Meet the man who plays over 20 musical instruments

Aug 01, 2015, 08:30 IST | Nirmika Singh

Goa born and Mumbai based, Jose Neil Gomes doesn’t believe in being proficient in one or two musical instruments. This Indie wonder boy, who can play nearly two dozen instruments, is ready with his debut EP, Systematic

Jose Neil Gomes had almost given up music by the age of 12. He had been learning the violin since he was eight, against his wishes and on the insistence of his music teacher, but couldn’t take it any longer.

Jose Neil Gomes with some of the instruments that he plays; (From left to right) Melodica, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, didgeridoo (in hand), nylon guitar, concert flute and saxophone. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Jose Neil Gomes with some of the instruments that he plays; (From left to right) Melodica, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, didgeridoo (in hand), nylon guitar, concert flute and saxophone. Pics/Nimesh Dave

“As a kid, it sucked visually,” admits the 28-year-old musician, who grew up in Goa and is today known as one of the most prodigious multi-instrumentalists in the country.

Jose Neil Gomes with the cello and other instruments at his home in Andheri. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Jose Neil Gomes with the cello and other instruments at his home in Andheri. Pic/Nimesh Dave

He plays around two dozen musical instruments from the orthodox ones like the piano, violin, guitar, cello, viola, flute, saxophone, clarinet, to others such as accordion, glockenspiel, blues harp, melodica, among many others.

Music to his ears
The musical turnaround happened a few years later when he joined an institution that promoted different forms of art. “This is where I picked up the piano, cello and other instruments.

I dabbled in classical, choral and chamber music for the seven years I was there,” he says from his home in Andheri (W). Interestingly, when Gomes moved to Mumbai for higher studies, he’d hardly heard anything of Blues, Jazz, Rock and Pop.

He credits his BMM stint at St Xavier’s College for having opened him to a world of new music. “There are was so much happening festivals, events and the likes which I got into,” he says. It’s also the time when he began playing in a few bands, and took up private tuitions to help him buy expensive instruments and equipment.

“I would get fascinated with the instruments on display at Furtados at Metro Junction, Dhobi Talao. I’d head home, research on the instrument, and pick it up at the end of the month with the money I’d made from teaching,” recalls Gomes, who has been part of successful Indie bands like Tough On Tobacco, Kailasa, Hipnotribe, Vasuda Sharma Band.

Going solo
He is now looking forward to his debut solo record, which releases today. The EP, titled Systematic, features three tracks — In My House, Fire and Harmless Lion. It spans an eclectic sonic territory — a guitar-heavy production, interspersed with infectious old-school grooves, crisp bass lines and deviant hooks.

The recording was done in guerrilla-style, even as Gomes juggled concerts tours, studio sessions and gigs. The drums were recorded in the drummer’s bedroom. Fire was recorded on borrowed guitar, while Harmless Lion came to shape thanks to the guitar pedals that a friend had lent him. It was Indie in the truest sense.

With the release of Systematic, Gomes the musician is setting in motion a unique style of releasing music where he will be unveiling a new EP every month for the next one year. “I have about 81 songs recorded in my laptop,” he reveals. All of them are the labour of love of five years of guerrilla recordings.

Why release the music in monthly-regulated, deadline-oriented EPs and not in fewer full-length albums? “I’ve always hated deadlines; I was always the study-last-day-before-the-exams kind of student. So I wanted to have these deadlines so I can put out all the music that is in my head,” he says.

The title of the record is also reflective of the young musician’s staunch anti-capitalist ideals, which he has been consistently advocating on his social media profiles. “In a world where a capitalist minority, is ‘systematically’ corroding the culture-the biggest expression of free will, and freethinking, the EP is merely an observation of the over-dependence on the ‘systematic’,”he opines.

Connect, collaborate
Systematic also features many interesting collaborations with some of India’s most talented musicians drummer Vibhas ‘Titu’ Rahul, producer Pruth Parab and bass player Manas Chowdhary.

Jacket of Systematic
Jacket of Systematic

“Also, (guitarist) Sanjay Divecha has been generous with his musical knowledge,” adds Gomes, who’s chosen a humble DIY-style release because his inspirations came from people who followed pretty much that model. In the Internet age, Gomes feels it is hard not to be inspired by all the music around, “YouTube is very inspiring,” he says.

The young musician will be putting his track out for free download on SoundCloud every month, and is in no hurry to find a business model to monetise them. He is working on his live project though, where he’d bring his recordings to the stage and feature other musicians too.

From the playlist

1. Acoustic guitar
2. Nylon guitar 
3. Electric guitar 
4. Keyboard 
5. Saxophone 
6. Trumpet
7. Clarinet 
8. Glockenspiel 
9. Didgeridoo 
10. Violin 
11. Viola 
12. Cello
13. Blues harp
14. Melodica 
15. Piano 
16. Bongo 
17. Cajon 
18. Concert flute 
19. Djembe
20. Ukelele

Playing favourites
Of the staggering number of instruments that Jose Neil Gomes plays, the violin and piano are his first loves, so the long-term connect is with both. “Violin, more so, because it’s my travelling buddy. However, the guitar has been a close companion in the past five years of songwriting,” he shares.

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