Cover of the episode with Miten in the power of rhythm podcast
‘Life begins where fear ends.’

This is one quote of Osho, Miten’s spiritual teacher.

Miten has lived this paradigm and produced, together with his wife Deva Premal and other incredible musicians, tunes that are able to touch your heart on a deep level and – whenever there is love, fear has no place.

Miten recognized the destructive lifestyle that can come along with a rock and a pop stage life and turned to the world of meditation and Eastern Philosophy. In 1980 he was initiated into sannyas by Osho, back then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and he soon became the main musical influence in his Ashram in Pune.

 

 

“I read this story about a Zen Nun. She was called Xiono and she was going to the well to get water on a full moon night. She’s coming back from the well and she looked into the bucket of water where the full moon was reflected. And just happened, as she did, that the bucket gave way and broke. Suddenly, the disappearance of everything… the moon. She realized that she’d spent a whole life looking at the reflection of reality and not reality itself. It reminded me of myself. That was how I was taught music. I knew there was something, I knew that this spirit was there but I didn’t know where and I was just concentrating on the reflection of it.

– Miten 

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Transcript of this Episode

REINHARD
My guest today is a celebrity again and a very special man. Starting with groups like Gothic Horizon in the late 60s he soon went to solo projects and became a prominent U.K singer and songwriter, who was asked by Fleetwood Mac to be their special guest on the U.K Rumours Tour. But soon he recognized the destructive lifestyle that can come along with a rock and a pop stage life and he turned to the world of meditation and Eastern Philosophy. In 1980 he was initiated into sannyas by Osho, back then known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and he soon became the main musical influence in his ashram in Pune. Today he tours all year long with his wife and musical partner Deva Premal and flutist Manose Singh, connecting thousands of people in chant, prayer and deep musical experiences.

Welcome Miten!

MITEN
Thank you brother. That’s nice to see you.

REINHARD
So great. We have definitely already shared some quality time together. But this podcast actually gave me a new opportunity to get down to some secrets of yours that I didn’t know before, and I could investigate in it, and I want to share of course with my listeners.

So when I listened yesterday to this Living On A Shoestring, I was so much connected to the time when I was hitch-hiking myself with a guitar. Woodstock had not yet happened.

So I really ask you, could you take us back for a moment to this time where you played with Fleetwood Mac and you were singing there?

MITEN
You know they say that if you can’t remember any part of your life in the rock industry you weren’t really there. So I don’t have many memories. I think that in some ways it was very ordinary, it was all about my relationship with my instrument and with the music, and the singing and that. I didn’t look beyond that. I had to manage anything so I got people to come in and manage me, but back then the world was more innocent than it is now. And so there wasn’t a lot of pressure or anything on me. It was like a dream in a way. And we were innocent, we were just exploring drugs, we were just exploring a new way of expressing ourselves with music, we were expressing ourselves through different understandings, things like vegetarianism became something of an issue, and of course the political thing was there too. We felt like we were somehow the chosen few because we had something that was giving us so much joy, and at the same time it’s a very scary time because the drugs… Well, we didn’t know what the drugs were going to do. Now it’s totally different. But back then we were pioneers and we had people like Jerry Garcia and the bands that reflected our enlightenment. Because in Woodstock there was meditation…By that time in Woodstock the family had grown and it changed from innocence…that was the epitome of innocence, Woodstock. It was like childlike beauty in the fact that it could happen. And that in a way was a good place to say “that’s as good as we could make it as a generation”.”

After that, the political stuff, we got older, we raised families and it anticipated into what it is now. And that’s what brought me to Osho, because Osho was big on community. He was big on community. So I went from a big community, from my family, to a more expanded community. Just seeing that that community was, that rock industry and the Flower Power, whatever you want to call it, it was all somehow about distorted ambitions and wanting to be powerful, wanting to be rich, wanting to be a rockstar. And all that kind of stuff, when you put your music and you make those kind of values when you’re creating music, you can’t help but get into trouble. Because you have to at one point realize why you’re making music and what it is and the spiritual force that music is. And I know you know that because of your amazing work.

