Herald: The story of how music bridged oceans
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The story of how music bridged oceans

04 Jul 2015 11:30pm IST

Report by
Dolcy D’Cruz

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04 Jul 2015 11:30pm IST

Report by
Dolcy D’Cruz

Music is a language that surpasses cultures and regions. Even though the Goans living in Tanzania were oceans apart from their country, they stayed connected to their roots through music. Judy Luis Watson, through her new book, ‘Waiting for the Sunrise’, brings this experience to life

When a musician plays a type of music completely different from their roots, and that too with perfection, it raises inquisitive questions. The same was experienced by Judy Luis Watson, a professional musician who plays the blues. She fell in love with music as a child while listening to the band, the Jazz Swingers, playing in her house in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Her book ‘Waiting for the Sunrise’ is a tribute to the Goan jazz musicians in Dar es Salaam.

‘Waiting for the Sunrise’ is the musical view of the Goan experience in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania during the 1950s and 1960s. Jazz was the art form that inspired and connected musicians from as far away as East Africa, India, and North America. Leading the story is an intimate and engaging narrative that portrays how Goan jazz musicians enriched their community, while the background portrays the healing power of music.

“This band story is a result of a question that kept playing in my mind when music was my profession.

In the US, after every performance, strangers often asked me how I learned to play the blues. That recurring question, however, became the catalyst for delving into my family’s musical roots. How did my dad, Jerry Luis, of Goan ancestry, but born in Tanganyika, learn the wide range of music he played? And what about the Jazz Swingers, the band he played with in Dar es Salaam? This book is based on numerous interviews and conversations with my parents, mostly my father, spanning the years between October 1999 and June 2015. It is also based on interviews with band members, as well as email exchanges with them and other Goans in the diaspora,” says Judy who finds her family’s roots in Candolim and Sangolda on her father’s side and Guirim on her mother’s side.

An American citizen and member of the second generation to be born in Tanzania, a few of the Goan traditions Judy remembers is preparing Goan dishes, attending Catholic religious celebrations and the importance of the extended family. Speaking about the Jazz Swingers, Judy reminisces, “The Jazz Swingers often rehearsed at our home, and as children, we saw them perform at the Goan Institute in Dar. The men in the band as well as their wives or girlfriends socialised, and the children also spent time together. We were sort of like an extended family. The band usually played a couple of Konkani songs at events at the Goan Institute, mostly to please the older generation. Music was a source of enjoyment for the band members; I believe it sustained them through the ups and downs of life.”

An educator who enjoys research and writing, Judy started her research for the book in December 1999.  “Being a musician and educator with an interest in cultural history gave me a deeper understanding of the role music can play on an individual and group level,” she says.

The book will be released shortly as an e-book and will also be available in print on Amazon. It will be available in stores in Goa by October or November of this year. However, the book has already made a buzz in the Goan diaspora, “There seems to be quite an excitement about the book from Goans in Tanzania, Goa, and North America. It’ll be interesting to see what this translates into. I’m hoping the book might spark thoughtful conversations on any of the topics in the book: migration and immigration; jazz and blues; culture; family relationships, and friendships,” says Judy, who was last in Goa in May 1970 after completing her two years of high school in Siolim. The last time she was in East Africa was in August 1971 as a student in Nairobi, Kenya.

To conclude, Judy shares her future plans, “I’d like to meet, in person, the people I’ve associated with while working on this book and that will involve some international travel. A couple of projects related to the Goan diaspora are on the burner and I’d like to leave them to marinate a little while longer.”

 

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