I remember distinctly the day when I first landed in Kuwait during the early morning hours in the month of June 1975. The day was unbearably hot and the way of life in the newly adopted country, Kuwait was so different from India. It was a culture shock. My first reaction was to return at the soonest though initial plans were made for two years of stay. Having been employed by a reputed organization with very friendly and generous Kuwaiti employers my initial shock subsided and I settled down with family. My long stay of over forty years has been a fascinating experience and I have enjoyed every day of my life living here.
During the early and mid 1970s the main source of entertainment for families was Kuwait TV(the only channel mainly meant for Arabic News, plays/films) or cassette music. TV broadcast included mostly Arabic news or plays and worked from 5 pm until 10 pm. We all looked forward to Fridays when the TV programs started at 10 pm and included cartoons in English and occasionally a movie in the afternoon. Only one cinema theatre (although there were several) released censored Hindi movies periodically.
The 1980s experienced a sea change in entertainment with the advent of Video Cassette.
However there was a dearth of live musical concerts or shows for the masses. Having an experience of over 15 years of organizing shows and events in India before I arrived, I decided to venture into it with the consent of my employers. My first choice was to bring the most celebrated, popular, renowned, respected, exclusive an iconic singer from India Lata Mangeshkar. It was a dream come true for any organizer to have her accept to do a show. She was very selective of her promoter and a difficult artist to get convinced for appearing in live shows. She was extremely meticulous and a perfectionist.
I had erroneously assumed that obtaining visas for the artists and a suitable venue were the only requirements to put up a show in Kuwait and as such planned one concert in a Stadium expecting an audience of 12,000 with tickets priced at KD 2, 3 and 5. The plan fizzled out three weeks ahead of the concert date as permissions were denied due to security concerns. It was then I decided to have two shows in a cinema hall (Andalus) with maximum capacity of 1,900. Tickets were priced at KD 10, 15, 25 and 50 and both the shows were sold out in a short span of three days. Later I was informed that the scalpers were busy selling tickets at double the price and people were gladly buying. On the day of the first concert when the artists were preparing to arrive at the venue there was a fake bomb scare call to Lataji’s manager at the hotel and the show had to be delayed for half an hour before the clearances from police and the security personnel at the venue were obtained. Needless to say that both the shows were a huge success and the word spread to other GCC countries and eventually calls came poring in to bring the shows to them. Lata Mangeshkar had now been introduced to the Gulf. Later I had the privilege of organizing three of her Gulf tours over a period of 16 years.
Due to the success of Lataji’s concerts the word spread in Bollywood and thus came requests from other artists to bring them to the Gulf. Over a period of 35 years I had the privilege of repeatedly organising (in the GCC) the who is who of the music Industry including Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Jagjit Singh, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Anup Jalota, Pankaj Udhas, and classical musicians Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Alla Rakha, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad ZakirHussain, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Anindo Chatterji, Pt Vishwamohan Bhatt, Pt Ramkumar Mishra, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Ustad Shujat Khan, Dr L Subramanyam, Kavita Krishnamurty and the list goes on. My interest in Music and Arts enabled me diversify my repertoire to include promoting the Bolshoi Ballet from (the then Soviet Union), Red Army Music and Dance Ensemble, Russian and Kiev Ballet, Vienna Boy’s Choir, Eaton College Choir, Shirley Bassey, Hema Malini in Ballet, world renowned Harlem Globe Trotters (Basket Ball game), Shabana Azmi and Paresh Rawal plays etc..
I was occasionally approached by managers of famous Arabic singers from Lebanon and Egypt to organize GCC tours of their artists but could not undertake due to time constraints. I was all by myself organizing these events and not a member of any Club, Association or Event Management Company.
In 1997/8 I was approached by the Kuwait Cancer and Drugs Prevention Society to organize a mega event in a stadium for Kuwaitiyouth and other Nationalities to promote awareness of the menace of Drugs. Two legends came to my mind — Michael Jordan and Amitabh Bachchan. Michael Jordan was unavailable and Amitabhji graciously accepted my request and agreed to participate free of charge with a team of well known Bollywood actors and musicians as the program was meant for a good cause. All the arrangements were made but the repeated skirmishes and missile threats from the neighbouring country made us postpone the project indefinitely.
Another major concert tour which I had conceptualized could not see light of the day featured the three musical legends of the Industry on one stage together — Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Noorjehan from Pakistan. I had the OK from these Artists for a Gulf tour but did not materialize due to several unmentionable reasons.
After having organized over 120 World Class events my passion for Music and Art continues to this day and provides me the drive to organize programs for Indian Business & Professional Council, Kuwait, of which I am the Hon Secretary. The audiences usually include music lovers from all nationalities including Kuwaitis, Europeans, Arabs, other non-Indians and Indians. All the programs are non-commercial and by invitations only. Any classical music lover is welcome to attend as our guest.
By Anant Kapadiya