For me it was that, it was coming from a space of amazing intention and innocence and then I’m coming to a place with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and I came into the realm of a scientist, a mad scientist, but an amazing scientist. That was what attracted me. I just jumped into that world because it was something all the good of what I’d felt in my bigger family. And because Rajneesh was a radical teacher he was not a traditionalist, he didn’t give us this…we’ve never had dogma. He also never pushed Indian music on us as if to say this is real music. He really was like “you play your music” because you know that music reflects the community in which it’s born. This music, Reinhard, I’d never experienced because I’d always associated music with either entertainment or money. I didn’t have another concept until the drugs, until my first reefer. Suddenly I heard Paul McCartney’s baseline and said “oh my god”, that was what opened the door for me into The Beatles and they were amazing you know… the music they made. And it reminded me, The Beatles and Rajneesh… there was no difference in a way. There was a sense of joy and a sense of innocence and I got back to that through being in Rajneesh’s community for so long. It healed every little damaged part of my psyche of being a failed rock musician. And you know wanting to justify my existence through music and songs suddenly I stopped chasing music. I stopped. And I just let the real rhythm appear, “who am I, what is my groove, what is my rhythm?” And up until then I had no concept of that. Rajneesh opened those doors for me.

REINHARD
How was your very first meeting with Rajneesh?

MITEN
I was never that close to him, physically. By the time I came there were already thousands of disciples. But as my years went on with him he used to send me gifts. I said like he would send me a gift of a towel. And it would be something so beautiful, the master was giving me his towel, and things like that. But the first time…I can tell you the first time I realized that there was something that I’d never met before. That story is an interesting story.

It begins with somebody giving me a book. I was in a very very fragile state in my life. I’d left the rock industry, I didn’t know where I was going, my family life had been destroyed and somebody gave me a book. It was by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. It was a collection of transcribed Zen poems that he was talking on. They were Koans and Rajneesh would talk on these and then they’d make it into a book. So this book was called “No Water No Moon”, and there was a story in that book about… – this is how I came to Rajneesh really – I read this story about this Zen Nun. She was called Xiono and she was going to the water, to the well to get water, on a full moon night. She’s coming back from the well and she happens to look into the bucket of water where the full moon is reflected. And just happened, as she did, that the bucket gave way and broke and suddenly the disappearance of everything… the moon. She realized that she’d spent a whole life looking at the reflection of reality and not reality itself. So the story goes that she turned around and saw the moon and in that moment became enlightened. It reminded me of myself. Like that was how I was taught music. I knew there was something, I knew that this spirit was there, but I didn’t know where and I was just concentrating on the reflection of it. And when I read that story I realized “okay I’m gonna find this guy because this is exactly my story.” And I didn’t see him for about a year before sannyas, before I took sannyas. So it never felt like a moment where I saw him and that was it. It just felt like a flow. I came to the Meditation Center in London and there were all these people in red, friendly people, and I’m saying “I’ve just read a book and I would really like to know more about Rajneesh” and they said, “come to a meditation, come and see what it feels like.” There was an introductory evening and I went there, did the meditation, saw a video and I knew that this was my home. There was no question. And through that I heard the music. The music was like seeing Osho. Because I don’t know about physically…I’m happy that I wasn’t physically close to him, because somehow all I got was the energy. It was nothing distorted, it was just the energy. I saw that the music could be played from that place even if it’s soft, even if it’s gentle. It has that power of authenticity and silence. It has to be born from silence, it has to come from a space of inner silence. So that’s how I came to Osho and that’s my experience of him really. I never had a big physical man-to-man thing with him.

REINHARD
Which is so unusual like in the Ashram, is that there is silence and out of the silence comes then the music and it goes back into silence, which actually reflects a little bit TaKeTiNa; we’re coming out of silence, we go into silence.

What did you actually musically first develop in the Ashram? I have Eyes/Ocean, Into Your Hand, Just a Little More…Are this the tunes you have developed there?

MITEN
No, these are newer pieces. I’ve done one or two of the older songs. They are difficult to capture because they’re very simple. The Ashram songs were created so we could sing together. Because Osho wasn’t like “I want you to chant mantras, I want you to learn mantras” we couldn’t all chant the mantra together, we didn’t have that concept in my Ashram. He was so not traditionally minded. We had to make our own Kirtan and what all that was, was whatever music where we came from. It was Reggae music, you play Reggae music. It was innocent and very unashamed, it wasn’t looking to be technically good. But at the same time our percussionist Nivedano was playing with Weather Report. When you get a guy like that playing in a band, even if he’s just playing the cowbell, it’s like a Zen master. There we were with our instruments…but the cowbell and Nivedano…it was a root. They were my learnings really.

REINHARD
Now we’re talking about you, we’re talking about music. I think it’s time to listen to one of your tunes. Do you agree? Can we hear?

MITEN
Sure you can. What are you going to play?

REINHARD
Eyes/Ocean.

