Emailview with Narayani: The Power from Within'
How the CD got made
As an introduction I can already tell you that the story around the making of The Power from Within' has a dramatic twist, which is also apparent from the dedication on the cover. A lot of people are aware about this part of my story; it sounds a bit like a thriller, even to myself.
Even as a teenager I already had a dream about singing in front of an audience. Everyday I would sit in front of my mother's big mirror in my parent's bedroom and I would play the guitar and sing for hours, imagining an audience, listening and applauding. Way before White Robe existed, I had a vision of singing to people dressed in White... I had noticed that people loved listening to my voice. It would often amaze me, but I could feel the effect myself too, they would be ecstatic, laugh or cry.
When I returned to Pune in 1988 after living at and singing in the Band of The Humaniversity (Holland) for 5 years, Satyam and Milarepa invited me to sing in Buddha Hall for Osho and everybody in Discourse, music groups and Sannyas Celebrations. Somewhere around that time I started playing with the idea of making my own CD. It was all a far away dream then, I had no idea yet of the material, I wasn't writing a lot of songs in that time. At the Humaniversity I was part of a duo in the last 2 years, with Pritamo, a keyboard player and we had started making our own songs, which were more about the trials and tribulations of relationships and people living together.
After the first season of singing for Osho in 1988, I was in Sydney where I made a love song 'Home is where the Heart is', which I later sang in Pune and of which I eventually recorded a condensed version with Milarepa later that year...
As you probably know, it became a hit and a classic amongst sannyasins. It was my first of many more beautiful songs. Over the years, I was singing a lot with Milarepa, we worked together intensively from '88 until '95 and also recorded 'Cloud Watching' together on, there are also 3 of my compositions. We had a few disagreements after that, let's call it: I was growing up and I had a need to do things more my own way. Our singing together virtually stopped after we toured Europe together in '93 and '94. However, until this day, we are very good friends and he has been a wonderful support while I was working on the CD. When I ask him for help, I can always count on a supportive answer; we love staying in touch. I really learned a lot from him, singing together and watching him as he went through making 4 CD's himself.
After '95 I started leading my own evenings events in Pune and I started singing my own songs and other songs of my choice. So no, nothing to do with a 'magic 7 years', at least that was not my conscious doing. It just took me about 7 years between the time when the idea turned into a dream that I would like to see fulfilled, until I could finally hold the complete package in my hand this February.
Giving life to your songs.
What is the way (or key) of your composing?
How the songs come to me is another story. They often accompany a particular situation, an insight or a phase in my life or in the commune. They rarely come in one piece, although that also happens sometimes. As a matter of fact, 'Home is where the heart is' came like that and 'Cherish' for which I had all the words and the complete melody in less than an hour...
Most of the time, bits and pieces of lyrics come to me. I find beautiful parts of sentences popping up in my mind, as I am experiencing living or -I write a lot in my diary- I am writing something beautiful and I find myself thinking "hey, that would be beautiful in a song". Then I immediately put it in a notebook where I keep all my lyrics, where they are waiting for me until I can get back to them. Very often the words immediately come with a melody, from somewhere, the music muze I guess. I rarely have to look for a melody. I either memorize the melody immediately or I record it on cassette or MD so I don't forget it. Then I leave it and I get back to it later. Working on the lyrics now and then, when there is nothing else asking my attention or to unwind before I go to sleep, finding stronger or more poetic words until the text is smooth, expresses what I am trying to convey and feels right.? Then comes the part of finding the style, the groove, and the beat, the Tempo, some of which often already becomes clear to me as I am still working on the lyrics. Which style will fit this text and melody? What is the right tempo for this song? And then I'll end up with a ballad, a rocker, Reggae, a Bossa Nova, Hip Hop, etc and finally here is a song. It is a wonderful process and such a gift, although I still feel I have a lot to learn.
How about cooperation with other musicians around you?
A lot of that process happened while the recording had already started. Some of it, like finding the right chords, I do together with other musicians. Someone who plays an instrument much better than I do. Many musicians have helped me with that... They'll play a few chords and I will go: 'that sounds nice or: 'no, try something else, something brighter or.... I listen for the right feeling behind the words and the melody. I do play some basic guitar, but I am definitely a much better singer. I am not very sophisticated at playing an instrument or at finding chords. I get basic chords on the guitar or a keyboard for the songs, but I never really learned music and most of it goes by ear and feeling. My joy is to be the singer in a band and to play with musicians who love my songs as much as I enjoy to hear them play.
Go for it! Or .... maybe .....
Did you have any doubts about making the CD?
