Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Victor Vertunni - William Blake in music and theatre



Victor Vertunni – the man and sahajayogi who is known to everybody who goes to Cabella or watches the TEV theatre. A broad smile and a face full of joy – such are typical features of the man who has been for the several past years connected with Sahaja Yoga through a quite unique project – he introduces to the world the work of William Blake, the famous visionary. The theatre performances of the Blake´s life periods were possible to be seen in Cabella or in the theatres of various countries. A few years ago Victor was so kind and gave to our Czech magazine Nirmala vidja a wonderful interview – not only about his CD Songs of Innocence and Experience and about William Blake´s work, but he also shared his experience with the meeting with Shri Mataji.

How did you get in Sahaja Yoga? What is your job,what your family does,what is your hobby, where do you live and how old you are?


I was born in London but have lived abroad for most of my life. I have been a Sahaja Yogi since 1983, I teach English for a living. I married Purna, a yogini from Rome in 1989 and have two children, Leo (narasiha) and Maxim (Navin). My wife’s parent are also Sahaj Yogis which is great especially for the children. We live in Voghera, about 60 Km from Cabella where we usually rent a house in the spring and summer months. we were blessed to live in Shri Mataji’s house with other young families until 1996. The foundation of Theatre of Eternal Values in 1996 involved big changes in our lives as Purna (who is a dancer) and I were on tour, on and off, for about two years. We played in many countries including Praha. I will never forget the warm hospitality and beautiful, deep, bhakti-filled ashram we stayed in!


Where and how did you start play the quitar? Where did you learn play the quitar?


I started at school. It was an English college where I spent 9 months of each year. There was a lot of free time in which we listened to played music together, but the truth is that I am a “diletante“: I’ve never had a music lesson in my life and my voice is a gift that never united with disciplined practice, unfortunately.





On CD Blossomtime is your beauty composition Kundalini. When and where did you compose it and what is the way to get on the world selection of Sahaja music?


Kundalini came to me one morning in my room in Cabella. I was recovering from severe tonsilitus and was having difficulty focusing attention on Sahasrara, probably due to the medicine. A sudden inspiration to pick up the guitar came to me and the nostalgia of the beautiful feeling when She, the kundalini rises. It was a sort of thanksgiving or invocation to our mother as the “Kumba“, the womb, the Divine water carrier that gives second birth to all her Spiritual Children. I almost didn’t have the courage to sing it to others because of the Tamasic feel of it – it was a time when kawalis were very popular.! But when Geoffrey the producer of Blossom Time heard it he asked for a proper recording to be made. I am not the one to ask about how to be selected for Sahaj Radio because it all happened by chance: years after the CD came out in the early 90’s I met an Australian yogi who said that „Kundalini“ was being used as the opening of their Australian radio show. What we really need now is a record label managed by yogis.





I was listening carefully your CD Songs…. It is really very nice, full of feelings and emotions, happy and sad at the same time. Why did you choose William Blake and why his Songs of Innocence and Experience?


William Blake wrote :“without contraries is no progression“. The Songs contrast a pure natural state of oneness with nature – a sort of paradise on earth with the harsh reality of the industrial revolution in which children were the principal victims. The Chimney Sweeper, Holy Thursday , the Little Boy Lost and London are chronicles of the abysmal social conditions and injustices of so-called “progress“. The Songs on one level are about childhood ; innocence attacked by poverty , physical and mental cruelty (still happening today)- and the hard road back to innocence by the ability to distinguish truth from untruth, justice from injustice – wisdom acquired through experience .




Release from the dualistic world can only occur when “Experience“ pushes humanity to seek for the Divine:

In futurity

I prophetic see

That the earth from sleep…

Shall arise and seek

For her maker meek

And the desert wild

Become a garden mild: (The Little Girl Lost)


In a time of revolutionary struggle for justice and freedom, Blake was against “systems“ that can be manipulated by reason and ambition. He urged people to free their spirit from “the mind-forged manacles of man“, racial, social, religious and material conditionings. Humans are divine (realized) according to the measure of the unconditional love they are able to generate and manifest.


then all must love the human form

in heathen turk or jew

where Mercy love and pity dwell

there God is dwelling too


There are many poems like “The Garden of Love“ and “The Chimney Sweeper (exp)“ that denounce the absence of love and freedom in false religions and cruel lifeless conditionings.


.. and priests in black gowns

were walking their rounds

and binding with briars

my joys and desires“ (The Garden of Love)




What do you mean about his production, what relation you have to him and his work. (Blake).What do you like on his work (figures and poems) the most?

This production grew organically over twenty years. Hearing the Songs made the meaning clearer to me and so I thought it might also be useful for others who wish to understand them. In fact, Blake used to sing them to his friends and a witness wrote that afterwards the audience sat in silence for fiteen minutes. They have a mantric quality that puts us in touch with our pure emotions: Blake was Shri Bairava, Lord and light of the Tamo Guna. Without pure emotions to nourish us we become dry and unable to feel compassion. The Songs were written at a time when England’s con­science was in a coma. Blake denounced colonial expansion, slavery and child labour which the church in its deafening silence tacitly condoned.


is that tender cry a song?

Can it be a song of Joy ,

And so many children poor

It is a land of (spiritual) poverty“



The problem is no longer next door but out of sight. It is amply demonstrated that our economic empires still benefit from undignified exploitation of cheap labour by financing corrupt regimes in “developing“ countries who deny their citizens freedom and dignity. I admire Blake´s courage . He was a Guru who who never compromised his message of truth which he believed he was called by God to express, with its inevitable consequences on his career. He was a prophet in the urban wilderness who epreached in visual and verbal form the universal truths that spring from the eternal fountain of knowledge according to the needs of every age. His courage, strength creativity and devotion to life, which is God’s creation, is an example to all of us to rise up and live our realization.



