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Anant Kapadiya - Bringing Indian Musical Maestros to Kuwait for decades

Malini Viswanath Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Anant Kapadiya - Bringing Indian Musical Maestros to Kuwait for decades

This special supplement is dedicated to the Indo-Kuwait collaboration through Music. Keeping this main theme in view, IIK thought it best to bring two titans in their own fields together for a tete-a-tete session.

To add spice to the session IIK requested one titan - exponent of Carnatic Music Mrs. Malini Viswanath based in Kuwait and the founder and Creative Director of Raag N Rythm to be an interviewer of Mr.Ananth Kapadiya, the big figure in corporate world in Kuwait and uncrowned ambassador of Indianmusic in Kuwait.

Read on as the two titans converse with variety vigor and virtuoso.

MV) The name `Anant, in Sanskrit Suggests limitless, We would like to know how and from where you derive your seamless energy to continue to bring Maestros to Kuwait over the last few decades. Of course very few would know that you have Driven the Bharat Ratna (the one and only LATAJEE) to Niagara Falls (as Latajee hummed the immortal melodies of Rafi and Mukesh...certainly a dream!) and have eagerly awaited to see `Kishore Da’ (the legendary Kishore Kumar) come out of the gates of his home in Mumbai to meet him!

AK) Yes sometimes I wonder so when I think retrospectively. My love for classical music and desire to promote the great classical and other genre of Artists from India kept me going strong irrespective of my business and other commitments. I always felt enlightened and blessed in the midst of these Great Legends performing for enthusiastic audiences. The atmosphere in the Auditorium gets charged with positive and spiritual energy and perhaps such environment generates in me the strength and the desire to go on and on. Listening to varied Ragas, be it in a classical concert or recorded version acts as food for the soul.

MV :)) How and when did this all begin…what kindled in your good self...the passion and the lean towards music,towards being a Rasika(Connoisseur) of all kinds(by that I mean you would love ` Latajee `’Kishore Daa’ `Ashaajee’ and also balance it with `Pandit Ravishankar’`Pandit Chaurasia’ `Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’and Ustad `Amjad Ali Khan Sahab’)

AK :)) Well it all began when I was growing. The home atmosphere helped me appreciate good music. My parents and grandfather were very musical and loved classical music. Even their choice of Film music was very selective, mostly based on classical ragas or dominantly melodic numbers. At a very young age we were exposed to classical concerts. The first ever concert I attended was that of Pt. Ravi Shankar which was in the year 1965 and that of Pt Chaurasia in the year 1968. They were so young and creative and the audiences were selective and small in number.

I was a very active student during my school and University days. Attended many small scale local musical concerts and started organizing concerts and shows with the help of student-artists and performers drawn from various schools and colleges. Organizing events became my passion and I never looked back. To this day I possess the same passion.

My University-days’ dream was to meet and promote the great artists of India be it classical or from the film industry. While in Engineering College at age 21 I was elected as the President of the junior wing of Rotary Club of Hyderabad. And as Rotarians we were involved in many social and community activities. We had to raise funds for establishing free medical clinics in some villages by organizing Musical evenings and Fairs. And I had the privilege of being involved in organizing a concert featuring the legendary singer Mukesh, my favorite singer. The urge and desire to promote the other greats lingered and took shape in Kuwait. I had the privilege of promoting the legends including Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Chaurasia, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt, Dr L Subramanian, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Allah Rakha, Ustad Zakir Husain, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Shujat Khan, Pt Anindo Chaterjee, Pt Subhankar Bannerjee, Yogesh Samsi, Vijay Ghate, Bhawani Shankar, etc and the younger maestros like Niladri Kumar, Rakesh Chaurasia, Kala Ramnath,Purbayan Chatterji, Shashank Subramanian etc. My desire to promote many more persists. I also enjoyed the privilege of bringing to the Gulf countries artists from the film and Ghazal industry including Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Mahinder Kapoor, Suresh Wadkar, Hariharan, Jagjit Singh, Anup Jalota, Pankaj Udhas etc. on various occasions. Earlier I had organized elaborate concert tours of these artists in other GCC countries taking them from one country to the other. It was a very daunting and challenging task to coordinate the concerts in different countries especially when communication was so basic and flights so infrequent and facilities inadequate. The range of promotions included Ballets including Bolshoi Ballet, Red Army Music & Dance Ensemble from Soviet Union, Kiev Ballet, Hema Malini in Ballet and Plays featuring Shabana Azmi, Paresh Rawal. Vienna Boy’s Choir, Eaton College Choir was also promoted.

MV :)) Whow! That reads like a ` Dream list’!

Why were you driven more towards organizing and, not performing, since you have a good voice and of course all the right influences. Should I infer, that, it was your innate desire to lead, to excel and at the same time...sub consciously move with the `Legends’ and know them intimately!

