by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – I had hoped to write a review of the Kirtan concert by Deva Premal and Miten that took place at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Sunday night, October 9, 2011. The duo, accompanied by Nepalese flutist Manose, are well known in the world of Sanksrit chant, and this well-attended Kripalu-sponsored event was hopefully the first of many such community outreach activities bringing yoga-based culture to a Berkshire community very open to and hungry for this sort of entertainment.
Unfortunately, the musicians’ management has tied my hands and made it impossible for me to publish anything about the event, so I cannot say a word, nor print a single photo (since I didn’t take any) of what happened on Sunday night at the Mahaiwe.
While as one might imagine, the spirit inside the theater was one of peace, love, and unity, the people behind the scenes run a very strict regimen that, as their manager admitted to me, is all about “controlling their public image.” In response to my request to photograph the concert and abide by all the standard protocols (which are shooting only the first three songs and using no flash – this is understood and accepted by all professional event photographers including yours truly), I was met with a wall of resistance bordering on insult and paranoia: I was asked to sign a waiver promising not to publish anything without prior consent (I have shot concerts by musicians all over the world, many much more famous than Deva Premal and Miten, from Montreal to London to Copenhagen, and I’ve never been asked to submit my photos in advance to the artist for approval – this is prior restraint and any self-respecting photojournalist would never agree to such terms) – oh, and by the way, they had no waivers for me to sign.
I was also asked to identify my publication, which of course I did, to which the manager replied, “I’ve never heard of that,” dismissively. Well, as I replied, I’d never heard of Deva Premal until I wrote a preview article on her. Never mind that I routinely shoot concerts at the Mahaiwe and other Berkshire venues, and was even donning my official Mahaiwe photo pass laminate, which should have given this out of town manager at least some clue that I was not someone walking off the street and trying to pull a fast one over them – what that would even be, I don’t know.
I’ve rarely experienced such fanatical control-freakism in my nearly 30 years of arts journalism. Unfortunately, this only added to a whiff of cultism surrounding the evening’s proceedings, but I won’t go there.
So I just kept my camera packed for the evening, agreed to abide by their rules (which to me meant not reviewing the concert at all), sat through the first half politely, and took my leave at intermission, having my entire experience of the evening tarnished by this very un-yoga-like behavior on the part of Deva Premal’s management.
And of course, throughout that first half of the concert, while I was obeying the rules, audience members were snapping away with their smartphone and pocket cameras – with flash, of course (note to concertgoers – your flash from the audience does nothing to cast light on the performers and improve your photos – it only serves to blind the artists and distract your fellow audience members).