A beloved musician has left his body on 25th December 2012.
Vedam (Anthony Roché) grew up in New York and used to be called ‘the black white boy’ because he always used to hang out with the white kids. He studied classical flute and piano and attended masterclasses with acclaimed flute player Sir James Galway. He came to Pune and took sannyas in the mid-seventies where he met Majida from Switzerland. They spent a period of time in Seattle and visited the Ranch from time to time. When Shanti, their first son, was about two years old, they moved to Switzerland where he gave flute lessons in schools and, on weekends, played with salsa bands. After a bike accident his flute playing became more difficult, so he concentrated on playing the keyboard where he was equally proficient. Whenever Milarepa was in earshot he would turn up at his concerts and events to contribute his solos.
A few years back Vedam left Switzerland for Chicago, breaking up from his wife and leaving behind their second son, Nicolas, and suffered two strokes there. Shanti was instrumental in having him return to Switzerland where he could get the care he needed. With the determined mind he always had, he recovered beyond the doctors’ expectations and soon started to play the keyboard again, even if just with his left hand.
For his 60th birthday, on 9th December, his son and his Swiss friends organised a big party for him with plenty of juicy music since also his ‘Cuban connection’ came to join. A lot of his old friends had come together to sponsor a journey to India, planned for January, where Vedam could be in the care of his beloved Ayurvedic doctor Balaji Tambe. He was very happy about this gift!
The day after his birthday (maybe he was laughing too much at the party, his friends say) he had a heart attack from which he was already recovering well in hospital. So much so that on 24th December he decided to visit his in-laws and on the 25th he took a taxi to his nursing home to bring Christmas presents to the nurses. During dinner he collapsed into the arms of a nurse and was brought back to hospital where his heart soon afterwards stopped beating.
The funeral (urn burial) will be held on Friday, 11th January 10:30am at the Cemetery Chapel (Friedhofskapelle) Siehlfeld D, Albisriederstrasse 31, 8003 Zurich.
I first heard Vedam play in 1987.
It was early morning in the Osho Commune, Pune, India.
I was on the terrace of the room I shared with Prem Shunyo.
It overlooked the garden of Lao Tzu House and Chuang Tzu Auditorium where Osho was giving his daily discourses.
I was having a break from my job of coordinating the discourse music.
I knew the band that morning.
It was Deva Kant on keyboards, Vedam on flute, Satgyan on bass, and Nivedano on percussion.
The composition was one of Deva Kant’s.
At 7:40am, the music began as was customary.
Suddenly my ears perked up.
I walked to the edge of the terrace wall where I could hear better.
There was something special in the air this morning.
The music was incredible.
I had never heard such divine flute playing in my life.
Vedam was weaving his magic..
All musicians have their unique ways of playing.
Vedam’s expression was one of joy.
Call it Osho.
Pure and simple.
I will remember him not only for his music but his sense of humor.
He could entertain for hours with a seemingly endless supply of jokes.
Other than Osho, I never met anyone who could remember so many.
And when the punch lines came, he laughed the hardest.
He knew music inside out.
His phrasing was sheer genius.
His timing and tone were impeccable.
He soared in the sky without limits.
And nobody played salsa on piano like he did.
In one of our meetings several years ago in Switzerland, after he had suffered two strokes which left him half paralysed, he spoke of his “karma with the body”.
He said he could not understand “why all this was happening to him.”
He said he was in a deep process of self-inquiry and had started meditating every day.
Unable to walk or play, he carried his beloved flute on his lap everywhere.
I have never met a musician who’s life was so totally his instrument.
He was his flute.
And certainly when he played, he was Osho’s flute.
I will miss him dearly.
But I know the incredible lightness of being he channeled, what touched everyone who heard him, is free to play again.
I hear you, beloved friend. I hear you.
Beloved Vedam, without your encouragement I would never have taken on playing percussion. You taught and practiced with me the various patterns of the claves and invited me to play with your salsa band. The now worn-out tambourin and the beautiful fish-shaped guiro are my most beloved instruments, the ones I will take with me in my grave, and they were both presents from you. I also remember when you drove all the way to Friedrichshafen to come and pick me up at the airport. You were a hell of a reckless driver! Thank you so much for being in my life. Have a wonderful ride on the other shore. With love from
I loved Vedam’s jokes, yes, and I loved Vedam’s music even more. In Unity…
Hi Vedam, it’s me, your mother, Emelia Roché. First I want to thank everyone who was by Vedam’s side in his last days. It’s hurting me that I can’t see you off all the way over there. I’m so lost without my son. But I know he’s in a better place. Your brother misses you like we all do. The whole family ist hurt. My son, it seems like everyone you knew loved you. I miss you so and I love you so much. Please any of his friends could contact me and let me know how Vedam was. Thank you for being there for him.
