One of the first women to break into the Bombay jazz and swing scenes in the ‘ 50s, it took daring and talent for her to carve out a career in the male dominated bands, her daughter Jenny tells Lisa Ann Monteiro.
It was a lady, yes a Goan lady who introduced the Solovox to the Hindi film industry. More than 20 years have passed since the Bombay jazz scene lost a star pianist, Bollywood their first Solovox player and Jenny her mother. But Jenny still remembers those magical mo ments when she would listen
com pletely entranced when her mother played Chopin on the piano at home.
Lucila Pacheco was one of the best known piano teachers on Hill Road in Bombay during her time. A dar ing and talented lady, she didn’t let the fact that she was a woman keep her from playing in male dominat ed bands in hotels across Bombay.
In the 1950s she played the piano in Mickey Correa’s swing band and was a member of the Bombay Swing Club ‘ Ork’. She played ballroom and light jazz for ‘ Bappy and the Happy Boys’ and worked with veterans like Ken Mac, Chic Chocolate and Goody Servai. She played at the Ritz and at Venice, hotels where the best musicians in Bombay would jam up. Her husband George, a saxophone player played low key, semi- jazz music in soft tone at restaurants like Gaylord and Volga. No, both never played in the same band, sim ply because both were passionate about music and both had tempers.
When she first went to Bombay Lu cila worked as a piano demonstrator at Furtados music store where she would play out music scores for prospective customers. “ Her salary depended on how many music sheets would get sold, as she would get a commis sion from them,” remembers Jenny.
In the 1960s Lucila was the top fa vourite of music directors in Bolly wood.
An advertisement featuring a new instrument – the Solovox ( a little electric keyboard that could be at tached to the piano) was making news but this was available only in Ameri ca.
“ My mother who wanted it badly asked her uncle Alleluia Menezes to get if for her through Goa. This in strument made her a very big hit. My mother would play single notes on the Solovox with her right hand and pro vide the rhythm on the piano with her left. The Solovox had a very unique sound and it gave my mother and edge over everyone,” says Jenny. All mu sic directors wanted the instrument and this was just the beginning of the electronic age. It was following this that synthesizers came in and robbed many Goan musicians of their jobs.
The money was better in the film industry no doubt but Lucila who completed her LTCL in music, found it rather monotonous. “ My mother loved harmony and pro gressive chords which gave depth to music. In the film industry there was a lot of repetition because one mistake meant that you had to start all over. Sometimes at the end of a whole section she had to play just a single note. She just never found it mentally stimulating,” says Jenny.
Whether it was playing in bands or later in Bollywood, Lucila was one of the few women on the music scene.
“ She had to put up with a lot of criti cism from men and women as well but she always kept her respect. However, fellow musicians respected her for her high level of musicality,” re members Jenny.
There was this one time when Lu cila shocked every one out of their wits when she got up on stage and played the saxophone at Greens Hotel. “ It was just a big shock for everyone to see a woman who could play the saxophone.” Lucila had her roots in Divar but moved to Sri Lanka when she was eight years old.
Her father Mathias Menezes had a music store where he would take fellow Divar cars to apprentice. It was there that Lucila met George and the two wed and moved to Bombay in 1948.
Lucila’s father was a strict authoritar ian teacher and as a young girl she was expected to practise the piano for at least 6- 8 hours a day. She would practise in the afternoons while her father napped. “ Since my mother loved to read comic books like any girl her age, she would keep these books open in front of her mu sic notes and practise her scales while reading them. One time my grandfa ther noticed something amiss when he heard the same scales being re peated and crept downstairs. He saw her reading the comic book and tore it up. My mother who was equally stubborn refused to talk to him un til he gave her the money to repay the library for the book. In those days discipline was everything.” J enny r emembers g rowing u p a t home with two xylophones, a piano, an electric piano, the Solovox, a gui tar, two violins, accordions, bongos and the maracas. She learnt the piano from her mother but like her other siblings never took up music as a ca reer.
“ Our parents understood how tough a musician’s life was and didn’t want any of us to pursue it. No mat ter how you were feeling you had to put a smile on your face because the show must go on! My father was keen that we study and it was the biggest thrill for him when we graduated.” Lucila was famous for her ‘ Boogie Woogie’ and ‘ Flight of the Bumble Bee’. She also played Chopin, Bach, Beethoven and Mandos. “ She was a woman in a man’s world. It was a tough life for her. There were other women in the film industry like Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar but they were in a different section. The hours were crazy and sometimes re cording went on all night. There were days we hardly saw her.” Jenny remembers her mother as being beautiful and temperamental.
“ There were times we had to tip toe around her and at the same time she could be the life of a party!”•