Karunesh answers Punya’s questions about his favourite albums, the way he composes, how Osho has influenced his life and why he has chosen Hawaii as his home. (Part 2 of 2)
Read the first part of the interview where Karunesh speaks about his love for music, meeting Osho and playing for him.
If you had to choose one album to represent your music, which one would you pick? How many have you released in total?
I forget, 21 or 22? Difficult to count because they are of different kinds. In the beginning it was New Age music, Kitaro-like. I then made three meditation CDs; one of them is the Heart Chakra Meditation which is very much liked. In 2000 I started to make World Fusion music, which I still do.
The most important album for me is Global Spirit. It was the very first album of my World Fusion style. I put a lot of energy into it and it took me 1 1/2 years to complete it. That’s definitely the most important one for me. Otherwise it is difficult to say; there are a few tracks on one CD which are very close to my heart and then others on another… The most important steps in my music were for sure Sounds of the Heart, where it all began, then the Heart Chakra Meditation and later, Global Spirit.
How do you start composing? Do you start with a melody or do you have a sequence of chords in mind? Do you have a clear idea what you want the outcome to be or do things change while working on the album? I see that you collaborate with various musicians. Do you ask them to play your melody or do you let them play what they want? In short, how do you cook?
It goes in different ways. Sometimes I have a melody which I then work out, put chords and rhythm around it and then have another musician play the melody or a harmony to it. Either I come up with the harmony myself or the musician comes up with a harmony on their own. But very often it starts with a feeling or a sound atmosphere or with a rhythm bed to which I add sounds and chords. Once it has the right feel and the right groove, I work in the sound samples.
When working with other musicians, for instance with Bikram on the flute or Govi on the sitar, I give them full freedom to play. When I have a short piece ready, some chord changes including the rhythm, I give them those parts. These could be eight bars which I then loop for about 10 minutes – the same part, repeated over and over again. I send them this piece – it is easy with the internet nowadays – and let them play and improvise on it whatever they like. For 10, 15, 20 minutes.
When I receive their recordings, that’s when my actual work starts; I cut their recording into little phrases and put them into the computer. Each phrase is linked to a key on my keyboard; when I hit one particular key a corresponding phrase will play and when I hit another key, I get yet another phrase. This is how I paste the little phrases together to create the entire song. Sometimes a phrase ends on a note that doesn’t fit with the chord I want. In that case I cut that particular note and pitch it down. It is tedious work – I don’t know anyone else who works like this…
Couldn’t you use the recording of what they have played originally?
I could use what they have played as is, but it is often not exactly what I would like to hear. This is the best way for me; because the musicians have the freedom to play what they want and I also have the freedom to put the pieces in the flow and format I want – the way I can hear it in connection to the whole piece. I can also put the samples in connection to a piece somebody else has played on another instrument. Sometimes the musicians come up with a melody of their own which I can take over and then support that melody with other sounds. For me this is the best way to work.
So there is interaction with other musicians as you have described. When they hear themselves play on the final version are they surprised at what they hear?
Each time when I send them the finished work they…. I can’t remember one single musician who was not happy or pleased. Sometimes they even say, “Wow, that is me?” It is a creative process; it does not interfere much with the playing of the other musicians. It has worked for everybody and they are happy to be playing like that.
Very often I start a piece but then in the process of working on it, it turns out totally different than I had in mind in the beginning. Totally different. The influence of the other musicians triggers something new in me, even if we are not in the same room. It really works. Sometimes it goes in such a different way that I have to tell the musician, “With you sending me that piece the whole track has changed. Can you please play a little bit more with those chords, because it went in another direction…” It is a very creative process.
I have a very dear friend on Maui, Govi, aka Govindas, who played a lot in Pune 1 with Chaitanya. He is a fantastic guitar and sitar player. He plays such a tasty sitar, very beautiful; and also the oud and other exotic string instruments. He plays practically all string instruments. We do a lot of music together; I played a lot on his CDs and vice versa. And that is also very very nice.
Talk about another aha or a wow moment with Osho!
The biggest aha or wow moment I had was during an energy darshan, in the beginning of the 80’s.
In 1972, when I was 16, seven years before I took sannyas, I had a very serious motorcycle accident. I had a fractured skull and lay in a coma for a week. I was hanging between life and death. When I woke up in hospital, I found myself in the most blissful space I had ever been in. I looked around and knew I was in hospital, in an intensive care unit. I saw all the tubes and things tied to my body. But I was at such peace. I can’t really call it peace; there was no duality. I knew I might die or might not but it didn’t matter, it was not even coming to a point where I was saying, “I am fine with dying.” It was really like One; there was no difference between dying and not dying.
