An Interview with Sananda Maitreya

Digital downloads offer convenience, but I personally miss the liner notes from CDs. When I read the booklet from Terence Trent D ‘Arby’s _Symphony or Damn (1993), I was exposed to the writings of Greek spiritualist G. I. Gurdjieff.

D’Arby was more than a neo-soul forefather, he was a tastemaker for dedicated followers who paid close attention. It’s ironic that MP3s, which get rid of liner notes, are now the preferred way to get the music of the artist who is now known as Sananda Maitreya._

Rising to international stardom in 1987, Terence Trent D’Arby became renowned for hits such as “If You Let Me Stay,” “Sign Your Name,” and “Wishing Well”. Even Prince acknowledged D’Arby’s success by performing some of his songs in concerts.

At the age of twenty-five, he controversially claimed his debut was better than the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This led to a wave of black Britpop, including acts like Neneh Cherry and Soul II Soul. 

But despite his earlier successes, D’Arby’s follow-up album _Neither Fish Nor Flesh (1989) failed to reach the same heights.

In retrospect, it may sound tame compared to modern soul artists like Meshell Ndeg eocello and Kelis. Though he released more balanced records later on, such as 1995’s Vibrator, his career never fully recovered.

Sananda Maitreya has taken a new approach to rock stardom in the digital age. After legally changing his name and marrying Italian architect Francesca Francone, Maitreya moved to Milan.

His presence is felt on MySpace, YouTube, and his own website, where he posts spiritual musings and music from his 2006 album Angels & Vampires.

At the Chococult cafe in western Milan, I had the pleasure of meeting Sananda Maitreya. Time flew by in the hour that we spent together and we decided to go for a brisk winter walk and continue our conversation in the park nearby.

Miles Marshall Lewis’s work discusses the importance of being aware of the influence of society and culture on our lives. He emphasises that it is essential to understand the implications of our surroundings and how they shape our decisions and opinions.

Furthermore, Lewis believes that it is essential to consider the power of culture and society in our lives.


In 1989, I had a chance to witness your performance at Alphabet City in downtown Manhattan at the World. Nona Hendryx and Lenny Kravitz were both in the audience and you mentioned him in particular. It was around the time of the release of his initial album.

SANANDA MAITREYA: I took a moment to think about what would have happened if I hadn’t tried to help Lenny get on his feet; he was an artist that I admired, even though I had gone through my own struggles.

It made me wonder why there are so few black musicians playing guitar; I recently saw a picture of John Legend, and it caused me to think of how a piano is such a prominent instrument in the African-American community.

It’s large and imposing, it requires the musician to stay in one place, and it’s another form of art that’s been co-opted by the Anglo-Saxon culture. A guitar, on the other hand, is much more in your face and can be seen as a symbol of power.

BLVR: It also has a phallic connotation. During my tenure as the music editor of Vibe, in the magazine’s fourteen-year run, there was only one individual with a guitar featured on the cover: Wyclef Jean, and that was a joint cover with Lauryn Hill.

SM: Indeed.

BLVR: Could you elaborate on the path your career has taken since the launch of your first album was so successful?

SM shifted to become Sananda Maitreya to gain a new life and a new name. His aim was to obtain a new spirit. TTD had been removed from the situation as they had slain that individual.

When [Sony] disposed of Neither Fish Nor Flesh, it annihilated the spirit of that young man. At the age of thirty-three, he adopted Sananda and recollects a period of two years devoted to meditating on escaping the situation and being full of anger.

At the end of the day, this was an accomplishment that black people typically don’t attempt. We usually stay within a set pattern. “What do you think you are, the Beatles? Do you think you’re Dylan?”

The ironic thing is, every comment I have ever heard on any of my records was the same critique given to my first one.

It was never my goal to be an R&B singer; I had always envisioned myself as a rock star. To me, the term was not limited to any particular type of music.

I saw this when looking at Wilson Pickett; even though he was presented as an R&B artist, he was still a rock star in the sense that it was his entire lifestyle.

I expressed to the Americans before I arrived from England that I was not engaging in any racial issues. I made the journey to live my life like Jimi Hendrix and accomplish what I was intended to do.

