Sep 17, 2009
Coconut trees swaying to the tunes of wind from the west, mountains on the east kissing the clear blue skies, rivers running through it rendering themselves into the sea. The greenery of the fields, a bustling commercial arena, an educational centre, a junction for airlines, roads, railways and ships. A remarkable history. The melting pot of culture. Mangalore, has it all. It is a perfect example of multi cultural society consisting people of various religions, languages and sects. Despite the differences, languages unite the people.
Among the languages, Kannada, Tulu and Konkani are prominent and widely spoken. Mangalore as we all know is the birthplace to several talented individuals who have excelled in their respective fields and continue to do so. Having sworn to render his services to the enrichment of his mother tongue, Konkani, this individual has not deviated a bit from his promise. And I literally mean that. A mention of his name would make my claim clearer as to why I said so. He is none other than the ‘Konkan Kogul,’ Wilfred Gerald Rebimbus, better known as Wilfy Rebimbus. Music artistes, composers in the region of Mangalore are a dime a dozen but when it comes to music icons, Wilfy stands ahead and shoulders above the rest. Though he lacks the singing demeanor of likes of Kishore Kumar he makes it up with his brilliant song writing and composing skills.
So well known is Wilfy among the Konkani, Tulu and Kannada speaking population that the mere mention of his name becomes a topic of lengthy discussion. A dedicated service to his mother tongue for more than 50 years has culminated into selfless service to the betterment of the language, Konkani.
You would hardly find someone who speaks Konkani and does not know Wilfy Rebimbus. There is none in sight that can match upto the stature, the popularity and the talent of Wilfy. 3000 songs written and composed, 40 volumes of songs through audio cassettes and CD’s in various languages, 6 volumes of devotional songs, 247 Nites, 500 stage shows, 8 stage plays, 3 Konkani musical plays, 9 volumes of selected song books and innumerable other contributions that he has rendered, have been just another speck without much recognition at a national level. HMV has brought out 12 of his songs in 3 disks, which is one among the many feathers in his cap. Wilfy has amassed a huge fan following through over his five decades of work in the field of Konkani music. It is sometimes irritating for me to see the media chronicling every achievement of cricketers, film stars which has become a staple for them these days while sidelining the real achievers at the grassroots.
Age 14. The age considered the crazy for boys, was not so for Wilfy. He started singing and writing dramas at this age. At 15 came the first drama “Poishanso Saunsar” which was well received by the public. The illustrious career in music began with the formulation of United Youngsters in the year 1959. Drawing inspiration from his father and support from Jesuit priests, Wilfy developed affinity towards singing from a very tender age and I believe this gave him the confidence and a firm base for his career. Though there were hurdles on the way to what he is now, the journey in itself must have been fulfilling. He is a perfect example of a person who has had real struggle to climb up the path to his destination when he started with a humble beginning. Konkani songs in those days were tuned to the popular Hindi songs. There was much opposition to the original Konkani songs composed by artists, although that changed over the time. A career in music did not guarantee him any financial freedom until he published “Vinchnnar Podam” in the year 1968.
ON A HIGH NOTE
Success did not come easily to Wilfy. After years’ of struggle and after several songs, success came with the popularity of Wilfy Nite organized in the year 1971 at Town Hall in Mangalore. The show was a huge success and after the performances on consecutive Sundays, Wilfy was aptly conferred the title “Konkan Kogull”(The Nightingale of Konkani) the same year. The phenomenon of Wilfy Nite made Wilfy reach the pinnacle of his career in Konkani music. The craze about Wilfy Nite is not only limited to India, but has been popular in the Middle East, and Canada. His popularity exceeded his expectation when the first Mangalorean Konkani movie “Mog Ani Maipaas” was released for which he wrote story, lyrics and composed the music. The next zenith in his career arrived when Wilfy released his first Konkani Music album in the year 1979. Wilfy, specifically the Rebimbus family became the talk of every Konkani speaking family in India and abroad.
Known for his baritone and gritty tone, Wilfy catapulted himself to fame by his unique singing, song writing and composing skills that are second to none. Wilfy straddled a fine line between modern music and classical music. Some consider him the ‘Father of modern Konkani music.’ The lyrics of his songs have touched every topic imaginable which includes family values, love, nature, country, comedy and so on. ‘Aycho Saunsar Fotkiro’ according to me is the best and most apt song Wilfy has ever written. Not only Konkani music and songs, Wilfy has made immense contributions to the Konkani literature through Ummallo Konkani monthly, besides writing and directing 8 dramas/stage plays and . His composition of Tulu songs are not to be excluded from this list. Many of the short stories he has written have been translated into Kannada. Composing and writing lyrics for 4 Konkani movies is an achievement worth noting along with writing story for Tisri Cheet a Konkani Movie. Not only music and singing, Wilfy has been a member of several service organizations in India and abroad.
WINNER TAKES IT ALL
Konkani was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India as per 71st amendment on 31-08-1992 adding it to the list of national languages. With approximately seven million plus speakers in India, it has a significant amount of influence and variety in itself.