MITEN
Oh, it ‘s nice. I have to tell you something about this before you play it. It was composed by the great Sheila Chandra. She sang this and she’s the most amazing singer. I just love this piece so I wanted to record it in my own way. With the band it was very loose and I wanted it to be unstructured, kind of more spontaneous. It’s more or less live from the studio floor.

Eyes/Ocean by Miten sounds

REINHARD
So much space, so much peace. Two things that are so essential in these times right now.

MITEN
And no structure so it could just flow for 10 minutes like this. It’s not often that you can have music where you can just let go into that space.

REINHARD
Who was involved in that recording besides you and Deva?

MITEN
We have a touring band now and we have three really great musicians, old friends of mine, people that I knew back before sannyas. No, actually early sannyas. The bass player there and the producer is a guy called Joby Baker. You’d love Joby. He’s a young guy, he’s only 45 but I knew him when he was 18. He was brought up with two session musician parents in England, in London, and he was around all the studios in the 70s, with people like Gus Dudgeon and Elton John. This little boy was learning and being part of all that. He could play everything… Stevie Wonder was playing… things like this you know. Anyways he’s a great guy to have in the band because he’s non-judgmental at the same time. As a musician that’s not always easy. He’s such a beautiful bass player and he also plays drums. He’s just a great drummer, he’s a great rhythm section. On keyboards and piano there’s a guy called Spencer Cozens, an English guys. Spencer played with Joan Armatrading, he was Joan Armatrading’s piano player for many years. He’s also a really seasoned kind of guy. These guys were just loving to be out playing with us because the audiences were so much like that music you just heard. They just wanted to come and sing and be quiet. So it’s a great space for the musicians to express themselves in. They were really heard and really appreciated, and they don’t always get that these guys. So for them it was like “wow.”

We had a great drummer, Miles Bould. Miles is a super super percussionist. You would love him. Actually you both really would love each other. Miles is a very unique character and he played on Michael Jackson’s album, he’s been a London studio musician drummer for a long while. He’s very well respected. The thing is that Miles wasn’t on that recording. Who was on that recording was my old friend Rishi. Rishi is in Denmark and he’s a drummer but I didn’t want to just use a kind of classical trap set. That was what you heard in that music. I wanted to see what else was there and Rishi found this big tribal drum with a beater. The whole album he’s playing on this, and maybe a cymbal or something, but basically on the whole album he’s just using this one drum. Even when we play the Reggae he still just got the one drop, but somehow he just holds it. I have great musicians. Those guys are the best and then there’s Manose. I can see the connection with you and Manose. Because you both are technically really knowledgeable and at ease with your technicality. But at the same time – and this is a beautiful thing – you’re both wild spirits. I can see it in you Reinhard of course, and I see it in Manose. I can see it in his music and I see it in yours. There’s this wild spirit. I see it in your walk and the way you play your drums. I’ve seen you, we know each other well.

So to have Manose in there brought a totally different element. It started off me and Deva. No frills, no nothing. Just two voices, the guitar and these mantras. And the tanpura.

We weren’t scholars, we were not pundits. We don’t have a lot of anything but something between those elements created something like a crystal and it just had its own beauty, whatever it was. It’s only a beautiful crystal. Nothing more or nothing less. And it was a bit like that with me and Deva. She hadn’t been a singer, she’d never sung in a nightclub or anything like that. Deva was just somebody who was brought into the music groups so that I could teach her how to be on a microphone and what it feels like to be with musicians. So she learned all that with me in the Ashram because by the time we met I was coordinating the music there. But that was 20, 30 years after. It was a long while before I felt qualified to play the music that they were playing there just because it was so free.

REINHARD
I think that you went to the Ashram in 1980 but then Deva came in 1990, like 10 years later, right?

MITEN
No, Deva was in the Ashram about the same time as me. She came to Osho around about the same time. I think the first time she came to Pune was at that time. But I think before she came to Pune she’d been living in the German Osho Community there.

REINHARD
Certainly in this beautiful music you all connect on a very very deep level. And I’m interested… There’s a guy called John Leckie that you worked with in the Ashram. Who was he and what did you do with him?

