Followers of world music in general and healing Sanskrit sounds in particular should be familiar with Deva Premal and Miten, but just in case: The duo has been performing together since they met in India in 1990 -- at an ashram, fittingly -- traveling the world and using their chanting mantras to heal all kinds of ills. They'll be stopping in Denver for an intimate concert at Colorado Heights University Theater at 7 p.m. on Sunday; we caught up with them to talk about the healing powers of chanting, how a concert usually unfolds and more.
Westword: How would you describe your performance to those who might not be familiar?
Miten: Well, the first thing is that we don't look on it as a performance. That's one of the key things to our music, is that it's not seen by us as a situation of performer/audience. Because we all sing together, we like to see it more as a spiritual gathering, that we facilitate as musicians. So that kind of takes the performance thing away. When I was a kid, I was playing rock music, and when I discovered meditation and Osho in India, I stopped playing music, because I wanted to just get rid of the baggage that being a "musician" carries. And when that weight left me, the music that came back, which came back as a really just a way to say thank you to my guru, somebody who had changed my life. So that's how the music reappeared in my life, and it came through meditation, it came out of meditation, and it disappears back into meditation. So it's a totally different thing to what I was doing before, which was much more centered on ambition and performance and "please notice me" and ego-based, excitable kind of attitude that you have in that music business. It's not a music business with Deva and I.
How was your concert in Salt Lake City?
Deva: It was great, it was such a beautiful evening, and the people sang so beautifully. It's a spiritual practice of using the voice, the sacred sounds, the Sanskrit sounds to come to a place of silence and oneness and unity, and it's beautiful when it's done together, because everyone is breathing together. It's uplifting. It's always like that when we do things communally, that it can be carried on the energy of the whole group. We feel very blessed that we can travel around and invite a few hundred to a thousand people to practice with us. It's not serious, you know, it's not stern, it's not austere, it's very much from the heart, very human and very open. So it's not like a serious evening.
Miten: The songs and the mantras, they can go on during the concert for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and it takes on a life of its own. It depends on the audience how peace unwinds and unfolds. Every audience is different, and every concert is fresh, because we have a different audience, and thus a different choir. Every audience brings its own flavor, which is beautiful for us. Although we've been chanting these mantras for seventeen years, we never ever reach a point where we're fed up with them and they're boring. They're fresh and absolutely beautiful.
Can you explain how these chants are used to heal physical and mental or emotional problems?
Deva: It's the power of the Sanskrit sounds. It's an ancient science of the benefit of certain sounds on certain energy centers, and also on a physical body. So it's very scientific, which mantra is for what situation. There are mantras for physical healing -- and it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't do anything else,that you just chant the mantra and you heal. It just opens your own perception and your lives to the right healing modality, it can open you to meeting the right person who can help you with the healing. It's an energetic transformation that happens through the chanting of the sacred sounds. We always find out again and again, we don't even have to know it's a mantra for it to work. People say, "I heard this and I had tears running down my face, what was it?" It seems to be really ... what it is, which is ancient, the mother language, which is thousands of years old, and we all somehow connect to on a deep and powerful level.
How did you first get turned on to these mantras?
Deva: I actually grew up with it, my parents went deep into Eastern spirituality, into mantra, into yoga. And so as a child, that was my daily life, was the mantras -- we would chant mantras walking around, so it was really part of my life.
What has been the feedback you've gotten from people who have attended your concerts?
Miten: Mostly they just want to say thank you. It's an amazing experience, because we just hang out there and meet a wave of love coming from all these smiling eyes and open hearts that come and just want to say thank you. Usually we just have a hug with everybody, and we feel like we're meeting old friends. It's a strange thing, even though we've never met people, because we meet in a very sacred space, they feel like they know us and we feel like we know them, although it's way beyond the personality, it's on another dimension. We can meet as knowing each other, not as if, but actually from the heart, knowing each other.
Deva: Also we've had quite a few messages where people have said the evening changed their lives, and it's humbling to hear it, because it's amazing to contribute something like that. New ideas were born that actually took root and started to flower, and it can be deeply transforming.
Miten: You step into an energy field, and maybe you do that unconsciously -- you think you're coming to a concert, but in fact you're stepping into something deeper. Subconsciously, when a bunch of people seem together, they just naturally breathe together. That is a parallel to what is visible, because it's just a special thing when people breathe together. And we're chanting these sound formulas that are not nothing -- they're actually something very powerful. So you put all that together, and music that is beautifully played and beautifully seized. And it just creates a moment when you're, as a listener, you're out of the loop of your daily life. You walk into some kind of magical dimension, that's how it feels to me, and it happens to me every time.
Deva Premal and Miten will be performing with Manose; visit www.commonspirit.org for tickets.