KAPA’A - Rocco's Italian
Restaurant in Kapa’a is an unlikely place for an old rock star's comeback. The
last time this bearded Brit in trademark turban returned to the stage it was
before a crowd of 78,000 in Moscow's Red Square.
The former lead guitar
player with the '60s band Eric Burdon and the Animals ended that brief tour as
convinced as ever that the life of a rock star wasn't for him. "I'd rather
be a plumber," Antion Meredith told his wife. "And that was the end
So these days he's playing
Hawaiian music with KeoniLake at Rocco's. Late
Friday nights. they switch to rock and by, day he's 'that plumber who wears a
For this disenchanted rock
star and once fanatic Sikh, the Rocco's gig has been a long time coming. He
left the Animals nearly 30 years ago to pursue a spiritual practice that led
him to study and then perform sacred Indian music in Sikh temples throughout
He was introduced, by
chance, to Hawaiian music and is now working it into his eclectic repertoire.
And somewhere, on the verge of breaking through, is a vision that brings it all
together in a sound as uniquely his own as the inner yearnings that guide him.
Antion, then known as Vic
Briggs, walked away from a promising career with the Animals in 1968. The
British rock band hit its stride in the mid-60s when it moved to the U.S. West
Coast touring with hits co-written by Antion like "When I Was Young,"
"Sky Pilot" and "Monterey."
Before he joined the
Animals, the London-born guitarist played with entertainers like Rod Stewart
and Dusty Springfield. Jimi Hendrix, who once named Briggs as one of his three
favorite musicians, was instrumental in getting him his job with the Animals.
That was 1966. Antion was 21
and woefully unprepared for the life of a rock star. Performing was great.
Recording even better. But he couldn't hack life off-stage.
"You couldn't trust
anything that people said," he explained during an interview at his home
in Kilauea. "People were so anxious just
to get a part of you that they would not have any respect for your privacy,
your humanity or your dignity."
In 1968, after playing the
Hollywood Bowl and touring the U.S.,
Australia, New Zealand and Europe,
Antion's two-year career with the Animals ended. "I'd had enough of sex,
drugs and rock and roll. Our manager was ripping us off. We had a big fight,
and so myself and the bass player left,"
It was painful. he said.
"I was emotionally immature. We all were. It was very easy to manipulate
us and rip us off."
There he was 23 years old, a
long way from home, and his rock career ended. Not ready to abandon show
business altogether, Antion decided to pursue a career as an arranger and
producer in Hollywood studios. That lasted a
year. At 24, he backed all the way out of rock and headed in an entirely
"I decided I wanted to
be spiritual, so I became spiritual," he said. He studied yoga with Yogi
Bhajan, who remained his spiritual teacher for 20 years. He became a master of
yogic chanting and mantra yoga. He became a Sikh and learned the sacred music
of his new religion.
The Sikh organization is
composed of followers of Guru Nanak, who founded the religion some 500 years
ago. Sikhism is a unique belief system that some say is a synthesis of the best
ideas of both the Hindu and Muslim religions.
There are about 15 million
Sikhs in the world. The highest concentration is in India
but there are large communities in the United
Australia, New Zealand, Fiji,
and other places.
As far as Antion knows, he's
the only practicing Sikh on Kauai. Certainly, he's
the only master plumber on the island who shows up to fix the sink in a turban.
The yoga-teaching arm of the
Sikh religion is called 3HO, which stands for healthy. happy, holy
organization. Sikhs, Antion said, Follow a very simple spiritual practice.
" It involves getting up early in the morning for meditation, working
honestly and being prepared to share with others."
When he became a Sikh.
Antion adopted a new name. He was called Vikram Singh Khalsa. It was only after
he left the organization in 1990 that he changed his name to Antion.
During his years with the
Sikh organization, he became an accomplished yoga teacher and a highly regarded
performer of sacred Sikh music. He sings in a complicated Indian language based
on Sanskrit. This morning, he sits in his recording studio playing a harmonium
(a box-like instrument that resembles a keyboard combined with an accordion).
His voice soars above the harmonium like a one-man choir standing in the temple
of the Almighty.
He is the only non-Indian
Sikh who has ever been allowed to sing in the GoldenTemple,
which is the most holy shrine of the Sikhs. Singing in the temple in Punjab, India,
was the pinnacle, he said, of his musical Career.
"For 20 years, I was
just totally into this Indian music," he said. "I didn't think there
was anything else. And than, by chance, I happened to arrive at the Royal
Hawaiian Hotel just about the time that the Brothers Cazimero concert was
That was 1991, two years
before Antion and his wife Elandra moved from San Diego
to Kauai. They were in Hawaii on vacation when he walked past the
Monarch Room as the Cazimero show began. He had never seen ancient hula. He had
never heard chanting. "I was absolutely flabbergasted," he said. It
was then he realized that he had a new passion and a reason to move to Hawaii.
Five years later, he picks
up a guitar and picks out a Keali'i Reichel tune. The words flow easily, the
delicate melody floating like the petals of a lei through the quiet studio.
"I've devoted a fair
amount of time to learning Hawaiian music," Antion said. "It's become
very much a part of me."
