Wilfy Rebimbus : The Legend has Left us All...
by Walter Nandalike
Mangalore, Mar 9: Perhaps last week was one of the most painful weeks spent in my life, as I had been in touch with Leslie Rego, a key member of Wilfy Rebimbus' troupe who co-ordinated and compered more than 100 shows of his in last decade or so. Ever since, we heard of Wilfy’s ill health about a year ago, we have been constantly enquiring about his health with his family members and close associates either when we met up or over the phone.
Niether Meena, Vishwas nor Leslie had any doubts on Wilfy's health and were hopeful that Wilfy will fight death to life with a successful surgery.
But soon we lost hope when Leslie called me last week and said, "I can't digest this. It’s all in God’s hands now". Until then even Meena and Vishwas were not prepared for the worst ever. But the news of Wilfy’s death I received from Leslie at 9.50am UAE time (11.25IST) today through the phone was the most shocking and unbelievable; nevertheless one has to accept the fact of life.
Our association with the legend Wilfy was not very old and dates back to a decade, which was formed after the creation of Daijiworld website. I also had got the opportunity to compere ten Wilfy Nites in the least in India as well as in UAE and Kuwait and elsewhere. One who knows him closely, for sure will first talk about his humbleness, down-to-earth nature and friendly personality. It was indeed a memorable experience to have compered his show for the first time in Kuwait, organized by Shirva Welfare Association in 2002, as until then I had only known him through his audio albums and live shows. First meeting, and his appreciation became an inspiration to me that brought me not only close to his heart, but to his entire family.
His songs, Mog Tuzo Kitlo Axelom, Maria Tuzo Moga Maka Maria, Philomena, are just a few among scores of his songs that created history playing millions of times worldwide right from the gramophone days to today’s internet age.
Wilfy's contribution to the world of music, literature and stage is an open book. A small child too is aware of his immense contribution. But what’s significant about his contribution is that the awareness of Konkani language that he created worldwide, especially among Konkani speaking community, through his works. It was heartening to note that, even a person who was shy to speak Konkani in public was a fan of Wilfy’s works that prompted the person to hum Konkani songs!.
The last decade was a golden era for the Konkani language as far as Konkani speaking community residing abroad is concerned. In gulf, the major Konkani waves were generated through his music. Almost every major function in gulf never went without Wilfy's music. That was the impact he created among Konkani music lovers.
He traveled across gulf many a time along with his troupe and mesmerized the crowd wherever he went. His humble nature encouraged the organizers to bring him back again and again.
Denzil Fernades, ace organizers of events abroad, was the first person to bring Wilfy to gulf for the professional show in Bahrain. "He was an amazingly humble person with abundant talent. He was adjusting with absolutely no fuss and demands. Music was his life" exclaimed Denzil as soon as he read the news on Daijiworld.
Take any singing competitions in the gulf, at least 70% of the songs chosen by the participants are Wilfy's. Small children always cherished singing his songs, especially the songs like effervescent 'Voldimai'..
He had a special way to encourage the young talent, who sought help from him without ever denying them. There are several new composers today, who have brought out their own albums, but have not forgotten to give due credit to him.
Though most of his dreams have been fulfilled, he was unable to fulfill the unique dream of introducing a programme blending music and drama at his nites. Another sad fact is that his health did not permit him to reach the landmark of holding 250th nite in his career!
His recent active participation in historic talent hunt show 'Gulf Voice of Mangalore', where he travelled along with his wife Meena and troupe around the Gulf for more than 30-day-tour is testimony to his commitment. He freely mixed with young talent and guided them with his advice, suggestions without hurting anyone's sentiments, which was truly laudable. He has left his impression even on the young minds.
I had a unique opportunity to be with him throughout Gulf Voice of Mangalore contests in countries like Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait, wherein he shared his inner life experiences. I also got a glimpse of tough days and challenges he faced in life. Yet I was amazed to see him unruffled and moving on with life with grit, determination and courage. He was of a reserved nature and never hurt anyone intentionally.
Soon after his return home after 'Gulf Voice of Mangalore', his ill health surfaced, but never became a matter of worry. No one ever expected that, he would succumb to a dangerous killer-disease, cancer.
When he himself first became aware of his disease, he was crest fallen but soon composed himself and kept a low profile. His family too kept the news of illness a secret for long as they knew that if the news was out there would be a chaos among his well-wishers and in turn Wilfy would become restless. But one evening, Felix Lobo Doha, a long time associate and well-wisher of Wilfy disclosed to me this shocking news, and he also made me promise that I would not disclose this to second person. That was the most painful time for me, as already I had been not only Wilfy's greatest fan, but also very close to his family.
A month after it was Wilfy himself, who disclosed the matter to me. By then few people within his close circle were aware and there was a hope. Every one was assured that, Wilfy's lung cancer was in first stage which could be cured, and he would go on to live for many more years just like any other normal person.
The people worldwide, not only enjoyed his music, but also stood by him during his difficult days. As Wilfy was not so sound, economically, to get deserved treatment for cancer, his well-wishers worldwide joined hands in organizing a mega Sentimental Nite in Mangalore. It was a historic event with over 2,500 people witnessing the show; at least 4,000 people were disappointed for being unable to get a ticket for the show. That was the kind of support and the popularity of this undisputed Konkani icon. Indeed show brought the laurels to him and helped him get the much needed economic support for his treatment.
"God, you take away my life, but please do not take away my voice. I will sing until my last breath.." these were the golden words from a golden person during sentimental Wilfy Nite 2009. People had tears in their eyes as everyone prayed, 'Come back Wilfy, we need you, we love you, Konkani needs you'.
Hardly did he manage to sing a song with Meena during that show. Soon after the show, he had to undergo his major surgery, which was a ray of hope for many of his fans. He suffered, but always smiled. He met and conversed with people who visited his house and also called him up over the phone. After the sentimental nite, two more shows were held where he again hardly sang. Even without his active participation, the shows were a grand success. People just felt that his presence was a matter of great pride and pleasure even though he was unable to sing. What more a legend needs than this kind of immense love from his loving fans.
His dream of bringing 40 CDs in one pouch too came true as his son Vishwas and daughter-in-law Charleen worked day and night behind the project. The great demand for the CDs again reiterated the popularity that Wilfy enjoyed. People worldwide queued up to book the albums.
Indeed his last days were painful and full of sufferings. Doctors tried their best to keep him alive, but lost hope, when he stopped responding. His close friends, especially from United Youngsters group were in the hospital day and night. His close associates and singers/artistes who were encouraged by Wilfy - Claud, Prem, Dolla, Leslie, Jovi....paid a visit to the hospital, but with heavy heart.
Wilfy saw the dream association, United Youngsters that he built 50 years ago; celebrate the golden year in October 2009. Most of the senior members were present during the show. I feel that I am one of the luckiest person in Konkani world for I was one of guest at one of the United Youngsters Golden Jubilee event in Mangalore last year.
Mere words will not suffice to give tribute to this personality, who brought a golden era to the Konkani world through his legendary music. It is hard to measure in words how we would miss him.
Wilfiab, please come back....even if you don't sing, we are just as happy with your presence...
It is indeed sad, that, he could not live to see the birth of his grandchild, Vishwas - Charleen's first child, as Charleen is due to deliver within a week!
Entire Daijiworld team is grateful to your support, love and affection. Our sincere condolences to Meenabai, Vishwas, Charleen, Veena, Arthur..