Interview with Goan Star – Katty de Navelim

Interview with Goan Star – Katty de Navelim

By Gasper Crasto, Kuwait

Kuwait, Sept 2009: Mario Carneiro better known as Katty de Navelim is a Goan singer regularly seen on stage in Kuwait.

Ex-President of popular tiatrists' fraternity - Kuwait Goa Tiatristanchi Sonvstha (KGTS), Katty has established himself amongst a horde of star performers as a singer and composer of immense calibre, wisdom and philosophy.

Born and brought up in Navelim – Goa, Katty attended his primary education at Rosary High School, Navelim and later studied at St. Britto's High School, Mapusa. After his Diploma in Technical Education (Govt. of India) at Margao, he obtained his Public Works Department (PWD) license and took up a job. Presently in Kuwait, Katty works for the well known Arabi Holding Group as a Senior Irrigation and Mechanical Supervisor.

From the time he set foot in Kuwait, Katty has always involved himself in social, cultural and sports activities for which he is quite popular among the Indian community. He has held posts of President (twice), Sports Secretary as well as General Secretary on various occasions with his hometown expatriate club Navelim Youth Centre, Kuwait. He has also held positions in the Managing Committee of Kuwait Indian Football Federation (KIFF) as Sports Secretary for three years and as Registrar for two years.

“Nobody gives a push to youngsters and newcomers. It looks like the stage here is dominated only by a certain number of artistes. ‘Sompeponim’ there are no directors who will encourage new faces.” -Katty de Navelim

In an exclusive tête-à-tête with Gasper Crasto on the eve of yet another performance, Katty revealed some interesting facts about his life as a Konkani stage artiste and singer.

How long have you been involved in singing?

I started singing as a child while I was just in primary school. My talents were duly recognized when I participated in an All Goa Singing Competition held by the Cavellosim Parish Youth. I won ‘first’ prizes there in three different categories at the competition. First prize for my solo ‘Xikop’, first prize for a duo with Danny Boy (a song on Mother Vailankanni), and first prize for a trio with Danny Boy and Natty. This encouragement took me to sing at Kala Academy programs and even at All India Radio (AIR - Panaji) at a very young age.

What was your first performance in a drama?

My first performance was in a tiatr called ‘Josephinacho Fuddar’ staged at Aquem Baixo, Navelim by the Holy Cross club. I was around 8 years then. Soon after, I acted as a child artiste in ‘Moladik Bentin’, a drama by Danny Boy (Navelim) staged at All Goa Kala Academy Tiatr Festivals and I won the Best Child Artiste Award for my performance. Later, when the same drama was staged at Navelim, I was felicitated by the villagers at the hands of Shri M. Boyer – the undisputed icon of Goan stage.

Tell us more about your early days?

As a teenager, I sang in various dramas all over Salcette and few villages of Bardez. The songs included decent as well as comedy ‘clowns’. My songs in Patrick Perry’s dramas ‘Ximiterichea Darant’, ‘Kazarache Ratri’, etc, were very popular with the audience. I also sang in a drama directed by legendary Chinchinim actor Jepsis Hitler. Later I sang duos with Patrick Perry, our most famous being a song on ‘Vailankanni Saibinn’ and ‘Chog-M’. I have also penned and directed my only Konkani tiatr titled ‘Tuka Favo Naslem’ which was performed at church feasts way back in 1977 at Assagao, Bardez and Tilamol, Quepem taluka.

In sports, I participated in All-Goa under-15 Road Race at Panjim. I was also a formidable sprinter in relay and 100 meters races for inter-schools in Bardez. However, my favorite game during my younger days was table tennis.

Who are the other directors that you have acted under?

I have been in troupes of C.D'Silva, Patrick Dourado, etc, in professional dramas all over Goa. My performance in the lead role in Patrick Dourado’s famous non-stop drama ‘Bhavacho Cheddo’ was quite commendable. It was also my debut in acting along with another Goan star actor Mario Menezes.

What is the significance of your stage name?

