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CO-ORDINATING MUSIC FOR THE OSHO 2000 FESTIVAL PART 2: WEEK TWO TO END

My African band at the festival.

I was far too busy to keep a diary. So the memories jostle for space with others from the months leading up to the festival and from the year after, when I stayed coordinator into 2002. I’ll let them swirl and take their places as they wish, anchoring myself with glances at the weekly schedule sheets for the 40 days.

Week Two’s highlight was flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia; one of Osho’s favourite musicians and something of a devotee himself, having performed regularly in Buddha Hall since before Osho left his body in 1990. I gave myself a well-earned evening off to enjoy the concert, putting Manish Vyas (who as a fellow-Indian I judged more likely to establish rapport with such a famous artist) on the mix desk. Visiting artists of Hariprasad’s stature used to love playing to Buddha Hall audiences; unlike the typical Indian crowds at concerts in the city, with noisy kids, picnicking and general coming and going, they were guaranteed pindrop silence and rapt attention. At the dinner afterwards I asked him about the story Osho told of how as a child he was introduced to Hariprasad, describing him as a world-renowned authority on bamboo flute at the time. We all laughed when he told us that In reality Osho was seven years his elder!

As throughout the festival Osho’s favoured drummer Nivedano lead the live music for three White Robe Brotherhoods that week. Japanese Deekshant was the hero who mixed most of these. There would be up to twenty musicians on stage, Nivedano conducting the samba at the center of a crowd of percussionists, drummers and hangers-on. The noise coming off the ensemble completely overwhelmed the monitors and even the PA, while Nivedano himself, half deaf after a quarter of a century as a jazz drummer, required three dedicated monitors going at full blast beside him to hear what he was playing on his snare drum.

Nivedano leading the Oshoba band at White Robe Brotherhood

Here I’ll pay tribute to Brazilian singer and guitarist Bodhigita, who organized a band to play her music at an evening concert that week. (The schedule sheet shows they did seven rehearsals to prepare for it, a feat almost matched by Danish singer/songwriter Bindu who did six for his night concert that same week!). The finger-stretching chords coming effortlessly off every corner of the fretboard of her guitar, even while she sang, were completely unrecognizable to me, a guitarist of almost thirty years myself!

Another tribute is due that week to Manish Vyas, who on top of mixing for Hariprasad, organized live music both for an evening of Gujarati stick dance and for an hour-long live Mahamudra meditation, assembling and meticulously rehearsing the very best Indian musicians to perform. (I’m lucky that I got hold of a DAT copy of the meditation music, which I still play to this day). Once I start on Manish the memories flood in, amongst them his dazzling ‘India Trance’ band which played after midnight on New Years Eve and which he later recorded and released as a CD. Plus his joint concert with Prem Joshua (probably later in 2001 as Joshua was not present during the 40 days) with whom he had begun touring in the West, which combined exquisite musicianship with the dancey-est grooves imaginable. And his inspiring Sufi events with Palestinian singer Ma Prem Sarasa, which resulted in the CD ‘Sufi Splendour’.

Week Three included New Years Eve, with four bands playing, beginning with Surabhi’s Celtic band and followed by my own. Naveena managed to rush over from her bellydance performance in another corner of the Commune to join me on stage for midnight and then India Trance, followed by the Greeks, ably lead by Zaheer (my bazanak –a Turkish word meaning we are partners of two sisters) on accordion, took us into the wee hours.

Naveena (second from left) at her Bellydance performance on New Years Eve

Singers at the African gig on New Years Eve

Week Four I mixed for santoor-player Shivkumar Sharma and I must say that doing so for such a gentleman was the easiest job I’ve ever done. Shivkumar is a consummate ‘musicians musician’, to whom all bow in respect, yet he remains soft-spoken and beautifully mannered. I had little to do except enjoy the show!

