15 Sep 2019  |   05:38am IST

From Benaulim to Berlin, Goa's globe-trotting star!

It's been an enriching sojourn around the world for 33-year-old Jose Neil Gomes and there are still miles to go. The multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, who is presently touring Berlin and winning accolades along the way, wants to pay tributes to his roots and his native language Konkani. KARSTEN MIRANDA catches up with the Benaulim boy, who has impressed many with his original music and has shared the stage with several renowned artistes  
From Benaulim to Berlin, Goa's globe-trotting star!

hen a young Jose Neil Gomes decided to join the seminary, little did he know that his true calling would take him on a different journey altogether.

For instance, over the last decade itself, Jose has been playing at prestigious venues like Royal Albert Hall, Apollo Hammersmith, O2 Arena, Nokia Theatre and others, in every corner of the world - USA, Canada, Europe, England, Australia, Caribbean Islands, Africa, Asia,.... the list goes on.

While these have mostly been with his various bands, last year has been a special one for the boy who grew up in Benaulim, and whose dream was to get to play his own music.

And currently, he is doing just that, in Germany, the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Poland.

"The thrill is unmatchable, to observe the audience reactions, to connect with people who have grown up in a completely different environment than I have. There's been a lot of exchange of ideas, and tonnes of learning," says the thirty-three-year-old.

One of Jose's strongest traits is his inclination to follow his instincts and always take a chance on what feels right.

His latest musical adventure began in a similar way.

When folk music in Ladakh gave him the chills

"I got the opportunity to work on the music of a film called 'Inderella', by a Berlin-based film crew. I got invited to travel to Ladakh with them and to record almost 25 rare folk artistes from all across Ladakh. It was a humbling experience, recording in the historic and culturally rich Leh Palace," adds the multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer.

Now, in Germany, he has been working with a talented musician, who he had  met during those recordings - Tobias Feltes. Together, they are coming out with an album that promises to be his best yet and they plan to release it on the global concert circuit.

"That's the power of music. It brings everybody together, everything together," quips Jose.

A chance encounter with Konkani

The same can be said about his other collaborations, like the one with French legend Erik Truffaz, who had a mesmerising show in Goa along with Jose at the International Jazz Live Festival at Bogmalo.

Much to the surprise of the audience, Jose chose the occasion to experiment with Konkani verses in the jazz set and the response was spectacular.

"This was new and informative as I have usually been associated with almost every other genres like pop, rock, blues, funk, drum and bass, electronic music," he reflects.

Such was the impact, that it helped Jose discover more about his innate musicality and inspired him to dedicate an album to the State he proudly calls home.

"Just as ‘GMFL' was a tribute to Bombay, my upcoming album 'Queen of Spades, 'is a tribute to Goa. All the nostalgia attached to Goa, especially after having stayed away from it, is what creates the base for this album, and all the emotions it invokes. It's a really warm sounding album with mostly guitars and horns, and sweet melodies," says Jose.

Moving to the city of dreams

GMFL, stands for Google Maps for Lovers and encompasses his time in Mumbai, the city he moved to from Goa to pursue his higher education and a place that provided him a platform and helped shape his career.

"More than anything, the intention behind making the album, was to celebrate the 'Unity in diversity' that Bombay offers and all the clarity amidst the chaos that it provides. And as I said earlier, the people, musicians, artistes that inspired me, all of whom I met in Bombay,” adds the St Xavier's College-Mumbai alumni.

He calls himself lucky, when asked to talk about how it felt to have played with countless gifted artistes like Kailash Kher, Sunidhi Chauhan, Rajakumari, Sneha Khanwalkar, Papon, Paresh and Naresh Kamath, Kurt Peters, amongst others.

A life full of ‘original' albums

Incidentally, GMFL, his debut album has been well received in the country and internationally, and has gathered critical acclaim and a healthy following for ‘Stitch in Nine' – his song-writing outlet and a project he had initiated nine years ago.

In between these two, Jose had released a few EPs (extended play records), which certainly whetted his appetite.

When asked what spurred him to try his hand at original music, Jose said it was just a matter of time. At this point, he had played 2,000-odd shows in India and abroad with innumerable set-ups and bands, while also recording for a great number of jingles and background scores for popular Bollywood films.

"All this travelling and the music that it exposed me to, helped in my learning process. It got me attached to folk music in a big way. So much so that I wanted to travel on my own and explore folk music around the world, while making my own music and producing it," he says.

Since then, Jose has been working on several albums and next in line is 'Safe with me', with the ambient electronic producer - Riatsu.

"It's my first full-blown electronic album, and I'm quite excited to be leaning towards the electronic sound, which is different from all these years of playing acoustic music," adds Jose.

And it doesn't end there.  Two of the bands he is involved with, 'Boombay Djembe Folas', who  played at the Serendipity Festival in Goa and the soul, funk, jazz outfit - Hipnotribe, will be releasing albums soon.

With so much on his plate in the country alone, it seemed like a task, to travel and push the envelope.

"As the world gets smaller by the day, owing to the internet connectivity and the power of technology, it seems natural that I would want to perform outside India. Playing as many festivals as possible, to completely different audiences, and different cultures, and making the most of the year,” adds Jose.

Giving back and taking Goa higher

He may be passionately bogged down by assignments, but Jose always takes time to visit home. Hailing from Pequeno Pulvaddo, next to Patrocino Chapel, he was born and brought up in Pedda Grande Benaulim.

The son of Francis and Aurora Gomes, his childhood memories left an indelible mark on him. It has been his longest wish to represent the Goan identity and uniqueness to the rest of the country and the world, breaking the ‘susegado' and other stereotypes.

"I want to raise awareness among the youth in Goa, about preservation and love of our unique culture, art and especially our language- Konkani," adds Jose.

It is a refreshing outlook, for someone visiting the State from abroad. Elaborating on this perspective, Jose says it's important as “capitalism and globalisation threaten to eliminate and dilute unique, rich cultures, and replace it with dull, generic, hegemonic subcultures and non-diverse cultures”.

On this note, he speaks about his plans to set up a Goan traditional, folk music troupe with contemporary production that can travel to folk music festivals all across the world, and then record and produce albums with this troupe.

Another project that is close to his heart is his desire to conduct workshops in the State, on the revolutionary impact of rap music.

"We can use our own language, to make strong rhymes and make impactful Konkani rap music that's indigenous and contemporary, reaches out to everyone, and points out the evils prevailing in our society, while also uplifting and empowering people," adds Jose.

Noting that there are some popular rap artistes in the State, Jose said he is very interested in working with them, getting to know their flow, their perspective and what they have to say about Goa through their rhymes.

"It will be a dream to have at least a handful of powerful Konkani rappers make it big on the world stage, and let the world know about Goa's uniqueness and also it's quickly eroding charm," adds Jose.

He also has plans of opening a recording studio, through which he can guide local budding musicians and bands that want to record and produce their music.

For him, it all goes back to how it all started, given that his tryst with music began in Goa.

He attended solfeggio and violin classes when he was barely 9 years old, with the late Xavier Noronha, on the insistence of his dad. However, it was during his seven years at the seminary, where he understood the idea of harmony through all the choral and orchestral music he was a part of, as well as the intricacy of classical and chamber music. It was here, that he added the piano, viola, cello, guitar, ukelele, mandolin, flute to his vast repertoire, which later helped him pick up the clarinet, harmonica, and saxophone among other instruments.

Like everything in his life, he is thankful for the foundations that have helped propel him forward to his next destination.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar