|This is just a section of one of the many Swahili Songs Julian Costa Silva composed for concerts in Mombasa.|
Dad worked tirelessly with his own orchestra and despite the hardships of bringing up 7 children, he continued to play free for many years raising funds for the Mombasa Goan Institute, as well as the first Goan School. He would retreat to the solitude of the Fort Jesus jetty area to write his music and I accompanied him as a child on many occasions. He frequented the Goan Institute and once a month I went with him to borrow magazines or books from the Library which had a varied collection.
Since the Goan School was a private school and not government funded initially, he continued with his Penny Readings to raise funds towards the salaries of the teachers. His dedication to the school and resourcefulness continued thorough his life. In 1948 a variety concert was held by the Goan School pupils performing "Taming The Shrew". He specially wrote a Swahili song sung by his three sons as part of that performance. In the early 1950s, we seven children frequently performed in his shows, but he was a perfectionist when directing others to perform at his concerts. Dad stitched most of our costumes and when performing the Swahili songs, we were expected to ‘blacken’ our skins – he would burn cork and this was rubbed on our faces, arms and legs. It was an arduous task each night after the performance to wash this off at home late at night!
His “standing ovation”/signature Swahili songs at the Mombasa Goan Institute were:
*Mimi Ayah Mutu Muguani – performed by Mrs M. Homem.
*Toto Juliani – Fukuzu : Sisi na soma Goan School - by Juvy, Bonny & Joel Da Silva.
*Maskini - performed by the Silva family.
And many more, performed by his close friend late Anselm Dias and others.
His favourite English songs were: Harbour Lights, Tzena, Tzena, Ramona and The Loveliest Night of the Year – though he did not write these.
On the 12th February 1955, he held an Extraordinary Concert for the Goan High School Building Fund, in the School compound, with the assistance of Mrs. M. Homem, Anselm Dias and many others.
Although retired from the Railways in 1956, he continued to write many Swahili songs, interspersed with some Konkani and English plays until 1959. On his retirement in 1956 he took the family for the first time to see Goa for several months.
He was considered the ‘Patriarch’ of our local relatives and each year they would always visit to pay their respects to him on his Birthday. In addition to this, other relatives from Nairobi would come down to the Coast to stay with us for their annual ‘mundance’ for the benefits of the seawater, bearing gifts in a large trunk of brawn, ham, Upland sausages, pork and such luxuries not readily available or affordable in Mombasa. In reciprocation, we would give them: mangoes, halva, chickoos, papettas, tender coconuts and other tropical fruits.
In late 1969, after most of the family members had married, Dad and Mum returned to Goa for good, but he died in 1974, following the death of his beloved wife Mary in 1972, leaving behind his 7 children and many grand and great grandchildren, most of whom then migrated to the UK, following the expulsion of the Uganda Asians and the new post-independence immigration laws in Kenya.
In 2001 the Mombasa Goan Institute celebrated its Centenary and folk from all over the world attended. It was one of the best events I attended and meticulously organised by Franklyn Pereira the then President and his team. For the first time, Julian Costa Silva was acknowledged for his tireless fund raising work in aid of the Goan Institute and the Goan School. My sister Melba, brother Bonny and I attended and honoured Dad with singing one of his well-known Swahili songs.
In 2007, The Goan School, Mombasa (then changed to the Sacred Heart School) held its 75th Anniversary and the School for the first time acknowledged Dad as per extract its Souvenir Brochure: “His dedication to the school and resourcefulness continued through his life decades later - he held an Extraordinary Concert of the Goan High School”….
Although we were known for our singing, sadly we siblings, did not follow seriously in his footsteps but fortunately his descendants are making a mark in the musical world. His grandson Darrell Sequeira of Southampton, England is an accomplished guitarist and plays the saxophone and piano as well. His sister Audrey Turner nee Sequeira also learned to play the piano and saxophone in the UK and her sons Max and Billy Turner aged 7 and 4 years respectively, in Aldinga Beach, South Australia, are also showing great musical potential. Another of Dad’s great grandson: James D’Souza recently achieved a Distinction in Piano from the Irish Conservatoire of Music at the young age of 8 years in Ireland and practices on his maternal great grandmother’s 90-year piano.
Hopefully, he will always be remembered for his humble generosity of donating all the proceeds of his funds to the Goan community of Mombasa to build the above establishments, without seeking fame or fortune.
· There is quite a lot of archival material which I hope to publish when space permits—Cyprian!