Nandu Bhende: My Superstar
Darryl Mendonsa, a former bandmate of the iconic rock musician who passed away on Friday, recalls his old friend from faraway New Zealand where he now resides and works
I just received the sad, shocking news that my friend and former band mate Nandu Bhende passed away in Mumbai. I’ve spent the past few hours remembering Nandu and much that we shared. He is a legend. But this is a personal account of what I remember of my friend Nandu.
L-R: Darryl Mendonsa (bass), Nandu Bhende (vocals), Remo Fernandez (guitar, vocals), Steve Siqueira (drums), Michael D’Souza (keyboards)
Nandu was the lead singer in the very first band I played in, called the Brief Encounter. I still remember the first time I met him. It was pretty late one night in 1972, when Nandu and Michael D’Souza dropped in at my house in Dadar. I didn’t know either of them but they came with a common friend.
They were being offered a contract for one month at the Taj Hotel’s new disco — the Blow-Up. Nandu and Michael had their own band called The Velvette Fogg, but in order to play at the Blow-Up, they said they needed a player with a good knowledge of chords. I was reluctant at first but ‘persaded’ when I realised that the money from that one-month gig could pay my college fees for a year or two. Little did I realise how that meeting would change my life.
I became a performing musician, my sons Warren and Zorran and my younger brother Loy Mendonsa became musicians too. In a way it was Nandu and Michael who were instrumental (pun intended) in getting me into the music scene.
The Brief Encounter was later to amalgamate with another very popular band, The Savages; which in turn bore The Savage Encounter.
Nandu was a great singer, a superb musician. During my time with the bands, I was fortunate enough to have had the privilege of playing with some of the finest musicians around: Remo Fernandez, Steve Siqueira, Barry Murray, Bashir Sheikh, Joe Alvares, Gussie Rikh and Leslie Lewis.
I was fortunate that just before I left for New Zealand, Joe Alvares suggested a Savage Encounter Reunion, which was my farewell gig before leaving. That was the last time I had the pleasure of playing with Nandu in a band setup.
When I visited India in December 2009, Remo was playing in Bandra and kindly arranged for complimentary tickets for my wife Carol and I at short notice. Nandu happened to be present at the show and after it was over, all of us went to my sister’s house in Dadar and had a fantastic jam. Just great nostalgia!
Nandu, I can’t believe that we won’t get another chance to see you and jam again with you and Remo. We will miss you, Nandu. Rock on!