1999 Coordinating the Music for the Osho 2000 Festival: How I got there
Music Department getting ready to play for White Robe Brotherhood 1999
April 1999 found me in Munich, en route from Maui to Pune, single and broke. I was there to to deal with unpaid tax (even though I hadn’t actually lived in Germany for the previous four years) to release myself from my German karma that had begun in 1990. And desperately trying to raise some money by finding a record company to take on two unreleased CDs: ‘Nature’s Way’, songs recorded with Ellika Hansen on vocals in Maui in 1997; and a vaguely Celtic flavoured instrumental album provisionally titled ‘Pagan Heart’ that I’d just finished recording in Maui.
Unexpected rescue came on the 1st of May in the form of an email from the Commune in Pune offering me the job of Coordinator of the Music Department. This would save me from the need to pay for entrance fee or accommodation because I’d be given a Workers entry pass and the job comes with a free room inside the campus. The offer was a huge honour for me and not something I could have anticipated. But as the outgoing coordinator explained to me “Well, you get on with everyone, and frankly right now there’s no-one else!’
So nine days later I arrived in India, carrying sarod, guitar, swarmandel, Roland HD recorder, Yamaha keyboard, grunty pre-amp, microphone, 110-220v voltage adaptor, blank ZIP discs, 40 of my CDs to sell, thick file of tax papers etc, It was a struggle, especially dealing with the U-Bahn system in Munich. In a daze I managed to lose my passport inside Munich airport after checking in. I realized I’d left it in a payphone booth and with only half an hour left before my flight was due to depart rushed like a madman to the Lost and Found. Thank God the Germans are so honest and efficient that it had been handed in so quickly. In my relief I hugged the astonished policeman who handed it over.
My flight landed at 11pm. By 4am I had made it through the twisted labyrinth of trucks jamming up the steep two-lane ‘highway’ through the Western Ghats and was in a hotel room next to the Commune. By 10am I was inside, being given my Workers pass and being shown the ropes.
It’s very hot and very ‘off season’. The Department currently has a just a couple of guitarists, a gaggle of singers, a single drummer (a rasta-haired Jamaican from London), a tabla player and me. I know it will fill up again in a month or two, once the temperatures cool down with the monsoon. So we all play pretty much every day, and I’m getting a chance to act the rock star on guitar, exploring a lot of African ideas I’ve chanced on over the years and never performed. In other words the job is cushy.
I’ve been given a room in Sanai, a Commune-owned building just down the lane from the front gate, with pink curtains, AC and a tiny balcony overhung by a vast banyan tree. I’ve set up my recording equipment there and am working at night on turning Dylan Thomas’s poem ‘Fern Hill’ into a song, and an English version of ‘Nu Takk For Alt’, a Norwegian song (composed by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson) I learned from the farmer’s wife one summer twenty-odd years ago, working on a farm above Hardangerfjord.
The Commune is supporting me with totality as I step into my new job. Shunyo (formerly one of Osho’s caretakers) calls me up off my guitar at the end of the Sannyas Celebration she has been conducting, and gives my third eye a cool blast of calming energy with her thumb. Even my ‘Commune Play’ (an extra duty outside of a worker’s regular job) is fun: lifeguard at the night swim in the pool!
Tonight I met Naveena (note: then going by her pre-sannyas name of Shahaf) at an Israeli shabbat get-together at a rented flat in ABC farms, just into the farmland that surrounds the Koregaon park suburb. I arrived in darkness on the back of a friend’s motorbike (he had to persuade me to come as I’ve never been attracted to these things) and heard a shy, heavily accented voice from inside a parked rickshaw, asking if we had any small change. I handed her over some coins and then followed her golden hair into the party. We made eyes across the room; I played Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ on a guitar in her direction and made sure she got a meaningful-looking ‘goodnight’ from me as I left.
When I got home I pulled a card from my deck for her. It was the Ace of Hearts. That night I dreamed I was flying gracefully with a blonde woman on my back, the two of us so in tune and marveling at it…..
30th May, Buddha Moon
I was on the lookout for Shahaf all morning, but it was she who found me, coming up to me in the lunch queue at the canteen and handing me a 20 Rupees Commune food voucher. So we ate lunch together and then spent the next seven hours together, ending up on a swing seat in the Smoking Temple, stroking each other’s hands under the full moon.
