RAJA RAM (flute, percussion)
SHIVA SHANKAR (vocals)
MAHA DAVE (rhythm guitar)
ALLEN MOSTERT (lead guitar)
SAMBHU BABAJI (bass guitar)
JAKE MILTON (drums)
RAJA RAM (with the aid of universal guidance) has managed to bring together another of the beautiful Overground-awakening musical groups whose lifestyle radiates love and good vibrations. He explains here some of the essence of Quintessence:
"We feel playing music is a very spiritual thing. It's like doing holy work if it's done with those thoughts in mind. Quintessence was set up with the idea of the vibrations being the principal thing, and after we got musicians who felt religiously and philosophically in the same direction the music took care of itself.
"Our music is very hypnotic. I've actually heard it referred to as trance music. It is quite similar to things like whirling dervishes, North Moroccan music and, of course, Indian.
"Shiva's influences are Eastern, not only Indian but Japanese and Tibetan. He has solo passages where his voice and the flute take off and fly like birds together with the rhythm section down on a terrestrial level holding it. We skim across the top. It's highly improvised and very celestial.
"Allen, the lead guitarist, is only seventeen years old but it's pretty obvious that he's been playing for thousands of years. He's tremendously Indian influenced in his modes, scales and phrasing but is so hard-rock and exciting that he really makes you want to dance and move.
"I think our previous life-spans have a lot to do with our being Eastern influenced. A lot of us have been familiar with the Eastern way of life. They say the average Tibetan farm-hand, the simplest man of the land, can remember back three lifetimes. That's just their way of upbringing. We've forgotten it. It helps to know your roots - what you were, what consciousness you came out of. If you know yourself you know everything and that's what we're all trying to do.
"Indian instruments have an amazing subtlety. They're really on the subtle planes. So it gives them a good start. In western music we've got a few disadvantages to get over but it's all just sound, just the inversion of Om... always.
"If you want to communicate with people, music is one of the heaviest ways of doing it. You can really get into people's minds. You look ecstatic and happy. It's like someone has turned a switch. We feel so good. If the gig has been a success you feel completely charged. It's not that you've given out, but that you've received and there's this terrific circle. That's why you've got to surround yourself with good people because we are susceptible to picking up each other's vibes.
"It's a very responsible position and if you let political bullshit get in the way, getting up there and whipping up revolution, it's a pretty bad trip. I don't think socio-economic stratas of society should be confused with pop music. We're not against society. We've got the same message for everyone. Everything boils down to the question of what we're all seeking.
"It's not the time for hiding now. We're living at an age where we must come out of it. It's all very well to talk about kicking out the jams, but the thing is, we have to let go so we can understand each other. It's nothing to do with society. It's a matter of sitting down and getting it together, then going out and showing what you've done. We're living in such a great, great time. What's all this bullshit about communication? People talk about it being difficult but Van Gogh had it harder than any of us have it today. It's really up to ourselves. Whether you're doing it through print or music or painting... you know what has to be done... go out and do it!
"It comes out in our words which are all written by friends of ours, poets who understand our music and feel the same way. They're on a very high level - about getting to the One, getting yourself cooled out, going into the Cosmos and finding out about the more important things in life.
"All we need is love - you know it's true and that's what melts it down. We've got to slaughter ignorance. It's done by setting an example - not just by talking about it. We've got to show people in our actions and the way we conduct our lives in every aspect.
"Our spiritual guide Swami Ambikananda has had a big influence as far as the music and our lifestyles go. Our records are made under his spiritual supervision and he comes to the recording sessions to keep the vibrations good, because it is very difficult playing in the studio cubicles since you don't get that really sublime thing which happens with a big audience when the 'electricity' is all working for you and Krishna's smiling. Swamiji taught us the chants we use in our music.
"I wouldn't say that all of us feel that he's our guru. Some lean more heavily towards him than others. Just about everybody in the group is meditating now and there seems to be a pretty good air of tranquility.
"All through our lives we're looking for a guru whether we know it or not. We meet various ones along the path but we outgrow them. Leonardo da Vinci said that you're a bad pupil unless you exceed your master. That's where it is. You get through to one guru and you find out a bit more about the way, or a bit less, and you go on and meet other people. It's a question of finding someone with the right vibrations who can turn you on to what's going on. A guru can shed a lot of light in the darkness for you and show you short cuts but ultimately you've got to do it without your guru. Your mind is the greatest guru of all.
"You've got to be really careful who your guru is. They have a tremendous power over you and you're under control to some degree because they're thinking about you all the time. They're working for you twenty-four hours a day, while we're asleep they're awake. The thing is, we're asleep all the time. It's just one big dream... this Maya.
"But 1969 seems to be the year that people got things together. They're not just talking. Things are really blooming... the fruits are beginning to show all round. You know, you can go out now and buy a copy of Gandalf's Garden or go down the road and listen to Quintessence. There's a bread shortage of course, but this is always the case. I think we'll all have to help each other in this respect. It's been a hard fight and it still is... well, life's a hard fight. We're above water though.
"The consciousness of the world is changing. Half of the people in America are under 25. People just aren't thinking in the same ways anymore. There's always going to be a certain percentage of the people who aren't turned on but the signs are around. Things are different now. You've just got to look for the subtle indications of it.
"There seem to be more and more people in London with altars in their pads. It's nice that people are starting to realize that their pads are shrines and temples. We're all walking palaces. Our senses are really the gates of the palace. Some people don't know there are gates there.
"It's very hard to think about the future of the world. We've been in the dark ages a long time but we're coming out of them mentally with a lot of illumination and everybody's getting it together, but we may be going into the dark ages on a physical realm with wars, famine etc. But I don't really see it as the Cloud of Doom hanging over and ready to strike down.
"One has to remember that ever since we've known man on the earth there have always been wars, unpleasantries and ignorance. That's the pattern. You've got to have darkness in order to see the light. It's truth by opposites Yin and Yang when one thing rises, the other falls.
"More and more people are getting turned on and leading meditative lives. How can one really say the future of the world is in jeopardy?
"The greatest catastrophe is desire and that's going to come as long man is on the planet. Whatever's going on up there in the spirit world, causal bodies, ethereal bodies or whatever, I think that the planet earth is incredibly important in the evolution of the whole cosmos. I think deities are hip to us. Yama is always present. Not even a leaf moves without the Divine Mother knowing about it. When it's something so great and so above ourselves that's happening what can you do but burn your stick of incense and offer prostrations to your altar?
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