• Home
  • Osho
  • Sannyas Belgium
  • More Masters
  • Links
  • Contact

Interview with Musician Prem Joshua

By Viriam Kaur

prem joshuaToday, Prem Joshua spends four months a year in India and the rest of the time traveling the globe sharing his music. His music brings together sitar and bamboo flute, drum and bass beats and acoustic riffs, Indian chants and Sufi poetry and he creates songs inspired by the monsoon and by the words of Sufi poets.
He plays gigs in New York and for MTV in Mumbai and he recently played at Israel′s Shantipi festival, outside the Old Rangji temple in Pushkar and in the hills of Umbria. His music goes beyond borders and he has been dubbed the ′guru of fusion.′
Prem has always been making music. Even on his first journey East, as he traveled overland to India, he played flute with the musicians he met along the way in Turkey and Iran.

"I like that you can just take an instrument and play, get together in the moment and play. When I got to India, I discovered this ancient well of classical Indian music - this whole universe of sound opened up to me. But I needed to understand it. I bought my first sitar in Delhi for 400 rupees and twanged it like a guitar. I had several teachers but then met maestro Ustad Usman Khan he told me to forget everything. We went back to basics and he taught me the ABCs."
"But I knew at the same time that I never wanted to be a classical Indian musician. I went astray! My teachers were disappointed that I wasn′t following the tradition, but the music took me somewhere else, it was not my decision, I had to go my own way. To recognise my own roots while still walking. And my roots are from rock and jazz as well as Indian classical music."

By the end of his first trip to India, Prem had run out of money and became more like a ′saddhu,′ sleeping with beggars and playing his flute for money.

"I had many amazing experiences that you can only have when you are 18, and fell into many traps that you can only fall into when you are 18! But I learnt that when you are relaxed, when you trust, things happen and you find food, but when you are tense, you have fear, nothing happens. This is a lesson that has stayed with me. One day I was walking along the street, really hungry and playing my flute and a man came up to me and invited me to play at a wedding, with tables full of food!"

Early on in his travels, he met many sannyasins and finally found his way to the Osho Commune in Pune.

"I was a natural rebel and I was very against this whole sannyasin path, I hated anything that looked like a cult. But I wanted to find out what it was all about. So I went to one discourse. Before, my head was telling me to stay aloof, to stay judgmental, but as soon as Osho walked in I started crying. It was beyond my head, it was in my heart. And the love affair with the master started there; it′s still there."
"I used to play for Osho every day, he encouraged me to play Indian music, the sitar, the bamboo flute. We would spend a whole day creating a new piece for him. It was not performing, it was like a big wave of love expressed through music. It was unbelievable."

His influences are not just from India though and his music and words come from around the world.

"I use Sufi poetry a lot, both for inspiration and for lyrics. When you play an instrument, the instrument talks, but when you use your voice you need to sing something. Sufi poetry, the words of Baba Bullehshah, Kabir and Hafiz, it′s one of the highest forms of poetry, it comes from beyond centuries straight to the heart. And it can only be sung, it cannot just be said."
"I sometimes use mantra, but you have to really appreciate them and understand them, not just use them because they sound good with the music. As Westerners, we sometimes take them undigested, out of context and fuse them in the music and this isn′t right. You really need to appreciate them. On a vibrational level, they have a power and it surprises me. On my first trip to India, when I ran out of money, I found my way to Amritsar."

Amritsar is in the Punjab and is the home of the Sikh faith. Traditionally, they house pilgrims and feed people for free.

"I stayed and ate at the Golden Temple and before each meal, we used to chant "Sat Nam Wahe Guru, Sat Nam Wahe Guru" and it really stuck with me. I felt very welcome there. On my first day, I tied a turban, removed my shoes and washed my feet and was welcomed by a man outside with the words "We are all one." The whole experience inspired the song ′Nanak′ (on Dance of Shiva.) When Nanak became enlightened no one would listen when he spoke; he met a musician and he sang his words and people started to listen. That′s the power of what music can do."

Prem has just released two new albums Taranga and Ahir. Taranga is a solo project working with acoustic sitar soundscapes but with a little ′lounge′ thrown in. With Ahir, Prem works with musician and loopmaster Chintan on a more fiery collection of music which will get you on the dancefloor. These albums follow the bestselling releases like Mudra, Shiva Moon and Dance of Shakti.

"The music is there already, it has nothing to do with me at all. Inspiration comes in spite of me. It is as if the score is already written and it is so strong I can hear it all, with maybe 10 instruments. You open up to the vibration that is full of music and that′s there all the time. You just have to be open."
"You cannot even claim a composition, that is just musician′s ego that I wrote this song or it is a legal affair, but it′s not my composition, music simply exists. Mozart channeled. Great composers are open, the music washes down over them and they capture it. It is part of a natural rhythm. A good musician is like a gardener. The gardener takes care that the seed grows, waters and prepares the ground, nurtures the plants and enjoys the fruits, but the nature doesn′t belong to the gardener."
"Music is my practice. It gives me nourishment. As a musician you must practice, have passion and dedication. You make yourself ready. If it comes, accept the gift."