‘Played flute first time while waiting to meet girlfriend’: Remo Fernandes

Remo fell in love with the sound of the flute from hearing records by Traffic, Blood Sweat & Tears, and of Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull.

Remo Fernandes plays several instruments and the singer-musician says he tried the flute for the first time during his college days when he once reached his girlfriend’s hostel much before the stipulated visiting hours.

Remo fell in love with the sound of the flute from hearing records by Traffic, Blood Sweat & Tears, and of Ian Anderson with Jethro Tull.

“And with our own Indian classical flute played by Pannalal Ghosh, I’d never thought of playing the instrument myself, but  why not try it out for fun? I paid a rupee for a flute and decided to pass the time discovering it from scratch, sitting in front of the sea,” he recalls his tryst with the instrument in his soon-to-be-published autobiography “Remo”.

His girlfriend lived in the Government Girls’ Hostel on Marine Drive in Mumbai, right next to the Taraporewala Aquarium. Her hostel had stricter visiting hours, and once when he went there too early he was told to come back in an hour. So he decided to spend the hour at the Chowpatti Beach nearby.

“Among the vendors of balloons, children’s toys and so on at the entrance to the beach, I saw a flute seller, with flutes sticking out like little branches from a long stick he held upright,” Remo writes in the book, published by HarperCollins India.

Half an hour later as he walked back to the hostel he stopped at the vendor’s and told him the wind instrument played wrong notes and asked for a better one.

“He gave me a curious look and said, ‘Wah wah, just now you couldn’t even blow a sound out of it.’ He had sold me one of the toy flutes for children. Now he reached into a bag he kept on the ground, where he had his ‘serious’ instruments. He selected one and handed it to me, without charging me extra for the exchange,” Remo recalls.

And that is how his lifelong love affair with the flute began.

“I felt it complimented the guitar perfectly. If I saw the guitar as male, the flute was the female that completed it. Much easier to carry than a guitar, it became a permanent addition to my cloth bag, whether I was going to college or elsewhere,” Remo writes.

He says friends to whom he happened to narrate stories from his life in casual conversation – whether from his school days in Portuguese Goa, his architecture college days in Bombay, his hitch-hiking days in Europe and Africa, or an anecdote from his days as a professional musician – invariably said that he should write a book.

“Myriad distractions made the writing drag on for years, but the lockdown helped me give it undivided attention until completion,” he says about his autobiography, which is releasing on November 30.

Udayan Mitra, executive publisher of HarperCollins India, says the book is written in “simple, stylised prose that comes from the heart and is shot through with a terrific sense of humour”.

There are many photographs and sketches from Remo’s personal collection that are included in the autobiography.

When he started out as a relatively unknown artist in the 1970s, Remo would record his first albums in his home studio and distribute them around Goa on his yellow scooter. But soon, he was to become a national craze, with blockbuster hits to his credit in English and Hindi pop, and in film music as well.

His popular songs include “Jalwa”, “O, Meri Munni”, “Humma Humma” and “Pyaar to Hona Hi Tha”. He recently composed and recorded a full-fledged opera on Mother Teresa.

Anderson has words of praise for Remo’s first book.

“From the opening chapter of his autobiography, Remo takes us on a journey of kaleidoscopic images from his memories of childhood, growing up in Goa. I can smell the streets, the cooking, the sea and the feni as my own memories return to me through his words.

“He tells the story of his passions and adventures in music and the arts in an educated but entertaining way. His love of his roots and his strong ties to his homeland give this book authority and charm in abundance, all written in excellent English but with the spicy additions of Portuguese and Indian words and phrases for context,” Anderson says.

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