Deva Premal & Miten
For over two decades, Deva Premal & Miten have been sharing their musical journey into mantra, meditation and love which has taken them from yoga studios to audiences of thousands, in concert halls, cathedrals and music festivals worldwide.
New Video from Deva Premal and Miten with Manose and Rishi "Inescapable Love/Om Namaha Shivaya" filmed live during 2015 Spring Tour
Miten is passionate about the video and feels that the message is especially poignant for this time of the year: "With the world in the melt down it's in right now, we have received many beautiful responses as a result (of the video) - and that's basically the point for us; to share something positive and uplifted, in love." Deva & Miten and Manose sang the song all through Eastern Europe this year and were very moved by the response...from Tel Aviv to Kiev.. As you'll see, the film has a very uplifting vibration.
From Deva & Miten: "We love this video - recorded live in Budapest, it captures the magic of what happens when we all come together. Be warned - it is 8 minutes long but we ask you to please stay with us until the end of the journey - it is a beautiful ending! So put your headphones on, crank up the volume and give it up for 8 minutes of inescapable love." (Video mixed and edited by Rishi.)
Musically, Deva Premal and Miten come from two very different worlds. Deva, German-born, classically trained, grew up in an environment imbued with eastern spirituality, where mantras were chanted as bedtime lullabies. Miten, from England, spent the 60's and 70s as a singer/songwriter in the heady world of rock 'n roll, recording with The Kinks, and touring with Fleetwood Mac, Ry Cooder, Lou Reed, and others.
They met in India in 1990 at the ashram of the controversial mystic, Osho.
Two decades later, their shared journey into mantra, meditation and love, has taken them from yoga studios to audiences of thousands, in concert halls, cathedrals and music festivals worldwide.
Sales of their CDs are approaching one million units.
Deva & Miten have received accolades from such luminaries as best-selling author Eckhart Tolle, who calls their music "pure magic."
Hollywood icon Cher cites Deva's album, The Essence as "My favorite CD to do yoga to."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is reported to listen to their music during his private time and, when hearing Deva & Miten chant his favorite mantra at a private audience, exclaimed, "Beautiful music, beautiful…!"
Motivation guru, Anthony Robbins describes their music as "Passionate and powerful".
The practice of chanting Sanskrit mantras has long been a part of the Yogic tradition in India and Tibetan Buddhism. In recent years, like Yoga, chanting has moved into the Western mainstream, where it has been embraced as a joyful path to ease the heart and quiet the mind. Deva points out: "When you sing mantras, you enter a state of peaceful, vibrant and replenishing silence. Basically, that's why all religions and traditions have made so much of chanting in their rituals." She also notes that chanting mantras can be healing on many levels: "The Sanskrit language is energy based - it is sound medicine. It has a harmonizing and balancing effect on the energy centers in the body, both physically, and metaphysically."
More than Music, OMTIMES Interview
They're light-hearted. They're laughing a lot. Not a counterfeit smile or moment of manufactured bliss in the space between the words. In soundless relief, no remnant of stress lingers from the relentless grind of their perpetual trans-continental touring schedule… because it's effortless for them. They move in a sannyasic bliss fueled by devotion. The mystery of how the globetrotting mantra singers maintain their collective bliss on tour is about to reveal itself without words.
Deva and Miten lean into our conversation over a glass of coconut water. I ask the two of them questions and they answer as one.
How did you get so lucky?
"That's what I keep asking myself," Deva says. "We were galley slaves in our last lives," Miten adds.
How do you do what you do? That is…how does the mechanism of your modality, your practice of healing by mantra work?
"Deva's a translucent channel for the mantras to move through," Miten says, "She was born to her father chanting the Gayatri [mantra]. People don't understand the difference between a language that is energetic and a language that is created by the mind." "The meaning is secondary. The word table is not the table," Deva cuts to the heart of the matter. "With Sanskrit, the word anand is the sound vibration of bliss. In sound the energy of bliss. We have to say bliss; we have to make it smaller by putting it into an English word. Just the sound; anand, If we were sensitive enough we'd just feel the entire scope of that energy that's contained in this sound."
Miten sits motionless in a comfortable silence as she continues. "The ancient seers, they help us give the meaning that they perceived when they used these sounds," Deva tenders. "They kind of made these dialectic formulas where they put these Sanskrit words to go to very specific areas of your life; for a physical healing or to go into healing relationships. We have almost medicinal formulas of a collection of sounds that are also a collection of words.
