Interview with music composer Andrew Ferrao

Goa-born Andrew Ferrao moved to Delhi and finally settled in Mumbai to fine tune his music career. Here’s the interview with the 35-year-old music composer and arranger:

2Where do you currently work and what is the role you play? Introduce us to Andrew as a music teacher.

I currently work as a keyboardist with renowned singer-musician, Rabbi Shergill. I’m based in Mumbai. Yes I used to teach music when I was living in Delhi, at St Anthony’s Sr Sec School. I worked as a music teacher for over four years (2000 to 2004). It was indeed a great experience for me – dealing with kids and sharing music knowledge.  I will never forget how I used to wake up at 6am, reach school at 7.30am, conduct classes till 2pm, and come home only to go back to work again in the evening as I used to perform at hotels and private shows. It was a tough life, but my hard worked paid off well. In retrospect, I feel it was a superb experience. I used to prepare students for interschool competitions and we brought home many trophies also. Although I am based in Mumbai now, I still work on the school’s annual day projects.  I remember what Tom Schuman (keyboardist of American jazz fusion band Spyrogyra) said to me when I got a chance to meet him in Delhi in 2002: “We all need good teachers in this world.”

How did you get through Bombay Vikings? Share your experience with us.

I got a chance to be part of Bombay Vikings (led by singer Neeraj Shridhar) through a musician friend, Cassy Lobo, who plays the drums with the band. After working in Delhi for 12 years, this opportunity came as a blessing as I always wanted to travel to new places around the globe and get a taste of the world of Bollywood too. I moved to Mumbai in 2011 and joined the band. I performed with Bombay Vikings for three years. It was a great experience to work with a great musician, teacher and the most humble human being I know – Neeraj Shridhar. He shared his knowledge of music and his philosophy of life with me and these are things that will always stay with me.

Are you currently working on any album? Do shed some light on the same

Yes, I have working of multiple projects currently. Some of these are:

  1. After working on his debut album – I Gotta Go Home – I am producing the second album by Dr Varun Carvalho (Goa-based dentist and singer-songwriter). The yet-untitled album features pop-rock songs and it’s due for release mid-August this year.
  2. I am producing the debut album by Mumbai-based band, Nirmika &The Few Good Men. The album will feature Hindi and English compositions.
  3. I am also starting my own multi-artiste project called Andrew Ferrao Collaborations. As part of it, I am working on a spiritual album titled Life, which due for release this year. The album will feature songs on love and spirituality. It is very dear to me because it will bring together an interesting and diverse mix of talent from across India. Some of the people who are part of it are Mumbai-based singer Leon de Souza, who  was the voice of AR Rahman’s song ‘Hosanna’; Vince Costa from Goa and Apeksha Shalin Victor from Delhi. I am super excited about this project.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a musician?

It was in the year 1989 when I was 12 years old that the music bug bit me. We had shifted our residence from Chinchinim to Verna. One of our neighbours was a person called Thomas, a musician who’d always be practicing his piano pieces. I found him very fascinating and would spend hours watching him play. He was kind enough to teach me songs. Soon I started playing music myself. That’s when I was convinced that I love music more than anything else. I started with performing at the school assembly and as I went along, I became part of many bands too. All these experiences have taught me a lot.

What are the genres of music that interest you the most and why?

Well, I have played a lot of genres, be it pop, rock, reggae, dance or jazz. I enjoy each and every style as long as it has soul in it because I believe that music is all about soul.

Tell us about your association with Bollywood.

My association with Bollywood has been through two artistes Neeraj Shridhar (of Bombay Vikings) and Rabbi Shergill, both of who have carved a niche for themselves in the industry. I am looking forward to working with a lot more musicians in Mumbai.

 When did you leave Goa for Delhi and why? How long were you in Delhi?

I left for Delhi in 1998 because I was looking for a change in my life. I lived and worked in Delhi for 12 years, before moving to Mumbai. It’s been three years since I’m in Mumbai now.

What’s the difference between the music industry in Mumbai and Delhi? What’s your take on the music industry in Goa?

Well, Mumbai is the heart of the music industry. All the major work happens in Mumbai, be it for films or advertisements. There’s not much scope for these things in Delhi. But I feel that the live entertainment is much better in Delhi and NCR. As far as Goan music industry is concerned, I feel it needs a revolution. It’s going to take some time and a lot of hard work by serious musicians for the Goa music scene to grow and flourish.

Tell us about your early days in Goa. Where did you complete your schooling and college? And how did you grow fond of music?

I studied at Moun Mary’s School, Chinchinim till class 7. From clas 8 onwards, I studied at Father Agnel School, Verna.  After completing school, I went on to study Food Production at Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Porvorim.

I grew fond of music at an early age, when I was 12 years old. Since then, I have been playing music since my school days and have been part of many bands in Goa, such as and others. I feel blessed to have performed with experienced musicians.

You’ve studied Food Production and Catering. Why didn’t you join a cruise line?

Well, I did work on a cruise liner (P&O Cruises) but I quit the job in 10 days. Working on the ship was a life changing experience. I realized that I didn’t belong there. So I came back to Delhi, worked hard and now am where I am.

How did you grow as a musician in Goa? Share with us some memorable concerts. You’ve also performed with Chris Perry. Tell us about your experience.

Those days were superb! We used to perform at a lot of beat shows and dances. Now, these events have become rare in Goa.

Since I started playing music at a very young age, I used to be the youngest member in all the bands. I have been the keyboardist with bands like Bad Blood, Sky High, Brian Bones Band, Ebony etc

Performing with Chris Perry was an amazing experience. We’d rehearse from 12 midnight till 3 – 4 am in the morning. It a pleasure to be part of the four concerts that I played with him and the big brass band for the carnival in the year 1996 – 97. Very early in my career, I also got the opportunity to perform with Bollywood composer Anu Malik (At Navelim, for Goan Cultural Festival) during the same period. Since then, there’s been no looking back.

How would you describe yourself as a musician? 

I’d describe myself as an honest and hardworking musician who likes to try new things all the time. Whether it is performing different genres or teaming with diverse artistes, it’s all about evolving as an artiste at the end of the day.

Comment on the current music industry in India. How could the industry get better?

Currently, the music industry has become synonymous with Bollywood. On the other hand, there is the indie music space. Although there is a lot of indigenous, independent talent, we need more avenues for it to get noticed. Things seem to be looking up with more and more music festivals being organized and newer live music venues coming up.  I just hope that this culture continues. I hope for the growth of original music and wish musicians get their due in the country.

Where do you see yourself five years down the line?

I see myself continuing my journey of working on newer, more exciting and challenging projects as a composer and arranger.

Do you plan to go back to Goa?

As of now, I have no plans no return anytime soon. But since I am based in Mumbai, I keep visiting Goa very often. The focus now is to work on some good music and make the most of the time I have. But when I retire, I want to settle in my susegad Goa.

You can also read the complete story on The Goan on Saturday.

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