11 Jan 2023  |   05:21am IST

A promising future for fado in Goa through Goa University

For the first time in the history of Goa University, students and the general public will be introduced to fado by noted fadista, Sonia Shirsat. Sonia is invited by the Directorate of Visiting Research Professor Programme and will conduct a credit course on ‘An Introduction to the Fado’ under the Anthony Gonsalves Chair in Western Music and Portuguese
A promising future for fado in Goa through Goa University

Dolcy D’Cruz


ado, which means fate or destiny, is a genre of music, with origins in Portugal and sings about love, passion, lost and saudade. In 2011, this genre of music was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO World Heritage List. When recently Goa University announced a credit course conducted by none other than Goa’s own fadista, Sonia Shirsat, they received an overwhelming response from their students as well as the public, who wanted to learn about fado.

Directorate of Visiting Research Professor Programme (VRPP) in Goa is where Goa University invites personalities from different fields to share their knowledge and expertise not just to their students but to teacher, staff members and even the general public. Goa University has six chairs which are funded by the government and three chairs are funded privately, Joaquim Heliodoro da Cunha Rivara Chair in Indo-Portuguese studies, Dalai Lama Chair in Nalanda Studies and VM Salgaoncar Chair in Wildlife Studies. Sonia will be conducting a one credit course which consists of 15 hours and 25 marks to post graduate students in any discipline under the Anthony Gonsalves Chair in Western Music and Portuguese from February 8 to 14 at Block D, Goa University. The course is open and free for students and the general public, but registration is compulsory.

Prof Savita Kerkar, director of VRPP, says, “The Goa University Choir was founded in August 2013 under the baton of Maestro late Dr Santiago Lusardi Girelli, Visiting Research Professor under the Western Music Chair of Goa University. It was a very active and beautiful choir. Unfortunately, we lost Dr Santiago. For over a year, we have been working on getting fado introduced. We first had to introduce it in the Portuguese Department of Goa University so we can introduce the credit course. Fado is very interesting for our students and we have received a good response for the course. Though the limit of seats is 50 seats, if we get more registrations, we can extend the seats.”

Ponda-based Sonia Shirsat has been called the Ambassador of Goan music to the world. However, her contribution to fado in Goa is unmatched. She defines fado as a beautiful art form that expresses emotions and touches hearts immaterial of whether you follow the language or not. From being a student yourself to now a teacher, how has been her journey? “As far as fado is concerned, I’m still a student because there is so much more to learn. It’s a constant learning process but being able to share whatever knowledge I have with people who are interested in learning this art form is indeed, a privilege. I’m glad that Goa University has invited me to give these few lectures and I hope from this will have some good outcome for the future of fado in Goa,” says Sonia.

Introducing fado comes with its own challenges, “Traditionally, there is no formal training of fado as there is no structure or syllabus has been followed to teach fado to students even in the traditional circles in Portugal. Secondly, in Goa, the challenge is the language. A lot of our students who come to listen and learn about fado, do not follow the language and it is not mandatory. Thirdly, many students who like or want to learn the fado have not really been exposed to fado. For them it’s a new genre or style. I don’t think there are many instances of such formal teaching of the fado. I’m glad it is happening at Goa University,” says Sonia.

The course is open to all and everyone will be benefitting from the knowledge that they will gain from the five sessions, each consisting of two and a half hours. Students who will be attending it for the credit at the university will increase their knowledge about this genre of music. Others who want to learn about this type of art form will also benefit from the classes because there will be theory about different aspects of the fado and there will also be singing. “Everybody will learn to sing fado and it will give a different way of learning. There is no better way of learning any art form than learning the actual practical singing especially in fado as compared to theory,” she explains.

How can the students prepare themselves for the classes? While there is a lot of information on the internet. But Sonia warns that the information may also be misleading, primarily because of the translation into English. She hopes the students come with an open mind without any concepts of doubt that because it is a different language or art form it will be difficult.

“I never insisted in the knowledge of Portuguese nor music for the students to attend fado classes. When I started learning the fado, I did not speak the language fluently and I neither learnt music formally,” says Sonia.

She further adds, “Fado is a semi classical form of music. This genre is from western music but not western classical, therefore you don’t have huge orchestrations or complex accompaniment. Fado is a simple form from the folk of the city and therefore it comes straight from the heart and that is what makes fado standout from the musical genres.”

There have various artists and musicians who have been popularising this art form. The queen of all of them is Amalia Rodrigues following whom there has been the whole list of new generation of fadistas or fado singers like Ana Moura, Mariza, Katia Guerreiro, Maria Bonbone, Raquel Tavares and Camané. There are a lot of singers who are taking fado all over the world now that fado has got recognition by UNESCO. Also owing to various fado artistes from Portugal who are having concerts abroad, this art form has been included in various music festivals all over the world and fado’s popularity is ever-growing.

To conclude, Sonia shares her vision of the future of fado in Goa, “Fado has been in Goa for over a 100 years and, our effort is to see that it lives for 100 or 200 years or more. Therefore, we are teaching fado through Fado de Goa classes and other projects that we are doing. Fado in Goa will have a good future as long as we have students participating and taking interest in moving forward in their careers as fado singers and musicians of fado. Likewise, students of courses like these, where they increase their knowledge of the genre will be audience of such concerts. There will be an informed audience that knows the intricacies or details of the art form and there will always be a place for fado in Goa.”


Idhar Udhar