Music is the heart and soul of culture in Mangalore.
Mangalorean Catholics have their own unique musical style called “baila”, a word that comes from the Portuguese “bailar”, which means to dance. It is a blend of local and Portuguese musical styles and it is also popular in Goa and Srilanka. Baila is upbeat, full of life and brings the entire community on their feet every time it plays. It is typically accompanied by lively dancing and plenty of brass instruments. Brass bands are very popular in Mangalore, especially at weddings.
Music is also very special to my family. We come from a long line of beautiful voices on my mother’s side, starting with my great-grandmother, Grace Sequeira. She was the nightingale of our family. Her voice was soft and tender and so melodic. My mother also sings beautifully and I’m so thankful that my sister and I have the gift of music in us. At every house party, there’s always someone with a guitar and an evening filled with music.
My grandmother Ena had her own favorite songs that she would sing all the time, and there’s one that has become our family anthem. It’s called Lemon Tree and it’s by Peter Paul and Mary. I always imagine her sitting on the portico in her beautiful home in Mangalore, in the evening after tea, singing this song for us.
Mangalorean Catholics have a typical list of songs that have been sung through the ages, including baila and American and British music from the 50s and 60s. Here’s a songbook that captures many of these precious songs. It’s called the JERINA Songbook, named after my grandparents, Jerry & Ena (Jerina).