The monsoon may rain upon the tourist parade in Goa, but for Goans, the season is a time of celebration – there is jubilation at the arrival of life-giving rain and the hope and renewal that accompanies it.
The rains are also the time of Goan festivals and feasts: São João, in which locals wear coronets of wild flowers, get drunk and jump into wells, Sangodd, in which fishermen and their families travel on boats dressed up in costumes (including a few dressed as lobsters and crabs), and the Ponaschem fest that heralds the arrival of jackfruit season in Goa.
Festive revelry or even a solitary walk in the rain can feel incomplete without music. Fortunately, Goa’s monsoon has an entire playlist, with a song for every emotion.
Marius Fernandes, the pioneer of reviving several traditions and the heritage of Goan festivals, often uses the Goan Mando Pausacho Dis, sung by Sharon Mazarello at his monsoon events. The song is a girl’s account of romantic awakening in the monsoon and the first stirrings of love, all from the vantage point of an umbrella or sontri.
Ago cheddva or Oh, Girl by legendary songwriter, lyricist and composer Chris Perry, sung by Seby, is about a flirtatious dalliance between the singer and the object of his desire, who revels in getting drenched in the downpour.
Love in the Rains
Johnny B Good and Bushka
For almost every variety of flora, fauna and human being, the lush monsoon acts like an aphrodisiac. If you’re looking for something to match the mood, listen to the Konkani-English mashup of the contemporary song Love in the Rains.
Mog Juemchea Dongrar
Love for the land of Goa and for the Goan woman are closely intertwined in this song, whose name is translated as Love on the St. Estevam Hill. The date in the song, June 24, is significant because it is the feast of St John the Baptist (popularly known in Goa and the rest of the Lusophone world as São João) – the saint who baptised Jesus in River Jordan. According to the New Testament, St John’s mother Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and both Mary and Elizabeth were with child at the same time. Luke 1:41 says: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb”, and it is this joyful leap that is celebrated by Goans jumping into wells and water bodies on the feast day of St John the Baptist. The newly-arrived monsoon augurs well – there’s an abundance of water and a good harvest to follow – and that is cause enough (as if Goans needed another reason) for celebration.
Viva São João
The famous tiatrist and cantaram songwriter C Alvares wrote this song which has become an unofficial anthem of São João. According to local tradition, newlyweds are invited to the bride’s house and much fuss is made over the son-in-law, who is the narrator of the song. He wears a kopel or traditional crown made of guavas (although today kopels are entwined with palms and flowers too). Everyone goes to the well to jump into it and bathe. According to the song, the in-laws have brought three pots full of liquor, a feast of sannas and fresh pork, and the neighbours have sent a jackfruit for the feast. Above is a version of Viva São João with a signature Goan brass band, and below is a more contemporary version, with a nod to Latino music and perhaps to the Gipsy Kings as well
Rains are not always about love, fertility and happiness. The monsoon can bring melancholia too. The Fado Chuva or Rain, composed by Jorge Fernando da Silva Nunes and sung here by acclaimed contemporary Portuguese fadista Mariza, is a song of lost love, and of smiling through tears in the rain.