Together in song

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Over 250 Goans from across the globe banded together to set up the Global Goan Virtual Choir that was released recently. NT BUZZ gets details

RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT BUZZ

Assembling a choir is never an easy task and one can then imagine the complexity of piecing together over 250 Goan singers and musicians in different time zones across the globe for a virtual choir during the challenging times of a pandemic.

That was exactly what the Global Goan Alliance & Network (GGAN) achieved by banding together a virtual choir to encourage Goans all across the globe to express solidarity and come together to honour all those battling COVID-19 at the forefront.

In a first-ever globally coordinated venture of its kind, the Global Goan Virtual Choir, a diverse group of Goans from across the globe and steered by Goan-born and Bengaluru-based, paediatrician and community health specialist by profession, Maya Mascarenhas for whom music is a hobby, came together to create a network of Goans, bringing to life their dream of building up One Global Goan entity – of a people with commonly shared ancestry, heritage and roots.

While the project was the brainchild of key GGAN members Rene Barreto, Savio Ribeiro, Gerard Lobo, Maria Gomes Fernandes, Floscy Gracias, Samantha Pashaa and Perry Goes, the team acknowledged all singers and musicians of the project.

 “This was an opportunity to connect and acquaint with people of the diaspora and work in unity with the true spirit of Goemkarponn. It was also a huge treasure trove of talent explored across various continents, regions and varying age groups of people bound by one common purpose during these times of adversity,” says Fernandes, adding that it was also a good and valuable use of technology and various forms of media to communicate and harness the talent and energies of people.

The team wanted English, Portuguese and Konkani songs which would be attractive to Goans and non-Goans. More than 250 individuals volunteered – they were contacted through different Goan associations to sing (either in soprano, alto, tenor or bass and Konkani, Portugese or English) or play. “From Goa alone I think there are about 75 participants. I don’t know them but have a list. Floscy Gracias who is also part of the Global Goan team is from Goa and she got a lot of singers on board. So did Elvis Goes,” says Mascarenhas.

According to Fernandes, a core group of Goans from different places were involved in the project.

“Gerard from Australia contacted his friend Josefato, who sent a video of what he put together with his kids. I took that as the base and arranged the song. Subsequently, a few lyrics were modified and I extended the song. We did not want it to exceed 2.5 minutes, which is the ideal length for the young generation to watch the full song,” says Mascarenhas who runs a children’s choir called ‘The Bangalore Chorus’ consisting of 100 children and 25 adults.

Talking about the number of participants who volunteered, Fernandes says: “When it comes to musicians, we want representation from all over the world and so, we selected the best and those who could record audio with studio quality.”

Another GGAN member, Perry Goes, says diverse Goans from different parts of the world reached out to each other during this period of lockdown and despair, connecting as never before, their cultural roots binding them together as one. He adds: “We wish these bonds grow stronger as we emerge from this pandemic. We take this opportunity to recognise and thank all those in the frontline fighting this pandemic.”

The Global Goan Virtual Choir’s short medley of Konkani, English and Portuguese songs was recorded by singers and musicians in the safety of their homes. “This is the first of many more projects in the pipeline, but we need people to join hands with us. First, to celebrate this video and share it with others, and then to participate in all our future events,” says Goes.

Savio Rodrigues of California says it was no mean feat to collaborate with 250 singers and musicians from different parts of the world, with different time zones working in unison, “to make sure that the end product would be one that would be enjoyed and cherished by all, for the love of Goa and ‘maim bhas’ (mother tongue) Konkani.”

The music was composed by maestro Josefato Vales (Melbourne), while Mascarenhas did the arrangement and edited the project with the support of Aurville Rodrigues and Konrad of Audio Masters (Goa), and Sheldon Gomes and Edelbert of Foremen Studio (Goa).

“So once I composed the song, I had to also compose the singing parts in each language and instruments parts for them to play. Then we put the singers into groups (for example Konkani soprano, Konkani alto, Portugese alto, Portugese tenor, English soprano, etc). There were a total of 10 singing groups made. Then I made a learning video for each group. There was a backing track, the singing part they had to learn and sing,” explains Mascarenhas whose main idea was expressing solidarity and using music as the medium. She chose songs that were popular and that would also appeal to non-Goans.

Once they were ready, Mascarenhas sent out detailed instructions on how to record. Basically, they listened to the track and then sang into another phone/ipad in video mode so as to record both audio and video. They then emailed their files to their group address. And that was the end of their work. This was also followed by musicians.

Then came the stitching together part. Here, Aurville helped with the audio stitching and mixing. He had to put all the files together depending on their groups and the original composition track, and then mix it to give the final sound. Mascarenhas says: “Sheldon and Edelbert put together the videos which had to align with the audio. I coordinated with both these guys – we had a detailed matrix for every line of the song and every frame in the video.”

However, challenges were plenty – getting all the singers to understand the guidelines, some had to rerecord, then aligning all the files, each one singing when they want in spite of a strong beat to keep them in time, working with the musicians. “Then the videos – putting the right faces for the right lines (Konkani singers during the Konkani part) and making sure they synced with the audio, etc. Painstaking work,” says Mascarenhas.

So far the video has received over 10k views on Facebook and over 15k views on YouTube. The video was also telecasted on one of the popular national English news channels.