Booker was born in Detroit, Michigan, on December 27, 1942, at Highland Park General Hospital, and is of Serbian descent. His father, Melvin Bookvich, was a shoemaker who played accordion. He is married to Patti, aka Shakti, and they have a daughter named Rani, and a son named Aaron from a previous marriage. He previously lived in Detroit, New York City and Oakland, California. Since 1985, Booker and his family have lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he has his own recording studio called Sage Ct. Studio, as well as an 'Orthodox Church where he is the priest, Saint Gregory Palamas Celtic Orthodox Church.
Booker first played the accordion before taking up drums as a preteen. He studied drums under Misha Vishkov, a Russian music teacher.
He first professionally played drums in 1961 with "The Low Rocks" in Detroit as Steve Booker. Under that name he also achieved local recognition playing in 1962 with the "Thunder Rocks" and both bands released singles on the Sabre Records label, which they also created.
Booker became known for his long, driving drum solos. He shared the bill at venues like Detroit's Eastown Theatre and Grande Ballroom with Ted Nugent, Traffic, Jack Bruce, Mose Allison, Sam Lay, Jimmy Reed and many others. He often performed as Steve Booker's New Volume.
In 1969, at the first Woodstock Festival, he played drums for Tim Hardin, along with cellist Richard Bock, from The Winter Consort. At Woodstock he met Swami Satchidananda who invited him to visit him at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City, where he gave him the name Muruga. While at the Integral Yoga Institute he became friends with pop artist Peter Max, who also did the artwork for Muruga's 1970 release of Rama Rama/Endless Path, which was also the first recording that Don Was engineered.
In the early 1970s Booker often played with Ted Nugent, who referred to him in an interview as "dangerous and incredible" on drums. A song that was the result of a jam session with Nugent ended up becoming "Stranglehold", which was based around a drum beat and song of Booker's.
In November 1971, he recorded with Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan on sessions at The Record Plant, New York, NY, and the resulting recordings were included on several releases by Ginsberg, including First Blues and Ginsberg's box-set release Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs. The engineer on the sessions with Ginsberg and Dylan was Jack Douglas.
In 1971, Muruga met Darius Brubeck, the son of jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, and along with clarinetist Perry Robinson they formed the electronic experimental trio MBR. In 1972, they recorded the album Chaplin's Back which featured reinterpreted music compositions by actor Charlie Chaplin.
In 1973, Muruga joined the Darius Brubeck Ensemble, along with Perry Robinson. At that time, Dave Brubeck decided that he wanted his sons Darius and Chris Brubeck and their bands to tour with him, to open for his band the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Muruga toured as part of the Darius Brubeck Ensemble, along with Perry Robinson, and opened up for, and played alongside the quartet, which gave him the opportunity to play with Dave Brubeck, as well as alongside Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond and Alan Dawson. Muruga performed and toured with the band at many high-profile concerts, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Booker lived in New York City and played with David Peel on several projects including "King of Punk" and "Death to Disco". While recording "Junk Rock" with David Peel, Muruga recorded for the first time with the Nada Drum that he invented (it was referred to as an "Electric Talking Drum" on this song).
In 1980 he moved back to Detroit, where he connected with funk legend George Clinton and became an official member of the P-Funk All-Stars. His band at that time, Muruga and the Soda Jerks, with Sly Stone on bass guitar, was recorded and produced by George Clinton and he appeared on many Parliament-Funkadelic and P-Funk All-Stars recordings, and related projects. Booker continues to work with George Clinton and play with the P-Funk All Stars as his schedule allows.
In 1989, he recorded with Prem Das on the drum meditation album Journey of the Drums, as well as two other trance drumming recordings, that he released on his Musart record label.
In 1990 he met Merl Saunders and they formed Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band and recorded with Jerry Garcia, on the album Blues From the Rainforest. They toured to support the album with Steve Kimock on guitar, and John Popper on harmonica, and recorded Fiesta Amazonica, a 2 CD live recording called Save the Planet So We'll Have Someplace to Boogie as well as a live DVD of Blues From The Rainforest.
In 2000, after moving back to Michigan a couple years prior, Booker formed the band Muruga and The Global Village Ceremonial Band, and released the CD One Global Village, featuring P-Funk vocalist Belita Woods and Perry Robinson. They played at several festivals including the Starwood Festival, Rhythm Fest 1 with Mickey Hart, and Rhythm Fest 2 with Airto Moreira. In 2002 his recording company Musart and the Association for Consciousness Exploration co-hosted the SpiritDrum Festival, a tribute to Babatunde Olatunji, also featuring Sikiru Adepoju, Badal Roy, Jeff Rosenbaum, Halim El-Dabh, Perry Robinson, and Jim Donovan of Rusted Root.
