Artist: Shastro

sha1-400pxjpgMulti-instrumentalist Shastro, who was born in Venice, Italy, has spent a good part of his life traveling the world on a quest for musical and spiritual inspiration. Although he began his professional career as a fashion photographer, all that changed one day on a crowded street in India. In 1985, Shastro left Italy to live in a spiritual community in India. As he describes: “I saw along the street a young Indian boy selling bamboo flutes. Without hesitation I bought one for 50 cents and I remember distinctly a voice inside me that said ‘now you will no longer be a photographer but a musician.’ After having bought that flute, day after day, month after month, I blew on the little flute trying to learn how to obtain different sounds. Eventually I learned the tabla drums, and then dilruba and sitar. Well one instrument leads to another and within a few years I had a large ‘family’ of instruments always with me.”


He goes on to say: “Because of the fact that I fell in love so easily with so many different instruments, I never became a virtuoso on any of them and sometimes regret not going really deep into the technique of one of them. But I eventually evolved into a multi-instrumentalist.” In addition to the above-mentioned instruments, Shastro performs on clarinet, Spanish guitar, African kora harp, hammered dulcimer, and Native American flutes all with equal ease and beauty, integrating these ancient instruments into a compelling contemporary sound. The four years he spent in the Osho ashram in India brought him into contact with highly accomplished and spiritually attuned musicians from around the world, an experience he claims to have “absorbed like a sponge.”


After leaving India a few years later and moving to Hawaii, Shastro began recording his own music. He soon realized thatShastro in the studio with all the instruments he had learned to play, that he could compose the music he was hearing in his head all on his own. As he tells it: “When I played just one instrument I could not touch the depth I was wanting to express but when I’d put them all together … the magic would happen!”


Shastro’s unique sound integrates new age and meditation music with world music, in particular Latin and East Indian influences, with spirituality playing a major role in his music and creative process. Shastro describes it in this way: “Music is an expression of who you are, and you cannot create music for meditation without first having experienced it yourself, you can not create music that provokes silence if you haven’t touched those spaces within yourself. We have to attune continually if we want to be able to create harmony through our expression, whatever form it takes. I would say that the creative process is simply a natural consequence of a certain inner work, a pure reflection … and when the lake water is still, the reflection of the moon becomes more clear and bright.”


Fast-forward a few years to the release of his first album, Bandolè, in 1994. It was a good time to be in the music business. Record companies were very open to new musicians and sales were booming as listeners were replacing their vinyl and cassettes with CD’s. Shastro signed a contract with a new age record company in the US and created his first CD. The album did well which afforded him the opportunity to buy equipment and create a professional recording studio. Not long after however, the market started to decline due to the economic downturn, music pirating and other factors, leaving Shastro without a record label behind him. As he tells it: “I found myself faced with a choice: stop making music or creating a record company to market my own music. And that’s how Malimba Record came to be…it was almost twenty years ago.”


Malimba RecordsCreating your own record company is no small undertaking, but Shastro was up to the challenge. It was not long until he began to expand from promoting his own music to adding other artists to his growing Malimba Records label. In his words: “Little by little I realized that I could use the same marketing structure I was using to market my music to also market the music of other talented artists that I knew. I took as an example what Peter Gabriel had done with his label Real World. He had to create an outlet for some great music that was not known and that otherwise would not have reached the market and our ears … it has been a great inspiration.”


As time went on, Shastro began to attract a roster of other spiritually oriented musicians from around the world to his growing new age/world fusion label. His own personal music flourished as well, and since that debut recording in 1994, Shastro has released an impressive total of 14 albums. His music can be best described as relaxed world music and even his more upbeat titles create a soothing effect. In the Malimba Records catalog one can find all the releases by Shastro as well as recording artists such as pianist Nadama, singer Sudha, composer Chinmaya Dunster, flutist Nandin, guitarist Sambodhi Prem, and the Indian duo Mandala among others. The award-winning Malimba Records label specializes in music for the healing arts, spas, massage, relaxation and meditation.


I recently wrote a review in Awareness Magazine about the 2015 release by Shastro and French harpist Raphael calledzen-moments-square-400px Zen Moments, which I characterized as: “elegant in its serenity and the contemplative ambience it creates.” In that review I quoted Shastro in saying: “A particular emphasis was put not only on the notes that are being played, but also on the silences in between.” This idea is further reflected in these words from Osho: The real music is in the gaps… Once you know how to listen, in deep receptivity, sensitivity, you are not there. The listener is not there, only listening.”


In addition to music, Shastro is passionate about the environment. I highly recommend reading an insightful and heartfelt article he wrote about the subject on his website. This commitment is also woven into the mission statement of Malimba Records, which reads: “We feel that our planet is a temple and now more than ever needs a collective effort on our part to bring in more consciousness, love, laughter, light and a sense of oneness among all people. Our purpose is to create, through our music, an environment where those qualities can thrive, to support the healing process the world needs and to help humankind remember its True Nature.”


Shastro has indeed come a long way in the music world since buying that fifty -cent flute on a dusty street in India thirty years ago. In addition to creating a stunning catalog of his own music, he has applied the skills developed over the years to promote the creative efforts of many fine musicians and recording artists from around the world. But equally important is the fact that he has maintained the spiritual principles and values that have guided him throughout his life and infused them into his music and his record company. To quote another Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci: “Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” Millions of people have been touched by this unique alchemy of music and spirit, and in his own personal way, Shastro is doing his part in making this a better world.