Titul composition of album Ganesha Arti is very nice. How, when and where did you make it? And what is your feeling about the Mantra to Ganesha? How did you come to compose his poems and after this produce the CD? Where did you record it and who was helping you ?


Ganesha Aarti has always been my favourite devotional Hymn. The traditional melody is joyful and upbeat. The version that I composed is quieter and introspective . It gradually builds to a choral crescendo and the drum beat of an army of ganas marching to protect the innocent –the movement from a gentle mood to fearless and powerful energy like the union of the left side(desire) and right side (action). But without the left side; vision and pure desire, there can be no inspired, enlightened action.


Without love and surrender there can be no devotion and Shri Ganesha is the Mahabhakta of the Devi. And so I suppose the Aarti’s purpose is to awaken and inspire pure Bhakti – the most innocent and pure emotion – the oil for the lamp of our pure thoughts and action. It was composed as the CD neared completion. I hope it makes sense to include it in the light of Blake’s vision of universal “poetic genius“ or “spirit of prophecy“ uniting races, cultures and creeds. He expressed the values of freedom and human dignity decades before Ghandi , Martin Luther King and the Woodstock generation who rediscovered him 200 years after his death.



The CD was recorded in a homestudio using a Behringer B2 studio microphone and Protools digital recording technology. Anyone can do it on a computer. The mike costs about Euro 150 but gives great results, with a little extra reverb to add depth to the voice, especially. I got them copied myself with a simple but powerful cover design by Jai Jalan (image from Blake Archive on internet.



What´s your relation to Sahaja Yoga? What did you find important there?

Shri Mataji.
Like many sahaja yogis and seekers I experienced on more than one occasion in my childhood states of meditation, release from barriers, deep spiritual silence – but it came and went and i didn’t now how to feel it at will. These experiences became the measure of all other experiences. And so at 19 I started seeking in a more focused way and met Shri Mataji at Heathrow airport in April 1983. That meeting changed my life. I immediately felt that I would follow her to the end of the earth. Sahaja Yoga is her gift to humanity: the technique to achieve , stabilize and deepen Samadhi – but only by Shri Mataji’s grace.

Did you ever play to Mother? For example on Puja or somewhere else?


Yes, I sang William Blake’s Tyger to her at Guru Puja in Gmunden in 1986 and Kundalini in a Public Program in Genova Nervi when She arrived on stage. It was She who encouraged me to perform from the beginning. Whenever She arrived to Cabella from India she would enquire what I was doing and said that I should write plays and do theatre. So I feel her blessings are on all artists in Sahaja Yoga.



Could you share with us some of your adventure from meeting with Mother ?


One in particular which has a relevance to art and artists. We were moving paintings around in the big living room in Cabella. She was seated in her white and gold chair and asked o be shown each and every painting. She told us exactly where to put each one, sometimes in rooms on upper floors that she had not even been to yet. She commented on them, mentioning the style etc. Then She turned to me and said that I should form my own theatre company and even gave the name “Theatre of Eternal Values“. I was not sure if she wanted plays performed in Cabella or a real theatre comapny to play for the general public; so I asked her.She confirmed that it should be „professional“ and organized to the highest standards. Then a doubt came to my mind, which of course I did not say ou loud: “But Mother how will it be financed?“ I thought. She smiled and said that artists in the past were great people who dedicated themselves entirely to their art but were not very good with money and dealers made fortunes out of them after their death. But they and their families often starved in garrets, …and then she looked at me straight in the eyes and said:“but not anymore not in this lifetime“. She continued to give precise instructions about how and where the company should be registered and who should form part of the company.



There is a beautiful sequel to this anecdote . In Bombay in 1998 we performed in the Sophia Baba auditorium and in Ganapatipule. The company of about 12 members were stayin in Washi. One day I am called to the phone; it was Hari Valmiki, from Shri Mataji’s residence. He told me to come to her house and to bring a suitcase with me. A suitcase? A SUITCASE?! “ Small, medium or large? “ I asked. Never mind, just any you can find. When I arrived, I went in straight to Mother’s feet. She congratulated us for coming all the way to India to perform Moliere’s ary Invalid“ and said that it was important that Indian audiences saw a play which showed the stupid things about western culture. Then She said that “theatre would have died out without Theatre of eternal Values“! (in all honesty, I cannot imagine that she was refering to the artistic result but more to the subtle benefits of the process!).


Then she asked if I had remebered the suitcase, which I was told to open on the carpet in front of me. She said something in marathi to hari who disappeared and reappeared with his arms full of Rupees, literally in big fat bundles that had been stapled together. He came and went several times until the suitcase was filled- I could hardly close it. I stared incredulously at the suitcase and then looked at Mother. What was i supposed to do with it? “it’s for you and the comapny. Please distribute it as you wish.“ I thanked her with tears in my eyes and said that it was a priviledge to come to perform in India and that we could not accept such a generous gift. But She insisted and said that we had earne by our work and dedication. I said i would like to donate it to sahaja Yoga. But I quickly realized that I must accept and I was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanked. (later I realised that The Patron of patrons of the arts, Shri Laxmi Herself was blessing all arts and artists.


It is She who in person incarnates as both Shri Saraswati and Shri Laxmi who was confering her blessings of auspiciousness and wellbeing to arty and artists) When I arrived back we all went up on the roof of Washi and had tea and cut a cake. Everyone was curious to know what was in the suitcase. I slowly opened it up. There was a gasp of shock, then shrieks of joy and then tears for everyone was moved by our Mother benevolence and generosity. She even told us that we should spend it on clothes and ornaments!

Jai Shri Mataji !



4 comments:

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