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Steve Sequiera

Steve on vocals

Goa’s Godfather of Jazz

Within minutes of meeting Steve Sequeira, one realizes one is in conversation with a rare fish, which is swimming in very deep currents of jazz. He’s indisputably one of the best jazz musicians in this part of the world, and he’s been wowing crowds in and out of Goa for decades. At 68 years old, he’s still going strong.

The talk comes straight from the heart and he says it like it is, explaining the African-American origins of jazz. “It is blacks who taught the Europeans how to rock and roll and jive.”

I met up with with Steve and his wonderful wife Kittu, a jazz legend in her own right, at the lovely, hidden bar in Saligao called Cantare. Here’s how Steve describes the relationship between jazz and swing: “It ain’t mean nothing if it ain’t got no damn swing. If you can’t swing, you can’t play jazz”.

To him, swing is rhythm, real, deep, soul-stirring rhythm. Unlike some forms of music which come from the head (at this point Steve gently taps his own), he says, “black jazz has earthiness.”

“It comes from below the waist”, he says, breaking into a gentle but deep laugh.

When he composes jazz, he says it’s like the music is “talking”.  He says it’s important to pay attention to what the musician is trying to say through his instrument. Audiences matter, he says, because when they appreciate what’s happening in the room, the atmosphere becomes fertile for originality.

“I cannot be told how to feel. I will feel how I feel”, he says.

Before he begins his performance at Cantare, Steve tells me that tonight is a duo night. It’s him and Kittu, who will be using technology-based music where the bass, rhythm and chords are pre recorded. Luckily there is a creative spin to this because Steve makes original recordings instead of downloading the usual from the internet. I get to hear a different take on ‘Wonderful Tonight’, ‘Riders on the Storm’, ‘Back to Black’, much of which lingers on in my head well after it’s played. It was an amazing experience to sit in the bar listening to their wonderful deep voices. Their faces etched with joy and then immediately pulled back with solemnity then lit again by a gentle smile.


At Cantare


Behind Steve stands a tall mirror. With his back turned to it, I wonder about his past. Lit by faint lights and surrounded by a shadow, I can only see parts of him.

He was born in Goa, but spent a lot of time in Africa. At five years of age he took up the drums and at eight he was playing for a boy band called, “The Cream Cracker”. He started playing for a cabaret as a young teenager, and by the time he was in high school, he was already performing in Nairobi and other places in Africa.


Kittu Performing

Back in India, he formed the band ‘Sky’, which he said was received with great enthusiasm. “We were playing eights times a week, seven nights and one morning.” To this day, when he meets people, he is urged to reunite the band. Steve moved to Bombay in the 1980s. He recalls how the city was “rocking” back then, a place where musicians like him thrived. He also spent five years in Delhi playing at the Maurya Sheraton, in a band named ‘Ebony’. The band was successful, but Steve and Kittu knew they wanted to play their own kind of music – something that wasn’t possible at the hotel. Kittu tells me later they had no choice but to leave.  “We just had to,” she says. Returning to Goa, the couple began enjoying the musical freedom they had always sought.




Before he goes into play his last set for the night, Steve tells me how one night as a schoolboy in Africa he had crept out of the dorm, crossed a river, played the whole night long only just in time to return in the wee hours of the morning before the breakfast bell! As I stand out in the balcony, looking through the door arch, I see Steve at his keyboard singing, ‘Riders on the Storm’, and then he looks at his watch. I’m sure he could play all night if he wanted to, but there comes a point when even legends need to rest.


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Lionel Vaz

    Hi Steve
    Remember you playing the drums in the Cream Crackers.
    must come and hear you on our next visit to Goa.
    Lionel & Maureen

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