A style of his own | Daily News

A style of his own

What was your favourite song or tune that belonged to the years that have flown by? Was it “The Way You Look Tonight”, ‘Do You Wanna Dance”. “Travelling Light”, “Fly Me To The Moon”, “Stranger On The Shore” or perhaps “In The Mood”? If I’ve struck a resounding chord, then you have to be with vocalist/guitarist/saxophonist Roger Menezes who is back home, in the land of his birth and performing at the lobby of the Galadari Hotel till the end of the February.

During an evening I was able to have a conversation with him and here’s the result.

Q: You are here in the land of your birth after how so years, in a spool back can you trace the many years in our country and how happy you were indulging in the music scene, apart from whatever full time work you were doing. Were you involved soon after school?

“I left in 1973 August got married in Sydney in 1973 on the 29th December. So I am inSydney for a total of 49 years which have just flown by.

I was very happy indulging with the music scene. In Sri Lanka during my schooling I was involved with music, performing with my Dad Miki for weddings, house party's and weekends with other bands such as Roger and the Webs, The Thunderbirds, Cass Ziard Quintet. I also played drums with Valentine and Nesan Manickavasagar, The Cuban Combo, Tony Felice Blue Star Band, Banknotes, Sam the Man, Savages, Fireflies, Spits and lastly The Mighty Jets.

At school I was the lead drummer for the Peterite marching band. Yes they were good days, there was no youtube, video's, books, CD's, MP3's, we had to crib the words and chords from the vinyl, so you developed a good ear and to play bass and guitar too we had to know when to change the chord. It was very fulfilling as I loved music and music is in by blood.”

Q: The name Menezes was synonymous with music in Sri Lanka what with Papa Menezes’ school at Bambalapitiya and many were the youngsters and adults who benefited from the classes and became established and recognised musicians. In Sydney are you imparting your music knowledge to others like the Menezes family did here in Sri Lanka?

“Born into a family where the name MENEZES was synonymous with music, it was only natural that I took up to music without much persuasion. First as a drummer at the age of 10 then on to the piano where I did theory and practicals under the guidance of Aunty Helen and also Avril Bartlolomeusz. My Dad had no patience teaching me as I used to bop up the good old classics. Then as time went by my Grandfather PAPA handed me his alto saxophone a Selmer mark 6 top of the range. With Papa's guidance and a lot of slipper throwing I conquered the basics of the alto sax.

Then with the invasion of all the guitar groups I picked up the guitar which came to me so naturally. This is because I knew and had all the rudiments of music. I also love playing acoustic bass and bass guitar. This started my career in the music industry. The experience was priceless. I then put together my fist band Roger and the Webs. Very few know this; I joined the JETLINERS as a drummer as Harris decided to pull the plug and then came back after a day. Must have been a 24 hour music virus! So they decided to keep me as I was a multi instrumentalist and Indra had given notice to quit the band. So 3 months into the tour of Singapore Indra left and I took over as lead guitarist.

I migrated to Sydney in 1973. I was told to get a job, so I joined the New South Wales Police Service and did 41 years service. I also did my music in the weekends and whenever required. We had our band in Sydney called STAY TUNED. We did a lot of corporate gigs and we were involved with the 2000 Olympics. We also had a 5 year stint for New Years eve at the Centrepoint Tower. A landmark in greater Sydney. We have come to know many jazz musicians such as Marie Wilson, James Morrison, John Morrison Big Band and many others.

I still remember all the musos meeting at Menezes Ltd on a Saturday morning. Menezes Ltd was a meeting place so was good old ‘Mayfair’.”

Q: Are you like your Dad Miki, Tom, Ralph, Helen, Cathy able to play more than one instrument and be a master at it? Elaborate what are Ralph, Helen and Cathy now involved in?

“Yes the Menezes Family were all multi talented and multi instrumentalist. Miki, Tom and Ralph could play more than one instrument, Helen and Cathy stuck to mastering the keyboards and have been teaching music to students and sending them for exams. Tom’s son Peter is a fantastic bass player and has a selection of hand made basses worth a bit of money. Ronnie also played drums and a bit of sax. My sister Eliza plays piano. But here goes my Mum Cynthia played Clarinet, Piano and was the first girl drummer in Sri Lanka to play with the 1st all girl band in Sri Lanka”.

Q: I’m sure, and no doubt you are involved playing with a group and with your wife as well.

“Yes my wife and I were heavily involved in the music scene here. We had our first band and 6 piece outfit called EASTER SPICE. We were doing 4 nights a week while working at our day jobs, Monday to Friday. Down the track we reformed the band again to a 6 piece outfit and the name was STAY TUNED. Since by then Cheryl had quit her day job and became a music agent getting work for the band and also hiring other bands with big names for different venues. She enjoyed doing this as she enjoyed talking to clients on the phone and attending meetings and also auditioning Solo, Duo, Trio and Band acts. If the job was a big one Stay Tuned used to become an 8 piece band adding on 2 brass players Tenor Sax/Flute and Trumpet/Flugel Horn. These musos were professional and could handle the whole job. They fitted in well because we were doing Big Band Material like the Glen Miller, Duke Ellington hits, not forgetting the Bill Haley stuff where the Tenor Sax played a big part and with the Salsa stuff the Trumpet came in beautifully”.

Q: Bringing the thought process back to Sri Lanka for the benefit of our readers, can you briefly recall the bands you played with and who the leading musicians were during this time and also the noteworthy moments you will never forget.

“Recalling the bands during my younger days as a drummer I used to perform with my Dad's combo also performed with the Banknotes, Thunderbirds, Cuban Combo, Tony Felice Blue Star Band, Savages and the Fireflies. Like I previously mentioned I joined the Jetliners as a drummer. Then there was the Cass Ziard Quintet I played sax, with Sam the Man I played guitar, had a short stint with the Spitfires where I filled in on sax. Then I had my own band Roger and the Webs and finally the Mighty Jets. So in Sydney I am advertised as Roger from the Jets. I did perform with a lot of Bands. For your interest we had a breakaway band from the Jetliners. It was named TOMORROW'S CHILDREN.This was with Alston Koch, Desmond de Silva, Anton Gunewijaya and Hassan Musafer. We did a lot of way out material, The Who etc., it was different, so been there done that”

Q: Don’t you miss Sri Lanka and our whole scenario? Hope we will get an opportunity to hear you play.

“Of course born in Sri Lanka and growing up and all the friends, music, good times, bad times of course you will miss it. But then a lot of people left for greener pastures to make a better life for their kids. In my time it was all clean fun, lots of laughter. Cheryl also did 3 to 4 months with the Jets when Migs went overseas to attend a contest. I mainly made this trip after 20 years to see my wonderful Mum. So this is not the last time you will see me, I will be back God willing to entertain all of you music lovers. I still keep in touch with all my music colleagues here in Sr Lanka. I take the time to get their telephone numbers and call them to say hello. After all WE ARE ONE WE ARE MANY. I take this opportunity to wish everybody God's Blessings for good Health, Love, Peace and Happiness... Be kind to one another. Take care and Stay safe and STAY TUNED.


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