Vedam, we met in Pune in 1980, and lived together with Majida in Sunderban and then in a two storey bamboo hut by the river. I can see it now. You took me to Balaji Tambe when I got sick, I see you with the pots of ghee, you praised the soft skin you got from it. I see you singing in the train with the headphones on: “gonna tell a story, morning glory, all about the serpentine fire”; this song we played on your last birthday too…. All throughout the years I was in one way or other part of your family, baby-sitting your sons, meditating with Majida, and you joined with your beautiful flute on our first Singing Buddhas CD. I was part of your life in all manners, friend, a kind of destiny companion, soul-sister, spiritual friend. You looked like a beam of love on your birthday beginning of December, your eyes full of innocent love, a sweet kiss and touch of soul was our goodbye, without knowing. I feel you are in a good place. Blessed. I keep my ears open, to the sweet sound of your flute. In love,
I first met Vedam in Chicago when he came with Milarepa to play for our annual Osho event. Then I think it’s the same year I attended Milarepa’s Wildquest event in Bahamas where Vedam was playing. The music and ambiance was so divine there. Vedam is so passionate about playing the flute. During the event in the Bahamas we all went out one evening to see the island. We stopped at a restaurant where there was some live music. We watched for a little while, then our musicians got onto the dias and started playing. Vedam had his flute at the ready and he took the lead. That day I saw him so total. Everyone enjoyed it so much.
And he was so good at sharing jokes. Here is one of his popular jokes that he loved to share:
At a circus there was an elephant and a sign that said: “Anyone who can make the elephant jump on his four legs, nod his head up and down and wag his head from side to side will win $100.”
Lots of people tried to get the elephant to immitate their jumping, wagging and nodding of heads, but with no luck. The elephant munched his straw and ignored them.
Then one day a fellow came up with a large hammer. Went around the back of the elephant and smack, right in the balls! The elephant jumped on his four legs! Then he came around the front and asked, “Know what I just did?” The elephant nodded his head up and down. “Want me to do it again?” The elephant wagged his head back and forth.
Thanks to Osho News for posting a page on his memory. Fly high beloved Vedam….
A find from Anugraha:
The big voice is Vedam’s in this 2005 concert during the Glarner Band Contest on the airport Mollis. Musicians are: Martin Nesnidal (git), Mirko Slongo (voc/git), Rebecca Spiteri (voc), Vedam Roche (keys/voc), Ricardo Iglesias (voc), Jean Claude Torko (bass), Armin Brühwiler (dr), G. Schiltknecht (perc)
Beloved Vedam, Farewell on your journey. Your music has always been an inspiration and joy. To play with you was a dance into the unknown and your humour and enthusiasm made my life richer. Have a great journey my friend,
I wanted to share something that is precious to me and that I experienced with Vedam. While at the 2009 Milarepa retreat in Wisconsin I told Vedam I was recording a song that would be perfect with flute, perfect with his flute! So on Sunday, right after the retreat, he said, “Let’s do it,” and he drove over to my house to record it. The song is called ‘Antar Shanti’ (Inner Peace) and Vedam was flowing and so juicy with his energy, flowing with that energy from the weekend with Milarepa. He got it immediately. He just did a few takes and added some great lines. And gave me a music lesson while he was at it. Very cool.
Shortly after the recording / mixing he had the stroke. I brought the mix for him to hear while he was recovering in the senior center. He could not really talk, but he had a very very very big smile (Vedam style) when he heard it.
Dear friends of Vedam, I officially confirm the death of my father, Vedam Anthony Roche. He died on the evening of the 25th December. The heart attack had weakened his heart so much that the body could not keep up any longer. We are very touched to read your loving words here. The death of our father came surprising to us as he was in the progress of getting better. We are still in the mourning phase. Nevertheless, we are grateful for the life that Vedam could lead.
He had his 60th birthday party on the 9th of December and enjoyed this one incredibly stating, “This was the best party that was ever celebrated for me.” He had also spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his Swiss family and he was then able to leave this world with a smile, close to his friends and family.
In regards to the donations that were done towards his travels to India; we are happy to refund you the amount donated. You may contact me so that I can trace the payments. Otherwise we will use the donations for the burial and related costs. Part of his ashes will be buried in Zurich Siehlfeld. The other part is handed over to his family in New York. The funeral (urn burial) will be held on Friday, 11th January 10:30am at the Cemetery Chapel (Friedhofskapelle) Siehlfeld D, Albisriederstrasse 31, 8003 Zurich. We look forward to seeing you there.
