By Keith Armando Gomes
Caetano Goes hails from a time when tiatrs where staged in the glow of kerosene lamps, when usage of mikes was substituted with loud vocals and when instead of massive posters there were small and rather illustrative handbills. Today, Goes, who has been presented the ‘Lifetime Contribution to Tiatr Award’ by the Tiatr Academy of Goa, sitting in a room surrounded by framed multiple handbills of his works and awards of appreciation and success, says: “I never knew I had been gifted with this talent by God.”“I was sleeping besides my father and unconsciously began humming a melody. My father got angry and asked me to step outside and not disturb his slumber. I was stubborn. I woke up, went outside and under the great tree outside my house I began composing a song. This was in 1955 and I was about eighteen”, he reminisces.
The genesis of this artist, who was born in Benaulim on August 24, 1937, is very peculiar. You see, he did not discover his love for music as a toddler nor did he scribble lyrics on tiny pieces of paper, it was as though God’s grace touched him and there he was, a man with a beautiful voice and even more beautiful words. His first song was ‘Ceylon-achi Mati’ and it was this very song, which he dedicated to Fr Juze Vaz that put the spotlight on him.
“It was a tiatr by M Dod de Verna. I sang my song with all my heart and it paid off. By the time I had walked off the stage I heard people calling out my name and asking for an encore. M Dod de Verna was kind enough to push me back on stage and it was at that moment that I knew I would light many stages with my songs.”
“In that crowd was seated Alison de Candolim, who really liked my composition and performance. He asked me to act and sing three songs in his tiatr. And then I reached a point where I found myself working with M Boyer and even Roseferns”, says the seventy-eight-year old veteran.
“The truth does not fear God”, says Caetano in a thoughtful moment and begins relating how nothing really comes easy in life. “I worked as a tailor in Margao for a while. But when the workshop shut down I began my own little business and worked at home. I would stitch suits for weddings, etc. And after all that work I would make time to compose and practice my songs.”
“There were times when we would gather at one point and get on a bus to go and perform at the Panaji National Hall. Many times, after the performance, we would sleep in parks at Panaji and then catch a bus in the morning to get home.”
When he thinks of his practicing he begins recalling happy memories. “My dearest friend, Juze Dennis and I would go high up a nearby hill and sing at the top of our voices and test our limits. I remember how we could signal each other with flutes because we didn’t have phones back then.”
He then tells of a very fascinating discovery he made. “In 1958 I had to go to Karachi in Pakistan to make my passport. A priest who heard me singing there took me to a performance hall. Over there I discovered people working on a Konkani tiatr. They asked me to sing in their tiatr and I gladly accepted. To my surprise the tiatr was houseful. It was after that performance that contractors in Pakistan approached me and encouraged me. This led to one of the first plays that I wrote for charity. It was also the beginning of my life as a playwright.”
Caetano Goes returned to Goa and in 1960 brought out on stage his first tiatr in Goa; ‘Carmi Chem Bentin’. Soon he was engrossed with writing plays, composing music for his plays and even acting in them. In 1966 he released ‘Nimnem Kumsar’ and in 1968 ‘Rogot Bhavponna Chem’. “I only sung my own compositions and I would also gladly offer them to others”, says Caetano Goes. In 1965 Caetano Goes got married and soon came a life of severe responsibilities.
“I had to join the civil services. I became a seaman in Bombay. But that didn’t mean I would quit my dream. Whenever I could afford I would take time out to write tiatrs and compose songs.” Caetano’s music has travelled to corners of Goa and Bombay and has even reached Germany where his songs have been performed in musical shows. Caetano very willingly sheds light upon the music he composed and the tiatrs he wrote.
“I only wrote descent songs which carried a story and a message. And my tiatrs have been about the society. They speak of families, the rich and the poor, priesthood and many other such segments that unite and make society a whole.”
As the conversation draws to an end Caetano expresses his suggestions for contemporary tiatr and music: “Every song is a medium and the singer is obliged to give a message that the people can carry home.”
“Tiatr is a pure Goan form of entertainment. It is made up of our language and it must never be brought to an end. Today tiatr is doing its best to give people a piece of tradition. I do have an advice; in our times the playwright wrote the dialogue in a manner that took into account the person who would act the part. The playwright thought in his mind as to which gesture and which line would suit the person best. Today the tiatrists write a play and then select the actors. It at times feels like the actors and their dialogues are loosely connected. This must be worked upon”, he gently adds.
“I am happy. These awards appreciate me and my work and the joy of receiving from the cause to which you have given your whole life is more than can be expressed by words”, he says as our conversation draws to an end.
Caetano’s wife, Rosy Goes more than supported Caetano’s dream. He recollects: “She would memorise the melodies and tunes to all my compositions. And when I would forget them before my performance I would simply go up to her and she would hum them to me.”
Caetano Goes’ granddaughter Josanta Fernandes wrote a tiatr called ‘Axea’ during her Masters at the Carmel College. The tiatr was performed at the college auditorium and all that she gathered was used to fund the construction of a building for the college. Caetano takes pride in the belief that talent flows in the bloodline.
Caetano Goes has two sons, Francisco Xavier Goes, who is a Marine Engineer, and Jorge Goes who works in the government services in the United Kingdom. Francisco has written multiple one act plays and today both the sons have united for a great cause. They have formed a committee that funds and organises many events that are dedicated to the cause of tiatr. They are currently working on ‘Banavlikaranchi Ekvotttchi Sanz’, an event where all the tiatrist from Benaulim shall gather and celebrate the cause of tiatr as well as discuss a matter that the brothers hold close to their hearts. They say: “With multilingual cultures now spreading across Goa the Konkani language requires more support from Goans and the Goan traditions. The plan is to device methods which will help spread the love for tiatr and the Konkani language as well as to encourage the future generations to understand the need for tiatr.”