In 2003 he began playing and recording with jazz saxophonist Mark Hershberger, and Richard Smith (bass guitar) as the Global Jazz Trio and as a five piece group called The Global Jazz Project. Muruga no longer performs with The Global Jazz Trio or Global Jazz Project, but continues to record with Hershberger as a duo, or on various projects.
In October 2009, Muruga recorded what would become James Gurley's final recording projects, at his studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of the recordings that resulted was called Big Huge, and was released on limited-edition vinyl by Qbico, in addition to another album with his band Free Funk, called Selfadelic Funk. Big Huge was remixed and remastered in 2016, with more songs included, and released as a digital download on Bandcamp.
In 2013 he formed Muruga & the Cosmic Hoedown Band (Later renamed to Muruga Cosmic Boogie), with Muruga (drums, guitar, and vocals), Shakti Booker (vocals & drums), Parliament Funkadelic member Tony "Strat" Thomas (guitar), Patrick Sarniak (guitar), Benjamin Piner (bass), Douglas Weaver (bass), and Ralph Koziarski (woodwinds, brass & percussion).
In 2012 & 2014 Muruga won a Detroit Music Award for "Outstanding World Music Instrumentalist". In 2014 he won the Detroit Music Award for "Outstanding World Music Recording" for "Joty Drums" by Muruga Booker, Pandit Samar Saha, & John Churchville. Booker has been the recipient of a total of six Detroit Music Awards.
In 2017, in honor of John Lee Hooker's 100th birthday anniversary celebration, he formed Booker Blues All-Stars and recorded a CD with the band called Booker Plays Hooker. The band consists of Muruga (drums), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Billy Davis (guitar & vocals), Tony "Strat" Thomas (guitar), John Sauter (bass guitar) (who also played with Hooker & Booker), Misty Love (former backup singer for Kid Rock), and special guest Peter "Madcat" Ruth.
Recording history highlights
Through the 1960s, as Steve Booker, he recorded with Jim and Jean on Changes in 1964, and on People World in 1966. He appeared on the Paul Winter Consort's Something in the Wind in 1968, and recorded a meditation record with Swami Satchidananda in 1969. During the 1970s he recorded with Darius Brubeck, Gunter Hampel, Al Kooper, Ursa Major, and with Weather Report. Muruga's band, Muruga and the Soda Jerks, were produced by George Clinton, and he recorded with George Clinton, Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, and the P-Funk All Stars on many projects, and he is a lifetime member of the P-Funk Family.
In mid-1985 his band Muruga UFM recorded Terroristic Activities 1990 and Rock the Planet 1993. In 1990 he, his wife Shakti, and Prem Das recorded the long-selling Journey of the Drums, a pioneering drum album. That same year, Booker joined Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia to record the Grammy-nominated album (and subsequent DVD) Blues From the Rainforest, and their live CDs Save the Planet So We'll Have Someplace to Boogie (1992) and Fiesta Amazonica (1998). He also joined Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju to record the CD Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations 1993, which was later remixed in surround sound and distributed on Chesky Records as Circle of Drums in 2005. With his Detroit-based band Free Funk, he recorded the self-titled colored vinyl LP titled Free Funk in 2005 which was released by Qbico Records. This band released the album OrthoFunkOlogy in 2008. Since then he has released several albums on his label Musart, including collaborations with many jazz, funk and World Music artists.
