The Unique Sound of Goa

Posted on 2008-08-22
The gumott is a Goan percussion instrument that can be said to have originated in Goa. The gumott creates a unique sound. Both the Hindu and Catholic communities in Goa play this instrument. The gumott is of two kinds; one is big whereas the other is slightly smaller. The Catholics play the bigger gumotts while the Hindus form the rhythm on the latter.
The Hindus generally play the gumott for aartis and bhajans during religious festivities. The state festival, Shigmo is incomplete without a gumott. The Christians play it during festivities like the San Joao, Bonderam, Carnival, etc. The Gawdas and the Kunbis of the Christian communities generally play this instrument for their weddings.
Durgesh Naik, plays the gumott during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations held at his home. He says that he learnt to play the instrument from a friend. From his experience he says that playing the gumott is not very easy, as one must play it with both hands and the gumott is very delicate as it is just like an earthen pot.
The gumott has two sides, one is narrow and the other is wide. The middle portion of the gumott bulges outwards.
While the palm of one hand covers the narrow part, which is open, the other hand drums on to the wider part, which is covered with the a wet skin of a monitor lizard locally known as sap or ghar. In some cases goat skin or sometimes even a kind of synthetic material is used. But Joaquim Fernandes, the president of the Goan Folk Art group who has almost forty years experience of playing the gumott opines that the sound that comes from hitting monitor lizard skin (locally known as Gar) creates a certain vibration that is peculiar to the gumott and as such is irreplaceable.
Upendra, a resident of Marcel says that the gumott is also played during the Goan festival of ‘Ghoddya Moddnni’. He states that he learnt the art of playing the gumott by observing others playing it during festive occasions.
Many mistake a gumott to be the Goan version of a tabla. But it’s far from it. A gumott can’t be tuned like a tabla. When one side of this instrument is covered with the palm a high note is produced and when its left opened a bass sound is produced.
The gumott is an integral part of the mandos. It lends the basic beat to the melody. They are many variations when it comes to tracing the origin of the gumott. Mr Fernandes explains that the gumott was an instrument created by the labour class. To lend a catchy, cheerfulness amidst the soulful mandos, mando artists later incorporated it.
So people, don’t wait for an invitation to learn this traditional, indigenous Goan instrument, which takes just a couple of months to master it. Pick up a gumott and drum on. (CR)