Most of us would find it difficult to name more than 100 countries around the globe, let alone visit them. But on 35-year-old Benny Prasad’s passport, you will find immigration stamps from every single country in the world – 245 of them including Antarctica – which he covered in just six years and six months.
Prasad, a guitarist and composer from Bangalore, holds the Guinness record for travelling to every nation in the shortest period of time, and he is no millionaire. His tours have been funded either by the organisations or individuals inviting him, or through voluntary donations and sales of his four albums. Prasad was in Mumbai on Thursday to donate copies of his latest album, Tribute to the Unknown God, to HIV/AIDS patients associated with the Grant Road-based non-profit IMCares.
His albums include performances at the 2004 Olympics in Greece, the 2006 football World Cup in Germany and even concerts for several parliaments and the United Nations.
“In 2002 when I began my tours, I felt it was impossible for an ordinary Indian to travel to every country, but I kept the faith and achieved it in November last year,” he said. His latest album has nine instrumental tracks that blend jazz with Indian classical music, and features international musicians such as Paul Livingstone, Craig Nelson and Phil Keaggy.
Prasad, who grew up battling chronic asthma since the age of two and was at the verge of committing suicide after repeatedly failing in academics, claims he turned to music after a spiritual experience at 16. In 2002, he says, he felt a call from God asking him to travel the world, and used his savings to hold a small guitar concert at a college in Sri Lanka.
“I manage to travel by building strong networks with people, and always live with families,” said Prasad, who continues to cover at least 50 countries a year performing for free and sharing his story of keeping the hope through depression.
“I want to convey the message of life as a precious gift,” said Prasad, who invented a new guitar with two in-built drums and a 14-string harp especially for the 2004 Olympics performance.
“They did not want me to share my story on stage, so I thought of attracting attention using guitar.”