Drums with Leslie Godinho
Leslie Godinho was a man with exceptional knowledge and skill in music. He was a drummer beyond the extraordinary. Not only was he popular in India but he made a name for himself worldwide. But did you know that it was Leslie Godinho who introduced drums to Indian music lovers? Isn’t that quite something.
Let us give you an example to make you familiar with this man. Remember the movie “Teesri Manzil”? and the songs like ‘Tumne Mujhe Dekha’? There is a scene where Shammi Kapoor is projected playing the drums. It was Leslie who made Shammi Kapoor’s projection look so natural, and he was replaced by the hero for playing the drums in the shadow. Leslie was playing behind the white screen, effortlessly and gracefully. And it is from this song that drums were used extensively in films.
Born and brought up in Goa, Leslie was gifted a drum set by his father at a very early age. Music was taught as a subject in school in Goa. Once during the carnival, one drummer did not turn up and Leslie was asked to play in his place. He was so small then that he could not reach the pedal in a sitting position and hence he played the drums standing. He was greatly appreciated for his performance.
Leslie started his formal training in drums pretty early on from his mother Merijino Godinho who was a violinist. He also read books written by internationally acclaimed drummers and that helped him make a professional. Soon he was appointed as a drummer in the orchestra aboard the British Indian Ship.
In the year 1956, when music director Jaidev heard Leslie playing the drums, he introduced him to Hindi films. Leslie played Congo for the first time in the song ‘Sar Jo tera chakraye ya dil dooba jaaye’ and in this song, he was accompanied by Kersi Lord on the bongo. He, later on, went to Delhi to join an English band. When he returned to Bombay, he got married to Teresa and settle down in Bombay for his career. Leslie has played the drums for almost all the music directors of Hindi cinema. To name some like C. Ramchandra, Shankar-Jaikishan, Naushad, Madan Mohan, RD Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji, SD Burman, Rajesh Roshan, and many more.
Leslie was not only a drummer but also had technical knowledge of the instrument. He would make the drum set himself to produce the required sound. He started assembling drums at the age of 18. Normally 2 Tom Toms are used in drum sets but to enhance the sound reproduction, Leslie used 4, Tom Toms, on his drum sets. Originally Congo used to be played as a 2-piece instrument but Leslie with his technical know-how converted the Congo into a 3-piece instrument. Many companies took Leslie’s drums as the sample for manufacturing their own sets.
He always impressed the audience wherever and whenever he had made public performances. He has performed at distance to places like America, Paris, London, South Africa, Tokyo, Montreal Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Albert Hall and made a name for his motherland. The legend playback singer Mohammed Rafi used to enjoy the playing of Leslie so much, that he accompanied Mohammed Rafi 36 times to America for performances. In every show, Leslie was given ½ hour solo piece to perform. To play the drums single-handed for 30 minutes was a matter of great hard work and because of this, Leslie gained a lot of respect.
The present generation is grateful to Leslie for his mastermind of practice pads. Many of his disciples are now great percussionists in the film world. When Lataji presented the song ‘Ai mere watan ke logon’ in the presence of late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,
Leslie was present there with C. Ramchandra at the same venue, he was given a certificate and medal and it was a memorable day in his life. He also witnessed the function held for the Indian Navy team along with late Shri Morarji Desai who was then the Prime Minister.
Leslie was gifted electronic drum sets during his performances abroad as an act of appreciation for his mastery of drums. But he never brought them to his Homeland since he was averse to electronic sounds emitting from drums. When he performed at Calcutta with Rafi Sahab, there used to be a crowd of 2-3 lakh people. The programs used to start late in the night and continue till the early hours of the morning. Today Leslie cherishes the memory of such programs. In the year 1961-62, he directed the band at the hotel Taj.
Leslie Godinho is an outstanding example for the younger generation to learn and follow. His family consists of 2 sons and a daughter. His sons Lester and Richard are renowned drummers and son-in-law Franco Vaz is also a big name among the cine artistes. Leslie wishes to convey to the younger generation the message that the presence of a GURU is very essential for any artist and only with the blessings of a guru can a person progress in life!!!