Thank you for beeing a part of my father’s life and may he live on through our memories in our hearts,
Shanti / Samuel Roche
I am very fortunate to have known and been very close to Anthony Roché continually for 45 years, beginning with his teenage years in New York City, with me as his music teacher. During the late 1960’s through the mid 70’s, I taught flute and other music skills at a theater arts center in East Harlem, commonly known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, the place where salsa was developed, because of its closeness to black or Central Harlem. Initially, I was his music mentor, but through circumstance, the connection developed into a father-son relationship, something that continued for the rest of his life. I would receive a phone call from him every year on December 4, my birthday, and he would receive a call from me on December 9, his birthday. In December, 2009, I did not receive that call from him, so I became a bit concerned, but didn’t know how to get in touch with him. Then, on December 9, I received a phone call from his mother, telling me that he had had a stroke in late October. I surmise that it was during the time period that I was performing and presenting at a conference in Los Angeles. Because I did not find out until his birthday, I suspected that somehow, even though ill, Anthony remembered that I would be trying to reach him on that day, and managed to get his mother to contact me. When he became a bit stronger, he was brought to New York for further treatment, thus enabling me to actually see him. I visited him frequently, making sure he had the things he needed, and as he got stronger, actually taking him to concerts, movies, and outside excursions. Even though I am totally blind, I felt extremely useful to him, and felt what it means to be my “brother’s keeper”. He was always happy to see me and eager to go out. He didn’t seem to mind to have this blind man push his wheelchair while he gave the directions for my movements.
If this sounds sacrificial, I look at it another way. I feel blessed by the fact that, even though I am blind, I was able to give my “foster son” some of the support he needed. After all, when I was hospitalized in Massachusetts in January, 1977, the doctors trying to preserve some of my sight, Anthony came all the way from Paris to visit me. From there, he went to New York, staying in my apartment, teaching most of my flute students while I would be staying in the hospital for a month. Our relationship was that close, with him thinking of me as being his primary mentor.
While I was teaching him during his secondary school days, he became good enough to be selected for the All-City High School Orchestra, meaning that he was being considered as one of the four top public high school players in the New York City public schools. In order to provide him with a better instrument for weekly rehearsals, I would let him borrow my own flute, then met him at the rehearsal site before rehearsals ended to collect the flute from him, thus ensuring the safety of my instrument. Similarly, when an All-State high school orchestra was being selected, I traveled with him to Albany, New York, for the competition. These competitions were conducted by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, because the All-State High School Orchestra would spend one month in residence at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where the Philadelphia Orchestra itself would be in residence. The students would receive some coaching from the Philadelphia Orchestra members. Again, Anthony was one of four students, this time statewide, who was selected, beating out two other New York All-City High School members, who had also traveled for that competition. He met some of the best high school musicians from throughout the state. Later, when one of his All-State orchestra colleagues decided that they were going to continue their music study in Europe after high school, Anthony decided to do the same thing. That’s how his European adventures began. Initially, he studied in France, then the eastern Alps region of Switzerland, where I actually visited him, then Freiburg, Germany, and finally back to Switzerland, where he settled. I bought professional instruments for him so he could be competitive with professional flute players in Europe.
After losing my total sight, I traveled to France to study with the renowned flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal at the International Summer Academy in Nice. When my studies were ended, I spent some time in France with Anthony, staying at the home of a French doctor and his American-born wife in St. Cloud, which is a suburb of Paris. In 1983, after an extended trip to several African countries, I traveled from Africa to Switzerland, arriving in Zurich just 6 days after his son Shanti was born. I stayed with Anthony and Majida at their home.
By this time, I was developing a strong attachment to Africa, and great concern for the problems of musicians, educators, and students on that continent. This concern increased to the extent that I am now a bonafide African music scholar, musician, educator, and humanitarian. This expertise also made my own life more relevant with Anthony’s because, as an African music scholar, I also studied music of the African diaspora, meaning those countries and cultures that have a strong African connection, especially Latin American countries. I became more and more knowledgeable about Latin music, and developed such a strong interest that I attended the viewing ceremonies or memorial services for Tito Puente, Ray Barreto, Mario Bauza, Celia Cruz, Joe Cuba, Louis Andino, Graciela Perez, and perhaps some others. I truly love and listen to Latin music. Anthony and I also had strong international interests – he by being in Europe, and me by being a teacher at the United Nations International School, where I teach students from all over the world. So I was not only his closest American ally, I was possibly his most relevant American ally. We placed a lot of trust in each other, and this trust kept us together until the end of his life.
During Anthony’s recent illness, while he was in Switzerland, we spoke on the phone almost every week, except for the summer months of July and August, when I would be serving as guest lecturer and resident scholar at the University of Nigeria. Last August, I managed to reach him from Nigeria. It was habitual for me to call him on Sundays. I spoke with him the day after his big birthday party, and I spoke with him on Christmas day, just before he went to his final outing at Malihof. He knew that I had sent him gifts, including items for his trip to India.
