8 quirky, cool & intimate places for live music in Goa

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Goa has an amazing musical heritage and that is reflected in the ever-expanding music scene. But we suggest you avoid the usual venues and head to an unusual gig space.

Here’s a list of great indie music hangouts with plenty of character – from local pubs and old music haunts to old mansions nights.

Cantare, Saligao

Cantare means “to sing,” in Italian. This cosy restaurant set in a beautifully restored historic home is camouflaged well, with entry via tiny roads surrounded by Goan houses. Its location makes it somewhat of a well-kept secret. The best place to sit is the corner table in their verandah. A live band plays inside, next to the bar. The rooms are dark, there are places to sit, and the vibe lends itself to lots of dancing.

Canatare fits just the right amount of people so it never gets crowded; the lighting is kept low – all in all, a very susegado kind of place. This backstreet place has become a prime spot for live music through word of mouth and a groundswell of support. This is indie Goa, a long way from the tourist crush of trance and Anjuna, in spirit, if not in actual distance. If you’re looking for a location that is just as memorable as the music, then look no further.

Gonsalves Mansion, Campal, Panaji

The picturesque laidback leafy lanes of Campal are probably the last place you’d expect to find one of the best music venues. But you’d be wrong. In Gonsalves Mansion, you’ll find a venue with real character and a great reputation. It has become one of Goa’s best known stop-offs for jazz.

Trip on saxophones and double basses at their Heritage Jazz events. The long, Portuguese-style veranda has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz – George Fernandez, Carlos Monteiro, Mac Dourado, Colin D’Cruz, Valerio Sequeira and Caetano Filipe Colaco have all played here. The house is an ideal place to relax, unwind, and listen to good music.

The Backyard, Sangolda

Situated behind the lovely Paperboat Collective store, what adds great vibes to this place is the décor comprising of recycled materials of burlap, tires etc. The food is made with seasonal and local produce. Chill out with an aam panna cocktail and BBQ steaks and listen to Acoustic Sunlight as they revive music from the ’60s and ’70s. Thursdays are Blue Note nights with Mac Dourado.

Sol de Goa, Nerul

In a quite lane, and nestled on the banks of the Sinquerim River, Sol has opened its doors to many a jazz funk, gospel, R&B and pop improv sessions. The Thursday Night Live session has become one of the most happening mid-week parties. Their house band Smoking Chutney features Goan singer Chrystal Farrell and other legends.

They have also featured guest artists from around the world including saxophonist David Weidlein from LA who has performed with jazz legends like Bob Mintzer, Peter Erskine and Joshua Redman.

Firefly Goan Bistro Bar, Benaulim

Hang loose at this family-owned bistro bar in the quiet little seaside village of Benaulim. The balmy breeze from the sea, and the vivid splash of colour from the clusters of bougainvillea outside the restaurant are a perfect backdrop to the assortment of music that Firefly hosts.

Listen to Mac Dourado with a little rock and retro, and Goa’s legendary Brian Bones. You will encounter clues, jazz, funk and contemporary music or an Indian classical music night. The place is run by the makers of the famous Goan feni brand Cazulo – no surprise then they have a huge selection of cocktails based on Goa’s firewater.

Cheenos

Cheenos has become one of the most talked about venues in Goa. The upstairs serves a wide array of foods and downstairs is where the action takes place in a large, warehouse-style interior. Several hot new bands pass through here, so you should too.

Their ‘Indie-Fresh’ nights host local and visiting bands like Mumbai folk band Indo-Gypsies, Pune’s progressive pop rock band Skylight Vision, Flamenco guitarist Veda Agarwal, legendary Indian Ocean and alternative rock band Spud in the Box. Saturday nights are fun-packed with much dancing.

Cavala, Calangute

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a list of intimate venues but Cavala’s is among the most popular place for live music bands and some dancing. Head to the back area to be surprised by whatever amazing band is making a glorious noise. Keep an eye on their schedule as different bands perform on different nights, like Rhythm & Blues, Tidal Wave, Crimson Tide, Smooth, and Lace. Avoid Friday nights because the place gets really crowded – measured by how long it takes you to shove your way through the bar and get a drink (longer than they’d care to admit).

Flea market sounds

Amidst the array of hammocks, jewellery, Buddha statues the Anjuna beach flea market and the Saturday night market in Arpora are other chilled out places for good music. At Anjuna, grab a beer or frosty soda, a plate of fried calamari or corn on the cob and listen to the live bands at two of the most popular watering holes Sea Breeze and  Cafe Looda – Shayne Ballantyne, Elvis Lobo, Electric Pulse et al. Bands and musical acts proliferate the Arpora Saturday night Bazaar too.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance writer and founder-editor of Jalebi Ink, an award-winning media collective for children and youth. A compulsive city-walker, she loves exploring urban cultures and is a columnist for NY-based Karta, a collaborative urban mapping project. Her most memorable adventure was in Afghanistan as digital media advisor, setting up citizens' media centres.