'Teen Angels' 50 years later
54 years ago, in 1963, there were a few really talented Hockey players representing the state in Mumbai. They would all come together in a basement within the Sophia college in Bombay between practice and rehearsals. One day, while getting ready, a few girls ended up jamming a song together. They had a great time and realized that they sounded really good together. Amongst this group of girls were Bernie Tellis and Annette Gonzalez who didn’t stop with their impromptu jamming session, but instead went on to form India’s first all-girls beat group, ‘TEEN ANGELS’.
MAKING OF THE TEEN ANGELS:
What started as a group of teenage girls from Sophia College alone, singing their favourite songs, gradually started performing on stage and for a crowd. Bernie and Annette were the founding members of the band, with other musicians joining them on various shows within their 3-year stint. With Mark Dinning’s ‘Teen Angels’ playing in the background, this young talented group of teenage musicians thought it seemed perfect to call their band “Teen Angels”.
The members of the group were Bernie Tellis, who was the leader, lead vocalist and tambourine player. Annette Fernandes was on vocals and the rhythm guitar. Peggy Machado was the lead guitarist, Eva (Patricia Pereira) played the piano and finally, Loy D'Penha was on the piano accordion. They were often joined by Lynette D'Sousa on the bongos, Betty, who played the harmonica and Hazel D'Sousa who helped them with their vocals.
THEIR FIRST “GIG”:
From performing within the college and in various inter-college fests, they started performing commercially and became a huge hit. They performed on air for an entire half hour on Hamid Sayani’s show, as the Sophia College Combo.
Wearing red- white pinstriped shirts with black stockings and pumps on their shows or a Gold coloured calf length slim line dress with skin colour stockings and heels on a few fancy shows, the girls performed at the prestigious ‘September Garden’ which till the year they performed was called the ‘Chinese Garden’. For Bernie, performing here was a childhood dream. Something she had seen and wanted to be a part of since she was a child and she made it on that stage in less than 5 years. The band was so good on stage, that they were asked to perform once again on the last day of the festival. Soon they were on the All India Radio and that was probably the first time they realized after seeing a banner that said “Performing today- ‘Teen Angels’ India’s first all-girls Band” at the event.
THE PATHBREAKING PIONEERS:
Back in the days, a musician, *correction Female musicians were considered “Not very Reputable”. Bernie and Annette along with their band members came from conservative families. Night shows, well, definitely were out of the question. For Bernie, her mother was a huge support. And to quote Bernie’s words, “My mother supported it (music career), she didn’t approve of it”. Similarly, Annette’s parents wouldn’t let her travel alone in the night. They were gaining so much popularity that the other leading bands at that time felt that they were undercutting them. They were paid Rs250 per show in those days where teachers were paid Rs180 per month. Although they were paid much less than the other popular bands. For this group, it was never about the money. It was just about the joy of singing. Together.
THE JOURNEY OF THE ANGELS:
Despite all the success they had attained and planning to re-name their band to “The Graduates” once they all graduated, as in those times, graduates weren’t musicians. Most of the members of the band were inclined towards the teaching profession. You couldn’t be a teacher by the day and be a singer by the night. A person could not have the best worlds. And our girls were masters in more than one trade. Even if you ask them today, whether they regret having to dissolve the band after graduation, they would all tell you about the amazing things they lived, experienced and achieved despite being female musicians. They all had a greater purpose. To themselves and to god. To educate and make this world a tad bit better to live in. But they came together once again after 50 years, for us.
TEEN ANGELS NOW:
The remaining members of the band still keep in touch. They all come together every year to India from all parts of the world and make sure they meet. The ones in Mumbai meet for lunches every month. They share stories of their travel, their children and grandchildren. And most of all music. Something that is still a part of them and will never go away. Something that lights them up even if they often get into thinking what music has become now. Despite that, they are reminded of a time when things were simpler and the music was there to move you.