My cultural pilgrimage to Europe and the United States has been a very exciting as well as an inspiring one and I am glad to be back, to be with you all today and to share with you my sense of satisfaction and a feeling of thankfulness to all.
As you may recall I, along with my full complement of orchestra left Madras on the morning of the 7th October by IAC flight via Bangalore and I was overwhelmed by the warmth of feelings and the touching send off that was given to me at the Madras Airport by all my friends and well wishers not only in the film industry but outside as well. I received the same kind of a warm send-off at Bangalore airport from many friends and in Bombay the Andhra association had arranged a grand function in my honour. The Andhra Association had organized a function in the most traditional way and the Vedic Hymns were sung, speeches were made, prayers were said, all wishing me well and invoking the blessing of Almighty for a successful tour abroad. The same spirit and friendliness continued until we left Bombay, in the early hours of 8th October. Fortified with the good wishes and blessings of all friends, near and dear ones, I left India hoping and praying that I should not fail my hosts who have invited me nor belie the expectations of my friends who have given me this warm and affectionate send off at Madras, Bangalore and Bombay.
I am glad to tell you at the outset that the God Almighty has been kind enough and I have been not only able to live up to the expectations of everyone but everyone was overjoyed with my visit and was moved by the message of music I have taken with me.
On the morning of the 8th October, we had reached Frankfurt, in West Germany and spent the rest of the day in resting and sightseeing. The next morning we left for the university town of Gottingen, where a reception was organized for me and my orchestra by the Indian students studying in the University.
The next day, i.e. on the 10th, I had my first experience of giving a concert to foreign audiences particularly the Germans. The concert was organized by the Amnesty International with the active help of Shri D.Sridhara Babu and the publicity that was given for this was fantastic. More than 1000 people, young, middle aged and old had attended this concert and more than 90% of the audience were completely foreigners, i.e. Germans. The programme, which was originally scheduled for one and a half hours had to be extended to more than three hours at the request of the audience.
Watching the audience from the stage, I had a great sense of elation. It was completely new experience for me, singing before these foreigners. I was asking myself, "Is it the music? Is it the voice? Or is it the language? Which has made the audience spell bound for such a length of time which is quite unusual in a foreign country?" As I went on I gathered and realized that it is not the language but it is the sound and rhythm of the music and the voice that has attracted and moved them. From the stage, I could see the various faces of my German audience who were moved by every emotion which I had expressed, in the songs - the joy, the pathos, the mirth and devotion. Every expression, every raga had touched their hearts and moved them. They were nodding their heads, playing the tala with their hands, as the concerts went on and gathered momentum and when I came to the last item RAGHUPATHI RAGHAVA RAJA RAM and HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA they were simply doing the bhajan even five minutes after I finished the song and then a prolonged applause. Then I realized to my supreme satisfaction that music can move any one irrespective of language or country and language is no bar to understand the emotions and expressions of music. This was a great revelation to me and I experienced it to understand it.
The Mayor of Gottingen was present all through the performance and great compliments were paid to me and small souvenirs presented. I was more than touched and moved that many people from the audience came up and wished me well and congratulated me on my performance, which they called superb and splendid. When we left Gottingen, many German students and others came to the station to bid farewell and many have invited me in chorus-like voices "Please come again and visit us". Some of our Indian friends had even come up to Frankfurt airport to give us the send off. Thus the first leg of my foreign tour was a remarkable one. As far as I am concerned, it gave me an inspiration and strength to go through the rest of the journey.
Our next halt from West Germany was in London and we reached there on the afternoon of 11th October. As we alighted at the airport, we were given a very warm welcome by my old friend Miss T. Surya Kumari and her friends. We spend the major part of the day in resting and sight seeing and the next day a private concert was arranged in Surya Kumari's Dance School, where about 150 guests were invited. All the people, who attended the concert were great connoisseurs of music, Indian and Western, some of them famous instrumentalists and musicians themselves. It was a thrilling experience to get acclaim and applause from those great connoisseurs of music. Even here, the time schedule was completely thrown over board and they wanted to hear more and more of this music. After the concert a grand reception was arranged for our entire party and it was so nice, so very touching to see that our old friend Surya Kumari to take such great interest in our Music and expose the same to the Indian and foreign audiences in London. Some of them have suggested that we should visit again and give three or four public concerts of the benefit of others.
From London to New York was one hop and by the 13th afternoon, we arrived in Kennedy Airport in New York and we were given a rousing reception by the members of the Telugu Literary and Cultural Association of New York. From the 13th October to 1st November it looked like one long day with so many programmes crowded in. We traveled more than 10,000 miles within the US and Canada and have given 11 concerts besides the Golden recording session in New York.
The Telugu Literary and Cultural Association has organized the entire programme in the US and Canada in a very systematic manner and I gave concerts in Newark, Washington D.C, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York (in the United Nations), Syracuse and again the final one in New York.
Some of the concerts were very well attended and a few had moderate attendance but on the average, each concert had nearly 400 people listening to our Indian Music. The majority of the people who attended these concerts in the US were Indians and the foreigners were in a minority. The Indians, who were living in a radius of 300 to 400 miles of each of these concert places drove in, to listen to the concerts. Even in the US, the original time schedules for the concerts were all thrown overboard and at popular request I had to extend the concerts to three to four hours in each place and I could notice, particularly the foreigners - the Americans - sitting there spell bound and getting into the spirit of the music. Even though the concerts were long, the inspiration I got from looking at the faces of the audiences never made me feel tired but on the other hand I went on with greater spirit and strength.
