When I close my eyes and feel into the music of Miten, I feel paradoxically energised within deep meditation. It has something to do with the sacred masculine energy floating in resonance just above the graceful feminine energy. Miten and Deva feel to me to be so perfectly attuned: the strength of a rose in Winter and the purposeful bloom in the Summer. And they intertwine and inter-switch these qualities when working together.
Yet for me, there is a quality in Miten’s solo work that speaks to the heart of my masculinity … it invites me to be a better man, a sweeter man, a fiercely present man. I have been enlivened and restful in his music. You could say that I am a long-time devotee of Miten’s work. And without a doubt, Miten is a long-time Devotee to the Beloved, the Divine, to the Mystery of Existence … to the spell and magic of God.
His latest work is sublime, a masterpiece of gentle persuasion. It’s the culmination of a life dedicated to the craft of music with one sole purpose; to sweetly and gently remind us all that we are a spark of the one true light. Miten is known for his humility, his sense of humour and his natural unpretentious way of connecting intimately with all of humanity: An ocean refuses no river.
And love will lead us on,
everywhere we go
And love will lead us on,
my heart tells me so
And love will lead us on, and on and on
And love will lead us on
On and on, I know it’s true
Q. When did you know that devotional music would be your path?
Somehow, I became a devotee of an Indian guy. I mean, it’s that basic – a guru. Osho just changed my life. I learned through him and his methods to trust. I got into some sticky patches and whatever he said, if I really listened to him, I realised, oh, I got myself out of that sticky patch. I realised I could trust him and that I was in something way deeper than what they call master-disciple relationship, which is often misunderstood as master-slave or leader-follower, all those kinds of misconceptions. Something happens and you recognise it’s not the person at all, it’s Life itself and you become a devotee of Life and then you start to trust Life. And when you start to trust Life, it gets really interesting.
To call myself a devotee of Life was one thing but what I realised, through my relationship with Osho, was it’s good to be with a living master. Even if it’s a fraud, it doesn’t matter. If you go to a place where you surrender your idea of who you are, something new can happen.
I’d stopped playing music when I went to the ashram. I didn’t want any more guitar identifications, star trips and all that stuff. So basically, I was just chopping the carrots and washing rice for a long while there. And then I realised music is an alive spirit and that’s what Osho gave me – he gave me back music. It came back through me wanting to say thank you to the Master. I didn’t realise then that he had actually given me music back so that when he’d left his body, I would still be with a spiritual, alive teacher. Because music is that, it challenges me and it seduces me and how could I not be its devotee? Music accepts me as I am. It accepts me in my failings as a musician, and it accepts me in my attempt to say something of my life through music. It is loving and it’s challenging and that’s why I called it Devotee.
Q. It’s been twenty years since you first recorded the album ‘Blown Away’ and the song ‘Rhythm of the Heart’. Just a year ago you had emergency heart surgery and you spoke about a dark night of the soul. Did this life-emergency have any influence on you recording again, ‘Rhythm of the Heart’, for this new album?
Well, I think we have to look at the open-heart surgery as a starting point, as if something happened during that process, that gave me the feeling that I’m beginning again. And it was some kind of rebirth, it’s obvious. I’ve got more energy, my creativity is happening and my body is deteriorating, and I’m watching in a very interested and alive way, the body, it does what it does.
I didn’t think of it in terms of this is going to be my last album or anything – but I felt it could be. All the Osho songs come so much from the moment and whenever I play them, they’re bringing me into the moment. They’re not manufactured, they’re not something from the intellect, they’re more from an emotional place that is beyond emotion because they begin in silence. So, you allow that silence to be part of the opening of the music – it’s important.
I remember struggling a bit with Rhythm of the Heart on Blown Away. I felt I caught something of it, but there was a tenderness, a gentleness and a depth that I didn’t feel at the time, that I feel now. And I just thought, well, let’s just play and give it another reading. The whole band were in the studio we experimented – I was playing electric guitar, which I hadn’t played for years. The electric guitar changed everything, it gave us a new palette, a new landscape to play within, it’s so different to acoustic.
