Music in the Key of Love: Deva Premal and Miten Sing Prayers for All
Sep 02, 2011 03:43PM
● By Kim Childs
Deva Premal grew up in a musical and spiritual household in Germany, where her parents chanted Sanskrit mantras to her in the womb. When she was 11, Deva received her Sanskrit name from her mother’s guru, Bhagwan Shree Rashneesh, also known as Osho. Deva Premal means divine loving, an apt name for someone who is known for singing sacred songs and repetitions of the divine name from Hindu and other spiritual traditions.
“I never thought I would sing,” she remarks. “I had no idea that I had a voice that was nice to be shared; that came out through meeting Miten and reconnecting with the mantras in my mid-20s. That’s when my voice opened up and found a place of grounding.”
Deva met her life and musical partner, Miten (née Andy Desmond), in 1990, when both were living at Osho’s ashram, in India. Miten was there to find greater meaning than what he’d experienced as a rock and roller in England. Together, the couple began to perform sacred music for their spiritual community. In 1998, they recorded several mantras for massage therapists to play during bodywork sessions. That recording, The Essence, was a breakthrough album for the pair, who have since made more than 20 others.
“We made that album without any intention other than to give it to our friends, and suddenly we started to get orders from America,” Miten recalls. “We’ve now sold a million CDs. We didn’t set out to make a career out of this, but somehow, it just blossomed.”
Today, Deva and Miten travel to some 20 countries each year to perform at concerts, benefits and occasionally, prisons. They also sang for the Dalai Lama at a conference where they learned that His Holiness plays their CDs in his private hours. Others impressed by this musical duo include Eckhart Tolle, Anthony Robbins and Cher, who performed their version of the sacred Gayatri Mantra during her farewell tour.
This kind of celebrity surprises Deva, who refers to her fans as fellow travelers, sharing a spiritual journey to the same destination. “Many of us have really worked a lot on ourselves,” she says. “We’ve done therapy and groups, and now it feels like it’s time to bypass all that and go straight to the point of joy and silence. When you sing, it’s such an easy way to fall into meditation; then we sit there in silence, without effort, and find that expanded space of union within ourselves and with everyone.”
Miten says sacred music recordings and concerts are a kind of emotional balm for troubled times. “We’re exposed to so much sadness and pain and violence in the world, and I know that whenever I’m scared, if I sing, then I’m not scared,” he says, adding that a growing number of sacred music gatherings may be doing the same for others. “To be in a theater with a thousand people, all chanting together, you cannot avoid an uplift of spirit. People leave in a joyful space.”
Deva Premal and Miten’s latest CD, Password, debuts this fall, when the duo will be joined by Nepalese bamboo flutist Manose on their tour of 24 U.S. cities. Visit DevaPremalMiten.com.
Kim Childs is a writer and a creativity teacher in Boston. Connect at KimChilds.com.