the shadows long enough, after the music has stopped, and the roadies are on their way to dismantling stage gear, you will see people queuing up to buy copies of Purple Rain’s album; music they’ve heard for years on end, but still makes their staple diet of musical consumption. And as they reach for their wallets to pay for they have just procured, you will hear Acacio’s and Franky’s voices firmly, but kindly saying, “No. Money isn’t important; love is important.” And that, is primarily what makes Ribandar magical. The ability to understand the things that matter and that money isn’t necessarily one of them. To know that in some parts of Goa, hope isn’t completely lost, and that one village will strive to hold on to its traditions, and the things that matter to it.
The village of Ribandar is one where irrespective of strata, everyone mingles together, no matter what their personal leanings may be.
Social gatherings are frequent here, and serve as reunions, even if you met the people concerned a week ago.
Money (or lack thereof) is never an issue, and things are done more for 'love'.
From miscellaneous musings, to human interest stories, the Home Truths series of posts deals with linkages to one of the things that is quite dear to me: home. By which, of course, I do not mean brick and mortar, but my bond with geography and its natives, my best and brightest and of course: family. Because without purpose, there can be no meaning. Clearly, I love to pontificate.