The Telugu Literary and Cultural association of New York and their Ghantasala reception committee had organized and planned these very carefully. In each of these centers, where concerts were held, coordinators were nominated to look after the various arrangements and nowhere was there any delay either in the starting of the concert or my arrival schedules or my departure schedules. Every minute of my 21-day itinerary was carefully planned and fitted in. It was a real experience for me and for my orchestra to go through these in such a systematic manner. Sometimes, we found it difficult and tiring to keep pace with that highly organized and mechanized way of life but yet somehow we managed them without causing any inconvenience to the organizers and our hosts.
Their organizational efficiency is only paralleled by their very kind hospitality. They had entertained us, feasted us, looked after us so well and taken us out on long sight seeing drives and tours in their cars and practically showed us all the important places in the US like the Niagara Water falls, the Disney Land and all the important places in all the cities. I could not find words to thank all our Telugu friends in the States who have provided us every comfort during our stay there. The 21-day visit to the US was just like going in a different orbit at a fantastic speed and it was like a pleasant and sweet dream.
On the first day they had organized a recording function - Golden Record - in honor of my visit to North America. The records will be coming here soon and you will hear them in due course. On the last day, they had organized another function - A SANMAANAM for me and my orchestra, presented me with shawls and other gifts to the members of my orchestra. At the U.N. concert, I was decorated with a UN Peace Medal.
Practically, in all these concerts, I had given chances to some of the members of my orchestra to give solo performances for a few minutes - Janardhan on Sitar, Nanjundaiah on the Flute and Venu Madhav - mimicry.
It may be noted that it is the first time that any Indian Musician visited the United States with so many members in the Orchestra. My party consisted of ten members including myself. As such, this large number in the team, had the inherent problems of different outlooks and behaviors. In spite of these difficulties, we had to face now and then, because of our unwieldy numbers, in travel arrangements for all these people, I am glad to tell you that we had come out of all these unscathed and it should be said to the credit to Shri K.G. Krishnamurti, who had accompanied me as the manager of the group that everything went off well as far as our group is concerned.
The credit for the successful concerts, as well as the trip to US should go to the organizers - the Telugu Literary and Cultural Association of New York and their very efficient office bearers - Shri G.A. Narasimha Rao, Shri R.R. Planki, Shri G. Narayana Rao, Smt.Lakshmi Bulusu, Sri Ramadass and a host of others, who have worked very hard and helped to make this a very big success.
Everywhere people had come to see and hear Ghantasala. It did not mater what I sang or how I sang. But I had been very much touched by the depth of the feeling and their affection for me, when I saw large numbers of our people come to me and thank me for visiting them and invite me again and again to visit their places. Not only our Indian friends but even some of the American Visitors to these concerts have come up to me personally and expressed great appreciation.
I am thankful to God Almighty because my voice never faltered and failed me. It maintained it spirit and it never disappointed me or the people who came to listen to my concerts. I was lucky that my health also stood up in spite of the heavy stress and strain of the hectic trip an the long concerts I had to give. It was more the enthusiasm of the people and the inspiration they gave me that sustained me all along. As I left New York on the evening of 1st November I had the feeling of supreme satisfaction that I had realized my long cherished dream and lived up to the expectation of all my friends, who have invited me to the States and made this possible. It was the same feeling of satisfaction that was expressed by my hosts - the Office bearers and members of the Telugu Literary and Cultural Association, who had come to the airport to bid me and my party farewell.
From New York, we came to Paris and spend two days mostly in sight seeing. We were resting, relaxing and sight seeing. Our friends Mr. and Mrs. Junnuri have been very hospitable to us - have given us a warm welcome at the airport and have taken full care of us and arranged our sight seeing programmes as well as other things during our stay in Paris. We did not have any official program in Paris.
The last concert was to be in Kuwait, where the Indian Arts Circle had organized a musical Evening on the 5th November and they had made elaborate arrangements. But due to very unfortunate flight delays from Paris to Beirut due to heavy fog at Paris that morning we missed our connecting flight from Beirut to Kuwait and the net result has been the very most unfortunate and distressing cancellation of the concert on the 5th evening. Shri D.N.Lingam and other friends, who organized this concert in Kuwait were very distressed at this. These flight delays are beyond human control and as such we had to bow to nature. Though we could not give the concert in Kuwait, I was able to meet all the friends and admirers at the airport and talk to them. I assured them that I could come again some time later and sing to them and entertain them. It was such a refreshing experience to meet so many friends and admirers who have come all the way to the airport to see me though they could not hear me that day.
We left Kuwait on the night of the 5th November and reached Bombay on the 6th morning and Madras on the afternoon of 6th, back at home to see you all.
As I had mentioned before, one of my long cherished dreams was to go abroad to sing before foreign audiences and take the message of Indian Music abroad. I am glad to tell you today that this dream of mine has been realized and it has been such a pleasant dream and I am also glad that that dream is now over and I am back with you all to share with you my experience. Personally, I would never like to stay in my dream but would like to come to actual realities and to do my day to day work.