And there are the names of Gods and Deities that all go together. When we sing Ganesha, the sound of Ganesha is the sound of removing of obstacles or the sound of unity, but it also helps us to see the form that was created to reflect that energy of removing of obstacles, of unity or of harmony. It's working on a cellular level. It's much deeper than the mind. It's not a language that you need to understand the meaning of before you use it. It's a deep universal sound code that connects us all."
"The mantras are mainly Sanskrit," Miten interjects, "Sometimes Sufi, sometimes Hopi, sometimes Uruba, sometimes Tibetan, sometimes Nepali. It depends...what speaks to us. People bring them. Lately Deva has taken to chanting them in the traditional way…how ironic is that? Her latest project is with Tibetan monks who have a small monastery in Byron Bay [New South Wales, Australia]. "They have recorded together - the monks chanting, and Deva…amazing male/female energy connection."
"How do you use the mantras personally in your life?"
Deva jumps in with a question to Miten. "It's not theoretical," Miten responds. "Two nights ago I woke up and wasn't feeling good. Just chanting the Ganesh mantra…it just lifted any feeling of fear or depression in that moment. I internally chanted the mantra 54 times then the "Om Shanti" mantra 54 times and I was back. I was home. That's how I use it in my life. Even though it's not a classical way of chanting when we play, we must have chanted them all 108 times. They've absolutely changed my life. The mantras are an expression of my life with Osho and how it's unfolded into so much grace."
"The most courageous thing people can do is to stand still," Miten says. Deva and Miten embody the result of the practice they preach. They languish in extended effortless introspective silences. They consider and internally reflect…then, they lapse into a lighthearted laughter that bounces back and forth between them. Laughter feeds itself on laughter until we all abandon ourselves to the moment and laugh some more, and then more again.
Deva and Miten affect a biochemical soul-balancing act grounded in a life of devotional service that carries them through the rigors of the road. "We're really good at just letting it go," Miten confesses. "Really letting it go," Deva complies. When the rigors of the road present… say, at a ticket counter at an international airport around 4 A.M. on two hours sleep, it barely registers as a bump in the road. "There's sometimes when we blow but it doesn't resonate for long. It almost seems like it's part of the thing," Miten says.
Where do the songs and mantras you're working with come from? Where do you find them? "The mantras," Miten offers, "they come…the songs appear…sometimes you grab them. Sometimes they slip from your grasp…the best ones disappear before you catch them. As for the mantras, Deva knows lots and lots.The question is, how do you put them to music without diminishing their power?"
Are you sacred singers? Is that what you call yourselves?
"Sacred sounds a bit pretentious doesn't it? Miten asks, "And yet, hmmm… isn't all music sacred?"
What is your highest aspiration?
"To be free," Miten says. "Enlightenment,"
Deva says, "To experience oneness inside of me and with everything around me all the time and hopefully inspire others to realize the same…a bright awareness of Divine in every form." "To serve," Miten offers, "On a technical level, the more beautiful the music is, the more we aspire to more and more beautiful expression through music…which, in a way, is part of our responsibility. Music is the medium you know?"
What's your saving grace?
"Osho," Miten says without reservation. "Osho," Deva says. "I still feel like…because he was this person…I just want to expand it for those who still see the person when they hear the word. It's the feeling of Osho, which is celebration, being in the moment, being in the flow, surrendering to what is, and being as aware as you can of all of that."
What's your biggest challenge?
"Music," Deva says. "Music is God," Miten adds, "Music is a very obvious doorway into God. So music is a fierce teacher. It shows you your limitations and it shows you everything about yourself. When you play music with somebody you're naked with them. You can't hide. Music is a guru of sorts. It's a guru, and a guru can lead you into the light. That's music's gift." "That's very well said, Deva concurs, "And exactly what I meant."
What's your favorite thing about your life?
"Being together actually, for me," Miten confesses, "Because being together, its 24 /7. That includes everything from going to Whole Foods to playing a sacred concert. It's no different. Just being together." "I just love everything about this life," Deva reflects. "It's twenty years now," Miten says. "Nineteen," Deva corrects him, then starts to laugh until Miten joins in. Laughter feeds laughter again and we all laugh for a long time. "Nineteen," Miten gathers himself, "I always had the idea that after a few years, things settle down between you as a couple. I was wrong; it just keeps getting deeper and friendlier and the more friendliness the better." He says and a very long silence hovers then dissipates when I ask them to sing something.