We were experimenting, letting songs breathe, letting the music breathe. Like on Eyes Ocean or Bring Me Your Love and Dance When You Walk we were very open and loose. Almost the whole album is pretty much live. This electric guitar gave me the chance to play again – me sitting in front of a picture of Osho and Leonard Cohen – they were my inspiration.
Q. I can feel Leonard Cohen in some of the tracks, especially in the vocals. His laid back and almost stripped back rawness – just letting the words and the music do most of the work.
That was really the focus – to put me in that place. My friend Rishi, our drummer told me to listen to Ólafur Arnalds. He’s an Icelandic musician and he makes this great music. There was a video of him playing piano in a house and then the piano went and I thought that was the piece but after a while, the camera shifted to this old man poet sitting in a chair who recited a poem in Icelandic. I realised the piano was there to present this poem. I didn’t understand it. Suddenly the camera moves again to another part of the room and there’s a string quartet … Oh, wow, it was just an amazing feeling. I said to the guys, look, that old man is me.
We’ve got to be able to say to ourselves, about the music we are making, that we could die with or die to it. Can you die to this expression? Because we started to come into a very compassionate and sensitive place. It didn’t mean that we couldn’t have fun. We wanted to laugh when we die, or we want to dance when we walk, but at the same time, we’re in this moment of let go. And that was my feeling. I wanted to make music that encouraged listeners to let go. Whether we’re dying, or whether we’re just letting go of something we don’t need anymore. This album is somehow rooted in that understanding – it’s a very tender album. Listen to it with your headphones, get close to it. It’s very, very well recorded. I felt like okay, well, if this is my last album, it’s really beautiful.
Q. You’ve got Deva, Manose and this eclectic caravan of musicians from all around the world. And when I’m sitting in the audience, they feel like family to me too. Can you talk a little bit about that family that you so magically bestow upon us … it feels like a homecoming every time we sit with you!
There’s eleven of us on that caravan. We’ve got sound equipment and roadies and tour manager and lighting and sound and monitors and the band. And Hannah and me and Deva and Manose, so it becomes a family. We’ve got a new guy and he was saying how he’s looking forward to the first show. And I had to say to him, look, you have to know from the start, me and Deva, we don’t do shows. It’s not our thing. It’s not a show. It might look like that but it’s not a show.
We see that we’re really blessed. From the very start, we were very simple. And we knew we could touch hearts and live in a place that we could share and the music expressed that space. I learned that from playing in Buddha Hall in the Osho Ashram. Buddha Hall was big enough for us to make mistakes. That was the point. And it was a beautiful possibility that Osho gave us as musicians. It took away the ego, it took away this striving to get it right.
So, these guys that I bring in, they have been through that, they are all seasoned musicians. And they all understand that music is their guru, and so they’ve learned how to listen. And they’ve learned that there’s something happening with me and Deva and Manose, that is not quite what they’re used to.
We’ve got three super musicians who have played with big stars, like Joan Armatrading, Sting, and Beyoncé and Joe even has a Grammy. These guys are way overqualified, really, but we want the best. These musicians know how to listen and they’re so sensitive to what’s happening. They are used to playing in clubs and places where people don’t really listen, and then they come into our concert halls where everyone is just in devoted attention. The musicians aren’t asked to show off, they’re only there to support the audience. So, you get this particular quality of music. And at the same time, we’re all tuned into the fact that one of the biggest aspects of our music as musicians, is the choir, is the people out there singing with us. It’s a different way of seeing and being with music for these guys.
Q. It’s quite the paradox to use the music to actually reach the silence. That’s how I experience it, it takes me to the depth of the silence.
That’s the point of it. That’s why we always begin the concerts in silence. We can come on the stage and we just have to sit there and let everybody settle down and slowly, slowly, it’ll come down eventually to silence. And that’s where we begin. So that’s why I say it’s not a show – in a way, it’s more like going to church.
Q. Leonard Cohen, also, towards the end of his life evoked that. It was a very religious experience. Can you talk a little about being a father and a granddad and how that has weaved its way into your musicianship?
