CO-ORDINATING MUSIC FOR THE OSHO 2000 FESTIVAL
Part 1: OVERVIEW AND FIRST WEEK
For forty days, from 11 Dec 1999 to 19 Jan 2000, as Coordinator of the Osho Commune’s Music Department in Pune, India, I took responsibility for organizing a hundred and nineteen live events. To say this was a challenge would be an understatement. In addition to the eighty or so Commune musicians who showed up to be part of this unique festival, I had to arrange for performances by high-profile visiting artists, including Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Vishnu Mohan Bhatt and Sivamani. Additional pressure resulted from a creaky PA system, a lot of clapped out instruments, and the fact that anything complicated that needed fixing had to be done outside the Commune walls – amidst the chaos of India.
Above is the first page of the schedule I created, covering the first week and showing twenty-four live music events in the Commune’s Buddha Hall. These consisted of morning meditations and celebrations (sometimes two the same morning); White Robe Brotherhood every evening; three visiting artists (Bombay rocker Gary Lawyer and his band, Sivamani and an Odissi dancer –this latter fortunately using recorded rather than live music); and two in-house bands (East-West Kirtan and Miten with Deva Premal) at night. Each event involved multiple musicians and a mixer, often with an assistant and occasionally someone in charge of recording. Our three rehearsal rooms (marked on the schedule as Rehearsal Room, Mirdad Cellar and – the tiny – Studio) were ever in demand and needed to be booked in advance to avoid squabbles. Plus our always-rushed stage set ups had to tiptoe around the three regular daily meditations and evening discourse that also took place in Buddha Hall, none of which could be tampered with or disturbed.
It was a roller coaster for me. I was new to the job and, while I’d been an occasional member of the department for ten years, I’d been very far from integral to it. Suddenly under me as Coordinator were many far more experienced musicians than myself. These included former coordinator Milarepa (who had first inducted me into the Department ten years before), and Osho’s own favourite drummer Nivedano, who had invited me to play for Osho in 1989 and was on his first visit back to the Commune in ten years. (As it turned out both graciously helped me to survive the nerve-wracking prospect!).
That first week I found time to play myself just twice, for two of Maneesha’s (famous as the person who used to read Osho the questions in discourse) morning meditation events. These she had compiled from dozens of meditation techniques that Osho had individually recommended to disciples over the years, developing them into fifteen different one-hour public meditations, each requiring live music. Plus I mixed three night events. The rest of the time I chased from one end of the Commune to the other, frantically searching for people, humping equipment, trying to squeeze as many eager musicians into the schedule as possible and soothing bruised egos. The schedules for the rest of the forty days look much the same. I barely slept for six weeks.
Today, contemplating even just that first week’s schedule, I understand how unique and unrepeatable those forty days were. The music we played: devotional songs at Sannyas Celebration, African dance music, Sufi Whirling, East-West fusion, Brazilian, soft meditative…… Such a range! Yet live music in Buddha Hall was far from the only show in town. There were jam bands happening on the pathways, Japanese dance performances in the Pyramids courtyard, theatre productions, martial arts displays……(I would occasionally pass by, but never had time to stop). The tenth anniversary of Osho’s passing, combined with the general brooha about the dawn of a new millennium, brought out an explosion of creativity and a crowd that has never been seen since at the Commune. How lucky I feel to have been at the heart of it! On New Years Eve I was rocking with my chosen band as the clock turned twelve (a perk of the job of course!). Below me from the stage, under the flashing lights poised on Buddha Hall’s domed roof, I looked out over a sea of wildly dancing, ecstatic faces. Goosebumps crept over me together with the feeling that in that moment I was at the very center of Existence, a part of a huge spaceship beaming out positive, joyful energy to the far corners of the world.