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Eminent Goan Personality – Anthony Gonsalves

When Amitabh Bachhan jumped out of a giant egg in the film Amar Akbar Anthony and broke into the popular song “My Name is Anthony Gonsalves”, I am sure that hardly anyone realized that the song was specially created by Pyarelal as a tribute to his mentor and teacher Anthony Gonsalves.

Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves was an Indian musical composer, music arranger and teacher born in 1927, in the village of Majorda, near the city of Margao. As a child he played violin in his church in Goa.

He wanted to compose raga-based symphonies that could be performed in the world’s leading concert halls. He travelled to Bombay in 1943, already a seasoned musician at 16. He had been recognized as a child prodigy and appointed choir master at a local church at age 12. He found his first job in the city as a violinist in the group of the composer Naushad in 1943. His talent was overwhelmingly apparent and he soon graduated to doing arrangements for composers around the city.

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Every Sunday, his apartment at Sushila Sadan on Bandra’s Linking Road was thrown open to eager students, two of whom – R.D. Burman and Pyarelal – would become significant composers themselves. Unlike many of his Goan peers, whose western-trained ears couldn’t quite wrap themselves around the sinuous lines of Hindustani tunes (though they could play them well enough from a score), Gonsalves developed a deep passion for raga-based music.

‘It struck me very hard in my heart and my mind,’ he explained. ‘Melodically and rhythmically it is so rich.’

In the highlights of his career he worked with some of the most legendary music composers of the 1950s and 1960s, like B.R. Chopra, Naushad and Chetan Anand.

Gonsalves made a name for himself after he orchestrated music for songs like ‘Jyoti Kalash Zhalke’. His musical arrangements in ‘Hum aapki aankhon mein’ in ‘Pyaasa’ and ‘Ayega aaane wala’ in ‘Mahal’ are considered by many among his best works.

Amitabh Bachchan as Anthony Gonsalves in Amar Akbar Anthony
Amitabh Bachchan as Anthony Gonsalves in Amar Akbar Anthony

During the mid-1950s he tried to merge the symphonies of his Goan heritage along with the Hindustani melodies and rhythms in films.

In 1958, Gonsalves founded the Symphony Orchestra of India featuring playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey as soloists.

Anthony Gonsalves was a mild-mannered guitar player who had devised a magical new sound known as ‘crown music’.

Anthony quit the film industry in 1965 to avail of a travelling grant from Syracuse University in upstate New York. He became a member of the American Society of Composers, Publishers and Authors after moving to the United States in 1958.

He departed at the height of his popularity and, even after he returned from America a decade later, never swung his baton again. In fact, he scarcely bothered to let his former colleagues know that he was back.

He later came back to Goa and settled in his hometown of Majorda. Although he continued to compose songs he never joined the Film Industry again.

Anthony Gonsalves breathed his last on 18 January 2012 at The Goa Medical College at the age of 84. His death was caused due to his battle with pneumonia.

Stay tuned for another eminent Goan Personality to be featured next week! 🙂  

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1 thought on “Eminent Goan Personality – Anthony Gonsalves”

  1. I had no idea Anthony Gonsalves was a real person. Also, what great find about the source of the last part of the opening line! I enjoyed this post. Could you explain what a masala classic means, perhaps here or in a different post?

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