Revisiting “Shiva Station”
Time, the conqueror. Time, the liberator. We see it and feel it every day. As a parent, I often find myself simultaneously experiencing two completely dichotomous emotions watching my son grow: a marvel at his new achievements and beautiful independence, and a poignant wistfulness of loss as he leaves his baby years behind. Within myself I love what the years have brought me — patience, self acceptance, surrender, family, sobriety, and a tiny bit of love without conditions. But they’ve also brought me back pains, body aches, missing teeth, and a few too many steps closer to my own mortality.
About fifteen years ago, I went into the studio with my amazing band, The Pagan Love Orchestra, to record Shiva Station, having no idea that this album would have such an impact on the world music scene and on the then largely hidden community of Kirtan enthusiasts. I was quite nervous and controlling in the studio, sure of my own vision but not very open to the incredible creativity of the musicians around me. I worried about time and money — and mostly, if was I good enough. But gradually, in the process, I started to let go, share the reigns, and let the genius of the people around me enhance my vision and support my aching and lonely heart. (Thank you Peter Apfelbaum, Jeff Cressman, Peck Allmond, Keith McArthur, Will Bernard, Geoffrey Gordon, Kit Walker, Irene Sazer, guest artists Swapan Choudry, Steve Gorn and Rob Vlack, recording engineers Ben Leinbach and Tony Mills, and mix maestro Bill Laswell….. Wow, what a cast!)
Of course we had our share of band “dynamics,” but mostly the process was pretty smooth. Internally, however, a fire of fear and insecurity was raging. Unhappy home life and a greater and greater need to anesthetize myself with drugs and alcohol were pushing me to my emotional and physical edge. Well, the album came out and it was beyond my hopes and expectations. Laswell’s mix brought the low-end to the forefront and the extremely passionate music exploded from the speakers. But for many reasons the subsequent tour and promotion stumbled, leaving me frustrated and resentful, two very dangerous emotions for an addict.
(For those history minded friends, the band broke up and then reformed and recorded Grammy-nominated “Mondo Rama” and then just sort of dissolved. Not enough work, not enough support… Upon occasion, for festivals and bigger events, I gather a large group of musicians and singers together, which I call “The Queen of Hearts Orchestra,” named after one of my recent albums. Mostly, however, I lead smaller Kirtan events around the world with 2 or 3 other musicians, happy to be able to interact intimately with my friends and fans).
Cut to the present…. I’m living in a sweet little town outside of San Francisco with my wife, Nubia Teixeira, and 9 year old son, Ezra Gopal, about to turn 63, in good health and feeling a contentment and gratitude that I never expected in this life. Sure, there are plenty of challenges, internal and external, but I also find within myself a spiritual commitment and faith that doesn’t seem to waver (well, mostly…). Then the idea of remaking Shiva Station entered the universe! I’ve written enough already about my resistance and reluctance to do this, but now that the album’s been completed and released, I’ve had a chance to simply listen. And I love it! In concerts I experience my music as always reaching for and attaining an ecstatic intensity. I don’t plan this or even desire it, but it just seems to happen. At home, however, I play and sing quietly, introspectively, and this gentle side of me was expressed, perhaps for the first time, in Return to Shiva Station. I’m very inspired by it and hope to make more albums of entirely new music in similarly quiet inner-gazing moods. But dance freaks, don’t worry! I’ve also got a whole album’s worth of high energy Samba-Reggae Kirtans waiting to be recorded. Many of you have heard these songs at Bhaktifest, Omega, and other great gatherings.
So here we are, back to the fearsome beauty of Time. Youth is gone and never regained (well, until the next time around!), but time brings its resonant gifts of experience to be shared freely and joyfully. And hey, have you heard Return to Shiva Station? If not, please check it out here.
Love and peace,