By Patsy Lobo
April 14: I hear the sound of a distant trumpet…
And I know Harry’s Band walks to be met…
Three generations of the family have delighted Mangalore
They will certainly be honored and blessed Grandfather Lorsab, Father Ediyab and now our dear Harryab…
Did our town proud with their Brass Band!
In 1906 a marching band was started in Mangalore by Lawrence D’Souza (Lorsab) who had developed a fascination with playing the cornet and formed his band with a small group of music lovers. Lorsab in turn transferred his skills to his son Edwin (Eddieab) who played both cornet and clarinet. Eddie instilled a love of music in his children. His son Harry mastered the cornet and clarinet (trumpet) and continues to lead the group to this day. Harry’s band enthuses and rejoices when playing a function like rock and weddings, lends dignity and solemnity when playing a funeral, and an aura of class when playing formal functions. Congratulations to the Brass Band which encompasses three generations of the D’Souza family, for performing in Mangalore for 107 years!!
Forty-one years ago when I arrived in Mangalore as a newlywed, one of the very first things I witnessed was a relative’s funeral. Coming from Bombay, I had never heard a band play so triumphantly at a funeral, giving it a special dignity. I was stunned and enchanted by the strains of “THE OLD RUGGED CROSS” which continued to float through the air for days after. Never before had I heard. It tugged at the heart strings. Never before have I heard the trumpet sounded so solemnly and today, 41 years later, I have the privilege of interviewing this great man Harry D’Souza.
Harry tells me that the trumpet consists of a long brass metal tube looped once and ending in a flared bell. Existing for over 3000 years, it is a dying art especially in Mangalore says Harry. As I sit in our heritage home under the shade of an old thikay pan (bay leaves) tree in front of Harry and his son Hubert, I can feel the music filling the entire environment of our garden. His trumpet, recently polished, shines with a thousand lights. Harry holds it with great pride. “The group I created and nurtured means everything to me and sustains my life to this day,” Harry said in a strong voice filled with emotion. The three generations left a legacy not only to the family but to all Mangalorians.
Harry’s grandfather, Lorsab, started playing crown in 1906 and formed his own band in Mangalore. He then transferred these skills to his son Edwin (Harry’s father) who played both crown and clarinet. Eddie always instilled a love for music and was the soul of their home in Bijai. From the age of 7, Harry watched in awe as the sounds emanated from the instruments in their home. The house was always filled with music said Harry by his son and this is taken over by his son Hubert and his two daughters. When Harry was 7, he began by singing “Mama zai, zai…barik, vocal barik maka zai (uncle I want…I want a thin bride).” True to his dream, he got a barik voice – Agnès – several years later. He had his early education at St. Francis Xavier School, Bijai and then at St. Aloysius School. Self-taught, Harry worked as a mechanic and then joined the Mangalore Reserve Police from 1970-80 where he received much recognition for his extraordinary talents in music. Harry explains how his band acquired the name “Silver Jubilee Band”. The band played annually at a reception at the home of the late Francis D’Sa in Derebail. In recognition of their service for 25 years, the band was christened by Mr. D’Sa as the “Silver Jubilee Band” with a blessing “Let it shine like silver until it reaches the jubilee of To this I add, contrary to the saying ‘all that glitters is not gold’ Harry’s Gold gleaming trumpet shimmers through the years – bringing honor and fame to our beloved ‘Codial’ .
In 1980 Harry traveled to Doha-Qatar to seek greener pastures but returned to Mangalore in 1982 to restore his beloved Kodial to the musical talent that was in his blood.
When asked where he got the instruments from, Harry said he inherited most of them from his father who bought them at auctions conducted by the army. Later, Harry went to Meerut to buy more instruments. He was also involved in training young students in over 60 schools in the former South Kanara district. “Unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of support from the government,” Harry says.
Harry has composed over 600 songs in Konkani, Tulu and Kannada and over 80 hymns which are timeless and appeal to every generation as it grows. He has the glorious record of having trained 300 students over the past four decades, including several who have played in his Brass Band. His greatest joy is when he plays the trumpet for a roce which is traditionally conducted in pomp and splendor and his greatest joy when he sits with his dear wife Agnes and his children – Hubert, Hazel and Henrita, enjoying “Dukra Mass” and Appams on a Sunday noon with background music. Harry has received many honors from our community, but certainly deserves greater recognition from the government and the artist community. (Since this written by Patsy Lobo, the government of Karnataka awarded him the Rajyotsava award, which was his aspiration when I interviewed him for Vijaya Times. – JBM).
True to tradition, Harry’s Brass Band brings beauty and elegance to the culture of the Konkani language through music and art. He has performed in the most remote villages and in the grandest venues. The saddest moments are when he sits and reflects on the dying art of the Brass Band that his ancestors glorified. There are now only a handful of bands in DK and Udupi districts. “Art needs to be revived and supported,” he says in his message to all of us CASK members and “Mangalore” (monthly) readers: “Be proud of your heritage, support the music, language and traditions of Kodial wherever you may be”.