"Take me from illusion to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality," Deva translates Om asatomo satgamaya, a mantra she recorded on her first CD, The Essence, a collection of mantras that includes the Gayatri, her signature and the mantra that her father sang to her in the womb. The air in the room stills as Miten picks up a road worn six-string Taylor guitar and invokes a transcendental vibration like a snake charmer luring a sleeping cobra from a basket. Deva closes her eyes and disappears into the world between words, then intonates a refined and elegant mediumship in sustained vibrato as Miten delicately weaves his voice into the prayer. It is a precision ballet. A synergistic resonance that illuminates the source of the gift of their melodious passage. Om asatomo satgamaya? Tamasoma jyotir gamaya? Mrityorma amritamgamaya
Sam Slovick is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is a regular contributor to LA Yoga Ayurveda and Health magazine and the LA Weekly. samslovick.com
An Evening with H.H. Dalai Lama
It was at a congress entitled 'Unity in Duality' in Munich, Germany, where they were invited to give a concert. Here are some notes they sent about the event. To our surprise, we were also invited to the pre-conference gathering, in which the Dalai Lama and the contributing speakers, all eminent scientists, could meet each other in private.
To close the meeting, we were asked to sing a mantra. We chose the Tara Mantra [Om Tare Tuttare], as we'd heard that His Holiness had asked for it to be chanted to aid his healing when he'd been in hospital in India earlier in the year.
'His Holiness' doesn't roll easily off my tongue, but if ever a man deserved such a title, I feel it belongs to the Dalai Lama. He appeared to be in such bliss, so finely tuned to the present. Laughing, smiling, greeting everyone, and simultaneously, very, very intelligent, with the power of a warrior. He listened to us, mostly with closed eyes, and when we finished singing, a deep silence filled the room. Eventually, he smiled, saying, ''Beautiful, beautiful...!'' and we namasted to each other.
The following morning we met again at his public address. He greeted us with a hand shake and the words, ''Om tare mantra, Om tare mantra...!'' We offered him a gift of our CDs, hoping he has a CD player somewhere!
The concert itself, which took place the same evening, was one of the most beautiful we've played in our 12 years on the road. There was such love in the hall. 1,200 people sang their hearts out with us, and we bathed together in the delicious, precious silence that followed the mantras. Thank you, all of you who came, and especially Dieter and the Culturelife people, who organized this great event. You gave us a day we'll never forget. Deva Premal October 14, 2002
Yoga+Joyful Living, September/October 2008
The two have been traveling the world since 1992, when they left their guru's ashram in Pune, India. They are the Johnny and June Carter Cash of sacred music, with more than a dozen albums and a fan base that includes both Cher and the Dalai Lama. "We swim in it, 24/7,"
Miten says of their music. "It's not to be famous. It's not to make money. It's not to sit in front of audience. It's to connect with our guru, and the way we do that is through our music." Their guru is the India spiritual teacher who came to be known as Osho.
Deva was just 10 when her mother returned from a trip to India and introduced her to Oslo's "active meditations" - techniques that include dancing, Sufi whirling and humming. She became a preteen devotee, donning mala prayer beads and robes in the shades of a sunrise. Years would pass before she slipped into a pair of blue jeans. In her late teens, she left Germany and moved to the ashram in Pune. It was there, in 1990, that she met Miten. She was 20. He was 43.
Miten, whose Osho-given name means "friend," came to Pune by way of England and a rock-and-roll lifestyle. In the '70s, the singer-songwriter toured with Fleetwood Mac, Lou Reed and Ry Cooder, closing many sets with a plaintive song called "Show Me a Home." The business of music sapped his passion for music. After reading a book of Osho's discourses, he sold his guitars and moved to a commune of devotees in England. "The pain I was carrying around with music suddenly evaporated as soon as I sold my guitars and stopped identifying myself as a musician," he told Yoga+. "That was one of Osho's great teachings. He helped many people drop the idea of who they were so they could actually locate something of who they really are. Suddenly I wasn't a musician anymore. That was a great relief." Miten soon discovered that "the orange people," as Oslo's robed followers were called, saw joyous singing as a spiritual practice. Their song-filled meditations reawakened his passion for music - and for life.
