Motet: A Unique Identity Of Goa’s Catholicism

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Kuwait, March 24: This is the Lent season and only three more days are left for culminating this season into Easter.  Today is Maundy Thursday.  Lot of people from  different nationalities and regions seen attending the Church Service in Kuwait City Church which was packed to capacity, so the Hall and even in the Compound.  Goa?s Catholicism has got unique distinction of singing Motets during Lent season especially during the last few days before Easter.  What is Motet?  It is a most sorrowful song of the sufferings of Jesus Christ.  The Motets are sung in different voice and they popular only in few places in the Catholic World, Goa is one such place blessed by the songs called Motets.  Its origin goes into antiquity; it is difficult to say exactly when it came into being and who composed these sorrowful songs in Latin since original Motets were composed in Latin.  The way no body knows who composed Solfas in five lines as we call them as Roman and not Gregorian so nobody knows who composed the Motets.

My first and primary education was in Church School, which then was called as Parochial School where we were taught Konkani in Roman script to write and read.  After acquiring the knowledge of reading and writing Konkani, we were taught Music to sing, write and play on Violin.  This was done with the help of one particular Music Book called “Arte”.  As a very young boy of Parochial School I was also a member of our village Choir and during the Lent season I along with my other colleagues we were selected to sing Motets.  In 1959 when I was very young boy, I was also a member of our Choir that recorded 3 Motets at Emisora de Goa and one individual “Veronica ? Exce Vidimus.”  That was the first incident of mine to interact with the great music luminaries of Goa at Emisora de Goa like Antoninho Desouza, Dioginho Demello, his sister Izmenia Demello, Baldino Araujo and may more who were also recording their songs.  One of the Motets that we recorded then was ?Filius Et Jerusalem? and the other “Nolite Flere”.  Our Church Mistir Santano played Organ while Andre Cursino played Clarinet and Violin played by Gonsalves who had just come that time from Kuwait but very smart violinist.  While singing these Motets the listeners feel like crying because the tune is such that makes you cry even though you need not understand the words in Latin.  Earlier in Kuwait some of our seniors used to sing and play Motets in the Church especially when Bishop Estella was ruling Kuwait Church.  Bishop Estelala was the first Bishop of Kuwait, he was an Italian but was very good friend of Goan community because of their love for singing religious songs.  Pascoal Pereira from Majorda and Diogo Fernandes from Pomburpa were two known persons who were leading Motets singing in Kuwait Church.  Because of its taste some of the Europeans in Kuwait especially used to attend the Services during Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays because these two days are known for singing such songs.

In Goa today and tomorrow, late at night time, All India Radio Panjim will broadcast some of the beautiful Motets and those who are interested in it they will not miss this opportunity.  These Motets are very interesting.  Some of our old tiatrists like Minguel Rod many times used sentimental and sad tunes for their ?Cantos? based on Motets.  Minguel Rod was very good in Motets like Alexinho de Candolim and both these tiatrists enriched their tiatros by using sorrowful tunes for their Cantos from Motets.  As far as Alexinho de Candolim is concerned, I know him personally well and because of our relationship I used to call him ?Mama?.  Many times in the Church I had an opportunity to sing Motets along with him and as a matter of fact, he was an exceptionally gifted Motet singer.  His voice was very beautiful and as a student of Parochial school he mastered the art of singing Motets.  Most of the popular Motets he knew very well.  My love for Motets is great and during the Lent time I really miss the opportunity to listen to Motets because of my being in Kuwait where nowadays in our Church nobody sings nor nobody plays the tune of Motets and unfortunately to my regret if I am not mistaken nobody must be knowing what is Motet.  This is the sad part of the situation.

In mid and late sixties many of the original Motets were translated into Konkani so that people can know the meaning of the words and enjoy better.  But still the greatness and beauty in the translated Motet is less, original is original.  There is lot of deficiencies in the Konkani version and only those who know both the versions can make out this gap.  However, one cannot discard totally the greatness of Konkani version.  For example one Motet sung as:

Raianchi Bhett kantti, divun tachea hathan,
Kenneo tacheo korun, jinsanvar,
Hai Mojea, Jesus

The tune of this Motet is very sorrowful and sentimental and one who listens to this Motet he must get tears on his cheeks.  Like this there are other Motets in Konkani.  Our present generation must be made to know and sing more of Motets because this is a part of our tradition and as such we must protect it.  In Kuwait it is already came into extinction due to the exit of many of our elders who learnt these Motets while they were students of Parochial School.  It is said in Konkani “Te Poder Melet and Te Undde Kobar Zalet.”

Author: Veronica Fernandes- Kuwait

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