Thus, I had no interest in any kind of shenanigans. It was not well-received and I found myself being replaced by people who didn’t even sing on the record. No offence intended towards them.

Rob Pilatus’ desperate attempt to connect with me shortly before he took his own life made a strong impression on me. I was in such a bad place myself back then that I didn’t have the emotional reserves to offer him the support he needed to keep going. The pressures of life had taken their toll on me.

BLVR: I recall reading about a collection of poetry you had either just completed or were about to publish while doing promotion for your second album. What was the name of the book?

SM: Controversy arose after the initial printing of Sex and Insanity Sells due to some people’s dismay that the content was more insightful than they had expected from an R&B artist.

BLVR: Was your poetry book too intellectual to be published?

SM recollected that he had rediscovered his prophetic abilities about five or six years prior, which were surprisingly accurate in predicting the events that were going to occur in South Africa and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Although he had shared this piece of information, people did not take it well. The prophets have to learn the art of communication in order to survive, just like KRSOne, Dylan, and Prince have done. It is a process that they all have to go through in order to know what they should and shouldn’t say.

Question:Have you ever encountered the works of Dylan’s Tarantula or John Lennon’s In His Own Write?

SM commented that he had read Dylan’s work as part of the compendium he had obtained. He mentioned that the whole book was included in the Lyrics: 1962-1985. He still possessed the hardback copy of the work.

SM declared that if Dylan produced something, he would certainly read it if it was accessible. He also remarked that he does not need to read In His Own Write as John Lennon is one of his ‘chief angels’, always being present.

BLVR: As Kanye West is well-known for expressing his opinion freely, much like yourself, would you advise him to be cautious?

SM asserted that Kanye is safe because of his support within the black community, something he himself lacked.

He mentioned a joke about Spanish firefighters, who told a man they would catch him if he jumped from a building, but then pulled the support away from him as he got closer.

SM noted that at least if a white man falls, he still has the backing of his brothers. He then concluded by saying that he wasn’t in this position and would not caution Kanye to be careful with his money due to his outspokenness as it was a part of his character.

BLVR: After the success of your debut album, did you handle wealth and celebrity status well?

SM: [Laughter] I’m in a very fortunate position. I’ve been successful enough that I don’t have to worry about not being paid for my work. I’m grateful to be able to work at something I love and still have a cushion, though not so big that I don’t have to work.

On the other hand, I’ve seen young people with so much money that they don’t have to even work, and as the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. By the grace of God, I’m able to stay employed.


BLVR: After a brief period of service in Elvis Presley’s regiment in the Army, you resided in Berlin and began your vocal career in London. Now, you have moved to Milan. What is it about Europe that has captured your heart?

SM: My aim was to stay in Europe after I had arrived there.

Ever since I was a kid, Europe has always held a special place in my heart. Despite the fact that the white man has often taken advantage of me, I can’t help but still love him.

I was meant to challenge him, and he was meant to push me to accept that I can’t ignore him and just pretend like nothing ever happened.

Now, I’m in a place financially where I don’t have to be so close to him, but I still don’t have the wealth I would if he had paid me what I deserved. That’s a story that applies to many people.

When I relocated to Paris three years ago, I often found myself longing for my family. You likely experience the same emotion with regards to your daughter Seraphina, who attends Marlborough College.

It’s difficult to determine if the person I am responsible for is my daughter or not. I am aware that she may be hurt if she read this, but she already knows the truth.

I am willing to accept the responsibility that I have been asked to take on, regardless of the fact that I am uncertain of her actual relation to me.

Though I want to protect her from the confusion and lack of understanding that I faced as a child, I have no right to dictate what she does.

I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot fund every decision her mother has for her, and so I have chosen to not involve myself in English matters. It’s a decision I am willing to make.

BLVR: What is the relationship like between you and your brother Darren, who is the leader of the band DoggyBag?

Answer:My family’s history has always been a secret, and while it has caused me a lot of anguish, I still remain estranged from them. I believe that they often view me through a filter that is not their own, and they may be working with prejudice.

I’m not especially close to my half brother or half cousin, but I understand that there is a point in our lives where we have to redefine the concept of family. Nothing should be allowed to prevent me from achieving my highest potential.

