Book Reviews

Remo – More than just a music star

| Updated on: Dec 25, 2021
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The Goan singer’s autobiography is more about his life than his music - a well written, honest, candid account.

Remo has followed in the footsteps of all the other Goan celebrities who reached the pinnacle of success in their respective fields - Mario Miranda, Charles Corea, Frank Simoes and Wendell Rodricks amongst others. Like the other Goan greats Remo is more than just a music star - he was also a cultural ambassador for Goa, and perhaps still is in spite of the fact that he is now a Portuguese citizen.

His autobiography ‘Remo’ is very well written. I loved his style of writing. Not surprising for a song writer - Remo always had a way with words. This is really about his life, although I would have been happier to know a little bit more about his music and his creativity. The triggers and sources for his music and how he went about becoming a songwriter and musician.

Remo starts with his early life. Not very different from the upper class Goan, Remo says his first language was Portuguese and then he confesses to knowing a little Konkani the language of the state. Not unusual for the average upper class Goan. The Portuguese silently instilled in the population that Portuguese was for the upper class and Konkani for the masses. He also confesses that he was not really aware of India, another common trait amongst upper class Goans of that day.

While he stresses that his family was educated rather than wealthy, there is little doubt that Remo was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. A dad who bought him his first guitar. And when he lost his guitar during his European travels a dad would send him a new guitar from India.

Remo has been quite honest and candid about the story of his life. Some of the sexual encounters which the book is generously sprinkled with almost read like a Mills and Boon novel. Not many people might have shared their most intimate moments and fantasies. Whether it is Remo as a young child being attracted to his neighbours bathing in the open and him watching their nipples in fascination, or the many other sexual encounters that appear at regular intervals in the book, like when he struggles to unclasp a woman’s bra.

The book in many ways is a good documentary on life in general in the 60s. The hippie revolution had far reaching effects on young people all around the world and it reached India as well. In many ways Goa might well have been the epicentre of this revolution. Not surprisingly, drugs and rock & roll was deeply entrenched in the young person’s psyche since this formed some sort of core for the hippie way of life.

Remo goes into some detail in his musical evolution with the various bands he formed. There was a certain indignity around music and bands in the 60s and 70s and I think this is reflected as well in the book. Like all fathers his father admonishes him for choosing to make life as a musician rather than as an architect which he had qualified himself to be. For a parent in the 60s and 70s to have a child who wanted to be a musician was not considered exactly ambitious. Also, bands were in many ways the low life. It is only now that there is an air of respectability around musicians. Remo seems to have topped off his musical career in India when he made his entry into Bollywood. In many ways, because most music in India is music related to films, (there is almost an umbilical cord between the movies and music) even today reaching the top of one’s musical career is to do the music for a Bollywood film unlike in the West where music survives on its own as an art form.

The book takes us through Remo’s travels around the world and especially Europe and North Africa including countries like Tunisia. At the time that Remo travelled in the 70s it was certainly unusual for an Indian to have been so widely travelled. Travel is such a profound experience that changes most people, and it seems to have enriched Remo’s life as well. Moving from country to country and doing the odd gig here and there.

His hectic life may have taken a toll on his overall well-being as well. Later in the book he confesses to even having seen a psychiatrist while being married to Michelé.

The book ends with his life in Porto. Like many other Goans going back to Portugal always has seemed like a deferred dream. But many like Remo have made it a reality. The books ends with his life post his divorce with Michele and the new love of his life Zenia to whom he dedicates his autobiography.

Drugs, sex, music, women are a common theme in the lives of most rock stars and Remo’s book has plenty of these as well. I am quite glad he took the trouble to document his life. After all Remo was one of the highest paid music stars in the country, and it is interesting to know the life of any star, their trials and tribulations.

All in all, a very good read. I would recommend that everyone who knows Remo or even those who don’t know him must read it. Not many Indian celebrities have documented their lives as honestly and candidly as Remo has done.

( Prabhakar Mundkur is an ad veteran, writer and musician.)

About the Book

Remo: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes

Remo Fernandes

Harper Collins India

508 pages, Rs 613 (hardcover)

Check this book out on Amazon

Published on December 25, 2021

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