- 1961 – Low Rocks – Blueberry Jam / Midnight Tears (single)
- 1964 – Jim and Jean – Changes
- 1965 – The Spike Drivers – I'm So Glad and Can't Stand The Pain (singles)
- 1968 – Paul Winter Consort – Something in the Wind
- 1971 – Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan sessions
- 1972 – Ursa Major – Ursa Major (Dick Wagner)
- 1972 – Darius Brubeck – Chaplin's Back
- 1973 – Weather Report – Sweetnighter
- 1973 – Al Kooper – Naked Songs
- 1974 – Weather Report – Mysterious Traveller
- 1978 – David Peel & Death – King of Punk
- 1978 – Mitch Ryder – How I Spent My Vacation
- 1981 – Funkadelic – The Electric Spanking of War Babies
- 1982 – George Clinton – Computer Games
- 1982 – Godmoma – Here (with Bootsy Collins)
- 1983 – P-Funk All Stars – Urban Dance Floor Guerillas
- 1984 – Muruga & The Soda Jerks – Boogy With You (single)
- 1985 – George Clinton – Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends
- 1990 – Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band – Blues From the Rainforest (with Jerry Garcia)
- 1992 – Muruga U.F.M. (Unified Field Marshals) – Rock The Planet
- 1994 – Sikiru Adepoju, Muruga, Babatunde Olatunji – Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations
- 1994 – Allen Ginsberg – Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs (with Bob Dylan)
- 1995 – P-Funk All Stars – Dope Dogs
- 1995 – P-Funk All Stars – Hydraulic Funk
- 1995 – David Peel & the Lower East Side – Up Against the Wall
- 1998 – Merl Saunders & the Rainforest Band – Fiesta Amazonica
- 2003 – Buzzy Linhart – Presents the Big Few
- 2005 – Babatunde Olatunji – Circle of Drums
- 2005 – Global Jazz Trio – Live in Detroit: Global Jazz Trio at Baker's Keyboard Lounge
- 2009 – Global Jazz Project – Out Of This World: Live At The 30th Annual Detroit International Jazz
- 2009 – Peter Walker – Long Lost Tapes 1970
- 2010 – James Gurley & Muruga Booker – Big Huge
- 2011 – David Leikam & Muruga Booker – After the Ice Cream (with John Churchville)
- 2012 – Muruga Booker, Pandit Samir Saha, John Churchville – Joty Drums
- 2013 – Muruga & The Cosmic Hoedown Band – Changing The Sound of Your Room
- 2013 – Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm (with Tim Hardin)
- 2014 – David Leikam & Muruga Booker – Lunar Frequencies / Solar Rhythms
- 2016 – Muruga & The Worms – Muruga & The Worms (with James Gurley)
- 2016 – Wormhole Cafe (feat. P-Funk All-Stars & more) – At The Wormhole Cafe
- 2017 – Booker Blues All Stars – Booker Plays Hooker
- 2017 – Muruga & The Global Village Ceremonial Band – Muruga & The Global Village Ceremonial Band (remastered)
- 1970 – John Lee Hooker at Detroit Tube Works (televised)
- 1990 – Merl Saunders – Blues From The Rainforest: A Musical Suite Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs
- 2000 – Merl Saunders – Blues From The Rainforest: A Musical Suite
- 2005 – One: The Movie, Circle of Bliss Productions
- 2012 – Groovemonster, Quantum Media Arts
- 2014 – Border City Music Project documentary
- In 1984 Booker invented and patented the nada drum, a variation on the talking drum, which was sold through Latin Percussion.
- He is a recipient of the 1991 Hiroshima Voices for Peace award.
- He was ordained as a priest in the Orthodox Church, and operates his own autonomous church, St. Gregory Palamas Orthodox Church, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- He built and operates his own recording studio, Sage Ct. Studios, and founded his own record label, Musart, which he currently distributes through Bandcamp.
- He has won several Detroit Music Awards in various categories including "Outstanding World Music Instrumentalist".
- He won 2 "Best of Washtenaw County" Reader's Choice Awards.
- The Return of Muruga Booker: Interview & Photos by P.T. Quinn, Recording Engineers' Quarterly (2000)
- Muruga Booker and Musart on Bandcamp
- St. Gregory Palamas Celtic Orthodox Church of Ann Arbor Facebook page
- "The Birth of the Detroit Sound: 1940–1964" by Marilyn Bond & S. R. Boland, Arcadia Publishing (2002) pg. 93.