His interest took him by
surprise. Until that day outside the Monarch Room, the musician thought his
study of classical Indian music had been enough to fulfill him musically.
"The Indian music is
wonderfully spiritual," he said. "But it's very much about longing,
about separation from God and longing for God. In Hawaiian music, I've found
contentment and joy, and that's an important part of what spiritual music
Antion and Elandra have been
married for nearly 24 years. The parents of two daughters, they met when Antion
was teaching yoga in London. "I was a very
strict, upright. kind of uptight spiritual fanatic." Antion said.
"This very beautiful model and movie actress in hot pants started coming
to my classes. So of course, I pretended not to notice her."
Elandra. known then as
Kirsten Lindholm, was a rising film actress, a Danish beauty who grew up in New Zealand and
was making a name for herself appearing as a vampire in horror movies.
Their lifestyles were
completely incompatible. But they were in love. So when Antion decided to
return to the states, Elandra went with him. She told her agents she'd be back
in two weeks. "I never came back. I never even called them I just
disappeared into an ashram. into a cult, really," she said.
One day she was a British
movie star, the next she was the wife of a Sikh. Her name was changed to Vikram
Kaur Khalsa. Clad in white from head to toe, she looked like a nun. "I
spent 18 years dressed like that," she said.
During those years, Antion
and Elandra were in charge of the Sikh ashram in San Diego. "We were like ministers to a
fairly large congregation," Antion said. He also taught and sang
throughout the world.
"It was a little bit
like being a rock and roll star," he said. "You'd feel good, but you
wouldn't have any money in your pocket."
They left the ashram in 1990
after a fall out with their spiritual teacher. "Yogi Bhajan branded me as
a traitor," Antion said, adding that he continues his spiritual practice
as a Sikh, still sings in temples and remains friends with many in the
After nearly two decades as
members of the Sikh organization in San
Diego. Antion said, communal living became very
"I don't drink. I gave
that up at the end of 1969. I don't take drugs. We've been married for almost
24 years, but I like to have fun. I like to be with people. and I like to play
Nevertheless, Antion said
separating from the ashram was traumatic. "You might say we were part of a
cult within the greater diaspora of Sikhism, And when we left the cult, we
encountered, as often happens, a lot of negativity and hostility. We had been
living in this sheltered environment and all of a sudden all these people we
thought were our friends had turned against us."
In 1989, a year before they
left the ashram, Antion ran into an old friend at a party given by his
neighbor, basketball star Bill Walton. Jerry Garcia was in San Diego to perform, this time without the
Grateful Dead, It had been about 20 years since Antion had seen Garcia.
The next day, Elandra bought
her husband a guitar.
"Then it all started up
again," Antion said.
In 1992, a reconstituted
version of the Animals went to Moscow to perform
in the first rock concert ever held in Red Square.
Vic Briggs was back. They played to a crowd of 78,000 and went on to Sweden for
another performance. By now, the guitar player was 47 years old. He was married
and the father of two. He had sung in the GoldenTemple,
recorded several albums of Indian music and had devoted years to his spiritual
practice, And though he had left the ashram, he still wore his Sikh turban.
So, in Sweden, when
two girls followed him to his hotel room after a performance, he was appalled.
"I actually got
seared," Antion said. "I couldn't believe they were following me. And
I couldn't believe I was throwing them out."
Nothing had changed. Being
an Animal at 47 was just as bad as it had been at 21. "I said, I'd rather
be a plumber, and that was the end of it."
Now, he's not so sure. On
the cusp of his 51st birthday, which falls on Valentine's Day, Antion is on the
verge of bringing forth a new sound drawn from the many forms of music that
have touched his soul.
"I want to incorporate
Indian, Hawaiian, African and rock and roll", he said. But make it really
spiritual and healing oriented so it uplifts people, but also is fun."
At this point, the musician
isn't ready to go on the road with his concept.
"I've got the sound of
the music in my head," he said. "But it's hard for me to get it out
and even harder to explain." One album is close. He allows the sound to
fill his recording studio. The music, which has a mesmerizing meditative
quality punctuated by an insistent drum beat, is overlaid by the haunting call
of Antion's voice. The sound, born of a rock band and refined in the sacred
temples of his religion, lifts high above the instrumentation and over
Elandra's spoken chant to arrive at a place known only by the soul.
"It's bringing you
home," Antion said.
Here's how to catch
Antion will appear with
vocalist Connie Kissinger and a group of musicians Saturday night at the
Outrigger Kauai Beach Hotel. The event is a benefit for the Kauai Children's DiscoveryMuseum,
He appears Friday and Saturday evenings, from 7 to 9 p.m., playing Hawaiian
music with KeoniLake at Rocco's Italian Restaurant in
Kapaa. On Fridays, from 10 p.m. to closing, Keoni and Antion team up with Phil
and Shaun to play rock and roll. On Mondays, at 7 p.m., Antion and Elandra lead
a chanting/toning circle in their home. In addition to his study of Indian
music, Antion has studied Naad Yoga, which is the yoga of sound. He has taught
chanting, toning, sacred singing and self- healing with sound on four