AK :)) Even as I was very young may be 10 yrs...I would see events being organized, but at that age too...i felt that it was not properly designed.I always felt, events should be well crafted, and free from glitches and should always focus on content and talent.I thought I could delve into this...if and only if I organized with my own thoughts and synergy...thus arose the passion to get into the organizer cum conceptualiser’s boots! And not only that... (On a lighter note who does not adore adulation? coming from all ...especially girls in college?)(And coincidentally I met my future wife, a gold medallist in Bharatnatyam during one such fete...)So during college days I often savored the thought of being `The one in limelight’s during such events we could go up to the Governor and the CM as Patrons...and let me say..`That was a big thing those days....’Later on ,most certainly, organizing brought me closer,both emotionally and intrinsically to the legends like Latajee,Kishore daa,Ashajee,Rishikapoor..To mention just some from a huge list... (And to date we share mutual love and cordiality)

On a personal front...I had a lean towards discipline, my father being a disciplinarian himself.I had been an active scout during school days, very active in NCC...had represented my state in Delhi as the best Cadet ,and eventually went on to win the third best cadet laurel countrywise,and even performed for the then President Zakir Hussain..These influences moved with me always…

MV :)) Those days, active youth leaders would end up joining politics, but despite being one, you chose otherwise...
AK :)) Happily so...that I avoided politics and instead chose to lead by being an event curator...feeling blessed.

MV :)) How were the early organizing days in Kuwait and the hurdles thereby?
AK :)) In Kuwait during the early 1980s, business was dull with the Iraq Iran crisis. I had some spare time at hand. That was when, I thought of organizing musical concerts. I had faced very many difficulties and hurdles during the organizing process. As I mentioned earlier poor communication, infrequent flights, venues and other facilities, obtaining Ministry Permissions were a big task. I used to organize at the Andalus Theatre, owned by the National Cinema Company, Kuwait. Handling prominent Artists is a very sensitive issue as they tend to get annoyed spontaneously. I had to ensure that they were very comfortable with their travel, hotel stay, local transport, press conference, News Paper publicity, Venue, Sound System and most importantly payment of their Fees as agreed. And they had no issues to complain about.
The very first concert featuring Lataji was the trigger and motivation for me to continue with my efforts. It was an experience of my life! In 1982/1983 tour of Lataji the entry tickets got sold like pancakes! KD 50 ticket was being sold for KD 100 and there were takers. Two shows in Kuwait were completely sold out in a matter of three to four days and same was the case in other Gulf countries. Her arrival for concerts created a festive atmosphere with the Indian community. Overnight Anant Kapadiya received recognition from the music loving community in Kuwait and also in the Bombay Film Industry. Many a time I would get requests from other prominent Artists to bring them to the Gulf and this persists even to this date.

MV :)) Memorable moments with the `legends’!!
AK :)) If I attempt sharing all the interesting experiences, anecdotes and hurdles during my life’s journey of promoting various artists it can make a fat book of at least 200 pages and may turn out to be a best seller. But I would refrain from getting into every detail of my observation of their private lives, habits, whims and behavior of the artist as I respect and like them immensely.
Lata Mangeshkar was the most professional of all. We had to plan her tours 6 to 8 months in advance as she would ensure that the concerts were perfect and enjoyable. Her Sound Engineer would fly in to check out the venues and the sound system and approve for her acceptance of the shows. She was highly disciplined and made sure that her musicians and co-singers were equally so. Very honest and dedicated to her commitments. After the completion of the concert she would be a relaxed and jovial person, a very different Lata Mangeshar indeed.
The most “Bindaas” artist was Kishore Kumar. He was such a talented singer and performer that one would wonder how he could take the crowd along with him. As a person he was very witty, sensitive but unpredictable. Very proud of his talent but simple in his approach and attitude. Some of the common musicians felt very relaxed with him. With Lataji and Ashaji the same musicians were highly disciplined and “in control”. They were not allowed to leave the hotel until the shows were over. However with Kishore Da we had to wait for the musicians to return to the hotel from shopping on the day of the show. He had no practice sessions with musicians in the hotel where as Lataji and Ashaji did.
Ashaji was a great singer/performer. Her teaming up with R D Burman on the stage was impeccable. Two greats together made the show unbeatable. She was different from Lataji. Always relaxed, funny and talkative. Liked to try out food from different restaurants/cafes irrespective of the size of the eating joint. A very easy artist to deal with. In the Press Conferences Lataji always praised Ashaji’s talent, variety and range of her singing while Ashaji considered Lataji as the greatest singer ever. It was so interesting to notice the sisters praising each other on public platform.
Legends from the film industry are so different from Classical Musicians and Ghazal singers. The latter are easier to deal with. Their requirements, demands, approach are simpler and easily manageable.
The purity of music makes the classical musicians simple, humble and great. I remember another incident. In Abu Dhabi Ashaji was scheduled to perform for a very large audience. She came to know from the News Paper that Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was in town. She requested me to contact him and extend invitation from Ashaji to be a guest for her show. At the show she told me she was feeling nervous to sing in his presence and made it public by acknowledging his presence and announcing that she felt very nervous to sing in front of a legend and said to him “if I make any mistakes in singing please ignore it “On one occasion in Kuwait, Ashaji publicly acknowledged Ustad Zakir Hussain’s musical virtuosity ….