Begin '97 I was gathering momentum. The idea of the CD was becoming more real. Now all I needed was someone to support me (a sponsor) and the courage to do it. For a while I had to get over ideas like 'I wasn't good enough' and I wasn't a 'real musician' because I didn't learn enough about music. And 'I would never make it', etc. By now, I know that such ideas, are absolute nonsense and no good reason not to do it or to succeed. And I also learned that lots of very famous and very successful musicians are in the same boat. Some musicians have told me that it can even be an advantage not to know all the rules of music. My songs are created from what I hear and feel inside, naturally and not according to the rules. Miten was really great at that stage, he kept saying I needed to do it for all of us. He actually said 'The family needs it from you' and that really encouraged me.
I will never forget it.
Do you keep some glimpses from recording and preparing your CD, which you will remember forever?
There are many of those and here is where it becomes a genuine thriller. In the Summer of '97, I met a woman who loved me and my music and I'll always remember how she told me she would help me make my CD. We also both liked the idea of recording while living on the beach in Goa. In Feb. '99, we finally got it together. I had enough material. We found a small studio in Aldona, close to Mapsa, we even found some Goan musicians to join in and play with me. Adarsha had given me his sequencer and I was working on demos for the songs... I had a Goan drummer doing drum programming together with Ramadhan, and I was working on arrangements, which includes a lot of counting measures. That was the most stressful part of the preparations for me. It created a lot of tension. I was completely inexperienced and needed to learn as I was doing it.
We tried out the studio and made some dates to start the recordings. Unfortunately there were a few setbacks as Marino, the sound engineer had some problems with his equipment. I had to admit then that we were not in the hands of professionals. Finally Adarsha and I started preparing to record the first tracks for 2 songs and I was working on another song with Ramadhan. Ramadhan and Adarsha were the only 2 musicians who had come from Pune to Goa to work with me.
Then one evening disaster struck. The night before I would have my first full day of recording, Jwala, my girlfriend, and producer became very ill. I had just gone out to make copies of the chord charts and arrangements for all the musicians and I had made a phone call. We had a lot of tension that day, because of the job I was doing and disappointments with the delays from the studio. When I came back there she was on the floor, very unconscious, eyes half open looking nowhere, barely breathing (I found out later that that is what a coma looks like) and bleeding from the back of her head. (She had been having severe headaches for the last 10 days and believed she had a pinched nerve).
Everything changed after that. In shock, but not too panicked, I first called the Dr. she had seen that morning and then some friends who helped me get her to the hospital, where after they gave her a scan, we found out she had a very severe stroke. From that moment on it was like a thriller, I lived in a constant state of emergency. As I was going and coming from the hospital, sleeping on the floor the first night, recordings cancelled, calling her family, waiting hours and hours at the hospital. Sometimes fearing for her life as I was sent to the pharmacy the next day to get some medication for her heart? 48 hours later, she woke up. She was paralyzed, couldn't speak, was on an intravenous drip and tubes were regulating all her body functions including her breathing.
And all of that in Goa, India I could write a 300 page-exciting book about the 15 months alone that followed.
Three days later I went back to the studio back to recording, slowly. I drove every morning to the hospital to see her, then to the studio and back to the hospital in the evenings. It soon became clear it was dangerous for her to stay in the Goan Hospital. She needed brain surgery and the Drs there were telling me to get her out of there. They simply didn't have the equipment. Jwala was still breathing on a machine and every time the electricity would fall out, they had to run around with little pumps because the generator wasn't functioning properly. Imagine that during a precarious brain operation... In the mean time another beloved friend of mine had come from Pune to help and together we organized a private plane to fly Jwala to Bombay where she could safely be operated. I had to take her out of that hospital on my own risk. Which I did then and many times after that. Three days later, after a flight through which I sang to her for 2 hours, the next day she was operated and another 2 days later she was out of intensive care. She was breathing on her own; movement was coming back into her body and a few days after that she started to speak. And she said 'get me out of here'. She was lying in a very noisy Indian ward.
I decided to take care of her and the next day we were in an ambulance on our way to Pune. The following weeks and months were more intense than anything I had ever experienced in my entire life.
The CD was indefinitely postponed. Taking care of her was a full time job. It was very tough, hard work, lots of stress, emergencies and endless challenges. I was always running and facing another obstacle. She almost died 4-5 times. I worked nights and days. I had 5 people working with me, including a physiotherapist daily to get her back on her feet and a night nurse to move her and help her. I don't regret it. It was growth in the fast lane, rocket speed. An experience which I will never forget, like I said, I might make a book out of it one day.
Music on the backseat.....
I was missing the music though and I wanted to get back to making the CD. Also Jwala's health continued to be very fragile and I wanted her to hear the final result before it was too late. When a musician friend of mine, Anant offered me to help me finish the CD almost a year later, I took the opportunity to do it. So I continued the recordings March 2000 in Pune.
