Deva Premal & Miten: At Home in the World
Devotional duo Deva Premal & Miten discuss their spiritual (and musical) journey from Osho’s ashram to the global stage.
Ask Deva Premal and Miten where home is, and you won’t get a short answer. The couple tours so tirelessly that the closest thing to home base is the apartment in Germany where Deva was born and her mother still lives. They keep clothes and other belongings there and return for a few weeks each year. “We actually consider the whole planet our home,” says Miten.
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 an audience. It’s to connect with our guru, and the way we do that is through our music.”
"We swim in our music, 24/7." –Miten
Their guru is the Indian 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 Osho’s “active meditations”—techniques that include dancing, Sufi whirl-ing, 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 Osho’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 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 receiv-ing 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 peo-ple 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.”
Tour dates at www.devapremalandmiten.com
Anna Dubrovsky is an award-winning journalist and author whose productivity has plummeted with the birth of her two children. But she always makes time for assignments that broaden her horizons. Her work has appeared in dozens of print and online publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Utne Reader, Fitnessmagazine.com, and Parents.com. She has been practicing yoga since 2001 and teaching since 2008. After much globetrotting, she now makes her home in Southern California.