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Mangalore, May 11: Gumott, a traditional musical instrument has a special place among the Konkani-speaking people.  This is the gift of ancestors to the modern folk.  But it is sad to know that gradually it is losing its pride place and moving fast towards extinction.  According to historians, gumott has a history of more than 1,000 years.

Gumott, a percussion instrument is made with the skin of monitor lizard and clay pot.  It has two openings, one covered with skin and the other left open to control the tone of the song.  Tradition says that this instrument was brought by our ancestors when they migrated from Goa to Southwards.

It is said that this is one of the oldest musical instruments used by man.  During primitive years, hunting was a favourite pass time as well as the occupation of the people.  At the same time, they used animal skin for their dress.  In the later period, animal skin was used for musical instruments too.

The skin of the monitor lizard is used for its timber, toughness and fineness. It is totally another thing that these days even monitor lizards are disappearing and one can see them only in zoos.

According to Eric Ozario, a die-hard Konkani activist and president of Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy, Gumott has the capacity to unite all Konkani-speaking people who are spread across.  Whether it is Christians, Kharvis, Kudmis or Siddhis, all of them use gumott for their religious as well as social celebrations.  Gumott does play an important role in their social life.

Apart from Christians, rest all the communities use gumott in their religious celebrations too.  Owing to this aspect, gumott is still popular among these communities.  But among Christians, gumott never reached the threshold of the church.  Therefore, it lost its significance among Christians.  Wherever the religious have neglected traditions of ancestors, the latter have slowly disappeared, says Eric Ozario.

For the time being, there is only one family among Christians which is using gumott and preserving the culture.  Joachim Pereira's family from Bejai is almost waging a lone battle against all odds to preserve this precious gift of our ancestors and hand it over to the next generation.  His son and renowned music maestro Joel Pereira too has joined his father in this mission and is doing some experiments on the instrument, so that it becomes adept to the present day generation.  As Eric says, the only way to preserve gumott is to experiment with it and make it appealing to the modern generation which is after Western music and instruments.

Though Kudmis, Kharvis and Siddhis are making the extensive use of gumott, Christians have to put in a lot of efforts to preserve this cultural gift of our forefathers.  Before it completely vanishes from our culture, we have to make some serious efforts so that is does not only remain in museums.  As Eric Ozario puts it, other than making some experiments on it, it is perhaps the right hour to take gumott to our religious life too.  A place in the church for gumott may even mean a place in our culture for the years to come.  Isn't it?


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