MITEN
His name in sanyas was Nagara. We’ve remained the best of friends in fact. He just had a birthday, I think it was his 70th, a couple of weeks ago. We haven’t been in touch. We’re just back in touch and he’s enjoying life. He’s living I think out of London. He has some great stories. He’s a real fan of blues, he’s a real fan of the real root of something. That is his starting point with music. He feels the blues that you feel when we play, he feels that even though he’s not a musician. And that’s what brought him into music. But he did it through working at Abbey Road as a tape operator. And then getting recognition slowly, he worked on John Lennon’s album and he worked on Pink Floyd’s album, because they were doing those recordings at EMI and he was part of that engineering team. From there he then went to producing people like Dr. John and big pop kind of hits and things. He’s like me, just him and his wife. They just found they were just at a point where they were, I guess, feeling like “what are we gonna do with our lives.” Like many of us back then. We were looking and we were searching for something beyond music because we were so into music. All my friends thought that that’s where it ended. So you just looked into the music and I started to look beyond music. And that’s where I came across that I was forced out of that by not being good enough at my trade to be a working musician. I got so far, like you said I did some tours with some big bands and played solo but there had to be something more.

REINHARD
Yeah you felt that very early on and luckily you felt that; otherwise you wouldn’t have your music. Are the Eyes/Ocean, Into Your Hands, Just a Little More, from the same band?

MITEN
It’s the same band. This is nice, Into Your Hands is something we used to sing in the Ashram. I told you the music was very simple in the Ashram. It would be three chords…”Into your hands I lay my spirit, into your hands I lay my life.” That was all we sang. We could go on hanging around this for a long long time just in the trance of those words and singing with a very basic thing. I love the understanding of that like “into your hands I lay my spirit.” For me it feels like a freedom that “Okay, I’m here” and it’s not that I’m saying I don’t want to participate in life. I’m saying I want full participation, I’m here for that.

First of all with the recording, the simplified thing that we’ve done in the Ashram just didn’t cut it when we were with these super musicians. It was too simple somehow. It worked at a certain time in history but when I came to record it, we said “okay, I want the words so let’s make some different melody, let’s look for how to create it.” And it came to be kind of gospel, it’s very beautiful.

REINHARD
We are very curious now about this. Here is Into Your Hands.

Into Your Hands by Miten sounds

It really brings tears to my eyes. It’s so much devotion and peace and everything we need in this world right now so much. Beautiful

MITEN
Thank you, thank you, thank you Reinhard. Means a lot to me that the music touches you.

REINHARD
You have done a great work with Deva and mantras also. I want to ask you also, what is the magic of mantras?

MITEN
Yes, they are magic. Because they’re in Sanskrit, the language itself is beyond emotion. So we’re not in the emotional sense. I’ve said this before but i’ll just say this because you cannot emote mantras, it’s something that just has to come from this pure space. I’m talking about the chanting, the actual singer. And with Deva, I think destiny is involved somehow. Honestly I do because I feel, like all those years that i’ve been talking about, we’re all an apprenticeship to meeting Deva and sharing the Gayatri Mantra with the world. I think we were both being brought to that place of that power spot in India and the Ashram, and Rajneesh. Our lives were so different… absolutely different. She was the young German woman. She’s the 17, 18, 19-year-old girl in the Ashram and at 20 she meets me and we’re just so easy with each other. I’m 23 years older than her and we live almost inseparable, why not? 20, 30 years now. And we’re still friends. It’s just incredible that you meet your life partner in your life because it doesn’t always happen.

I’ve been very honored to have been able to have helped her into being a singer because she wasn’t a singer, she didn’t even think of herself as a singer until she came into the Ashram. And so we got together and then I realized she could sing harmony lines really well because she was a trained violinist and her mother had given her piano lessons, violin lessons and singing. So she had a good musical ear. Her pitching was really good because she played violin. So I would bring her into the Ashram and we would sing out “Into Your Hands I Lay my Spirit” songs and things but not mantras. One or two Sufi mantras, but not much. Not much in the way of the traditional mantras.

When we left the Ashram we were playing around in the Meditation Centers in Europe, in the Osho Meditation Centers because they’re the only people that related to us. We were playing Osho songs and back then there was only the Osho Center where you could play them, really.

So anyway we happened to be a festival and she heard the Gayatri Mantra and that’s when I found her key, it’s A minor. That was when she began to blossom and she began to find her voice. It wasn’t like “oh i’m singing this song.” It was a pure outpouring of just purity. I think because the father and mother gave her the Gayatri at conception and all through the pregnancy, out of the birth and all through the childhood, that Deva has been it’s inner bones. So when she sang it for me it was the greatest thing to be free of my songs and free of this kind of structure. You know like “this is the structure.” A classic structure when you write a song it’s got an intro, it’s got a bridge, it’s got a middle eight and that’s what you do. Suddenly I was free of that. It was like there’s nothing, it just goes round and round, it just rolls as long as it wants to. I’s totally free to do whatever you want with it. So it was like a totally new way of approaching music. Suddenly this mantra just went on and I could find her key, put the chords and make the melody together with however it appeared. And there she was. There was the simple chords, the A minor to the G over. It was just all simple but the power of it was amazing. I’d never felt that before I came to the Ashram. I felt it in the Ashram with songs and pieces. Just solid experience of a way of life.