MV :))) With Bollywood knowing `Anant Kapadiya’...Most certainly you would have met the one and only `Shahenshah: Amitabh Bachchan’...sometime?
AK :)) Yes...Indeed...Once I was with the famed duo`Kalyanji Anandji’ in Bombay when Amitabh Bachchan walked into their rehearsal room...and as the Duo introduced me to him Amitji started enquiring about Kuwait and its neighbours. Later In 1997...Amitabh Bachchan graciously accepted my Invitation to Kuwait for a mega Hollywood Musical evening (for about 15,000 audiences) with Kalyanji Anandji and 80 other artists. As the event was meant for the noble cause of bringing general awareness of the dangers of drugs, sponsored by Kuwait Cancer and Anti Drug Society ,Amitji offered to do the event free of charge. Sadly the project had to be shelved after preparations were made, due to developing tension in the region in the following weeks.

MV :)) Did you feel at any time in your life that getting to learn from these great artists...changed your life and your life’s objectives? Did you feel the change in you as a person..?
Since, being a musician myself...I feel with each concert I grow, internally and feel more and more humbled by the vast expanse of culture that our music offers...

AK :)) Observing the legends from very close quarters taught me a great deal. Travelling with them in tours, spending weeks together, being present during their rehearsals, chit conversing with musicians at the dinner table taught me the range and nuances of music. I appreciate all genres of music as long as they are musical be it from Indian Classical , Film , Sufi, Ghazals or Western Classical, Pop etc.I learnt from the artists their commitment, perseverance and sincerity to produce their best every time they went on to perform. At the end of the event they would ask me if I was satisfied with their performance. And at the end the tour they would enquire if I made it monetarily. It was admirable to note their concern for me as an Organizer/Promoter.
I would like to share an incident which happened with Lataji. We were having the last two shows of the tour at Dubai. After the first show to avoid the enthusiastic audience rushing to meet her and blocking her Limo I had organized a passage from the rear of the stage for her to get in quickly and move. But as the show was over and she walked to the Limo I saw people approaching the Limo. The driver somehow managed to flee and get to the Hotel. After returning to the Hotel around 11 PM we sat on the dining table when she enquired as to where her book of the lyrics was? And I had no idea. She enquired with everyone and it was missing. And there was another show next day. She asked me to find and get the book. We were not sure if the book was left behind on the stage or in the Limo. It was almost 12 midnight. She was tense and so were we! She insisted that she must have the book before she went to bed. The driver had gone home and the Auditorium was closed. I requested her to wait until the morning but she would not accept it. I enquired at the Hotel if anyone knew the driver’s home address. It was no no!! The driver worked for a Limo company and not the Hotel. At the end I went to the main entrance and the security guard on duty and he said he knew it. I requested the hotel to let him go with me in car to Sharjah (and we were in Dubai) where the driver resided. Picked up the book from the car and returned to her Suite in the Hotel.
She and other singers were waiting for me to return. It was almost 1.30 AM. She felt sorry for me and mentioned it. That was such a relaxing moment for her and all of us. After the next day’s (final show of the tour) it was time for celebration at the dinner with all the artists and musicians when, I was thanked for the efforts to make the shows happen. The following day they were to fly back to India. At the Airport it was time for her to get into the immigration area and I thanked her with a Namaste. She put her hands over mine and looked into my eyes and said “sorry if I made any mistakes or troubled/hurt you and that she should be pardoned for it”. That was a jolt to me. I choked and was speechless with tears in my eyes”.

MV :)) Let me leave the readers with those emotions!!!!!Undoubtedly,Nostlagia for Anantjee!!Yes indeed we a need a book to cover all your experiences...
On a concluding note, have India and Kuwait come closer with such musical exposures? When I collaborated with Kuwaiti State Artist, Abdul Aziz...he used to sing songs from Raj Kapoor’s Sangam...and also ended up performing Vande Mataram, in Desh raga and Raga Subha Pantuvarali with me…

AK :)) I believe Music has brought India-Kuwait closer. One can notice Kuwaitis attending our classical music concerts and enjoying it. Bollywood music has made a big impact on many Kuwaitis. One can hear them play Indian songs in their cars. Some of them have started singing Hindi songs publicly. Some musicians have incorporated our music in Arabic songs. Kuwaiti Musicians have sought our assistance in collaborating with Indian Musicians for joint projects.

MV :)) The...Optimist that you are …are you concerned about the future of our Cultural Values?
AK :)) There is immense talent around...But As Jagjit Singh and Ashajee, once remarked...`Aaj kal music value kamm aur showbaazi zyada hai, ’ Today's performers prefer loud and ear shattering sound to cover up their flaws and distract the audience to the visuals on stage’’

MV :)) May you continue with your `Anant’ synergy….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Malini Viswanath :Is a passionate Exponent of Carnatic Classical Art,who firmly believes Cultural tenets serve as the strength of a society. Malini, a Masters in engineering, promotes Indian Classical Arts through Performances, Lec dems, Workshops,Cross cultural Collaborations with artists across genres, and has created a new rung of young students the World over, through her forum` Raag`N’Rhythm,in Kuwait.
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