Shahaf’s sudden presence in my life means a lot right now because the first major trouble has been coming to a head in the Department. Before I arrived, N had been put on a Workers Pass, meaning free entry in return for six hours work per day. But his erratic moods mean that he’s fallen out with most of the department and nobody wants to play with him any more. I simply can’t justify renewing his pass, especially as these are limited in number and there are other hard-working musicians who need and deserve one. He’s furious. Sudheer my Inner Circle (Commune management team) rep and basically the guy I answer to, responds to my request for advice with a shrug and “The price of power, Chin!”
Today in the German Bakery N threatened to kill me if I don’t renew his Workers Pass. I don’t take it seriously of course, but it shows how unhinged he has become.
Shahaf left for Israel today, after just six weeks together. I distract myself by putting together a trancey live Nataraj meditation (45 minutes of dance) for the night event (thank God we have our long time drummer, Indian Sangeet, back and N has left!). And go to bed late after recording guitars for ‘Nu Takk For Alt’ and another song that’s come to me ‘All is Worship’ (based on an anonymous poem in tribute to Rumi). New Earth Records email me to say they are sending me $1000 advance because of some licensing deal. That’s a relief because I only have DM500 left in my pocket!
28th July Gurupurnima
Final night of a three-day festival. I got the whole Department up on stage for the White Robe Brotherhood. We started with a Hebrew song, then a Hindi one, then an African composition of mine and finished off with four-on-the-floor trance, Buddha Hall’s festival lights flashing, the place looking like great spaceship full of ecstatically dancing white-clad astronauts.
The evening event afterwards was Jasbir Jassi,and his bhangra band, which I mixed until almost midnight. Then I joined the VIP special Punjabi dinner at the exclusive and rarely-opened Basho restaurant beside the Commune pool.
Recording my voice on ‘Nu Takk’ and ‘Fernhill’ until 1 am. Then finally got a connection to Shahaf in Israel on the phone in my room. A relief to my insecurities, she has been out of touch so long….
The keyboard is wired up and I’m putting Hammond organ on another song of mine (note: ‘Sister Good’ never released) and editing the keyboard vibes Ranjana played for me on a new version of my ‘Now Summers Here Again’.
Played at a corporate event in the city which the Commune had decided we ought to oblige to keep in with the powers that be out there. We are joined by a gaudy Bombay rock singer called Gary. Three buxom Israeli girl singers from the Commune are our front team, plus we’ve a female bassist and a bunch of us boys on guitars, keys and sax. Corporate crowd didn’t know what to make of us at all.
My days are full of playing hot electric piano to juice up my song‘Easy’s Right’; mixing for visiting musicians; knocking off new versions of old Osho songs for WRB; rewiring the Buddha Hall PA system; inducting new musicians, mixers and equipment fixers; setting up a Music Dept newsletter for the web……
A general Commune clean up has been announced. My response:
“You help to make it happen, Osho’s dream
You paid your money, done the Primal Scream
You do the Kundalini at four-fifteen
Now there’s something new on
Something good to chew on,
It’s the Commune Clean’
So grab your bucket Swami, it won’t bite
Get your mop in hand Ma, don’t be shy
You’ll feel the kundalini start to rise ‘cos
Now there’s something new on…..
Lying awake wondering for the umpteenth time what to do about ‘Pagan Heart’, which has been turned down everywhere. Bhikkhu at NER didn’t even want to listen to it when I emailed him to tell him I had a follow up to my ‘Celtic Ragas’, (which they released two years ago). Seems the Celtic craze is already over. As the long night progresses it dawns on me that I should play to my strengths. Four years ago Nightingale Records took two of my CDs under Feng Shui concept, didn’t they? Maybe I should pass Pagan Heart off as a Feng Shui CD!? Now Bhikkhu is here, so I mentioned it when I met him outside the Commune bookshop this morning. His eyes lit up. ‘Yes, we are looking for a title like that.’ I rushed off to get him a copy, told him that it’s still a work in progress (somehow I’m going to have to flavor it a bit Chinese, aren’t I!) and within a few hours he’d played it to Waduda and they’d agreed. He even offered me the right to use sounds from a Tibetan chants album they once released.
I’ve come up with the title ‘Feng Shui: The Eightfold Path’.
After 83 days of waiting Shahaf is back. I went down to Bombay to meet her off the plane. A guy I bumped into in the street got me a free hotel room, and they gave me a free taxi ride to the airport. At 6am just as I arrived, out she came. We threw ourselves and our baggage, ticketless, into a moving train at Dadar and on reaching Pune slept next to each other for twelve hours.
22nd October Cambridge
Just three weeks together. Now another two weeks apart while I get a new visa and then I can head back to Pune to her, and to start preparations for the forty-day festival that’s been announced for the coming New Year’s celebrations.