Anthony Gonsalves

Anthony Gonsalves – My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves

Can a boy of just 13 years of age play Violin like a professional and conduct a full Church Choir? Well, yes if he is Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves. Does this name sound familiar? Yes. He was the same Anthony Gonsalves who was paid tribute by his student and legendary composer Pyarelal Sharma in the song ‘My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves’ from Amar Akbar Anthony’ 1977. He was a child prodigy and talented beyond being the Choir Master. It was the 1930s time when British and Portuguese governments were still ruling in India and Films were not yet the ultimate entertainment in commoners’ lives. Ambitions took Anthony to Bombay and as they say, the rest was history.

Anthony Gonsalves Anthony Gonsalves came from a family of musicians. In his own words, “More than 400 years ago, my ancestors converted. As a teenager in Goa, I played western music with five bands. My father Jose Gonsalves had his own band called Universal and I learned Violin from him. I belong to a lineage of choirmasters. I was also musically attached to the church. Earlier, the Goan Churches were resounding with music. I had very sound training. My father used to run a conservatory, like a school. At 13, I was teaching my father’s students much older than me at the Chapels and Churches like Sanvorden and Castlerock. I was the choirmaster. At 16, I came into the Hindi film industry as a musician on 15th July 1943. I learned music in Bombay from Athel Atai, a very good musician. She taught me harmony. I left the industry in 1965 as I left for the USA”

That was a brief of his life story before coming to Bombay but what it did and contributed to Hindi Film Industry had an impact that lasted for five decades.

He could used to write music pieces and integrate them to make a complete score for the song in western staff notations. Moreover, He also learned Indian Classical Music and developed techniques to write Indian Classical Music pieces in staff notations and harmonize them with western music pieces. This was the most difficult job to do and he achieved it eight decades ago. It is sufficient testimony of his caliber that Pyarelal Sharma, of Laxmikant Pyarelal duo, who is considered to be the best arranger of the country still speaks of him in awe and both he and Laxmikant have played as musicians in the 1958 Symphony Concert organized by Anthony Gonsalves to showcase the blending of Indian and Western Music.

Anthony Gonsalves

In the early ’40s, when Anthony Gonsalves began arranging music for composers, there was no ‘Chord System’ being followed in the composition. Chord System is basically adding the Chords (three notes playing together to complement the melody) to melodies inappropriate places. It would make the song more harmonious musically. He introduced the system to prepare chord charts for the melody and even placed the various instruments’ pieces in the entire structure of the song. Putting together Prelude, Sthayi, Interludes, Antara, and Cadence would make the whole composition complete. Writing the complete music score of the song in this fashion around the tune composed by the composer was his style. He developed and set this system of music arrangement that was popularized and followed by arrangers in the next fifty years in the film industry.

Anthony Gonsalves differentiated the music arrangement in Hindi Films from that of western symphonies. He wove the harmonic music pieces with tunes composed by music directors and added supportive chords that enhanced the beauty of the song. Coming from a Catholic family and having a background in pure western classical music, Anthony Gonsalves had no connection with the Indian Classical style of composing. However, he himself learned and studied the Indian Classical Music and nuances of Indian Instruments. He used to compose music pieces and write notations for all musicians, western or Indian so that they would play by the book and in harmony. Writing staff notations (style of writing music notations in western theory) for Indian musicians like Sitarists, Sarod Players and Flautists was his great achievement.

Anthony Gonsalves YT ThumbnailHe had worked with all the music directors from the early ’40s till 1965 like Naushad, Shyam Sunder, Gulam Haider, Madan Mohan, S.D. Burman, Roshan, etc. Pyarelal Ji and Kersi Lord were his students and trained under his tutelage. He also wrote three books on Indian Instruments which are preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington DC. He also founded the Bombay Chamber of Orchestra and regularly played Violin for Yehudi Menuhin and Mehli Mehta in their symphonies. In 1958, he conceptualized and organized a fusion concert of Indo Western Music at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. This was one of its kind concert and many great musicians and artists who would make big in music in later years played in this concert. Laxmikant and Pyarelal were among them.

Upon the invitation of the Dean of the University of Music, Rockefeller Foundation, Syracuse, USA, Mr. Boatwright, and his wife, Anthony Gonsalves left for the USA and worked as a tutor of Indian Music at Syracuse University and as a Composer and Musician at Hollywood till 1983. He Came back to India in 1983 and never returned to the film industry. Having been discovered by Team Swar Aalap, he was publicly felicitated by Swar Aalap in Mumbai at a program in 2010. Post-retirement, he settled in his village Majorda, Goa. He spent a very quiet and peaceful life till he said goodbye to this world in 2012.