I slowly recovered and the space disappeared and everything went back to normal. From my accident I only remembered that I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, and that I was on the back seat of the motorcycle. I later heard that we had crashed into a car, I had flipped over and landed on the concrete headfirst, and that I was screaming without interruption, screaming like a kid, very loud, and kept screaming when they took me to hospital.
During that energy darshan I was sitting in front of Osho. At the time, he would give energy darshans to several sannyasins at the same time, all sitting in front of him. He called up the people, the first one, then the second… Ah…and I was the last. My mind immediately went: “Oh shit, I am the last. He doesn’t like me as much as the others…” – you know the mind… He called me and motioned the other four to sit two on my left and two on my right. And I was in front of him, straight in front of him… The lights went out and Osho put his thumb on my third eye. It took maybe 2 or 3 seconds and I had a blackout. I don’t remember anything. I know only from friends who were sitting behind me that I was screaming like hell.
You were screaming like in the accident?
Exactly. I was carried aside and it took a few minutes before I returned to consciousness. While lying there I had a similar feeling again of that non-duality. I was so blissed out….
It was as if the whole trauma of the accident had been pulled out of me. The accident had been really bad and sometimes I had headaches and felt pressure in the head. But that was gone after this darshan. I never ever had any complications after that. What a gift!
Last question: How has meeting Osho influenced your life?
[Laughing…] This is a good and weird question. Osho changed my whole life.
First it was the accident that changed my life. At 16 I was pretty much lost. I was drinking alcohol with friends, I did not see a meaning in life. I didn’t know where to go, pretty well going towards depression. That accident was a sign from existence, a helpful kick from existence. Because after that – I think I was in hospital for 3 months – everything in my life changed. I dropped my friends and became interested in spirituality. I started reading books by Paramahansa Yogananda as well as other books. That was the first change in my life towards spirituality.
I always had dreams and imagined how spirituality would look and feel like; to find my guru, with a long white beard, sitting on a mountain… And then being with Osho it all came into reality. It all came down to the ground, it was no longer a dream. It was not the Himalayas, it was not the God father – although Osho had a long white beard which fit the picture nicely for sure! And then the search focused inside me. I could experience and feel the spiritual way. Before it was imagination and a dream, but then it became reality.
It became reality, but it became a very simple reality. It just came into my being and went out of the head. It went into the heart.
But it was your search that made you find Osho.
Absolutely. It was absolutely important. As important as my accident. This hard hit was important. If I would not have had that accident, I don’t know… I might have easily gone on with alcohol and with that kind of friends. In a way, a part of my being was grateful for the accident. And I came out of it very well, with the help of Osho, with the trauma release. It was all a gift.
My very last question is, for how many years have you been living in Hawaii and what do you like about being there?
I have now been living in Hawaii for 27 years. I moved there in 1992. I had the feeling I didn’t want to live in Germany any more. It was too grey – I wanted to be somewhere else. I knew I wanted to go to America but I didn’t know where. I gave myself 4 weeks in 4 different places; one week in each place. In each of them I had friends, so I immediately felt at home. I started with Mill Valley, close to San Francisco, where at the time also Govi lived. And then I went to Boulder, Colorado, then to Santa Fe where Chaitanya lives, and at the very end I flew to Maui.
Anugama was there and also Shastro was living there at the time. And quickly it became very clear that Maui was my place. I was a little bit afraid because Maui is a small island. It is 3 times bigger than Corfu but still a small island. It is the farthest place possible from any mainland in the world. Basically, when you go to the next mainland, California or Japan, it takes 5 hours by plane. It’s 4000 km to the next mainland. It is in the middle of the blue Pacific. In the beginning I was afraid to get island fever and become claustrophobic. But it never really happened.
Maui is a very feminine island. Because of the volcano. Which sometimes is not so easy. It brings out your emotions and your feminine side very strongly. With Maui you really have to submit and give yourself to the island, to the island spirit and island space. Those who don’t do that – there were a few – had a hard time. The island kicks them out if they want to have it their own way. There are quite a few ‘power spots’ around the globe, and I’m sure that Maui is one of them.
There are a lot of sannyasins, a few hundred maybe. Funny enough, there are a lot of Germans. For a long time, we would come together every Sunday; we went to the beach, about 30 to 40 people. And for years and years, every Sunday we had a satsang at our house. Then it lessened, it came to once a month and then a few years ago it faded away totally.
Lately we have a satsang again on the first Sunday of the month. It is strange that on Maui there has never been a meditation centre. Yet here are all my friends. And also, for making music it is a very supportive and creative place. Where I live it is very quiet, just beside the house it is lush and green, and cows and horses pass by. It is a very supportive space for me and for making music.