After 15 months of taking care, it was clear that the only way for me to continue my life, was to take Jwala to her own country, the USA, where she could be taken care of by the government and with the help of her 2 sisters in California. Next came another challenging organization, but with the help of the US Consulate in Bombay, we left India on a plane to Los Angeles end of July 2000. There, after settling her in, I flew to New York where I finished the music part of the CD end of September. Anant is American and had a recording company there. He convinced me to finish the singing and the mixing there after leaving Jwala in Los Angeles. I flew to Amsterdam begin October, leaving Jwala in a Nursing Home in Santa Monica. I was eager and ready for a well-deserved break to regroup with 'me' and also there was still a lot to be done. There was the cover and the manufacturing of the first copies! That and the cover took another 4 months. Finally I had the finished product in my hands begin Feb. 2001.
I will never forget the drama that unfolded during the recordings of my first CD. The title I chose has a lot to do with that, I could only do it with the inner strength of meditation and what I have learned with Osho.
Rock, Samba, Jazz, Bossa Nova, Caribbean flavor - it grooves!
Do you see a difference between how it was at the beginning, when you had an idea about your music, and its final version?
Most of the songs came out much as I expected. Most of them I had already tried out in Buddha Hall. Singing and playing them there gives a very good idea of what will work and what not. Of course individual musicians playing on the CD add their own style. Sandesh, an American guitarist, I had met a few years before one monsoon season, added a very different flavor to 'Center of the Cyclone' because of the way he created the instrumental parts and the solos.. He did something I had never seen a soloist do before. He layered his solo, which gave it a very spacious almost trance like effect. He also added a very crazy solo to 'Waterfalls', which is a great Rock Song and it leaves one a little stunned and 'in the gap' after it ends on 'silence'.
In one song I had to change the groove and the style, because it clearly didn't work. The year before I had played 'Moments' in Buddha Hall as a Samba and with a more complicated melody line. We ended up fighting about it in sound check and nobody enjoyed playing it. Still I loved the song and I turned it into Pop with a slight Caribbean flavor, added some Jazzy chords with the help of Antar and now it grooves. I also simplified the melody.
You can feel while you're singing a song, whether it has energy and it is flowing, whether it is easy to play, makes the musicians smile and creates an emotion; or whether it is hard to play and nobody enjoys doing it. In the last case, it needs a definite change.
Where does the power come from in "The Power from Within'"?
I am particularly proud of the title song 'The Power from Within' as the idea unfolded completely in my mind, including all the instruments, the melodies and the different parts. Recording it was an experiment, including for all the musicians. The Western rhythm with the Indian instruments on top and the spoken voice, something I had never done before. Repeating the title and the word 'Watching' as a Mantra. A word Osho has been repeating again and again. In the end it came out much as I expected. I do need to add that David Kingsley, the engineer in New York, did an amazing job, using the material he had to work with. Especially with the Indian vocals and the Santoor. It is one of my favorite pieces and I feel it has a lot of potential.
'Trust is the key' features Adarsha, a wonderful guitarist, and a dear friend. During the recording of it, I told him to see that song as a continuous solo and while I was recording the vocals, hearing him play, I felt really inspired... It is the kind of song I want to keep turning louder and I hear myself say 'Yeah Adarsha' again and again.
Cherish, Fresh like a morning, Wherever life takes me .... Have these songs their own stories?
I could tell a story about every song; like Cherish, which I wrote entirely on a trip from Goa to Pune, in total appreciation and love for Jwala. And which I had to rerecord completely in New York because the Indian guitar player had used a bad quality cheap Indian guitar... And then there is 'Fresh like the morning', which came to me while walking on the beach in Goa one early morning. The sounds and silences were getting me in touch with a feeling of 'Osho' and meditation.. Or 'Wherever life takes me' a song full of passion and longing, of which some of the lyrics provoked reactions from older sannyasins in the ashram. It provoked sadness in them, about missing Osho's 'precious form'. For most people it is a very beautiful song, but for some, I think I sang it too soon. Like a song that came before it's time. It turned out to be another one of my favorites. Especially Adarsha's guitars and the bamboo flute, played by a musician from Pune, go very well with the words, the voice and the melody.
The songs I decided to record, are those that I love the most and that give me the feeling they have something to say. The songs that will touch people in their hearts and or will take them into silence.
Thank you Leela for asking me those questions, now all there is left is the music to be enjoyed.
CD is available from www.prabhumusic.com (Texas USA), www.wonderfull-things.com (Sedona USA), www.oshoverlag.de in Cologne, at Osho Risk (oshorisk (at) oshorisk.dk") in Denmark and from Soleluna (solelun (at) tin.it) in Italy.