When I acted as a child I was called Bab Katty (Katty being my pet name). It was in Kuwait that I changed my name to Katty de Navelim to identify myself to my village and the place of my birth in Goa.

Katty with his wife Antush, and daughters - Valency (left) and Sonia (right)

When did you land up in Kuwait and which was your first performance?

I landed in Kuwait in 1982. I have featured regularly on stage since 2001 - be it a Konkani drama or a musical show or Goa Day celebrations.

Why was there such an enormous gap from the time you landed in Kuwait to your first performance?

Yes, it took me almost 19 years in Kuwait to get back into my most favorite hobby i.e. singing on stage. When I quit dramas in Goa to go abroad, it was a time I was growing mature. The politics and spite that I saw among the artistes was not for me. I’d decided then that I would never get caught up again in such environment. Here in Kuwait, I was involved with our club Navelim Youth Centre in organizing dramas and other activities. We gave opportunities galore to many Goans to display their talent on stage. It was in 2001 under Navelim organized drama ‘Thi Mhoji Maim’ written by Patrick Dourado and directed by Tony Dias that I made my comeback. We proved to everyone that Navelkars too could sing. Later, I was pushed by my daughters to compose and continue singing on stage.

Katty with Navelim Youth Centre Managing Committee in one of the file photos

To whom do you attribute your return back on stage?

Nobody in particular encouraged me to come back on stage though I was a star back home. Everybody commented that I was a good singer; good actor but nobody came forward to give me any opportunity. This is a ‘fact’ here in Kuwait. Nobody gives a push to youngsters and newcomers. It looks like the stage here is dominated only by a certain number of artistes. ‘Sompeponim’ there are no directors who will encourage new faces. Here I am grateful to Kuwait’s popular singer Michael D’Silva who was the first one to agree and sing a duo with me.

Who supported you most in your career?

I am grateful to my brother Morris Carneiro and my mother who have always supported my art of singing. Morris composed many of my songs in the initial stage and I set them to tune. In a way, our family has musical roots to the core. My uncle Eddie Pinto (Assolna) was a professional actor and playwright in Bombay while my dad Luis Carneiro was a gifted violinist.

Which are the directors that you have performed under in Kuwait?

I sang under renowned Goan directors such as Marcus Vaz (Almachea Disa), Joe Fereira, Laurente Pereira (Hea Gharachim Dharam Bond), Simon Gonsalves (Challis Dis Challis Rati), Rosary Ferns (Tumkam Lagon Jielom & Kuwait Soddun Vetana), etc. I also took part in Patrick Dourado's drama ‘Tujem Rogot’ organized by Navelim Youth Centre in April 2004. It was an honor and privilege to sing a ‘duo’ in this drama with celebrated playwright and director Patrick Dourado. Interestingly though, this was the first time, in a career spanning over 90 dramas, that Patrick Dourado was seen on stage singing. I am also seen in T-Bush's First Konkani E-Cinema 'BLACK'. My presence in the forthcoming musical ‘Tiatristponn Devachem Dennem” will be my 5th performance for Kuwait Goa Tiatristhanchi Sonvstha (KGTS).

Most of your songs are on serious subjects. What do you usually try to tell the audience through your songs?

I don’t like to simply criticize or advise people. The message conveyed through my songs is for people to implement in various aspects of their life.

Katty first formed a trio with Simon Gonsalves (centre) and Joseph Rodrigues

Which has been your best performance and your ‘unforgettable’ composition?

My trio ‘Palkacho Divo’ on Goa's most famous ‘Trio Kings’ sung with Joseph Rodrigues and Simon Gonsalves at the Kuwait Goa Tiatristanchi Sonvsta (KGTS) annual musical show ‘Ostad Tiatrist’ (the song was later recorded with Cajetan de Sanvordem) was emotionally acknowledged on stage by Shri Anthony, the lead singer of the Trio Kings. This has been one of my most memorable performances.

