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  ACHIEVER  
     
 
The sound of music
   
 
  By Archana Sudheer Gayen  
  "Race Against Time" read the caption of an article in the Bangalore edition of 'The Times of India', dated November 5, 2000. It was the poignant story of then 25-year-old musician Benny Prasad, who, despite severe life-threatening diseases, was pressing forward to living life to the full.

That was nine years ago, and the same person, whose health problems baffled doctors, is now a source of inspiration for many. Not only does he fight his illnesses daily, but proves victorious. They have not lessened his determination or deterred his ambitions and this is evident from the fact that Benny secured a name in the 2006 Limca Book of Records for the 'Most traveled Indian Musician'.

Born on August 6, 1975, in Bangalore, Benny was the first of his generation in the family. Born to a scientist father, there were high hopes about his future. However, he suffered from severe asthma at a very young age and was given cortisone steroids as medication. That did the damage.

As a result, he developed rheumatoid arthritis, 60 per cent lung damage and a failing immune system, which threatened his life.

As he grew older, health problems combined with failures in life, made him rebellious, short-tempered and very angry. He was so depressed with life that he attempted suicide at the tender age of 16. By this stage, he was almost beyond caring about where he went or what he did, so it was not too difficult for his mother to convince him to attend a youth retreat.

There, Benny had an encounter with God, his life changed and a new journey began. The hurting young man was transformed into a totally different person: caring, understanding and full of hope. God gave him new dreams, new goals, and a positive desire. From being the shame of his family, he went on to being their pride.

Surprisingly, before this transition, he had no interest or ability in music. But since then, he has performed on a variety of stages, including before Presidents, at the 2007 Military World Games, at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2004 Olympic Games, to name a few.

To add to this, not only does Benny play musical instruments, he also has the credit of having designed two guitars: the world's first Bongo Guitar and a 54-string guitar called the Bentar. Today, through his music, Benny brings the hope of God to thousands of people, travelling to 40-50 countries every year. By March 2008, he had travelled to more than 158 countries.

In 2000, Benny launched his debut instrumental album 'I Surrender All', where he plays the acoustic guitar and is accompanied by 10 violins, four violas and two cellos. His next creation 'In Moments Like These' was released in 2002. His third CD was unique. Named 'When the Music Fades', this album was a blend of Indian and Western styles. It is a collection of worship songs. He plays the guitar, and recorded the Indian-Styled Bamboo Flute, Sarangi, Violin, Viola, Indian vocal harmonies called 'Ragas' and 15 different kinds of the percussion.

His ongoing project 'Tribute to the Unknown God' is a combination of old classic hymns that Benny has re-arranged with a combination of Jazz and Indian Classical music.

Benny's achievements are a testimony of how God can use a person, notwithstanding what the world says. In 2003, Benny became the first person from Karnataka to graduate from the University of the Nations. The graduation ceremony was held in Singapore. Soon after the graduation, Benny was invited to perform as a guest artist at the famous Orchid Festival in Singapore where the President of Singapore was the Chief Guest. The President was so impressed that he took a picture with him, autographed it and mailed it to Benny!

In 2004, Benny performed at the Olympic Games in Greece. He performed for the Welcoming of the South African Athletes and Delegates, as well as at the Cultural Stages and the Museum for the Press Conference (Delirious). It was for this function that he decided to become more creative and designed the Bongo Guitar.

In July 2006, Benny performed at various cultural stages at the FIFA World Cup in Germany. On October 14, 2007, Benny performed in Hyderabad at the Opening Ceremony of the Largest Military World Games ever. He also undertook a 22-nation Caribbean Tour in February 2007. In January 2008, Benny was given an Honorary Doctorate for designing his guitar (BENTAR), as well as for travelling as a musician.

The young musician gives all glory to God for his achievements and believes that his mission in life is to love God first and to honour Him by seeking excellence in everything. He seeks to present instrumental music through recording and live performance that will glorify God and lead others into His presence. Although he continues to fight his ailments that prop up every now and then, his fervor and determination have not decreased.

"If I could be made useful, any one in this world can. If my dreams can come true, yours too can. For those with no hope, there is more to life, than what today holds. I thank God that I did not end my life, but rather chose to live through shame and failure so that today I'm able to be a blessing to the world. Remember, you are never too bad or sinful for God to redeem and transform," Benny says.
 
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