Tathagat’s Olelê-Olalá Band

Remembering Here&Now

Abheeru Sufi from Brazil remembers a Goan adventure with a Samba band

Olelê-Olalá Band

In the late 1980s I met a Brazilian compatriot in Poona. His name was Tathagat. He was living in Germany and working there as a PE teacher. But he was also a musician, composer, singer and – most importantly – my Samba teacher in Poona.

Since childhood I had always loved Samba. I come from a very musical family, and have many musical friends around me. I always loved the Batacuda style of Samba and drumming. So as soon as I heard about Tathagat’s classes, I joined in. They were in a place called Laxmi Villas. It was a kind of condominium where sannyasins shared rooms, and some large rooms were even dormitories. The building was very old, left over from the Raj, as were many in India in those days.

In Poona we sannyasins lived in all sorts of places – some slept in bamboo and straw huts, or tree houses, others in apartments and more luxurious houses. Everybody tried their best, in their own way, to stay in India as long as they could. No one wanted to leave. For instance, I used to paint T-shirts and then sell them at the hippie fairs at Laxmi Villas. (At that time we were no longer wearing orange or red – though we could easily be spotted because so many of us were Westerners.)

The Samba classes were held in an open space inside Laxmi Villas. Tathagat’s students came from everywhere: there were Germans, Japanese, Australians, other Brazilians like me and the artist Rodolfo Zupo (Zupo Opuz / Swami Atit Kaivalya). We learnt to play different kinds of percussion instruments while at the same time doing Samba steps to help keep the rhythm, all under the baton of our teacher Tathagat.

On a beautiful day at the end of one class, Tathagat told us that he had been asked by Bhakti, a Brazilian dancer, to join her and perform in Goa for Carnival. (Goa is south of Mumbai, and used to be a Portuguese colony. This explains why Goans are Christians, have Portuguese names and sometimes still master that language – which is the same as Brazilian.) For this Bhakti had asked Tathagat to set up a band with his students (which was us!) and a few other musicians.

Bhakti was from Bahia, in the northeast of Brazil, and knew many types of dance styles, from belly dancing to Indian dances, and, obviously, Samba. She had put together a program with various dance performances, which was offered to various venues in a coastal city whose name I don’t remember (perhaps we were staying in Arambol and played in Mapusa).

The project was supported by a Goan citizen, a travel agent in Poona called Felipe who knew many Brazilians because he spoke Portuguese. Several performances were scheduled. The band played in hotels, for the tourists, and also in the streets. I remember standing on a stage in a square next to a football stadium.

The name of the band was Olelê-Olalá, and was composed of people from all over the planet: Japanese, German, Dutch, Australian and a few Brazilians, including Tathagat, me, the Bahian dancer and a Carioca from Rio de Janeiro. If I’m not mistaken his name was Ganthu; he played the snare drum. I played the tamburim, although my favourite would have been the surdo, but that one was already taken by a Dutch guy.

For many of us it was a blessing: we won a trip to the beach with all expenses paid, some cash, whiskey, accommodation, and a lot of fun! We had a van at our disposal which took us everywhere. The band had enough experienced musicians to hold the structure of the music together, including Ganthu, who had learned, taught and played Brazilian Carnival music in a Samba school. We also had German Anugama, who was already a well-known musician, famous for his New Age recordings, with music used for healing, Reiki and other work with subtle energy. He enjoyed beating his drum.

TathagatIn this whole mix, there was a lot of partying, a lot of fun and a lot of confusion, all of which could certainly give me more to write about. But my intention now was to tell the story of a cosmopolitan band with a Brazilian name playing the Samba in a very unique way, in an ex-colony of Portugal, in India, at a Carnival, and gaining a lot of success (with articles and photos in local newspapers).

I leave here my memories of our peculiar Olelê-Olalá Band, and especially my tribute to the beloved memory of a great friend, Professor Tathagat, who is now playing in another dimension and in another very lively band out there somewhere.

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Abheeru Sufi

Abheeru Sufi is a lawyer, an amateur DJ, editor and co-founder of Histórias com Osho Divyadez which, for more than three years, has been interviewing sannyasins in a weekly online program. youtube.com/@divyadez

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