The first musician to play the electric guitar in Hindi films, Goa’s Tony Gomes also introduced Mohammad Rafi and Usha Iyer Uttup to sing Konkani songs for Chris Perry’s compositions. A spotlight on a star which shone brightly, once upon a time.
By: Walter Menezes
(first appeared on Gomantak Times dated 23 Sept 2009)
In the good old days, almost every church in Goa had its very own choirmaster. While the padri (priest) taught lasting values of life, the mestri (choirmaster) initiated the youngsters to discover the symbols of solfam (notes) and the magic of music. For many, the music school became the springboard to catapult them to fame and an illustrious career. Antonio Piedade Gomes of Vhoddlem-Bhatt, Quepem is one such Goan who worked with some of the best known music directors of Hindi cinema during his time.
Born in 1922, ‘Tony’ Gomes received his ‘early lessons’ from Caetano Philip Dias, the mestri of Quepem church and his seafaring father thought it best to send his ‘exceptionally gifted’ son to Bombay when still young. ‘By the time I joined the music escola, Tony was already out of it,’ Andre Bibiano Furtado of Quepem, who will turn 85 this December, told us. ‘Much later, when I used to work for Mazagon Dock, I would join my friends at Bastanis for a cup of chai almost every Sunday. They would all talk so much about Tony Gomes. He lived in Wellington Terrace (in Dhobitalao) nearby,’ Furtado filled in with more details.
Introduced to the film studios by Fr. Aurelius Maschio, SDB, then principal of Don Bosco School, Matunga, where he studied and also fine-tuned his skills and mastered the violin and the guitar, Tony Gomes had his own band during the ‘big band era’ of Bombay (now Mumbai), Tony Gomes and his Rhythm Raiders (which was later christened as Tony Gomes and his Dance Band). His band was a regular sight at many parties and dances and they played at the New Year’s Eve Ball of the Indian Navy practically every year in the 60’s and early 70’s.
A long time member of Cine Musicians’ Association, Tony Gomes was equally at ease with the Hawaiian guitar and the Spanish guitar and played for Ravi, Shankar Jaikishan, O P Nayyar, Laxmikant Payarelal, S D Burman, R D Burman, Hemant Kumar and V Shantaram. He was also instrumental in introducing Mohammad Rafi and Usha Iyer Uttup to sing Konkani songs for Chris Perry’s compositions.
In the maiden issue of Konkan Entertainment covering ‘50 Years of Konkani Cinema’ and dedicated to Al Jerry Braganza, the Father of Konkani Cinema, Andrew Greno Viegas, the magazine’s editor (and researcher, too) makes a mention of Anthony Gomes as the first musician ‘to play the electric guitar in Hindi films’.
‘Chic Chocolate, who was called as the Harry James of India, Tony Gomes, Antonio Sequeira (who later taught music at Kala Akademi) and Johnny Rodrigues were in a class of their own,’ John Claro, playwright of the Purtugez Kolvont fame informed us. Himself a Quepemkar, John Claro who was working for Norwich Union before its subsequent merger with Life Insurance Corporation of India recounted, ‘I remember doing an article, somewhere in 1950, lauding the efforts of my fellow Quepemcares, Tony Gomes and Antonio Sequeira in the city of Bombay. It was published on Chabuk, the bilingual weekly in Konkani and English which was then edited by L M Henry D’Souza.’
‘Musicians would practice for days together before the recording. Persons passing by Wellington Terrace (residential colony) would at once know if Gomes was practicing. His music was unique,’ John Claro said, speaking of the high standards that this musician had set for himself.
‘He was exceptional,’ confirmed Abdonio Rodrigues, Goa’s famous drummer when we met him at his Curchorem residence at the foot of the Guardian Angel Church hillock. The sun had set and night was sneaking in. Soon the church bell tolled and it was time for aimori (angelus). ‘He was much sought-after by the music directors of Hindi films,’ he added after the prayers were over.
‘So much was happening in Bombay during those days. We musicians were very much in demand,’ Abdonio told us after we showed him a clip from Frank Fernand’s Konkani movie Nirmonn, where the camera zeroes in on Tony Gomes, focusing on the speed with which his deft fingers glide along the neck of the guitar, playing a passage of ‘dense’ music as in a cadenza, during the unforgettable Nach Atanche song. Abdonio, who played the drums for the movie recalled, ‘This was shot in Mehbooba Studio in Bandra.’ Tony Gomes can also be seen on the violin in the opening song in the film, Amchem Noxib.
Incidentally, Nirmonn was remade in Hindi as Taqdeer and was also dubbed in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese and Oriya.
‘He had a long way to go and would have been one of the finest guitarists Bollywood has ever seen,’ Ivor Gomes said, speaking about his paternal uncle and then added, ‘but he died in 1974, when he was only 52!’
Sometimes, life is as sweet, and as brief, as a melody. That’s what Tony Gomes, the star strummer would have told us had he been alive today!
(With inputs by: Tony Gomes’ daughters, Bernadette D’Souza, attorney, New Orleans and Nancy Paes, University of New Orleans and his sister, Luciana Gomes e Fernandes.)
END OF ARTICLE
Check this link www.youtube.com/?v=OfIaOEAn7bA
For the song Nach Atanche from the film Nirmonn
TONY GOMES: Born / 11.04.1922 Died / 27.09.1974
Pic 1: Mrs Indira Gandhi, Raj Kapoor and Tony Gomes (from family album, occasion not known)
Pic 2: Tony Gomes (seated, third from left) with his Rhythm Raiders.
Pic 3: A still from Konkani film, Nirmonn