I wasn’t a very good dad, not really. I know that my son loves me to bits and my grandkids do too, in their own way, but I’m really a sort of Skype guy. I don’t see them enough. As for my son, I walked out on him when he was a little guy. He grew up with a distant dad. He didn’t have me as a role model. And so, we’re different. All this time I was going through my thing and he was growing up into his teenage years. And then he met a girl, they hung out, eventually they got married and he says to me, will you be my best man? And I was like, come on, man. Have one of your mates or something, he said, no, I want you, and it was so great. And then later on, when they had their second kid, he said, okay, I’m going to call him after you, I’m going to call him Andrew (my given name). I’m like no, don’t call him Andrew. I said I appreciate it, but you don’t have to call him Andrew. Then they called me a few days later and said, yeah, we’re going to call him Miten. So, he’s called Miten.
And I do have a great connection with them, they love me and I love them, but I’m just there as a sort of presence to my son somehow. He’s just gone through a divorce, painful, and so I’ve been helping him through that and being there for him. And it’s been a great time for me and him. We’ve gone deeper with each other and he’s learning to trust his old man a bit more. So that’s been my story.
Actually, it’s strange, because I was a teacher in the Rajneesh school and the Koswan school, I was always surrounded by loads of kids, just not my own. That was interesting, it was tough in a way. But we got through it all, we’re good friends, me and him. And more and more he trusts life. He said he’s got a new girlfriend now. He said to her, maybe I should start listening to the old man because he told me it was going to get really good, but I didn’t really believe him and now I see that it is really good.
Q. That’s very touching to hear. I mean, I’m not going to write that in the article, but I might mention something about its influence. But I feel very privileged to hear it.
Okay. But I really don’t want to have any secrets. There’s nothing I don’t want people to know about me. So, if it’s part of your flow to put it in, put it. I don’t mind. It’s a special time.
Because I was a teacher and with lots of kids, I now have all these beautiful kids, that were like twelve years old, and now they’re in their forties, coming to me at the end of concerts. They bring their own kids – it’s like another one of my ‘grandkids’. We all hang out. I’ve got these fantastically intelligent young people around me. Hanging out with me in my seventies. To be around such a young, vibrant, creative energy, is amazing. They all respect me, which is even more amazing!
make peace with your mother and your father, too
make peace with the stranger inside of you
and forgive yourself for the things you tried and failed to do
embrace your anger, your lust and your greed
that’s how we drop the things that we don’t need
Q. ‘All the Way’ is a beautiful lullaby, a nurturing, soothing, devotional song, and to have it sung by a man, there’s just something very powerful in that for me …
I play it in concerts now and again. I love the song and I tried it for the last album, Temple at Midnight. It didn’t really work somehow and I said I want another crack at it. And again, it was one of those like, Rhythm of the Heart, it was done in just one day. It’s very elusive because I still feel like I haven’t really got right into the heart of that song yet. It’s interesting, it’s quite… what’s the word? Mercurial. I’m vulnerable in there. There’s space to be vulnerable because that’s how I’m feeling.
Even if tonight will soon be over
Even if today is here and gone
Do not let the past hang on your shoulder
What is done is done …
After all is said and done
it’s love that leads us on …
You better follow your heart
Love will take us all the way …
And right there we ended the interview with me swimming in the tenderness of vulnerability and Miten holding me right in the heart of it. He offers the graceful ease of a present father, a sage, an approachable heart-centred man, a friend, a confident … an unassuming vessel of song. Songs for humanity and somehow simultaneously somehow songs of the Divine.
I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t listen to Miten and Deva. They are by far my most enduring non-complicated relationship. They just keep giving and soothing my heart and soul. They bolster me up and shake my ego down. They are true friends. And as millions of you already know, there is no limit to the amount of friends they can make through their devotional music. If you aren’t a ‘Devotee’ already, I encourage you to bask in the loving, healing energy of the one true light that we all share.
and maybe sometimes your heart is broken but it’s nothing that love cannot repair
so with the gifts that you bring remember one thing
it’s the love for yourself that you share
Dive deeper with Deva Premal and Miten:
24-30 July, 2020 with Manose: https://bit.ly/2ZGLP9d
7-10 August, 2020 with Rafia: https://bit.ly/30ttOdK