It wasn't long before he was leading the music sessions, first in England and later at the ashram in India. Though Deva had studied violin, piano and voice as a child, she wasn't a singer when she and Miten met. She was studying bodywork at the ashram and, one day, recruited Miten for a practice shiatsu session. That sparked their romantic partnership.
Their musical partnership took root later, when Deva asked Miten to listen to her sing. He put her in the band. Deva shunned the spotlight until 1997, when she recorded a mantra album in her mother's apartment.
The Essence, which features the ancient Gayatri mantra, rose to the top of the New Age charts. Unlike their earlier albums, it found fans outside the Osho community - in yoga centers. "We put The Essence out thinking that it would support our friends in their massage practices," Miten says. "Suddenly it was like the world started pouring through our window. We began receiving all these invitations to come play in yoga studios in America. We've gone from yoga studios to playing to 1,500 people in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Amazing."
Deva and Miten's music is an amalgam of sacred mantras and English songs written by Miten or musician friends. Their concerts are sing-alongs rather than call-and-response affairs. "The people who come to sing with us, they're part of the band. They're the choir," says Deva. "That changes every night. It's going to sound different and have a different flavor every night."
Chanting their Way to the Top: An Interview with Deva Premal And Miten
Premal, whose German parents raised her with mantras and spiritual values, became a sanyassin, a devotee of the spiritual master Osho (formerly Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), at the age of 11. She met her partner and musical collaborator, Miten, at Osho’s ashram in Pune, India, where he had come to escape a hard rock lifestyle that was no longer working for him. Together, they experienced the joys of kirtan, using the voice in prayerful devotion by chanting mantras of the names of God.
Their love flourished, as did their musical careers, and today they travel the world over, bringing their concerts to more and more open, participatory audiences. Our own Deanna Leah, a long-time meditator, devotee, and music afficionado, met with Miten and Premal recently to talk with them about their astounding, unlikely rise to fame.
Deanna Leah: My intention, through this interview, is to serve you as well as all our readers so that they receive the blessings and healing energy that many of us have received through your music. What are your intentions through your music?
Premal: I have to be very honest; it’s not so much that there was the intention, then there was the music. For me it was the otherway around: The music came, and this life happened, and then it somehow had this beautiful side effect that it would make other people happy and they would enjoy the music and be enriched by it. It just kind of all happened. That’s what it was like for me. It’s hard for me to even call myself a musician. I was so lucky to meet Miten, who is a musician, and he helped me with the music. Through him I found my voice with the mantras and together we created these CDs and the concerts, and then suddenly it was appreciated by many people, and we said, “Wow, great!” but there was no idea beforehand that this would happen or that anybody else would like it, too.
Miten: Another way of putting it is that there was no ambition behind it. But at the same time, personally, there was an intention, which was to share what I had received through my years as a meditator, being in India and just seeing that music could be shared from a different point of view, a different perspective. Before I got into meditation, my music was coming from the space of emotion, which is what most music that you hear on the radio comes from. When I started to play music from a space of no-mind, it was different. The intention was to share meditation, basically, through music—and meditation not in a serious way. Meditation is serious, but it’s also very playful and very profound and can be approached in many different ways. We had a spiritual master who approached it in ways that opened many doors for us. We knew we could share something; we just didn’t know if people were ready to hear it.
And how did it begin?
M: Well, it began because we had a small family of people, what we call a Buddha Field. It’s a community, a creative team, and it’s something we often encourage people who come to our workshops and concerts to look for, because then you can be supported in your own journey. Otherwise, it’s very cold and isolated out there. You travel so much.
How do you keep that community for yourself as well as find the solitude for your spiritual practice when you need it?
M: Wherever we go, we are in the Buddha Field; we’re in this space with you now, with new people like you or the people here who allow us to come and stay. It’s incredible — we could be playing in Tokyo, or Stockholm, or Greece, or Vancouver, or San Francisco — it doesn’t matter; it’s the same people in different bodies and they all come because they have been so touched by Premal’s voice, and they bring with them the space that we need to create the music. It’s not just us; it’s a two-way thing. It’s not something where people come and say“entertain me for two hours.” And that small community that began 11 years ago has now expanded. A little while ago, we played in this theater in Seattle and it was full, and it’s great when we come out to the stage and are received with such a blast of love. It really touched me, and I thought, here we are, playing to all these people, but it’s just like sitting in our kitchen. There’s an intimacy. So we purposely don’t “perform”; we make sure it’s not a performance that separates us from the people.