Wilfy was conferred Rajyotsava Award by Karnataka Government back in 1991 which is the only remarkable recognition Wilfy has ever received from a governmental body. Besides this there has been no other award at the state or the national level in India being conferred to Wilfy. A quick glance through the Padmashree winners (post 2000) would reveal a statistic that only 2 individuals from Karnataka have been bestowed with this coveted award in the Art section. Those individuals are Saxophone maestro Kadri Gopalanath and vocalist Kavitha Krishnamurthy. Among the twin states of Goa and Karnataka there are a total of 5 individuals who have won Padmashree in the Art section-Manuel Santana Aguiar, Sri Pramod Sawkar, Louis Remo Fernandes, Kadri Gopalanath and Kavitha Krishnamurthy. The contributions of these individuals have been commendable when it comes to the society at large. Among these 5 individuals there is only Manuel Santana Aguiar better known as M. Boyer who has won Padmashree for his contribution to the Konkani language through Konkani theatre and music. Other than M. Boyer there are no other recipients of Padmashree who belong to Konkani speaking community. With his tremendous contribution to the Konkani language and music, doesn’t Wilfy deserve Padmashree award? I believe he rightly does. And what time is better when he is at the peak of his career. It is an irony to see Wilfy being bestowed with more recognition by NRI organisations than Indian institutions. With its vast influence on a varied audience, recognizing Konkani Artists at a national level has become all the more important. And who better than a stalwart of the stature of Wilfy would deserve such a rightful honor in today’s time. In a country where cricketers and film stars win awards for no commendable contributions, the individuals who deserve the award are arbitrarily denied of the recognition. It is high time that the government recongnises Wilfy for his contributions towards Konkani music, language and culture.
As I mentioned Mangalore is bestowed with talents at all fields, and politics is not to be excluded. To name a few political stalwarts from Mangalore belonging to the Christian and specifically Konkani speaking community, we have Oscar Fernandes who is a close ally to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Ms. Margaret Alva who is a Governor of an Indian state, George Fernandes, ex-defense minister in the NDA government who has recently been elected to the Rajya Sabha as a member, and the list is longer. All of them have at some point of time attended the Wify Nite and have praised his work and contribution to Konkani music, language and culture. Then why is it that there is no recognition imparted on Wilfy for his mighty contributions to Konkani language, music and culture? Recognising a talent of a genuine artist is the least our political brethren could do. What do you say?
A GLANCE AT THE MAJOR AWARDS
Below is the list of the major awards and recognition that have been bestowed on Wilfy.
1971 - Konkan Kogull - title bestowed by the konkani community and presented gold medal by late Bishop Basil D'souza.
1991 - Karnataka Government has honoured with rajlyotsava award.
1991 - Award of recognition bestowed byl the International Orientation Center, USA
1992 - Sangeeth Chakravarthi bly Konkani Talents Group - Abu Dhabi.
1993 - Akhila Karnataka Parishad award
1996 - Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy - award for service in music.
1996 - Konkani podancho Rai - by Broadview Kalasampath Lions Club, Illinois - USA
1998 - Tulu Nada Kogille - by Tullukuta, Dubai.
1999 - Konkanil Kalaratn - by KCWA, Kuwait
1999 - Xatamanacho Veakti - by Chinthpyanchi Machi, Kuwait
1999 - Millennilum Konkani Artist Award - by ILndian Catholic Association of America - USA
2005 - Community and Learaership - award brom Houston based Toastmasters - USA
2006 - The Sandesha Literature (konkani) Award (Life time Achievement)
2007 - Daiji Sahity Puraskar - by Daiji Dubai, Konkani writers forum in UAE
2009 - Life time Achievement Award - by Mand Sobhan.
If you note the trend in the awards, most of them have been conferred on Wilfy by the foreign(NRI) institutions rather than Indian based Governmental or cultural associations.
WILFY, THE LIVING LEGEND
As a summary, I give a gist of the achievements of Wilfy Rebimbus the poet, the composer, the singer, the playwright, the story teller and editor. Wilfy to date has composed more than 3000 songs, written 500 stage shows, conducted 247 Wilfy Nites, produced 40 volumes of audio cassettes, 6 volumes of devotional songs, 44 compact disks consisting of songs, 1 instrumental CD, brought out 9 volumes of Vinchnar Podam, written 8 stage plays, 3 musical plays and so on. Is there any reason why such a stalwart not worthy of recognition at national level?
There are singers and there are songwriters. There are composers and there are creators. But there has never been, nor can there ever be another Wilfy Rebimbus. Wilfy is a Legend. A Hero. An Institution. A Model. A source that spells excellence, dedication and creativity. He is credited to have taken Konkani music to greater heights with his contribution to the Konkani language and is a force to reckon with. No one could match upto the caliber and quality of Wilfy, ever.
I, on behalf of Mangalore Konkans therefore urge all the Konkani and non Konkani speaking readers to raise their voices, so that Wilfy Rebimbus receives what he rightfully deserves, a National level recognition. Let us all together start a movement that would bring forth results. After all, all we have is ONE LIFE TO LIVE.