By: Rattus Norvegicus
The Student Commons Theatre was packed on Monday, Sept. 16, when the college hosted MantraFest 2013 – the continent-spanning tour showcasing Deva Premal & Miten and The GuruGanesha Band.
For Deva Premal and Miten, however, the night was not about entertainment.
“It’s fun and it’s beautiful, but it’s a spiritual gathering tonight,” said Miten, 66. “For me it’s like making love. Instead of being in bed, we’re making music.”
The couple met at an ashram in India in 1990. Miten had been in the music business for years, touring with Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac and Hall and Oates, but it left him feeling unfulfilled.
“I felt very lost – without any direction. Almost without any hope,” he said. “I was feeling very isolated in the world. I had been thrown back on myself; it was like seeing myself in a mirror, and saying ‘wow, so that’s who I am.’”
While trying to discover his purpose, Miten found himself in India studying under Osho, a controversial guru.
Premal, 43, was not brought to India by a life-altering revelation; instead, it just seemed like a natural path for her.
“My parents introduced me to that world,” she said. “Osho had devised active meditations which are really very suitable for the Western people. When I was 10, 11 years-old, I was experiencing these meditations and I just loved it. I just felt immediately, ‘oh, this is home.’”
When she was 17 she travelled to India for the first time and began spending years in Osho’s ashram.
“An ashram is a place where a guru has created a space where the disciples can be together, be around the guru, and learn and grow in that environment,” Premal explained. “There is no money involved, there’s no working. Really you are there to learn and to grow and to just be with your guru because you are just so in love.”
“If you can imagine this campus just being filled with people who had one simple ideal, and that is to respect and give every one of us the possibility to grow in the way we really are,” said Miten.
During their time at the ashram, the two felt a connection to each other through the music they played. When Osho died, they travelled around Europe to various meditation spots. They first started making CDs for yoga instructors to use during classes, but their popularity quickly grew.
“It was at the start of the whole Internet/web thing, so for the first time, you could be independent,” said Miten. “No record company would have taken us because we were singing this ashram music. But what was happening was there was this whole other yoga culture going on, like a sub-culture. The yoga instructors were our DJs.”
Years later, they’re internationally known, spreading their ashram music to all corners of the world.
Guru Ganesha, 53, is the frontman of the GuruGanesha Band. He has a similar history to Miten – he was heavily involved in the music and hippy scene during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but became disillusioned by the destructive lifestyle.
“I needed to find a better way,” said Ganesha, commenting on his heavy use of drugs during that time. Taking inspiration from George Harrison, he decided to study under a guru. What he learned during that time inspired him to take his music in another direction.
“The lyrics are either mantras or divine poetry,” he said. “You sing those words, it gets you stoned in a natural way.”
Paloma Devi, 29, is a vocalist in the Guru’s band. When she first became involved with music, she was a vocalist in a rock band, but after meeting Guru Ganesha years ago, she soon switched over to mantra music.
“When I did mantras, I just felt light,” she said. “It uplifts me, transforms me. I don’t like to use this word, but it’s God.”
“It’s a formula to help your mind focus on the divine. It’s about unlocking the gates within you.”