Here I want to pay my loving respects to four musicians from the festival who can be seen in the Osho 2000 Musicians photo but who are no longer with us: Adarsha, who organized music for several meditation events during the Festival, was the most sensitive and tasteful guitarist I’ve ever met, with the rare talent of coming up with the simplest, yet most beautiful lines; Buddhen likewise rarely put himself to the forefront, but his guitar was always supportive and never jarred; Nirav used to play his soapbox bass with jam bands that would spontaneously form themselves in obscure corners of the Commune over the years entertaining passers-by with everything from jazz standards to devotional Osho songs; and Neera, who fronted many sannyasin bands over the years, and sung with me on my first ever CD in 1990 (‘Terra Incognita – No Goal But the Path’). Around the same time, she and I tried our hand, completely unsuccessfully, at busking at Sendlinger Tor in downtown Munich. Many of us remember you with gratitude, Beloveds!

Week Five is the perfect place to pay tribute to Satyam who, together with Scottish violinist Tanmayo, organised enough classically-minded musicians that week to play for Waltz Night. Sats was at the heart of the Osho Commune’s Music Department for much of the ‘90s, and continues to return to the role whenever she can to this day. No-one else has the organizational skills and knowledge of music theory to get a bunch of hippy sannyasins to play Strauss!

Week Six, the final, featured Okinawan folk-rock band Upanishad, with whom I’d spent such entertaining days back in 1999. They’d been coming regularly ever since, despite being busy as a chart-topping act in Japan. They joined Nivedano for a climactic final White Robe Brotherhood on the 19th Jan, Osho’s death anniversary, and then rocked the house with their fun-laden, foot-hopping Okinawan polka rhythms. As fellow sannyasins they were one of us, rather than visiting artists and Buddha Hall was a sea of happy celebrants.

Likewise Miten and Deva Premal (whose concert I mentioned in Week One), soon to be rebranded as Deva Premal and Miten. Miten and I go back a long way (I remember bumping into him and Deva on the streets of Nurnburg several years earlier, flat broke and looking for a record deal. I was able to point them in the direction of the nearby Nightingale Records and recommend them to the owner. The advances they got their paid for them to record their first CD with Deva Premal at the forefront – ‘The Essence’. The rest as they say is history!). I was on the mix desk for their concert and he and I exchanged our banter over the heads of the crowd. I love the way he always starts off playing ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and then pretends he’s forgotten how to play the rest of it. Seen you do it a few times now, Miten…surely you’re just having us on?

At the Commune Front Gate 2000

Amidst the swirling memories others are crowding in that my schedule sheets tell me can’t have happened during the forty days of the Festival: Shubha Mudgal in concert, surely the finest female singer of her generation, included a rendition of a Kabir Bhajan that I managed to get a copy of on DAT and which still brings tears to my eyes today; Pandit Jasraj, who through no fault of his own –some strike in Bombay, or a jam on the ghat road to Pune – arrived a couple of hours late, tore into whoever was mixing (fortunately not me!), interrupted his performance to complain angrily about some poor Western woman in the front row who was sitting with her legs stretched out in front of her and hence – Indian insult – innocently pointing her feet at him, and then soared into dizzying heights of musical excellence; Rajan and Sajan Mishra, old friends of mine from my days as a sarod student in London, who sang for two and a half hours in Buddha Hall, and then continued deep into the night for a few of us in the room the Commune had given them to stay in.

It would be long-winded of me to mention by name the many other sannyasin musicians who contributed both to the Osho 2000 festival and to the years preceding and following it, when the Commune was an internationally recognized center of musical excellence (anyone interested can find the complete Schedule sheets here). Circumstances have reduced my own involvement there over the years since, such that I have become a short-term visitor, always happy to contribute to the Music Department, but finding it a shadow of what it was. I simply feel so lucky to have been an integral part of it in its heyday, and hope that by sharing of my experience of those days I stir happy memories in those who were there, as well as being of general interest to those who weren’t.

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