Long haired, patched jeans, a leather pouch slung across, Make Peace Not War graffiti et al…the 70s retro look is what Petro Correia recalls about his appearance in those early musical days in Kochi. He is one of the founders of the band 13 A D, formed in 1977.
Thirty years later Petro sports a look so different from his former image, that it is difficult to relate the two. But not really. The spirit behind those rocking days is still strong and the energy throbs through as he reminiscences the days when he formed the band and gave it its unusual name.
“There was a band called Living Reeds when I came to substitute as a drummer. I was studying at Maharaja's College then,” said Petro. Not pleased with the soft pop the band played, Petro took the initiative to change the set up. It was in the August of 1977 that a music concert, ‘Rhythm 77' was held. Petro recalls that they were a five piece band then: Eloy Issac in the lead, Anil Raun on Bass, Ashley Pinto on Rhythms and Vocals, Stanley Luiz as singer and he on the drums. On the night of the concert, he recalls that they played at two venues- one at TDM Hall and the other on the FACT premises in Udyogamandal. The National Basket Ball tournament was on and it was for that event that they played.
The number 13
But the music being played was not what Petro had in mind. He wanted to infuse more harmony and get the band rocking. “So we (the group) sat on Foreshore Road and thought about the change.” The first change came about with the name. “Let's fight 13, the superstition,” he recalled about why they called it the feared number. A D he said was for After Death. And so came about the new band, “which took the city by storm.” And strangely the first song they played was ‘Already Gone' by Eagles, a sign of putting the past behind and a fresh start. Soon they brought in a lot of Rock and Roll and Blues
As with most bands, the split came about and two members moved on to Kuwait. Petro began looking for a bass guitarist. He found Paul (Pauly) playing with ‘Highway Riders' and convinced him to join them, adding that he was always good at marketing, something that has helped him create his business today. He runs a chain of ‘7-11' stores in California.
With the “re-birth” of the group said Petro, they now became a four piece band, playing in many cities in the south. Mangalore, Mysore, Manipal were just a few of the regular cities where they performed.
And though there were a few bands before their time and some which co-existed, the music that 13 AD played was different. It was gutsy and fresh, something which the crowds had never heard before. With music came the style and the attitude. “We were all bikers. Jeans was the fad, leather pouches, patches, social issues, anti-war, the peace movement… all was part of the time.” Drugs? “No, we were a clean band, though drugs were common then.” And so the young fresh band went on to capture the imagination of the listeners.
But it was a struggle to get the equipment.
Petro recalled having got his drums custom-made at a music store, St Mary's on Broadway. At a show in Fine Arts Hall he innovated to get the effect of strobe lights. A huge bulb was filled with water and hung on the stage and lights flashed on to it, criss-crossing the stage. With movement, the light swayed and the music played, giving it a surrealist effect. All this added to the band's popularity.
Much before the women came into the band as singers, it was Petro's six-year-old niece Nadine, “a child prodigy,” who sang with a beautiful voice. The band played initially at R.K. Oberoi, a restaurant on M.G. Road, moving on to Hotel International and finally at the Sea Lord.
And so when did he leave the band and why?
“In 1982, my brother Pinson came down from Kolkata. I could see the depth in Eloy, Paul and Pinson. They could make heavier music.
Pinson was much better than me any day,” said the talented Petro with all humility.
Two years ago the original band got together and played at the Taj hotel in the city.
Petro married Rona from Kalmassery and they have two college going sons, Sean and Shane. From India he moved on to Botswana, where he had a band, Capital Players, which was the first Indian band to be inducted into a British Club. He did two musicals there.
And all this from a man who comes from a musical family with no education in music. “As a family, we are not educated musicians. We all play by ear!”