We had earlier been trying to decide if I should come to Switzerland during my Christmas break, but decided against it because of the possibility of snow in Switzerland, which would make the movements of a blind man very difficult. After the generosity of his friends and colleagues made it possible for him to travel to India, I decided that I should come to Switzerland during the first week of April, after his return from India. I was really looking forward to the April visit because I knew that we would enjoy each other’s company amongst the wonderful people at Malihof, his residence, and that I would eagerly go with him to many places. We didn’t mind each other having disabilities. He knew that I had difficulty getting around without sight, and that I was always apprehensive about my movements, especially at night in a small town. It’s always much easier for me in a city where the sidewalks and transportation provide me with a better sense of direction and access to facilities. Anthony, who now had a scooter, said that this time he can come and get me. I had second thoughts about that, but he assured me that he can take his scooter on a bus.
When I was there last April, I was coming to bring him his property, including two large keyboards that I had retrieved back in the United States. His sons brought me to meet him at the airport. He was tremendously happy to get his things back. Many people were intrigued by the fact that a blind man from the United States had come to visit his wheelchair-bound friend in Switzerland. He recently told me that one of the persons that brought me to Malihof had come there to assist him with a household item.
One of my most shocking experiences with him last April was the time that it cost me about $130 to achieve a small meal at McDonald’s, causing me to never want to go to McDonald’s in Switzerland again. The extreme cost was caused by our having to take a taxi to and from McDonald’s – at a cost of CHF 40 each way. The meal itself was also expensive by American standards. After that experience, the people at Malihof allowed me to take my meals with Anthony at minimal cost. The meals were great, much better than I would have gotten outside. Anthony also took me to places where I was able to buy a huge amount of chocolate, big chocolate bars and small chocolate bars. I was looking forward to doing that again in April.
There are so many stories that I could tell about Anthony, or about me and Anthony together, over our lifetime. Or even about our experiences in Europe, including Switzerland last April. But, suffice it to say, that having been able to assist Anthony during his illness is one of the highlights of my life, because I never felt so useful, and because we got along so well, being trustful and loyal to each other. Others might have considered it a heavy burden, but all I can say is “He’s not heavy; he’s my brother”. I’m proud of his achievements and pray that his soul rest in peace. I plan to dedicate some of my performance and creative work to him.
Thanks to everyone who befriended Anthony during his years in Europe and came to assist him during his final days. God bless all of you. With great sorrow…
Dr. Richard Donald Smith
Dr. Richard Donald Smith, teacher, mentor, brother, friend of Vedam, thank you so much for sharing with us your awesome lifestory with Vedam, I can hear him clearly in your flute on this video. Thank you,
Hi, at the end of December 1979 I stopped in Prague to catch a cheap flight for my first visit to Pune. In the city I met Vedam and we figured out that we both wanted to go and see Osho. So we took a later flight together and shared the taxi from Mumbai to Pune. We both took sannyas quite soon after we arrived. In the small garden beside the front gate, inside the ashram, he was often sitting playing the flute, completely lost. I was a business man and did not have much interest in music but I appreciated his way of playing which was so intense and I could sense that his whole being was in the music. I met him in music group afterwards and he is forever in my mind as a smiling love-full being.
Your flute and the music that came out of it, I remember it so well. Everybody was struck by it and it all happened so effortlessly. This feeling of effortlessness was a blessing you had to share and everybody that was present felt it. Every summer you played with Milarepa at our summer festivals in Switzerland. When you played it was so obvious that music is your soul and you made us fly. You are a musician of the rare kind because music to you was more important than your ego. That’s why you could touch hearts so easily. I remember in Boldern that you were the only person I’ve ever seen using the shoe shining machine there. What a joke. That was your life taking every chance to play a joke with yourself or those around you. What can I give back to you for the precious gift you put in my heart? A view tears maybe of gratefulness for having met you and having the chance to be carried away by your music. Thank you brother!
Anthony was a peaceful person with a great energy. It was always inspiring to stay with him at the school or to jam around with him. A great musician and honest man.
John Voirol, saxophonist, Prof. at the Music University Lucerne, Switzerland
Manuela and I are very sad. We are sad because your life has not reached its climax. There were so many tasks to fulfill. Maybe God was a bit too fast in his decision. But surely it is this time that he has taken from you, give love another man. Manuela and I have lost two dear friends and musicians in 2012. We think of you, dear Vedam. In love
Sven & Manuela
Vedam, I was so happy to connect with you on Facebook last year after a long time not knowing where you were and what you were up to. Now you’re gone! I didn’t even know you were sick, this is how far apart we have lived in the last 25 years. I fondly remember you from the adventurous times after the commune when we all lived in Höngg full of new ideas and explorations. I also remember you from the second summer festival in Rajneeshpuram when you broke a leg running to get to the front for the morning Satsang. You lived fully and I’ll remember you like this. You are in my heart. Fly high!