Spirit Voyage caught up with GuruGanesha as he was driving to the Midwest to begin his two-month national tour for his new CD, A Thousand Suns. The GuruGanesha Band will be sharing the stage with Deva Premal and Miten during this exciting 25-city tour.
Q: A Thousand Suns is the latest addition to your long and illustrious career. Like much of your other music, it’s a brilliant mix of playful and soulful. Can you tell us a little of how this CD came to be?
GuruGanesha: Snatam and I toured together for about 11 years, and then in early 2011 I got sick and I was sick for a couple months. As a result, I missed some tours with her. We had been talking for a couple years about possibly going our own way. I always had a dream in my head to set up a band, sort of a spiritual rock band. When I missed these tours, it was almost like the universe was saying this was the right time to do this. Our first concert as the GuruGanesha Band was at Sat Nam Fest East in 2011, and it was at the point that the seeds for this album were born.
Q: The music on this album is slightly different from your previous CDs.
GG: You may notice that I cut loose on the electric guitar way more than on other CDs. I think this is the best guitar work I’ve done on any of my albums. I played acoustic for years, but now I’ve got my electric guitar back, and you’ll hear some significant guitar breaks in several songs in this album. That’s how I express myself and my soul. I don’t feel so shy anymore about expressing myself fully on my instruments. For me, playing guitar is a way to commune with God.
Q: Most of the lead vocals on A Thousand Suns are sung by Paloma Devi. Has she been with your band for a while? What can you tell us about her?
GG: I met Paloma Devi at Summer Solstice in 2010. It was the last night of Solstice, when we do the all-night music event called the Ransaibai. It was after midnight, and I was out walking around. Suddenly I heard this beautiful voice of a woman singing with some drummers. They saw me and asked me to get my guitar. I started playing and before you know it, a bunch of people gathered around and she and I were jamming, singing and playing together. I felt as if I’d met a kindred musical spirit. Not only does she sing the sweet meditation stuff, but she also really likes to rock out. A year later, when I was getting my band together, I invited her to join. It’s so important to have some goddess energy in the band, especially in the Aquarian Age.
Q: Are there any songs that stand out for you on this album?
GG: A Thousand Suns for me is a very special song, because it connects me up with Yogi Bhajan. Every time I sing it, I feel his presence. This song dates back to when Paloma Devi and I began writing music together, and I found that the collaboration was quite fruitful. Every time we sat down to write, it was like turning on a faucet. At one point we sat down and I was reading some of Yogi Bhajan’s writings, and he spoke about a thousand suns in the lecture we were reading. The song flowed from that. Yogi Bhajan was credited with writing the lyrics. We did 3 big tours in 2012, and we play this song as the finale. I love that song, and people all over seem to really love it.
The second song on the album, Thy Will Be Done, is both playful and meaningful. Our producer Thomas Barkee and I wrote it together one day. It was also inspired by Yogi Bhajan. The only direction that life moves in is the evolution of the soul. God keeps moving us toward being a better person.
Q: One of the most popular tracks on this CD is Waho Waho Gobind Singh. Where did that come from?
GG: Paloma and I wrote this one together. Paloma is a flamenco dancer, and she played me some of her flamenco dance music, and after hearing it, we wrote this tune. It incorporates some of the rhythms of the flamenco music, giving it a little bit of a Latin flavor.
Q: The lyrics in Mayra Piara are unfamiliar to me. What can you tell us about that?
GG: That one is a traditional classical Indian shabd. It talks about that my best friend is the guru, my most intimate and beloved friend, who’s always there by my side. It’s a reminder that you and God, God and you are one. It’s sort of an Indian version of my song from my older album, Kundalini Surjhee, Walk with the Lord on Your Side.
Q: The song Sri Ram is really gorgeous. Who came up with that one?
GG: The inspiration from that came from Paloma Devi. She’s a Kundalini Yoga teacher and knows Gurumukhi, but she has been singing Sanskrit mantras as well. Sri Ram is a very popular Hatha yoga mantra. It’s almost like a spiritual rock opera, with 3 or 4 different sections that stand out and join in. We sing it in a tantric form, male/female, shakti and shiva joining forces. It’s pretty unbeatable.
Q: How do you like working with your new band?
GG: It’s fabulous. I want to acknowledge the other artists, who are so amazing. Hans Christian does such beautiful cello work on A Thousand Suns and Sri Ram. And on Waho, Hans is playing the nickyl harpa, a Swedish instrument. I also want to mention Sat Kartar Singh who does beautiful vocals, Gurusangat Singh from Boston is our bass player and does a wonderful job with that. Tripp Dudley does a beautiful job with the percussion.
Q: You’ve got a big tour coming up. How is that looking?
GG: We’re doing 27 concerts in 25 cities. In a couple cities we already sold out the first shows so we added a second. We’re going to be playing a lot of the tunes from the album. There aren’t too many tours that have been played at this scale in this genre. We’re playing in some theaters that seat 2000 people. I’m guessing that we’ll be reaching 25,000-30,000 people over the course of this tour. It’s pretty exciting.
We’ll be bringing mantra music to a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to it. We’re sharing the stage with Deva Premal and Miten, and they are so polished that they bring a very special element to this. During the shows, all the mantras will be projected onto a big screen. A concert of this scale will draw people who are being exposed to this music for the first time. People will bring family members who will come to a beautiful professional theater for an event like this. Our vision is to bring this kind of uplifting music to a wider audience.