In my audio album ‘Ugddas Tumcho’, the title song is not just an unforgettable song but a historical one too. It is devoted to the famous sons and daughters of Navelim. In the same album, the song on Tiatrist (on the yesteryear Goan stars of Konkani stage) is also a memorable one. Again, the ‘Tribute to Trio Kings’ featuring in this CD, that pays high respect to a singer who captivated the stage for almost 50 years, remains a great composition. The title song of my other album ‘Dennem’ is also a favorite one. It tells about a child being the true gift of God and unveils the feelings of those who have no children.

Who are your favorite artistes on Konkani stage?

Among the actors, I rate late Conception and now Roseferns above all in the male category while Felcy finds a pride of place among the females. The Trio Kings are the best in composing political songs but my favorite all time composer is Rom Tony (father of Felcy) who composed a variety of songs. As far as music setting is concerned, Jose Rod wins all hearts for giving a new dimension to Konkani songs with his modern thinking and his unconventional style of pulse and rhythm.

How do you find standard of the Konkani stage and video films nowadays?

Any day, the stage is more realistic than home videos. Everyone nowadays think they can make films. But it is reflected in the poor quality of videos that we see. Overall, the standard of our stage still remains very high. Quality of Gulf directors who perhaps present one drama a year may not be of top standard. Even then they should be applauded for near to perfect presentations.

What scares you most about the Konkani language and tiatro?

Art of Konkani dramas is the only medium to keep Konkani speaking people united. Over the years, other than the church, there has been no other entity that has promoted growth of our language. Nobody encourages their children to speak in Konkani especially in the Gulf and those living abroad. This is one reason which has forced me to come back on stage. It’s my love for my mother tongue. By and large, I feel, Konkani dramas and the art of ‘tiatro’ will survive the test of time.

What is the long cherished dream/project of Katty de Navelim?

I’d presented my debut Konkani Album ‘Dennem’ in 2002 and released my second album in Kuwait titled ‘Ugddas Tumcho’ in September 2006. Both albums were produced by MANFA Music (Goa). The albums were well received and I thank all Konkani lovers for the support and encouragement they gave me. My next album will be a VCD with a skit titled ‘Ghor’ which will portray a symbolic meaning of a home.

On a parting note, can you tell the readers about the essential things required to be a singer? What have you to say on younger brigade of singers who aspire to become stars?

Main thing, you should have an ear for music. One has to observe other great singers, learn how they hold the microphone, how they present themselves on stage, watch out their expressions, etc. I am not asking to imitate the stars but to learn from them because for Konkani we do not have any institution that trains to sing or act. Other states have professional academies in their language that promote and tutor children from a young age.

Why are there few youngsters taking up acting in dramas nowadays?

Earlier there were dramas organized by the village folks in almost every village and directors could pick up talented, prospective artistes. How can we find our stars when there are no such platforms existing in our villages anymore? Other than Kala Academy, which holds a tiatr festival once a year, there are hardly any mediums that promote youngsters. Goan parishes, schools, clubs, organizations, etc, should initialize competitions such as one-act plays, singing, etc, to expose the talent search. I agree that acting on Konkani stage is not highly lucrative. Also, the youngsters think ‘tiatristponn’ is a cheap thing which is not true. Well, a lot of effort and hard work is required to be among the top artistes and be the best!

How do you prepare yourself on the day of the show?

To be perfect in anything, one must practice hard. It’s my habit to practice well in time before any performance. I am fully prepared with my songs atleast 3 weeks in advance. I have no fear of the stage, but on the day of the show I keep praying that I perform well and to perfection. That’s it, I give my best. Rest I leave it to God and the audience.

What are the songs that you will be singing in the forthcoming KGTS musical 2009 – Tiatristponn Devachem Dennem?

I have composed a special trio on the life of legendary icon Padmashree M. Boyer which I will sing accompanied by Kuwait based singers Joseph Rodrigues and a new face Braz de Parra. The other song will be a solo which identifies phases of a man and his worth over women. I am sure the songs will be appreciated by the audience and remembered for a long time!

Photograhy courtesy: Simon Dias
The above interview was published in Kuwait's Arab Times (Page 29) dated 15 September 2009.

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