I was born in 1954, in Kent, England, an area then accurately described as the ‘Garden of England’. Around our 400-year old farmhouse was a patchwork of hop gardens, apple orchards, wheat fields, woods and streams – a playground in which I could disappear for hours without my parents having any idea of where I was. (To dispel any notions that it was a true paradise, let me point out that this was rural Britain in the 50s and 60s – a repressed, depressed and tradition-bound culture that made being a rebellious Scorpio teenager a tough job!)
1970 was a turning point for me. I smoked my first whiffs of euphoria, hitchhiked to see Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight Festival, and acquired my first guitar (a nylon string).
Over the next years of school and Art College, I mixed my love of painting with learning classical guitar and trying to copy the sound of my favourite folk musicians ‘Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band and Planxty’. (The sound of my favourite progressive bands – Pink Floyd and Genesis was altogether beyond my abilities!).
India was always calling in those years, and in 1975 I took myself off on the hippy trail through Turkey and Afghanistan. Holed up in the mountains of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province surviving on fellow travellers generosity for months, having lost all my money, I got my first taste of the gentle rhythms of the East, where acceptance of whatever comes is more important than pushing your own goals. I also became a vegetarian (I have not lapsed) and started yoga.
It was my next trip East in 1979 that proved the decisive turning point in my life. At an all night concert in Delhi, I saw Ustad Amjad Ali Khan playing sarod and instantly fell in love with the instrument. On the same trip I fell in love with my first Osho sannyasin and started out on my journey with the infamous ‘Bhagwan’.
Returning to London, it took me four years before a sarod teacher appeared on the scene. Gurdev Singh (by chance Amjad’s leading disciple) found me an instrument and taught me over the next years.
Right from the start I seemed, mysteriously, to have some feel for Indian Classical music. I remember at Gurdev’s house, his fellow musicians sometimes putting their heads round the door to the back room where I was practising and saying, “Wah, I thought it must be an Indian playing not a gora (white man)!”
In 1988 I moved to the Osho Commune (now Osho Meditation Resort) in Pune, and studied sarod under Pandit Shekhar Borkar. I also began performing with some of the Commune musicians, people of diverse musical backgrounds blending Indian with Western music in the presence of Osho.
‘Tribal Gathering’ was released on Tao Music (today called New Earth Records).
During the 90s I lived in Munich, Amsterdam and Maui, Hawaii, returning each year to Pune for a few months.
I made a series of CDs for Nightingale Records in Germany and then rejoined New Earth Records in 1997 for ‘Celtic Ragas’ (with Vidroha Jamie), a CD that was later to bring me as close to fame as I am ever likely to get, when Paul McCartney fell in love with the CD and invited me to perform at his wedding in Ireland in 2002.
I formed the Celtic Ragas Band especially for the occasion. We assembled from all over the world for rehearsals in Wales and then flew off to our mystery destination (Paul’s people had kept all details secret and only instructed us to be at Manchester airport at a certain time!). He was very welcoming, danced along with us as we played and was kind enough to write afterwards a few words about us to use as a quote:
“I love the unique blend of Irish and Indian style music of Celtic Ragas. It has become one of my favourites.”
I now have nine CDs released on New Earth and a further four (under the band names ‘Bhakti’ and ‘Akasha’) on Malimba Records. On each of them I have been joined by wonderful musicians to explore the crossover points between Indian classical music and various Western music traditions.
I see myself as an explorer of this musical territory. I also just enjoy creating with my friends!
The Celtic Ragas Band has given a series of multimedia ‘Concert for India’s Environment’ in India over the past few years. These aim to raise awareness about the many difficulties facing the natural and human environment in India because of unrestrained ‘development’. These have also turned me into a filmmaker with my films ‘Concert for India’s Environment’, the ‘Smiles From Off the Road’ series and ‘Green Ragas’.
I spent many satisfying days deep in the Indian wilderness collecting wildlife footage for these, and travelled to some remote places for interviews and shots of the people who live around and depend on the wilderness.
After four years of living in Auckland, New Zealand (while my Israeli partner Naveena trained as a midwife) I moved to Goa in August 2007, where my daughter, Koyal, was born in 2009.
The following six years saw my development as a wildlife filmmaker (Birds of Goa, Kumaon etc), the creation of the multimedia environmental awareness band ‘Green Ragas’(performances at Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2010, Earth Day etc) and my initiation of the ‘Assagao Mehfil’, a performance space in Goa (now, 2016, in its 30th edition).
In 2014 we returned to live in Auckland, where my focus includes growing a huge organic garden.