Deva Premal and Miten, who play live in Budapest on October 8 with Nepalese musician Manose, have been called mantra music superstars. Their fans include Cher, spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama, who described their music as “beautiful”.
They have been delighting audiences with their mix of mantras from India and Tibet and original songs that draw from the whole broad church of music for the past 26 years. Mantras are sacred Sanskrit words spoken or sung, used in meditation to help with concentration and to alter consciousness.
Miten, formerly known as Andy Desmond, is a British musician who reached the heights of the music industry, playing with bands that included Fleetwood Mac and Hall and Oates. He met Deva at the Osho ashram in Pune, India where she was working as a bodywork practitioner.
Premal sang backup for Miten at first. She lacked confidence in her voice and was shy about singing in front of people. But at an Osho music festival she heard someone singing the Gayatri mantra, which she remembered from her childhood, and sang along at full volume from her heart. She had stepped out from the shadows.
Manose is a musician from Nepal, trained in classical raga music, also known as North Indian classical music. His studies gave him great technical skill along with a remarkable ability to improvise along with any kind of music.
Premal and Miten’s first album, “The Essence”, was recorded in Deva’s mother’s apartment in 1998. It became hugely popular in yoga studios, massage clinics and retreat centers. Deva Premal and Miten were on their way.
My yoga teacher here in Szeged is a great lover of Deva Premal and Miten. For the past year or so I’ve drifted off into savasana, the relaxation at the end of the class, to the sounds of Premal’s pure voice and Miten’s sumptuous music. So, it was a great pleasure to talk with Deva about mantra, music and life.
Why, I wondered, does chanting mantras have the effect it does? “It’s energy-based language that’s very specific in its effects,” she told me. “In Sanskrit, the sound is actually what it is. Not like in other languages, where the word has no intrinsic relation to the object it describes. You don’t have to believe in mantra for it to heal or change your consciousness. That’s why I love singing mantra, and why it benefits everyone. Also, the act of chanting energizes your body. When we chant out loud we charge ourselves up with the vibration of our voice. Chanting with others has the added benefit of everyone singing in the same rhythm, which lifts us all up and carries us away.”
What does chanting and making music do for you? “It’s a total shortcut to meditation. I feel completely different after just three Oms. What’s so special about our concerts is that we can all experience this together. Afterwards, there’s total silence. Suddenly no-one needs to cough or shuffle. It’s so healing and nourishing and that’s what’s missing in this world.”
What about technique, virtuosity and all the things musicians are expected to demonstrate? “Miten really is a musician and has been one all his life. He’s constantly honing his craft. For me, practice is singing and chanting. I’ve had singing lessons here and there but not for a long time. I never thought I’d become a singer. I just wanted to be together with Miten and that meant backing him up. It took me totally by surprise when I really started singing. The changes in my voice reflect the work I’ve done on my inner world. Something moved and transformed. It certainly hasn’t come from practicing, effort or technique. And we don’t feel we’re in the music business. We have nothing to do with it.”
I told Premal I was surprised that the concert in Budapest was sold out. “It’s not surprising to me,” she said.
“We go to so many places I would never have thought we’d sell out. We’ve performed to 1,000 people in Siberia! In Eastern European countries, we’ve found that people are very open anyway. We play a lot in these places. But what we do is beyond any country or belief system. We could go pretty much all over the world and find people who are into this. We’re all looking for inner, peace, joy and love. All that is nourished in our concerts. But the mainstream world doesn’t know about it and it doesn’t really happen anywhere else anymore. It’s an open secret.”
What do you hope people take away from your concerts? “We often get feedback from people along the lines of ‘this concert changed my life’. It’s very humbling and beautiful to be told something like that. I hope what people experience in the moment has a long-lasting effect, that they keep the fire burning. They can make a commitment to start a mantra practice or form satsang circles to chant together with other people. It’s very easy to do. You don’t need any money. But the truth is that just chanting three Oms out loud or to yourself when you get up in the morning has the power to change your life, even in this busy, nonstop world that we live in. It’s as simple as that.”
Deva Premal and Miten with Manose are live in concert at Budapest Congress Center. The concert is already sold out, but why not go to www.devapremalmiten.com to find out about their 2019 dates.