… and creates his first CD!
Exactly four years ago, four years after taking sannyas, I bought my first guitar. Three weeks later, despite the fact that I had to work the next morning at my job teaching English in Taiwan, I was up all night writing and playing my first song. Now I’m in another Chinese-speaking country—China—and seriously considering teaching English again. In the meantime I’ve recorded an album of eleven of my songs.
Creating music came to me quite recently. I played piano for a year when I was eleven and always intended to get back to it ‘when I settle down and have room for a piano.’ Well, I never settled down and my wanderings, spiritual and otherwise, brought me to Osho. My first Evening Meeting, I sat silently, not knowing what to expect. As the music started and those around me stood up and began to dance, I did the same. Tears flooded my eyes. I felt I had come home.
During the next months, my body and mind had the chance to reconnect with, to remember, what brought me joy. Music and dancing was a big part of that. Inspired by Miten’s words ‘pick up a musical instrument,’ I took a rickshaw to MG road and bought a djembe. I played the drum sporadically over the next few years and took it to Taiwan with me. But as I couldn’t play it in the close quarters of an apartment building, I bought a guitar.
I enjoyed learning to play three- and four-chord songs from instructors on YouTube. However badly I played them, I sang them worse. I’d been one of those kids who had been told that I couldn’t sing—so I hadn’t. Thirty years on I was much less inhibited and far more shameless, and I have no doubt that my singing disturbed my quiet Taiwanese neighbours to a greater extent than any amount of drumming could have! Starting to write songs gave me further impetus to play and sing. After all, I reckoned, if I don’t sing my songs, who will? Also, opening up my voice and letting loose felt healing.
I worked hard to improve my playing and singing. Last year I found myself back in Nairobi, where I grew up, for some months. I started recording some of my songs in a nearby studio with a few Kenyan musicians—and then some more songs, and it turned into an album. I recorded songs that I enjoy singing and hearing over and over again—and hopefully others will too. The recording process, which impelled me to ‘up my musicianship game’ in a short period of time, was one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I’ve ever undertaken.
Now the album is finished and I’m at a crossroads. Being an ‘unknown artist,’ there is virtually no chance at the moment of selling many CDs or downloads online. If I’m to be ‘heard,’ it has to be mainly through live shows. However, money—and therefore time to play, practice and develop music—is becoming more limited by the day.
More importantly, I ask myself, what is happening to my meditation, my awareness, my relationship with my friends, including my girlfriend? I find it much more difficult to remain detached about playing and developing music than, say, ghost-writing books, which is primarily how I’ve earned money in recent years. A sense of striving, of inadequacy, of taking the whole thing too personally—is my music, am I, good enough?—has slowly crept in, and with it, a sense of imbalance.
What does it mean, at this point in my life, to live my passion? Surely I am passionate about playing and singing, but without being grounded in awareness, even these delights lose their flavour. It would be ironic if desperate pressure to ‘make it’ as a late-blooming musician were to overwhelm the meditative qualities that enabled me to explore music in the first place.
There is no conclusive answer. Things change by the day. Perhaps my most recurring musical goal is to periodically get together with some sannyasin friends in a relaxed meditative environment—like on a beach by the ocean—and play and sing beautiful Osho songs. On occasion I’ve had the opportunity to do that, and I’d love to again.