GLOBAL GOENKARS IN MUSIC: Ousted from Uganda, Goan musicians reunite in Toronto 5 decades later

GLOBAL GOENKARS IN MUSIC: Ousted from Uganda, Goan musicians reunite in Toronto 5 decades later

The ‘Star Gazers’ during a performance in Uganda in the 1960s. John Desa (96), who played the accordion in the band, also attended the Gala Dinner in Toronto on July 27.


When 20 Goans from a group of 22 musicians from across the world got together in Toronto between July 23 and 27, they were reliving a historic musical journey which began in Uganda over seven decades ago.

Goan musicians have enthralled audiences all over the world over the ages and it is not surprising that dozens of them flourished in Uganda and performed at numerous events in the country. They were so prolific, and prominent, that Goan musicians featured in over 24 bands between 1950 and 1972.

This glorious period of Goan musicians came to a sudden end when the dictator Idi Amin expelled all Asians/Indians from Uganda in 1972. They were given 90 days to leave the country, even those who were citizens of the country.

Many countries offered to take them as refugees to their respective countries as they knew that Goans were entrepreneurs and hard-working citizens. As a result, 80,000 Asians/Indians left Uganda in 90 days and about 6,000 migrated to Canada.

Goan musicians hailing from Uganda were spread all over the world and many of them decided to reconnect 50 years later.

“Among the 80,000 people who left in that exodus were many musicians. These musicians belonged to many different bands in Uganda. In 2020, a WhatsApp community was initiated to reconnect with as many of these Uganda Exodus musicians as possible,” said Errol Francis, a drummer and singer who traces his roots to Assagao.

“This group started by having monthly Zoom concerts during the Covid years and eventually decided to get together for a musical reunion in Toronto. Over the past three years, we managed to connect with 46 ex-Uganda musicians (most of them Goans) spread all over the world, who showed a keen interest in attending and performing at the event.”

“A Uganda Musician Exodus Reunion – 50th anniversary of the Uganda Asian Exodus – which had been planned for July 2022, had to be postponed due to Covid. This event was rescheduled in Toronto from July 23 to 27.”

“Musicians attending the monthly Zoom concerts since 2021 have come from Canada, USA, Britain, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Kenya, and Australia – a total of 40 plus musicians. A few of them with their families will be attending the reunion. It will be 51 years in August 2023 since we were expelled.”

“Because most of the original bands did not have all their members it was decided to form cooperative bands. Many of the bands performing today were separated by great distances, countries, and continents. However, this group has grown to support each other in keeping music alive in their lives,” said Errol, Chair of the Committee consisting of Tom Francis (guitarist and singer), John Noronha (singer) and Hubert Dias (guitarist).

Added Tom Francis, who has managed this monthly Zoom show: “The enthusiasm shown at the monthly Zoom concerts, shows the immense interest and positive response to having an event of this nature.”

Hubert Dias said it was such a pleasure to connect with these musicians from all over the world.

“The bonding that has been created is unbelievable,” he added.

John Noronha said a detailed programme for the Uganda Musicians Reunion was planned from July 23 to 27.

The Reunion kicked off on July 23 with a picnic, by invitation only, at Villa Lobo, a property owned by Chris and Amy Lobo in Georgetown, a town on the outskirts of Toronto.

"Over a 100 people were in attendance and excited to meet up with family and friends. While many of the musicians had a great time jamming others never stopped dancing," said Hubert Dias of London.

Tom Francis, who oversaw everything to do with the music part of the event, said: “July 24 to July 26 had all different groups of bands practising for the Gala Dance on July 27.”

John Noronha, who was responsible for everything to do with the Gala Dance, said the event was a sold-out function of 340 people.

Errol said they were very excited at the turnout for the week-long Uganda Musicians Reunion, with people coming from Australia, UK, Europe and different parts of the USA and Canada.

The ‘Quintet Combo’ which used to perform in Uganda in the 1960s reunited at the Gala Dinner in Toronto on July 27 featuring Tom Francis (lead, rhythm guitar & vocals), Herman De Souza (vocals), Errol Francis (drums & vocals, band leader), Polly Dias (bass guitar), William Fernandes (keyboard & clarinet) and guest singer John Noronha.


The culmination of the Uganda Musicians Exodus Reunion week was the Gala Dinner on Thursday evening, with an enthusiastic crowd of 340 treated to a historic evening.

The event included performances by six groups, a presentation showcase, dinner and dance.

Incidentally, 96-year-old John Desa, who played the accordion for ‘Star Gazers’ in Uganda, was also present at the dance.

“Meeting friends and in many cases after 51 years, enjoying the sumptuous dinner but most of all dancing and appreciating the six different groups of bands that had come together just for this occasion and remembering the good old times was the sentiment of all those present,” said Errol Francis.

Several people posted messages of appreciation and commendations to the team for organising the event. Such was the interest that the Gala Dinner had well over 500 views on YouTube with people from across the world tuned in to witness the historic event.

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