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|Listening to the post-empire: Fado and Mando in Goa as performative devices for cultural sovereignty
|The image of Goa as a place where music and related performing arts define a vibrant reality has been documented in numerous sources since the late nineteenth century. Due to its colonial history of 451 years under Portuguese rule, Goa's musical repertoire is also associated to the social and religious partitions that colonialism generated. Therefore, Catholics and Hindus assert their authority to perform and be represented through distinct types of music, and different castes also demand their own specific repertoire. Until the end of the twentieth century, these divisions created a constellation wherein fixed repertoires were exclusively linked to religion and caste, leaving little room for flexibility or mobility. After 1961, when Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule, numerous musical genres that had previously been exclusively performed within domestic settings primarily among the Catholic elite during family gatherings, started to be presented on stage, initially driven by political reasons. This trend increased after 1987 when Goa became a state of India and the tourism industry experienced significant growth. This transformation was particularly pronounced within the Catholic community, which had both the means and social permission to perform in public spaces for entertainment purposes. Mando, a polyphonic musical genre associated with Goa's Catholic elite, made a significant transformation, shifting from its domestic origins to a prominent stage presence. In Goa, mando is celebrated as the state's “art music”, often seen by its performers as a symbol of Goanity, distinct from Indian and Portuguese musics. From 2014, when the Indian government initiated policies of Hinduization of India, mando and other Catholic musical genres in Goa took a prominent role in safeguarding Goa's cultural distinctiveness. The performance of fado, until then not very significant in Goa, also experienced a huge resurgence, reaching a significant milestone in 2017, when the label “Fado de Goa” was officially recognized as an Indian musical genre by the Indian NGO Spic Macay. This scenario is partly due to the fact that Goa, unlike other former colonies, never achieved independence after 451 years of colonization, which promoted a feeling of insecurity and resentment, especially among the Catholic minority. This paper explores the way in which mando and fado have been used by their performers as instruments to defend a certain form of sovereignty. It is based on fieldwork carried out with the post-memory generation – those who did not live in colonial times, but are heirs to the memories of their ancestors (Hirsh 2012). Rather than remaining trapped in its colonial past, this minority projected through music an image of Goa, both within the state and in the diaspora, as a place actively fighting for its cultural sovereignty.
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