BLVR: Have you ever had the opportunity to visit any African nations? What are your thoughts and impressions of the African countries you have seen?

SM: Up to this point, I have only journeyed in this physical form to the northern part of Africa. My fascination with Kenya and Nigeria, and South Africa has always been very strong. I understand now why the record label did not want me to visit those places.

Whenever diasporans who have achieved something come back, they always excite them. We are their examples of what the exodus can produce and the paths it can take. I have, however, been exposed to North African cultures.

BLVR inquired as to the specific location.

SM: Tunisia was the most recent location I visited.

BLVR: Is it possible that the United States will have a black president in the future?

SM suggested Senator Obama has to recognize the difference between America not being ready for a black president, but electing one. They need to stop attempting to get approval from black people as it will be a setback.

He said, even though he is half-white, he is seen as a black man in America and the pride in his other race should be shown. The best thing to do is for him to join the same ticket as Hillary.

SM believes the worst time for a black president is after Bush, so they need to have enough contacts like Hillary to make it work.

He suggested Obama should take the vice president seat, learn and put himself in a position to see if he truly wants to be president or not. He believes looking at the presidency from the outside is different than from the inside.


Question:In the early stages of your career, you had mentioned to Q magazine that you had no intentions of producing other artists, something that several famous musicians such as Smokey Robinson, Prince, and Stevie Wonder had done. Do you still believe that to be true?

Answer:I was never against producing rock bands, yet I was raised on rock music and no American record companies offered me any projects.

However, the British were more progressive and I was given two or three bands to produce, but it never seemed to be at the right time.

Writing and producing involves giving yourself to other artists and this is something I am capable of doing, but then people want to take a shortcut and just get their music on the radio.

I’m not willing to just give away my creativity, but I am happy to mentor other artists and help them to develop their own particular style. My ideal producer was always George Martin and I wanted to be the same kind of person – offering guidance and support.

The American music industry, however, was not keen for me and Prince to be more closely associated.

BLVR: What is the reason?

SM posits that the FBI does what it can to prevent two or three individuals from getting together because it could lead to increased consciousness and, as a result, manipulation of Babylon’s structures.

Furthermore, they employ strategies such as rumours and isolation to prevent such collaborations. As an example, SM mentions that Jimi and Sly, as well as Jimi and Miles, wanted to work together but, for unknown reasons, it never came to fruition.


Question:In 1987, what inspired you to emulate Kanye West’s current technique of being a loudmouth in the hip hop world, similar to how Muhammad Ali was?

Answer:In 1986, I moved to London and had the chance to witness LL Cool J perform at Brixton Academy. His lovable arrogance and confident persona inspired me to emulate his style.

I wanted to represent the same idea of being young and magnificent, while also being a bit of a rogue. This idea of being under siege, which many like him had grown up with, became an asset to him, and that was something I also wanted to replicate.

I was also fascinated by the fact that many tough-guy MCs were actually very well-educated, which made me realise that it was about how you used the anger and the cultural influences around you to create your own identity.

I also noticed that many people often said that someone had grown up without a father, but I had a step-father who I wished had not been there.

BLVR: Was your stepfather a preacher?

SM: Occupies the role of a preacher, which is diametrically opposed to the life of a rock musician. To be a Pentecostal and a rocker is like having an arch-enemy, as our mere existence is seen as a sin to their faith, and vice versa. However, we can still live together in harmony.

I will never cast a negative judgement on any black man who grew up in the United States. It is understandable to me to have to wear the mask and adopt the persona necessary to survive in his environment and era, in the South.

All of us, in a sense, had to be the Stepin Fetchit that we needed to be in order to get by. In the end, he is who he is, and I am who I am, and that is completely acceptable.

BLVR: Are there any noteworthy experiences you can share with us about when you encountered Lenny Kravitz or Prince?

SM states that Lenny was the American industry’s response to them, and they were never going to be able to have the same level of success as him. This is not a slight against him, as he was in the right place at the right time and had worked hard to hone his abilities.

SM was blocked from expanding as Lenny was given the position to stop them from progressing. They noticed Milli Vanilli and Oasis had grown from their second album, and it was a big influence on the Seattle scene.

SM was also told that two of the members of Oasis had been in a band that covered one of their songs from their second project, “This Side of Love”.

