Monday, July 4, 2011

Unsung Heroes of Indian Pop: Joe Gomes and Enoch Daniels

Van Shipley, Talat Mahmood and Enoch Daniels

Among the many dazzling stars and singers and musical directors who have some name recognition in the West is a small (relatively) group of amazing musicians who though unknown to all but industry insiders were hugely influential. In large part they were Christians, often from Goa, who had been educated in convents and were taught western classical, jazz and pop as youngsters.

Between the 1940s and 1970s, many musicians came to Mumbai, like moths drawn to the flame, for it was here that the grand and prolific studios were hungry for new talent, ideas and sounds. Many of these musicians made their names as trumpet players, accordion squeezers, pluckers of guitars of all types and saxophone blowers.

A recent play called ‘Jazz’ toured India’s major metropolitan centers and drew some very belated attention on these musicians and their contribution to making the world famous Bollywood sound. The play  makes a sardonically humorous dig at legendary music maestros like Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shanker-Jaikishan, O.P. Nayyar and R.D. Burman and shows how the Goans not only played and arranged film soundtracks for meagre incomes but also taught the nuances of western music to the composers. The play is about many issues apart from the sense of suffering of the musicians or the travesty of talent. It is also about tracing back the decaying history of Bombay or Mumbai as it is now called and the mentor-protege relationship.

Tonight’s post focuses on Joe Gomes, a Goan saxophone player and Enoch Daniels, an accordion player from Pune.
Joe Gomes, C Ramachandra, John Gomes
Almost nothing is available about Joe Gomes except that he was one of the many ‘jazz’ musicians in the Mumbai studios who with his brother John were sought after for their work on the saxophone, clarinet  and violin. They had a particularly close relationship with the music director, C Ramachandra, composer of the massive  1957 Asha Bhosle / Kishore Kumar hit, Eena Meena Deeka. It was one of the Hindi cinema's first’ rock and roll’ numbers. The words of the song were inspired by kids playing outside composer C. Ramchandra's music room. The kids were chanting "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe", which inspired Ramchandra and his assistant John Gomes to create first line of the song, "Eena Meena Deeka, De Dai Damanika". Gomes, who was a Goan, added the words "Maka naka" (Konkani for "I don't want"). They kept on adding more nonsense rhymes till they ended with "Rum pum po!"

Enoch Daniels was born in 1933 in Pune, and raised in a musical family (all six brothers played an instrument), with religious and church music playing an important role in his early years. He received musical instruction as a student on the local church organ but was also keen on percussion. He assembled a make-shift drum kit consisting of wooden boxes, metal tins, brass plates to substitute cymbals with, a chest of drawers which served as a bass drum, and a kettle drum.

As a student of the Nowrosjee Wadia College in Pune, academics took a backseat, since Enoch was gaining popularity with his regular appearances on stage as a performer.
Mohammad Rafi and Enoch Daniels compare notes

The need for a 'portable' instrument in the relative absence of pianos at venues resulted in the purchase of a piano accordion, an instrument which was received well by audiences. The accordion was a relatively unknown instrument in India at that time, and Enoch was one the first exponents of this instrument here. In 1953, he was selected to represent Pune University at the All India Youth Festival in New Delhi. Discarding his idea of joining the Indian Army he packed his bags and sought his future in the film industry in Bombay.

After an initial period of hardship, his first break came when he performed with the Hawaiian guitarist Van Shipley in 1955, with whom he performed scores of shows country wide, as well as internationally. Live performances kept Enoch busy through most of the 60's and 70's. He was a member of some of the first Indian troupes that performed abroad such as: 45 shows in East Africa alongside Talat Mahmood, C.H. Atma & Van Shipley, with Manna Dey in Mauritius, with Mohammed Rafi in the West Indies, with Talat Mahmood in the U.S.A. and Canada, with Kishore Kumar in South Africa; and was part of the first Indian film troupe to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, London, led by Lata Mangeshkar.

Besides his performing career, Enoch has been a busy arranger and sessions musician in the film industry in Bombay. He has worked with prominent music directors such as S.D. Burman, C. Ramchandra, Shanker and Jaikishen, Vasant Desai and O.P. Nayar.

Golden Sax is a collaboration between Gomes and Daniels and is a late 70’s collection of recent film hits. It was offered to the emerging pop-influenced music market and is a rare find.  It is the sort of music one heard in ‘cool’ eateries and 5 star hotels in Indian cities at that time of history.

         Track Listing:
01.   Arey Diwano Mujhi Pechano
02.   O Saathi Re
03.   Maana Ho Tum
04.   Yeh Mera Dil Yaar Ka Diwana
05.   Kya Hua Tera Wada
06.   Aankhiyon ki Jharkanon Se
Listen here


Rebecca said...

Do you think we heard some of their music at Ginza's restaurant in Chowk? Or at El Chico's in Civil Lines?!
Thanks for another great music history lesson, Nate.

ajnabi said...

Probably! Definitely at the intermission at Rialto cinema.