REINHARD
That is an interesting point that you bring up because you said, and I believe that you cannot emote mantras, but when I saw Deva and you singing, performing this mantra or sharing this mantra, I saw people so deeply touched with tears running down. And so, out of stillness, out of this beauty, comes a deeper emotion. That’s the truth.

MITEN
Yes, a deeper emotion, there’s also you can say that way. For me, in this songwriting and the mantras, I personally as a songwriter never go there anymore. I don’t go into the interpersonal. One of the two songs I’ve written in gratitude and recognition of my love for Deva. There’s one or two love songs I’ve written there. And last year we were talking about this.

Last year me and Joby had fun in the studio. We recorded this song I just made up almost on the spot, called “Just a Little More.” It’s a song you can play sometime. It’s very different to the others because it’s kind of soul music, we’ve got the Hammond B3 and the beautiful bases. You’ll hear it.

REINHARD
Let ‘s listen to it.

MITEN
We have a brass section too.

Just a Little More by Miten 

REINHARD
The many many aspects of Miten. Laughters

MITEN
We had so much fun doing it and it gets really joyful as it fades out. Hear it some other time. It just comes to really nice or beautiful celebratory feeling to the whole music.

REINHARD
I really like celebration. Now actually you said you could only perform in these Osho Centers but we all know among your fans there is Dalai Lama, there is Eckhart Tolle. What was actually your collaboration with Anthony Robbins?

MITEN
We were in Australia, we received an email from…she said “I’m Anthony Robbins secretary and they would like to invite you to come and play at their Platinum Members Gathering”, which happens at certain times in the year and it’s in Prague. I think they just invited us so we said yeah. I wasn’t really aware of Tony’s work back then but we went and we met with this beautiful guy. You know he has a really nice energy, I liked him a lot immediately and his wife. And there were these people and they set up in a very kind of exclusive little place a sound system for me and Deva to play for everybody. Tony wanted us to lead one of those meditations for the people, the Platinum Members. So that’s how we met and then our friendship continued. In fact I don’t speak very much to Tony now but the last time we saw each other we promised each other that if there was anything we needed we would be there for each other, which is a nice feeling. because I was saying to him “Tony, you know, on a spiritual level if you ever want to hang out on that level…” and he was really nice. And his wife is beautiful.

Deva did one or two of his courses and it really changed her in very fundamental ways, in good ways, it was beautiful. Just to say that about Tony’s work.

REINHARD
We are still awake, all of us, I think. The listeners, we do. That’s a very amazing, amazing episode.

There is a tune from you “Still Awake.” Is it from the same album or this is a different album?

MITEN
Still Awake is an older song and we recorded it but I didn’t release it because it didn’t feel finished. And during the lockdown I had time to finish it with Joby. So we did it long distance for he has a studio in Canada.

REINHARD
It’s the most recent thing you did actually, right?

MITEN
Yes, that’s the most recent thing that we did. It’s a new vocal and it’s finished, it’s nice. I think it’s a very beautiful song.

REINHARD
And we will hear it right now.

Still Awake by Miten

Miten, I really honor you for having changed and helped the lives of so many people around the globe. You’re a great man really. And I feel honored to be your friend, really. So good to have you here. So anything you wanna still share, that’s the moment.

MITEN
I think I’m done, what about you?

REINHARD
Yeah! We had a very great conversation and so we gradually finish that maybe with some of my latest music also, which is orchestral music.

MITEN
Please man. One day we will play the Gayatri together, Reinhard.

REINHARD
Oh, we should!

MITEN
We would play it with such beauty and it would be a gift to all of us who have that moment. I hope we have that before we die, a moment when we play the Gayatri Mantra together. Would be so beautiful.

REINHARD
That sounds like the most beautiful invitation. Thank you so much. You can find Deva Premal and Miten on https://devapremalmiten.com/

So this was the episode with Miten. If you like my podcast please subscribe and share your feelings by leaving a comment. I hope that really really brought you to some deep emotions, deep reflections. A big honor to talk to Miten today. Have a great day.

Please leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!
I’m curious about your sharings, thoughts and feedback.

Thanks, Reinhard

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