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Cyprian Fernandes: Philip De Souza, Mr Music, any time, any where
Philip De Souza
With the late Ramos Mascarenhas
The String Beats with Henry Braganza
The String Beats Philip, Ramos and Peter Santimano
With drummer Paul De Souza and others
Phil De Souza was born in Cortalim, Salcete, Goa. At the 10, he travelled by ship to Mombasa and after a further two days’ journey to Nairobi, he saw his father for the first time in his life.
In June, 1953, he was admitted to St Teresa’s in Eastleigh. In December that year, his dad decided to move the family to Mombasa and Phil went to the Goan High School there. At the age of 13, his mother bought him his first guitar/
“Our music teacher was Nevis Pereira who had just returned from the United Kingdom. The legendary piano player Edmund Silveira gave me my first music lesson,” recalls Phil.
Silveira had come to the school to teach the guitar and the first song they learnt was “Oh When the Saints Come Marching In.
“My fellow learners included Alan Rook, Denzel Sequeira, Corny Tellis and many others. We just played the chords for the same song. Alan Rook taught me my first scale of C major. By the time I was 18, I had picked up a lot through playing with other friends.
“One time a group of musicians came from Nairobi and they were looking for a guitarist for gig in Mombasa at the Tailor’s Society. I got the gig.”
At the age of 18, Phil got a job in Nairobi through the clarinettist Joe De Souza. “On my first day in Nairobi, I was introduced to Joaquim Ramos Mascarenhas, also a guitarist who had been playing dance music and jazz for a year.
“We both loved the jazz guitarist Django Rinehart and The Shadows also had a great influence on us especially Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist. We also loved the legendary boogie guitarists Bert Weedon and Duane Eddie.
“We decided that we should form a band like The Shadows since we liked them and played most of their songs. The String Beats were formed with Joe Sequeira (drummer) and Peter Santimano (bass).”
As The String Beats practised to get their act together, Phil also jammed with the likes of Cooty and the Supersonics, All Stars, and Auggie Alvares (multi-instrumentalist including piano, saxophone and trumpet) who encourage him to play jazz.
In July, 1969, he moved to UK. While on holiday in Portugal, the same year, he had his Echo guitar with him and was exploring the music scene in the place called Cais De Sodre where lots of bands were playing the Shadows and Portuguese songs. He was invited by very friendly musicians to jam with them and was offered a job in the night club if I wanted. Anyway, I moved to Germany that same year 1969.
“In Germany, I started work in the British army. After two years, I was joined by my wife Agnes, daughter Vanessa and son Dominic. It wasn’t long before I met some army guitarists and was chosen to play in a band called the CITY GENTS, my first band in Germany. I played mostly Fridays and Saturdays these guys who were from the Royal Airforce band.
“After two years, I joined an all-civilian British band called the Germs. After five years, I decided to give the band game away. I had put on some extra weight and took up jogging and swimming. My kids loved learning to swim.
“I heard that Joaquim Furtado, the saxophonist, was in Frankfurt and he invited me to play with the Black Velvet from the UK. Later, I asked him to come to MOENCHENGLADBACH where I was living, to play with my German musicians.
“After a five-year break from bands, I made my dream come true by playing jazz in German pub, clubs and restaurants.
“Going back to Nairobi, I remember playing in Skippy’s Karnival band which provided the backing for a huge cast of singers and dancers in a major concert held at the Nairobi City Hall. Steve Rodrigues and I shared rhythm and lead and a guy called, I think, Nazarin was on bass. Skip also took the show to Mombasa where we played 3 pm, 6pm and 9 pm shows.”
In 2004, he moved to UK and started playing with drummer Paul De Souza (saxophone and keyboard). He is currently playing (guitar and saxophone) with another drummer, Leo Rodrigues.