So from beginning to end you feel connected to yourselves and to the audience?
P: Yes, and we encourage people not to clap so it’s really silent, and then we invite them to sing with us. So we’re all singing together, and then when you go into the silence after the singing it’s just so precious.
How would you describe that space or that vibration that you’re singing in?
M: Sacred. I would say it’s like walking into a temple, and that’s where I like to be. It’s like Premal’s voice. I’ve watched Premal open — I’ve watched this flower open. When we met, she wasn’t singing. So I’ve seen this whole thing happen. And I have been touched by it so much. You’ve become quite popular recently.
Have you experienced changes that come with more notoriety and more success?
P: It’s just been easier. I used to worry. When we first got together, I was 20, and I thought I could do this for a while with him and have a good time, but then I would have to do something proper. When we met, I was doing bodywork and healing and that’s where I was going. When we first started, I was Miten’s support. He was a singer and he wrote all his own songs and I would sing the second voice, which I still do now, and still love. I would only do that. I was so shy, I wouldn’t even dare to sing alone, not even in the sound check — I was really shy. And then slowly I got more confident, but I still didn’t know how to express myself or how I could come out somehow. It was in the mantras that I saw that this is what I can sing alone and it sounds beautiful and it touches me and other people. I grew up with the mantras, and I sang the Gayatri Mantra as a kid every night, but when it’s too close you don’t see it. So it was the Gayatri which was really the opening door for me. Our music got so popular because people starting using it in their practices, massage, yoga, and such. We didn’t do any advertising at all. We didn’t really do anything. It really did it by itself by word of mouth; whenever people hear it, they want it.
Why do you think that is?
M: I’ll tell you why: I’ve played on many records and many CD’s. I’ll never forget it when we were recording the Gayatri Mantra. Premal was in the room where we were recording, and it was next door to the room where she was born. She was building the vocals and she would do a harmony, then another harmony. She was in there a long time singing over and over again. It was a very sacred space. When she came out of that room she said she could feel the spirit in the room, and that went onto the tape. That’s why I’m sure it is more than music. And now it has sold 90,000 CDs. It’s a miracle, a confirmation. And that’s our criteria for whatever we put out. Is the spirit there? We were just in Japan and at this temple, and we were invited to sing at their altar, and Premal sang our version of the Gayatri. One of the priests was really touched by it, and afterwards he said . . . how did he say it?
P: “If the whole world could hear that, there would be peace on Earth.”
M: Yes. The beautiful thing about mantras is that, just like a pop song, it starts to go ’round in your head, except that instead of having a pop song in your head, you have the name of God going ’round in your head. It’s not superficial. You’re actually being seduced into walking around chanting the name of God. And they aren’t English words, so there is no mind, no real connection to the words. They are just sounds, powerful sounds that resonate. So even if you don’t know what om nama shivaya means or you are struggling with the pronunciation, by the time we have sung it for 30 minutes or so, the whole thing just resonates in your body. That’s the healing. That’s the peak, the ecstasy.
There is so much love and connection between the two of you. You work together, you travel together, you live together. It’s an unusual life for a couple.
P: It works for us.
M: It’s not something we planned. It was such a ridiculous fate for me to meet this 20-year-old girl. I never expected it to be anything but a nice friendship. It’s been a beautiful journey and total support. We haven’t had that feeling yet that “Ugh, we’ve finished the tour—I need to go away.” So far we’ve been able to give each other space within the relationship. It’s not a marriage. It’s very trusting, deep friendship which includes sex.
How does that differ from your ideas of marriage?
M: We don’t have the concept that it will be forever. In a marriage, it’s more exclusive. We don’t have that kind of exclusivity. It’s not like we’re always in somebody else’s bed or something but we always have the sense that the door is always open. So we don’t need to say “leave my space” because there’s nowhere to go. There is only space. That keeps us . . .
P: . . . alive, in the moment. My sense is that you are very much in present time flowing with the stream wherever it takes you. Are you noticing a jump in consciousness in your audiences in the last few years? M: Absolutely. It seems it is darker out there in some ways but there is so much light, so much light. That’s what I mean: Wherever we play, it’s people like us. All over the planet. It’s really true. Premal and Miten will be touring the United States and Canada this fall.
Fall 2002 Natural Beauty & Health