By Frederick Noronha
In the midst of the monsoons, when Goa’s fair-weather friends and tourists have quite deserted the place, collegians and other youngsters reclaim the dance-floor. If you’re past a certain age, you might have never ever heard of this event, but in fact the Battle of the Bands has going great guns for the better part of the last decade.
The duo behind this event are artist-designer Bina Nayak (now based in Mumbai) and Keith Fernandes (an ex-Bombay Goan, now based squarely in Goa).
Each year, on August 15, convenient because of the national holiday, the day-long Battle of the Bands draws hundreds of young people, from Bardez and beyond. It is usually held in the Parra-Arpora area. Its aim? “To get back the lost glory of live music. To fight to be heard amongst all the DJs!” explains Bina Nayak.
In 2003, Keith Fernandes came up with the idea of the Battle of the Bands (BTB, for short) because there were then hardly any live music shows, especially in the Rock music space in Goa.
But at that time there were plenty of DJ shows happening in Goa and elsewhere. Like, for instance, the War of the DJs, which was huge then. The Battle of The Bands aimed to give a similar push to Rock bands, its founders suggest.
At that time, there was also a Rock band competition in the open air auditorium at the Kala Academy, which somehow had stopped in the 1990s. Incidentally, that was a college band competition and Keith and his group had even won it one year. Also, the popular entertainment-music space called the Haystack in Arpora (run by the late musician August Braganza of Mapusa), had been discontinued somewhere around that time.
Being a musician himself and the son of a Jazz musician, Keith felt the need to “do something” for the Live music scene. Things fell in place.
The Bands rocked the event from 2003 to 2006. “We got the best bands from Goa, Pune, Bangalore and even Mumbai. Bands like Infra Red and Mogh. But [over time] the quality seems to be deteriorating. We started getting DJs and dance groups from the first show itself. They wanted to play for free during the breaks or while the bands got ready. We never turn away talent. But once these guys got a foot in — they just got better and better!” says Keith.