John Anthony Gomes
(December 12, 1927 — December 17, 2003)
John Gomes’ contribution to music in India was not in the role of a performer or teacher. He often said, the only music he could “play” was the gramophone. Rather, it was through his print music and musical instrument shops, Furtados, that he played a significant role in the development and promotion of Western music and music education in India.
John purchased B X Furtado & Sons in 1953, and L M Furtado & Co (the print music business) in 1959. Both were founded in 1865 and, whereas they had enjoyed a successful past and a well-respected reputation, the climate for business, especially in Western musical instruments and printed music, was far from conducive in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite many hardships, including the complete prohibition of imports of musical instruments during this period, John persevered with the music business. The few competitors to Furtados all closed shop, and he was aware that there were no other importers even interested in taking the risks associated with this small and limited market. Diversify, he did, into the retailing of sporting goods and the running of a very successful printing press which generated most of his income, but the music department always received careful attention and maximum resources despite its modest returns. There was a time in the 1980s, at the time of the foreign exchange crunch, when Furtados was compelled to deposit 200% of the value of each of its book imports as margin money with the government in order to be able to import music books, especially examination music, on which music students all over the country were so dependant.
Even today, Furtados is one of the only print music businesses in the world to price its books at the Rupee equivalent of the foreign currency price, without marking up any further margins as is the practice in other countries – a policy adopted and proudly implemented by John from the very beginning. He realised that printed music was anyway expensive, so he did his very best to make it as affordable as possible for students of music in India.
John Gomes is awarded honorary membership of Trinity College in 1987.
It was in the same spirit that he accepted the responsibility as Local Representative of the Mumbai Centre of the prestigious Trinity College of Music, London (now Trinity College London). He diligently and dynamically administered the music and drama practical and written examinations for many years, in recognition of which he was honoured with Honorary Membership of the College in 1987.
Liberalisation of the Indian economy in the early 1990s opened up new avenues and opportunities for Western music in our country. Imports were now permitted, albeit at rather prohibitive duties, and, under John's leadership, Furtados took the initiative in the imports of a wide range of musical instruments and accessories from all the major manufacturers of the world at reasonable and affordable prices. It continues to play a leading role in the supply of music materials and in the support of music education in our country.
In 2003, just a few days before his passing away, he was decorated with the Stop Gaps Cultural Academy “Lifetime Achievement Award”, the only such award for Western music in our country, presented in appreciation and acknowledgement of his service to music and music education in India.
Today, the future for Western music in India is both positive and challenging, and, for John Gomes, this would have been all the rewards and accolades he could ever have wanted.