From Kirten to Cosmic
Latitude 14 crosses Alto Paralso, a small town in northeastern Goiás state in Brazil. That's where Deva Premal crossed my path last summer. She entered my interior landscape through the ear during a sacred ceremony in a jungle temple.
A sensuously sacrosanct audio rendering of the highest vibration breathed its breath on my tympanic membrane with German precision, inciting small bones and micro nerves of the inner ear bringing me to a soulful orgasmic activation. It was the voice of a superstar mantra singer and it was her rendition of Gate Gate (from the Heart Sutra of Buddha) that jump-started my awakening.
Gate gate, Para-gate Parasam-gate, Bodhiswaha.
Translation: Gone, gone beyond. Gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening.
That was just the beginning. Deva was all over the Brazilian audioscape. Transported next all the way from the crystal beds of Alto Paraiso to Casa De Dom haao in Abadiania (the town where, where healer Joao De Deus works his magic) in a rented van on vapors from Deva's Dakshina CD. In Abadiania, Joao performed one of his signature 'visible healings' on me, thrusting forceps up my nose, popping the membrane covering my third eye. All eyes and ears now opened, I haven't stopped listening to D.P. since, her hallowed tracks constant at top volume in my loft on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
Deva, a classically trained German musician, is actually two people. There is really no Deva as we know her, without musician/singer/songwriter/soul mate, Miten. She and reformed Brit pop-rockin' Miten first met in India. "I was 42 years old," Miten told me as he and Deva had a little post sound check-from hell sushi in the dressing room at Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood. "I was coordinating the music in Osho's ashram in Pune. Deva was a 20-year-old girl studying different bodywork techniques, "reflexology, massage." "Shiatsu," Deva pipes in between bites. "Cranial sacral," he continues. "She was a body worker and a really good one. She wasn't singing. She came to me one day and offered me a session. We became friends after that session - almost 16 years ago. We haven't been out of pocket since."
Bird in a net
It's always telling when free range flora and fauna drift into the high voltage vortex tangle of energies that make up Los Angeles. The disturbing currents of the tinsel town matrix read like a fun house mirror to the untrained third eye. It can unnerve even a well rooted yogi and the rigors of the road are the same regardless if your mission is transmuting the darkest energies into pure light or getting laid in your indie band-van at Spaceland in Silverlake... which is not dissimilar from a tan & mini vacation... in some ways.
Deva and Miten's sound check at Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood was a routine nightmare. The soundman was having lots of trouble with the rented sound system. "I wonder if we should travel with our own system," Miten considers. Thing is, it didn't seem like problem for the healing road warriors. They breathed seemingly effortlessly through what would have been a disaster for lots of other touring acts.
On stage the line up is golden-throated Deva on keyboard and vocals, Miten on vocals and guitar and Nepalese bamboo flute playing demigod in the middle.
Up close, back in the dressing room, Deva is a German beauty with huge, pure dear blue eyes that take you into her warm fold the instant you look into them. Miten has a loving calm that makes me want to master the bamboo flute and move in with them forever. She also has a really corny German sense of humor that comes through in her onstage shtick.
"It's not something I expected to be doing, but it just happened that I started singing and that's what makes me most happy," Deva tells me in a decidedly endearing ESL-German accent. There's a certain adolescent energetic about her - she's retained.
"I received that name [Deva Premal] from my spiritual master when I was 11 years old, and that spiritual practice [Osho] expresses itself in singing in this life," she tells me, and for a second she seems to have shape shifted into the beautiful Oshoean tween she was.. . and still is. "But you should also say that you were born with mantras and you were singing mantras all through your childhood as bedtime stories," Miten adds, breaking the spell. "That's the name I was given by my guru, Osho. It means "friend of God." Same guru as Deva," says Miten Prabhu in a temperate British accent. "Why do I do it?" He repeats my question. "It's the only thing I can do. (Deva laughs in between bites). It's the best thing I can do."
"I like the space of silence that the music brings," Miten says. "That's really the nourishment. If you're open to that silence you hit the big space and that's really why I do it."
These people are healers and they're out to heal the world, one mantra at a time. "For me it's really the most beautiful thing to come together with people and sing. They're called concerts, but really they're actually more like events or experiences because we all come together to sing," Deva says and I understand experientially after attending two LA. shows. They weren't concerts at all, though they performed songs onstage. They were communal sound healings: the words, the melody, the sacredness of the mantra, the sense of their intention.
It's after the show that the real show begins. A line forms from Deva and Miten and they talk to everybody. .. everybody who waits to talk to them. Some people they seem to know. Some they're just meeting. But it's a truthful connection and they give each person as much attention as they require. I've never seen anything like it. It's their work.
I recently interviewed a bunch of kids on tour in vans at dubs in Silver Lake. They were not on a mission to heal the world. They were responding to an unsupressable urge to express what is in their hearts and maybe hook up.
"There's a wave," Miten tells me. "Something that started in the 60s and opened up in the 70s. The 60s was a kind of Aquarian age. Out of that grew a bunch of us who went to India and found gurus and out of that whole cultural explosion this happened. The kids now have a absorbed it. They've got that kind language that we were searching for so we're on the same wave."
Miten and Premal's music is born out of meditation and a celebration of life. It's not a matter of entertaining people but a teaching that everybody with a voice can sing, and everyone with a breath in their body can experience their divinity.
Deva Premal and Miten, like Krishna Das or Jai Uttal or all the relentless touring sacred superstars are an essential meditative portal to access my continuing divine renovation. The sonic sound sculpture of soul transformation that plays in me, even when it's not playing out loud has allowed me constant connection in a way that, in conjunction with other practices, has allotted me a decidedly accelerated path. Next stop Peru, then the Himalayas. Always, Deva on the iPod. Always glowing with an all pervading light as long as the music plays.
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