Music Grows Where Maurice Goes

   In the Bandra of my youth, there weren’t many vehicles around, and the few that did happen to rumble by to interrupt our games of street hockey were almost uniformly Fiats or Ambassadors. It’s no wonder, then, that the Bajaj Matador van parked in St Peter’s Colony always got a second glance from pedestrians on Pali Hill Road. Everyone knew the owner. If you didn’t, a sign on the side of the van made his identity clear: amidst a cascade of musical notes was the declaration, “Music grows where Maurice goes.”

Maurice was, of course, Maurice Concessio, the trombone player with the warm baritone voice whose band played at everyone’s weddings (including my parents’), in addition to being a staple of Christmas, New Year, Republic Day and Independence Day dances at gymkhanas across Bombay. Concessio had ridden out all the changes in musical taste. For a long time, his band was called Maurice Concessio and the Swing Sensation, but when I was growing up, it was known as Maurice Concessio and the Rock Sensation.

When I interviewed Concessio in 1991, six years before a heart attack claimed him at the age of 79, he told me that he’d developed his passion for music as a boy after finding a violin with a single string in the attic. “I fiddled while the family hearth smouldered,” he chuckled. Trombone lessons followed. Though he soon attained great proficiency on the instrument, he couldn’t screw up the courage to turn pro and face accusations of having turned the house of his father, a respected doctor, into a bajawala ghar.

Instead, he decided to cash in on his talent for billiards and seek a job at the Bombay Port Trust as a sportsman. But by the time he got to his twenties, the call of music proved too strong. “I realised that if I didn’t become a musician, I’d become a bum,” he said. He served an apprenticeship under the batons of several noted Bombay leaders – Ronnie Osmond, Chic Chocolate and Goody Seervai – before striking out on his own in 1963. He worked on the irresistible logic that “no one would pay Maurice Concessio more than Maurice Concessio”.

A large part of Concessio’s appeal sprung from his irrepressible sense of humour. He was noted for his spoof on From Russia With Love, which he turned into Don’t Rush Her in Love. He also had a ditty about a cabaret performer who was famous for her Dance of the Seven Bells. “She had two on her ears, one on her nose and two on her toes,” he would sing. Then, confident that he had the attention of his audience, he would conclude, “She has two more bells but don’t ask me where – her mother knew her daughter so hung them there.”

In 1955, Concessio started the Have a Heart Club, whose members would gather to let off steam by making music. It ran until 1974, with these objectives: “to foster a spirit of goodwill, cooperation and good cheer among members”, as well as “to spot talent and encourage it”. In 1991, the club staged a brief revival. Over the years, Concessio put out four cassettes, featuring his swing-tinged ballads. But his most popular song was this one, called Ritabelle, written about Raj Kapoor’s daughter. It was composed by the Parsi bandleader Mina Kava, who lived around the corner from Concessio. It was the B side of Kava’s big hit Bombay Meri Hai and, when it was released in 1969, it accomplished  something no Indian pop record in English had done. Concessio told me, “It brought me lots of royalty cheques.”

Ritabelle by naresh fernandes

Category: Audio, Bombay  Tags: ,
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12 Responses
  1. Colin D'Cruz says:

    A great showman he was. I played in his band when it featured Braz Gonsalves on saxophone, Benny Rosario on keyboards and Rex Monsorate on drums.

  2. Farrokh Chothia says:

    Maurice and his band played at my Navjote – Naresh, I have photos and 8mm footage…..

  3. Rana says:

    This brings back memories of my youth. I lived in Bandra from the 60s onwards, went to St. Andrews School and St. Stephens Church, and attended many of the St. Peters/Theresas/McRonnell Roof Garden weddings that Maurice and his group played. Javed Jaffrey used to sneak in and dance with the gals and then exit. Those were the days. Thank you, Naresh, for reviving some of the most pleasant memories of my life. I was, am, and will always remain, a Bandra boy at heart. Rana

    • Jeevan D'Mello says:

      I loved Maurice and made sure he played and sang at my wedding in 1994. For our wedding song, we chose UNFORGETTABLE by Nat King Cole and only Maurice could sign it with such great romance. Long live Maurice and his music.

  4. Lauren Concessio says:

    My wonderful grandfather! May his soul rest in peace..

  5. John David says:

    I remember Maurice fondly. Came across him whilst serving in the Indian Navy.
    Maurice played for many a Naval Dances at INS Shivaji , Lonavla and also at the USO Club in Colaba Bombay.
    I even have a cassette which Maurice gave me as a gift.
    When I was courting my wife Cherie from Lonavla, whilst I was on the Naval College of Engineering Maurice’s music was a part of us.
    I left the Navy on 1983 and in 1986 by stroke of strange coincidence ,when I served as Addl. Chief Engineer on MV Sagarika an Offshore Supply Vessel in Bombay High, guess what the Chief Engineer was Maurice’s ‘son’ I think his first name was Lester . That was my first stint in the merchant navy, I believe his daughter Deirdre immigrated to Australia or Canada.. I do not know the whereabouts of Lester?.
    Now I am settled on Canada and if anyone knows the whereabouts of Maurice’s son and daughter please let me know. Thanks
    Lt.Cdr John David IN (Retd)

    • Denis Desouza says:

      Hello Lt Cdr John David

      I just happened to read your comments about my great Father in law Maurice Concessio, I am married to his youngest daughter Valerie
      If you are in Canada please contact us …..our email address is dend30@hotmail.com and valeriedesouza@hotmail,com
      We live in Toronto
      Regards Denis & Valerie Concessio

  6. Lauren says:

    Hi John, I am Lesters daughter- we migrated to Australia in ’92. Deirdre is in Australia as well, Valerie is settled in Canada in Toronto.
    Thanks

  7. fairfax county virginia, usa
    25th.september 2015

    Hi naresh,

    I write this mail from above place with fond memories of sailing with
    Lester concessio maurices son in the year 1980 on a bulk carrier vessel
    with wallem ship management of Hong Kong. We did a full contract of
    9 months on that vessel and guess what, when I visited the virginia
    beach at norfolk a few days back, I was taken down memory lane
    to revive having visited the beach exactly 3 5 years back this very
    month. Subsequently we visited a mall, he purchased a Gibson electric
    guitar for his family band. He played the guitar on the ship & entertained
    us, only to keep me wondering as to why he opted for a job at sea.
    Lester was a 2nd. Engineer & Myself a 3rd. engineer then.
    Lester visited my house in mumbai to invite me to his marriage in
    May 1981. A year later I met him in our manning agents office and he
    informed me that he &his wife leela are blessed with a daughter named
    Lyyn racheal.
    So having great regards for lester, could you please give me his email
    contacts so I can correspond to him.
    I stay in pune india, now in usa to be with my daughter spending time
    with family and grand kids. I will be back in pune in november and I
    have fotos taken with him on board. I had met his parents too.

    Regards
    Shivaji

  8. Lizann says:

    I just showed my grandmother, Maisie Fernandez nee Concessio (youngest sister of Maurice) this piece, and she absolutely loved it. She sends her wishes and gratitude for writing this piece.

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