Some Outstanding Songs with Anthony Gonsalves Arrangement:

Baithi Hoon Teri Yaad Ka – Village Girl’ 45 – Shyam Sundar  |  Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De – Pahli Nazar’ 45 – Anil Biswas  |  Zamaane Ka Dastoor Hai Yeh – Lajwaab’ 50 – Anil Biswas  |  Chhalak Raha Hai – Dholak’ 51 – Shyam Sundar  |  Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan – Taraana’ 51 – Anil Biswas  |  Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan – Jaal’ 52 – SD Burman  |  ‘All Songs’ – Do Beegha Zameen’ 53 – Salil Chowdhary  |  Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein – Pyasa’ 57 – Sd Burman

Some Memorable Songs Wherein Anthony Gonsalves Played Violin:

Saawan Ke BAadlon – Ratan’ 44 – Naushad  |  Saanjh Ki Bela – Jwaar Bhaata’ 44 – Anil Biswas  |  Awaz De Kahaan Hai – Anmol Ghadi’ 46 – Naushad  |  Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi – Anmol Ghadi’ 46 – Naushad  |  Dil Mera Toda – Majboor’ 48 – Master Ghulam Hyder  |  Jiya Beqaraar Hai – Barsaat’ 49 – Shankar-Jaikishan  |  Aayega Aanewala – Mahal’ 49 – Khemchand Prakash  |  Taraari Araari Araari – Dastaan’ 50 – Naushad  |  Saiyaan Dil Mein Aana Re – Bahaar’ 51 – Sd Burman  |  BAchpan Ki Muhabbat Ko – Baiju Bawra’ 52 – Naushad  |  Aaja Re Ab Mera Dil Pukaara – Aah’ 53 – Shankar-Jaikishan  |  Shan-E-Gham Ki Kasam – Footpath’ 53 – Khayyam  |  Chhota Sa Ghar Hoga – Naukri’ 54 – Salil Chowdhary

Movies Background Music arrangement by Anthony Gonsalves: 

Dholak’ 51 | Bujdil’ 51 | Jaal’ 52 | Alif Laila ’53 | Do Beegha Zamen’ 53 | Footpath’ 56 | Gateway of India’ 57

Anthony Gonsalves N3Anthony Gonsalves N2Anthony Gonsalves N1

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Comments (12)


    Thank you Kunal for this write-up!

    Nobody in this country can ever dare to think of getting a “hard-on-hearing” Anthony Saab to a show in Bombay and do what Swar Aalap did in the year 2010 !!

    Zabardast & Kudos to the Swar Aalap team !!!

    16 June 2021 at 9:57 am
    • Amit Mehta Reply

      Fantastic in-depth information of the best Music Arranger, Hindi Film industry ever had.
      Keep it up Kunal!

      16 June 2021 at 6:19 pm
  • Vineet shrivastav Reply

    Our Hindi cine music industry has mainly 5 states of transformation.
    1st was monophonic, then 2nd was homophonic. This 2nd state architect was definitely Mr. Anthony Gonsalvis. He could blend the Indian melodies with harmonizing and made them homophobic.

    16 June 2021 at 12:38 pm
  • Nikki bhalla Reply

    Amazing work .. a delight to read and know such great legends have played such outstanding music

    16 June 2021 at 2:00 pm
  • Mukund Deshpande Reply

    Very rare information about unsung hero of Golden Era of music, Great

    16 June 2021 at 2:28 pm
  • Vijaya Sailopal Reply

    Outstanding write up. Amazing information of a legendary musician. Thanks so much.
    Kudos to the SwarAalap Team ?

    16 June 2021 at 4:29 pm
    • Padmanabh Joshi Reply

      Very well written feature which described the musical journey of a great Arranger. It is a pity that India had marvelous musician who contributed remarkably in Film Music but none tried to learn the master art. I pay my Heartfelt Tribute to the Great Arranger.

      17 June 2021 at 8:59 am
  • Deepa Gupta Reply

    Amazing information on a rare gem!
    He was indeed incredible.

    16 June 2021 at 9:51 pm
  • Meeta Mehra Reply

    Swar Aalap founder Dinesh had Organised a Lovely Show on Music Arranger Anthony Gonsalves… This show was One of the Best Show Ever that I had attended from the Swar Aalap shows.. The Songs The story The Anecdotes The Interviews The Dignitaries that attended each and everything was Par Excellence ?. Great Going Swar Aalap Keep it Up Dinesh jee. Your contribution to the Yester Years Artists is Commendable ???

    17 June 2021 at 2:09 pm
  • पंकज जैन Reply

    Really the info matter is worth reading, thnx dinesh bhai

    21 June 2021 at 1:24 am
  • Nickey Reply

    Brilliant and Enlightening write up. Hindi film music will be ever indebted to Anthony Gonsalves for instilling one of the major revolution in the style of arranging a Song and background score. His name will be written at the top in history of Hindi films music

    21 June 2021 at 3:20 pm
  • Ashok Naimpally Reply

    Great to read Anthony Gonsalves’s story. I was at Syracuse University from 1969 to 1985, but did not know about Anthony Gonsalvez then. Wish I had met him.

    18 September 2021 at 11:25 am

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