The fading instruments of Goa

Gone are the days when of the more traditional musical instruments like the shenai, surt, surpanvo, surpanvo and nagsher. No longer do we see them being played at temples, sacred ceremonies, gauda cantaram sessions, etc. The question that arises then is, where have these musical instruments gone? Are they not made anymore or has the increased used of electronic musical devices brought an end to a glorious era?

“There is enough material to prepare such musical instruments but there are no musicians to play them. The main reason we see that traditional musical instruments are either dying out or have died out is that these instruments do not interest the younger generations. I agree, priority should be given to education for better future prospects of the youth, but apart from education they should also be encouraged to retain their very rich and diverse culture. Many traditional musical instruments longer exist like the shenai, surt, chowgudo, mhadalem and surpanvo,” informs member secretary of Kala Academy, Dr Pandurang Phaldesai.
Currently it has been observed that alternatives like electrical musical devices have taken the place of traditional Goan musical instruments. These instruments like the shenai, surt, surpanvo and chowgudo are only heard on music CDs.
“These were the instruments that were played at almost all auspicious occasion. Nowadays you will notice that the temple priest plays the music of these instruments on a music system at the time of puja. Understandably so since there are no musicians who can play these instruments and temples have to come up with an alternative,” says Dr Phaldesai.
The most prominent Goan traditional musical instruments that have become extinct are the shenai, surt, chowgudo, mhadalem and surpanvo. “These musical instruments mostly accompanied each other. Earlier temple duties were distributed among members of the temple committee. Similarly, among the musicians, one community would sing while another would play specific music instrument. Likewise, generation to generation, a particular musical instrument would be played by a particular community. The current scenario is such that no one wants to carry forward the profession of their ancestors and thus art like this has been brought to a full-stop,” says Dr Phaldesai.
Goan Traditional Musical Instruments on the verge of Dying Out
• Shenai: a musical instrument played at almost all auspicious occasions for Hindus
• Surt:  always played with the shenai, it provides the drone to the melody of the Shenai
• Surpanvo: The shepherd flute. This instrument is simple bamboo-staff about 60-70 cms.
• Nagsher/Naksher: Played by the Dhangar or Gavli community
• Chowgudo: Has two ‘Dhobe’ and ‘Zil’ placed in a cross form, facing each other, and played with sticks held in both hands.
• Mhadelem: played by the Christian Gauda community is perhaps the most ancient of all the percussion instruments. It is mostly accompanied by the Ghumat.