About Roque Sant'Ana Carmo Rodrigues Cota
from GOAN MUSIC-5
By Valmiki Faleiro
Roque Santano Rodrigues e Cota was a musically talented youth from Curtorim. With
his younger brother, Joao Socorro, he lived at ‘Oji Pannd’ (Lane of Midwives), Tembi,
Margao, in the second half of the 19th century. He dreamt big, but his modest means
wouldn’t allow him to break free, to blend his music genii with his knack for business.
Santan was observant. On a particular feast day of Our Lady, when collections at
Margao’s Holy Spirit church were hefty, he decided to strike and bolt.
As the feast procession gingerly wended its way around the church ground, Santan
stealthily crept into the sacristy, lifted the cash collections of the day, and slithered
away via the ‘Kumao-a kan,’ the circular hole in the WC plank, big enough to hold the
backsides of church priests – yes, via the parochial pigsty!
Santan and his younger sibling then vanished. He resurfaced in Calcutta, started a
band and, a step at a time, wended his way up – to become North India’s biggest
bandmaster, based in Calcutta. He was reputed to have had 600+ musicians at call.
He ran the region’s most successful music enterprise, playing at clubs, cine-theatres
(in that age of silent cinema), nightclubs or wherever music was needed. He became
the ultimate choice at Maharaja weddings, where between 300 to 500 musicians was
the sterling standard.
As my father, then a young doctor in the erstwhile ‘Indian Army Medical Corps,’ who
had witnessed one of Santan Cota’s maharaja wedding dos, would wryly comment,
“for Indian royalty, louder the sound better the music.”
Santan had arrived on the big league. It was only then that he decided to visit Goa .
The first thing he did upon arrival was to call at the Holy Spirit Church – and return the
money he pinched, his seed capital, obviously blessed, that had made him a man. In
multiples of the stolen amount. Were it not for that feast-day collection, and his own
daring to put it to productive use, he might have languished for life, never to realise his
big dream, never to exercise his acumen for business – in a monumental waste!
He rebuilt the old ramshackle ‘Oji Pannd’ house into a plush, partly storeyed mansion.
Then married Cecilia Artemisia Silveira Vital, from Divar. Their portrait hangs in a place
of pride in the large hall of the Tembi-Margao home. The couple had no issue.
Santan was so wealthy that he purchased dozens of properties in Salcete – including
rights to the coconut produce on either side of the road from Margao to Assolna! Just
one of his properties called Firgulem-Mandopa – today’s “Shantinagar” – a colony of
300+ plots at Aquem-Baixo, accounts for a substantial segment of suburban Margao’s
In his heyday, such was the music maestro’s wealth that an adage gained currency:
“Santan Cota caga notas / Deita fibras / Mija libras.” Santan Cota excretes (currency)
notes / Throws off worms (with the currency notes) / Urinates (gold) sovereigns.
Santan, from all accounts, was not only a man of music and honour, but of charity. He
founded a public charity, ‘Associação Pão de Santo António’ for the destitute in his
From the moment he began earning in Calcutta , he put his younger sibling through the
best English education the former capital of British India and nearby hill stations like
Darjeeling and Kurseong could buy. Socorro eventually landed in the judicial services
of Bengal , retiring as Registrar of the Calcutta High Court.
Some time after his own marriage, Santan began looking out for a match for his
brother. During a summer break, he spotted a young lady, “of exceptional beauty,” at
the Margao church. He discovered that Maria Guilhermina Idalina Felicidade de Sá,
like his wife, also hailed from Divar. From there, he found that Guilhermina had an
unmarried sister, Idalina (“Idu”) Hortencia Casmira de Sá. He had no difficulty getting
“Idu” to be his sister-in-law, married just a few score metres from where her elder sister
Guilhermina was married.