Sebastian Almeida with his new collection of guitars. (HT PHOTO)
Sebastian Almeida with his new collection of guitars. (HT PHOTO)

Goan guitarist rebuilds collection of rare guitars he lost in fire two years ago

  • Sebastian Almeida's collection now stands at 82 guitars, 20 more than what he last had when he lost it all in the fire.
By Gerard de Souza
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2021 05:25 PM IST

What does one do when one loses an entire collection of rare and limited edition guitars -- many of them autographed by famous musicians painstakingly collected over the years?

For Sebastian Almeida, a guitarist and avid country music lover, he overcame his deep disappointment and instead set about rebuilding his collection.

Almeida, who is popularly known among friends and family as ‘Sabby’ lost a collection of 62 guitars in a fire that ravaged his studio in Socorro in North Goa. The wood paneled studio was reduced to ashes and took with it several limited edition guitars. Among those was a limited edition diamond studded 60th anniversary Stratocaster guitar made by Fender Music Instruments Corporation, USA. It was one among 1954 guitars that were made worldwide in 2014 to commemorate 60 years of the iconic Stratocaster guitar that first made its debut in 1954.

Almeida also lost another limited edition guitar that had its metal parts including keys flats plated with 20 microns gold and which too had been released as part of a commemorative anniversary.

Other guitars he lost included a Les Paul 120th anniversary edition as well as guitars autographed by singers like Charley Pride, an American Guitarist and Baseball player, the Bellamy Brothers and Keith Urban, an Australian singer and songwriter.

“I had built my collection over three decades with the help of my friend who used to work at a guitar shop in Muscat (Oman) and every time a limited edition guitar was introduced he used to give me a heads up and ask me if I wanted one. It also included the very first guitar that was gifted to me by then girlfriend who is today my wife,” says Almeida who is in his mid-50s.

“Each of the guitars would have cost 3-4 lakh in today’s market price. Not a trace of the guitars or the diamonds was found,” Almeida told HT.

Almeida said he was initially heartbroken and didn’t hope to rebuild his collection.

“Only about six guitars which were with me in my practise room did we manage to save and the rest were all destroyed. It was my friends who encouraged me to restart the collections and started keeping an eye out for rare guitars. I have also bought guitars from others who had rare guitars but were willing to sell since they needed the money,” Almeida said.

“Some of the guitars in the collection are not replaceable as those musicians who signed them are no longer alive, but I will have others” he said.

“If I have bought from a collector who was doing a distress sale especially a musician who was out of work during the pandemic I have told him that he can take it back at any time when things get better,” Almeida said.

But for several other guitars he got more than what he bargained for. After hearing of his lost guitar collection, the Bellamy Brothers, a famous country music troupe in America, signed guitars and other paraphernalia to be included as part of his collection.

Randy Hiebert, lead guitarist of Bellamy Brothers, posted another message: “Wow!!! I'm so blown away and honored by this my brother!!! Losing your entire collection was a heartbreaker for sure... but this, THIS is the way to heal it my friend! Beautiful display, thanks for the love Sabby!!”

Almeida’s tryst with music began during his younger days. Born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Almeida’s family moved back to Goa as part of the exodus of Goans from East Africa that coincided with the end of the British rule there and he went on to start and be part of several live music bands in Goa as well as in Muscat.

The collection now boasts of an oil can guitar from South Africa, guitars signed by friends and well wishers as well as the autographed guitars that he is collecting through visits to live performances wherever he can.

The collection now stands at 82 guitars, 20 more than what he last had when he lost it all in the fire. This time he hopes it is here to stay.

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