A New Home of Music in Goa

Madragoa is an intimate concert space that offers a glimpse of little known Goan-Portuguese culture.

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Sonia Shirsat, a celebrated Goan artist, is known for her fado and mando performances. Photo Courtesy: Ian de Noronha

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

It is just a room.

It has four corners, a wooden ceiling, and doors with oyster shell panes and tiled awnings. It is heavily decorated with printed umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, a wall of framed photos, and the Goan ghumot and the Portuguese guitar. One wall arrests attention for looking like a street in Lisbon. The ceiling to floor mural has 3D effects that make it lifelike; a little lamppost, a flower pot, more tiled roofs, and windows.

This is the ‘street’ on which celebrated Goan fadista (fado singer) Sonia Shirsat takes centre-stage every few weeks, filling the room with her strong, powerful voice as she serenades people with fados and mandos.

This is Madragoa, Casa do Fado e Mandó or what they call the world’s first house dedicated to these two musical genres. Fado is a Portuguese musical genre, while the mando is a musical form performed by Goan Catholics.

 

A New Home Of Music In Goa

Madragoa, nestled inside a 200-year-old Goan home in Panjim, is believed to be the world’s first house dedicated to the musical genres of fado and mando. Photo Courtesy: Ian de Noronha

 

Madragoa began its musical journey on Independence Day in 2018. The concert occupies one room in a 200-year-old Goan home in Panjim, by the riverfront. A wide stone staircase neatly segregates the house into two parts: one where the de Noronha family takes up residence, the other house is the Centre for Indo-Portuguese Art (CIPA). CIPA is an umbrella academy, the passion project of Orlando de Noronha who wanted a space to showcase, document and impart information about the culinary, literary, and ceramic arts and music. CIPA is home to Azulejos de Goa—a shop dedicated to his azulejos (hand-painted ceramic tiles), his elder brother Óscar de Noronha’s Third Millennium Publishers; de Noronha Associates, which makes customised crockery; Renascença Goa, which is a Portuguese chat show; Cháfé Braz—a balcony café serving Indo-Portuguese snacks named after legendary saxophonist Braz Gonsalves; and Madragoa.

Orlando, a fine arts graduate, was inspired to open Madragoa during his one-year stint in Portugal in 1997, where he had gone to learn how to play the Portuguese guitar and make azulejos. In Coimbra, the musician visited a friend’s little place, where they conducted fado concerts almost every day. “People could just walk in and experience this art form,” he says. “These people had sacrificed their time and put in effort to preserve their culture and music. It made me think about doing something similar in Goa.” On his return, he got busy with azulejos.

A New Home Of Music In Goa

During interval between performances, guests are treated to drinks and Indo-Portuguese snacks such as bacalhau, pork empadinhas, pastéis de nata, and choris pao. Photo by: Joanna Lobo

It was only when the second part of his house, earlier rented out, went vacant that he could realise the wish of opening a fado house. “I linked the mando to it, as it is also a dying art. The main aim is not to make this a business, but to have workshops, and take this music to the next generation,” he informs.

Madragoa remains in the dark for most of the month, closed off from the rest of CIPA, quietly awaiting its turn to shine. Sometimes, one section of the room—otherwise curtained off—opens to form the backdrop for jazz concerts.

When the time comes, usually on a Friday, the room transforms into a space that can accommodate about 40 people, and a stage for artists. The lights dim, and the spotlight falls on Shirsat as she walks in, clad in black.

Madragoa’s concerts are just the right length to keep it interesting for someone who is new to both genres. Shirsat introduces each fado, explaining its origin and meaning; she follows the same method with the mando. She is usually accompanied by de Noronha on Portuguese guitar and Carlos Menezes on guitar. Sometimes, they include other fado singers too. At some point, it gets interactive too as Shirsat guides the audiences into providing a chorus here and a few lines of a stanza there. For the mando, she picks up the ghumot, a Goan percussion instrument, to provide background beats.

In the interval, snacks are sent around, plates of Indo-Portuguese fare like bacalhau (dried and salted cod), pork empadinhas (Goan pork pies), pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tart), choris pao and more. People mill around the place, admiring the azulejos, flipping through books, and sipping from glasses of cocktails or mocktails. It is the mural that gets the most attention and deservedly so. De Noronha sought inspiration from his favourite street in Lisbon, and Fontainhas in Panjim to create a fascinating cross section of both places: a clocktower in the distance, colourful facades of homes, cobblestoned pathways, and windows with lace awnings, from which people (including a tiny photo of Shirsat’s late mother, Maria Alice Pinho e Shirsat) peep out. There is a cat and a dog guarding a house.

 

A New Home Of Music In Goa

The space also accommodates Cháfé Braz—a balcony café serving Indo-Portuguese snacks named after legendary saxophonist Braz Gonsalves. Photo Courtesy: Ian de Noronha

 

Before the pandemic, Madragoa hosted concerts on Fridays, two shows of 40 people each.

It has provided a stage for other fadistas and singers. “The idea is to give a platform to everybody,” says de Noronha.

Before leaving, guests are urged to honk the poder’s horn hanging above the staircase if they enjoyed the performance and their evening. It is not uncommon to hear continuous honks as people stream out after the concert. All thanks to the magic of that small room.

 

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Essentials

 Concerts happen about once a month. Follow @madragoa.goa on Instagram for updates. Tickets are ₹1,000 (inclusive of snacks and a drink). 

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  • Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer and journalist. A silent feminist (they do exist!), food snob, and Potterhead, she prefers canine company to that of humans. She actively seeks out cheap eating haunts, and weird and wondrous places, when travelling.

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