Devakant you made 17 Cds and numberless concerts around the whole World in this last 20 years or so and every time your music is so deep and inspiring, from where is it coming?
Actually, I’ve made 22 solo albums in the last 20 years. Where is music coming from? It´s a very good question. I dont know the answer, and I have often wondered. It seems to me to exist, in some other dimension, always there, and we have to tune the radio to receive it. For me, that tuning is meditation; I meditate every day, and try to live in a way which enhances that, and supports it.That is, I dont fight with my feelings, try to understand them and live them if it´s possible, and be at peace with myself. I can never create music from a negative space, from anguish, or pain, or negation …it just doesnt happen. I´ve got to be in a good space, in myself, quiet inside, not thinking much, and then it comes. I usually make music late in the night, when the ‘airwaves’ are quieter, everybody’s television is off, and people arent thinking or worrying so much. In India, my flute teacher used to say that’s when “Saraswati Devi’ is out and available, she is the goddess of music and art. And I think it´s true, in the mysterious times of the night those influences are easier to invite and receive.
You started very young as a “western” musician and then at a certain point, a strong, massive influence of the East tradition strongly permeated your music. It is like you have passed from a mental dimension to the dimension of the soul. What happened in your life?
I was studying at U.C. Berkeley to be a composer, and was following everything that was taught there in my music classes, practicing 14 hours a day, and yet instead of getting the lift and freedom which music had always given me as a teenager, that which I was learning was basically very mental and intellectual and more and more abstract. If you actually wrote something heartful, everybody would snicker cynically. I found as my head got more and more full, my heart got more dry, and the magic space that I had experienced through music as a teenager was eluding me.
Luckily, Berkeley was and is a place where many cultures and ideas meet and stew together, even at that time in the early 70’s there was World music happening here and I got to hear Indian music, Andean music, Balinese gamelans, Japanese Shakuhachi, the real things with very high level performers, and it blew my mind, literally.
I began studying Indian violin, which involves lots of hours of repetitive practice, and I was doing yoga and Tai chi at the time, searching for something that I didnt know what it was, but I knew it WAS there.
The here-and-now quality of Indian music was pulling me into spaces inside me which I didnt understand, psychic experiences, etc. and I was searching for someone to help me. I literally bumped into Osho’s teachings at that time, first seeing a book of his, then going to a meditation center in San Francisco, and within a month I was on a plane to India to meet him. I was 23. That changed everything. Over the next 12 years of living in his commune, he took me deep inside myself, not denying the negative emotions, but passing through them, and finding real silence within. Through his direct and personal guidance over those years especially playing for people meditating, he taught me how to play music that helps people to ‘go within’, to stay alert and bypass the mind, through the heart, to a silent place inside…all of this, through music.
You are also a sculptor and to contemplate your work like the amazing feminine Buddhas is a little bit like listening to your music. One can get in touch with a silence capable of taking within, in the core of one’s being. Is there a connection between your music and your sculpture work?
More than a connection, I dont see them as separate. Sculpture is a kind of music, it is frozen in time, it´s expressed in space, volume, light and shadow. Music is a sculpture expressed in time, it doesn´t visually occupy space, it unfolds through time, you ‘see’ it through time. It also has a kind of space, up and down dimensions, like high and low pitch, front and back, like high and low volume. It actually IS a shape in space, and that´s what comes to our ears when we hear it, a perception of that sound-shape.
One day many years ago I was listening in the studio while an engineer was mixing an album of mine, BLOWING ZEN, in Copenhagen. I was watching the oscilloscope, which is a kind of screen with green lights, that shows the stereo-spread of the sound in the ‘field’, like how the sound is balanced left-right in the room when it comes out of the speakers. Engineers have to see that in order to balance the signals. As I watched these squiggly green lines, when the bamboo flute would play (my flute), the whole picture would become a beautiful green sculpture, very harmonious…sometimes a circle, or a pyramid, or some other geometric shape, flickering in and out of existence. It was wild! The beautiful sounds I heard actually made beautiful shapes in space! Thats when I clicked into the connection, that sound and matter ARE the same thing…sound is a finer kind of matter, and matter is a denser kind of sound.
Do you perceive it as two ways of expressing the same message?
Well, it´s like I said, they aren´t separate. If I am in a certain “space’ inside me, and creating a certain kind of music which reflects that, without thinking about it too much thats the kind of sculptures I would make, because they are coming out of the same place, the same heart-space. Of course, the technical things have to be considered..when I started doing sculptures, it means trying to say something formless in a form. How do you do that? You have to be symbolic, that´s just the bottle that the message comes in. It can be a Buddha statue, or Kwan Yin, or Tara, those are bottles. The message is what happens to the onlooker when he or she looks at the statue. Somehow, they click into the same space that the artist was in when he made it. It´s very mysterious, with statues, they are something like modems, which connect you to another dimension. I have often found that in making a statue, when it gets more and more finished, it´s like that ‘state of being’ or ‘entity’ as it were, enters into it, embodies into it, and it transmits something. They almost talk, after a while.
From where do you get the inspiration?
I don´t know. It comes and goes. Just when I think I don´t have any, I just start playing around, and something pops out. It happens when I feel good, when I´m not thinking about money, or the future, or plane tickets, or schedules…When I feel happy, it happens on its own.
You play many different instruments coming from all over the World like India, China, South America, Japan etc. During your concerts you often explain the story of the instrument you are going to play with. Looks like a beautiful, faithful, one life love affair…is it like that??
It´s a love affair, but I think it´s more than one life. I love sound. It’s divine. It’s transformative. It’s what we really are, I think. In the culture that we live in, sounds are so controlled…you only hear things which keep you in the same modality: Electric guitars, drums, electronic noise, aggressive frequencies. I’ve been always drawn to sounds which evoke something mysterious, like a soul crying out for connection with the SOURCE. I started searching this when I was about 7, and it´s gone on for 50 years now. It amazes me how in many many indigenous cultures, they understood the magic of sound, how it connects people shamanically with the universal transcendant forces, call them gods or divinity or what you will, but those forces exist and we humans need to relate to them, or we end up really messed up and disconnected, just living in our egos and pretty much miserable. That´s what shamans always did with music, they took the tribe with them on their journeys to the deity, through the drum, or rattle, or flute, or something. I guess that´s what I´m doing too.
Now after many years of amazing experiences around the World and within, after more then 20 years of playing, composing, travelling, sculpting, meditating, celebrating, what Devakant is longing for?
A world in which people are more free, less in fear, less in the television and the cellphone and shopping mall and more in touch with their real beings, and much more connected to this incredible living being which sustains us, Planet Earth. I strongly feel we are in a crucial moment, and the outcome of it is up to us, all 6 billion of us, that we have a living connection with a divine space inside us, that we need to nourish and assert, and come out of the dream we have been living, war and consumption, economic oppression and imbalance. Anything is possible right now, for better or worse, and we have an enormous opportunity/crisis that we are exactly in the midst of. It won´t go away, we are here to live it, so I long for the greater mass of humans to wake up to that challenge right now. I hope my sound helps that in some small way.