This band was called the Rain, which was a tribute to [“Rain” from Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby] and John Lennon’s song “Rain”.

Question:I recall when Prince took the stage to perform “If You Let Me Stay” in response to the release of your album. How did you find out about it or what was your reaction?

SM expressed that it is a small world, noting how Anglos often use one another to get on each other’s nerves. Fortunately, those who can identify it are able to recognize it and communicate about it.

She recalled an anecdote about when Lenny expressed his bewilderment about how white people from Seattle could all dress similarly and yet he and his friends were expected to change their style due to the fact that they had dreadlocks.

SM explained that she eventually chose to dye her hair blond to avoid the criticism. She concluded by mentioning that the reason Lenny was here was because of her.

When Lenny got a perm, people began to draw comparisons between him and Prince.

SM: It’s really quite limited when it comes to our hairstyles. You can have long hair and choose between an Afro, dreads, or a perm. Short or bald are the other two options. Dreads are the easiest, requiring nothing more than some upkeep.

We need to go past that, as after a few years of having a perm and enduring some female pillows you can’t even lay on. It’s a different story for the white boys, who all wear the same style.

BLVR mentioned two well-known clothing brands, Converse and Levi’s.

SM: Absolutely. I’m very fond of them as well. But the fact of the matter is that is the reality.

  1. “It’s often the case that the record industry has to be forced, not of its own volition, to accept the joys of progress.”

BLVR: What do you believe has led to the decline of the music industry, to what extent has it diminished?

SM:By disregarding the possibility of balancing the two sides of the law – to make money and to provide a public service – the artists have forgotten their own purpose.

This has caused them to become completely oblivious to the fact that their work is essential to the international mental interest.

Question:What consequence do you anticipate to arise from the collective effort of platforms like YouTube, MySpace, and peer-to-peer MP3 download sites?

SM claims that the dinosaurs that were able to adapt survived, and that the same is true for the communication revolution he has helped create.

He believes that the record industry has to reinvent itself in order to succeed in the post-industrial era, and that overhead should be reduced in order to have people who care about the music business once again.

He argues that when the industry became a billion-dollar business, it attracted the wrong people for the wrong reasons and that they were clogging up the industry, with middle-aged executives caring more about their 401K programs than the artists they were supposed to be representing.

SM suggests that these people should be removed.

In the 90s, Prince began operating without a label, and has recently gained acclaim by earning Grammy nominations and gracing the cover of Rolling Stone.

Perhaps it would take another renowned figure, similar to Prince or Madonna, to go independent like you for there to be a tipping-point shift.

SM suggested that what he is doing can aid those still in slavery contracts. He commented that Madonna, being so competitive, would not want to pay someone else to do what she could be doing herself.

He then went on to say that American Idol is a perfect representation of the record industry. He then proposed a show, Finding Talent, to be more honest. SM then proposed that once he masters his record, it should not matter if Coca-Cola or Sony buy it.

He then called out to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, saying that their fortunes could buy the record industry outright and asked why they were haggling with the other people for pennies. He ended by saying he just wants the people to have the music and for him to make his money.

Might Interest You

The effects of climate change are now being felt in a variety of ways. From rising sea levels to more frequent and intense storms, its impacts are becoming increasingly apparent. In addition, extreme weather conditions are becoming more common, leading to a greater risk of drought, flooding, and other natural disasters. As a result, humanity is having to adapt to cope with these issues, often at a great cost.

Our writing staff is varied and passionate about arts, literature, film, travel, music, and entertainment.

Read Full Biography
Back to previous

You May Also Like





An Interview with Doseone Copy

Adam Drucker, better known by the alias Doseone, has said his initial attraction to rap was as much about the……



An image of Susan Straight was uploaded to the website in 2013. My mother was so grief-stricken when President……

related articles

An Interview with Lil B

Mercury’s Ghost

The Visual Erotics of Mini-Marriages

articles about Archive

Hold On

March 7, 2022

Yellow Faces

March 7, 2022

A Microinterview with Gina Apostol

March 7, 2022

Microreviews: March/April 2022

March 7, 2022

Tool: CDLP swim shorts, $159

March 7, 2022