- Gold Thunder: A Legendary Adventures of a Motown Bassman by Tony Newton and Ted Lucas (2012)
- Muruga Booker at theconcertdatabase.com
- Jim & Jean Discography at Discogs
- The Spike-Drivers – Folkrocking Psychedelia from the Motor City in The Record Fiend, September 2, 2010
- The Spike Drivers – Can't Stand The Pain (1965) on youtube
- The Spike Drivers – I'm So Glad (1965) on youtube
- Richard Williams of 1956 group called "The Casuals" at garyedwardsmusic.blogspot.com
- John Lee Hooker Detroit Tube Works 1970 on youtube
- Paul Winter and The Winter Consort – Something In The Wind at Discogs
- Richard Bock Woodstock Cellist at Woodstock Whisperer blog, November 3, 2017
- Weather Report The Annotated Discography: Sweet Nighter by Curt Bianchi
- Woodstock Revisited: 50 Far Out, Groovy, Peace-Loving, Flashback-Inducing Stories From Those Who Were There by Susan Reynolds, Adams Media (2009) Pg. 110
- Woodstock: Interview with Muruga Booker by William C. Leikam, originally printed in Relix (US) and Zabriski Point (Russia)
- Rama Rama/Endless Path at Bandcamp
- DETROIT TUBEWORKS Great Pre-Cable Music TV by Sam Leighty (June 2014) on Perfect Sound Forever at furious.com
- Ted Nugent talks about Steve "Muruga" Booker on drums – 1971 on Detroit Tube Works TV show
- MURUGA profile on youtube
- Allen Ginsberg – First Blues at allmusic
- Allen Ginsberg – Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs at allmusic
- The Darius Brubeck Ensemble – Intro By Dave Brubeck
- Darius Brubeck – Chaplin's Back at Discogs
- Global Jazz Trio: New Release Jazz News 2006 (Nestor Publishers)
- Maruga & The Soda Jerks – Superstar Madness on Testing-Positive-4-The-Funk compilation
- Muruga Booker P-Funk Family on George Clinton official website
- Muruga UFM – Funky Jacket at Bandcamp
- Journey of the Drums on Discogs
- Merl Saunders – Blues From The Rainforest: A Musical Suite at Discogs
- Merl Saunders – Fiesta Amazonica at Discogs
- Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band – Save the Planet So We'll Have Someplace to Boogie at allmusic
- Merl Saunders – Blues From The Rainforest DVD at discogs
- Musician and Greek Orthodox Priest Steve Bookvich of Ann Arbor by Jo C. Mathis: interview in Ann Arbor News, September 15, 2008
- Williams, H. Allen. Review of the CD Live in Detroit, Global Jazz Trio at Bakers Keyboard Lounge by H. Allen Williams in Jazz Review, Mar. 11, 2006
- Global Jazz Project songs on allmusic
- Muruga Booker and Musart Media on Bandcamp
- Louie Kabbabie discography at Discogs
- Trey Lewd Discography at Discogs
- James Gurley & Muruga Booker – It's Big Huge at Disocgs
- Free Funk – Selfadelic Funk on Bandcamp
- James Gurley & Muruga Booker – Big Huge at Bandcamp
- Detroit International Jazz Festival: Navigating a stellar lineup on mlive.com
- Tony Thomas discography on Discogs
- Muruga & the Cosmic Hoedown Band in SonicBids.com
- Detroit Music Awards website: 2012 Winners
- Booker Blues All-Stars – Booker Plays Hooker on Bandcamp
- Billy Davis on musicwikidetroit.org
- John Sauter discography on Discogs
- Misty Love on Discogs
- Jim & Jean – Changes at allmusic
- Jim and Jean – People World at allmusic
- Paul Winter Consort – Something in the Wind at allmusic
- Swami Satchidananda – The Woodstock Years at shakticom
- Gunter Hampel Galaxie Band – Angel at allmusic
- Low Rocks – Blueberry Jam / Midnight Tears Get Hip Archive Series re-release at Discogs
- Spike Drivers – Folkrocking Psychedelic Innovation From The Motor City In The Mid 60s at allmusic
- Ursa Major at Discogs
- David Peel & Death – King of Punk at allmusic
- Mitch Ryder – How I Spent My Vacation at allmusic
- P-Funk All Stars – Urban Dance Floor Guerillasat allmusic
- Merl Saunders and The Rainforest Band – Blues From the Rainforest at allmusic
- Sikiru Adepoju, Muruga, Babatunde Olatunji – Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations at amazon.com
- David Peel & the Lower East Side – Up Against the Wall at allmusic
- Merl Saunders & the Rainforest Band – Fiesta Amazonica on allmusic
- Buzzy Linhart – Presents the Big Few at allmusic
- Global Jazz Trio – Live in Detroit: Global Jazz Trio at Baker's Keyboard Lounge at allmusic
- Global Jazz Project – Out Of This World: Live At The 30th Annual Detroit International Jazz at allmusic
- Peter Walker – Long Lost Tapes 1970 at Discogs
- Joty Drums on Bandcamp
- Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm at allmusic
- Muruga & The Global Village Ceremonial Band – Muruga & The Global Village Ceremonial Band on Bandcamp
- Merl Saunders – Blues From The Rainforest at Amazon.com,
- Groovemonster Movie Trailer on YouTube
- Documentary Film – Border City Music Project on YouTube
- Nada Drum Patent
- Nada Drum by Latin Percussion at LAPR
- Sage Ct. Studio Facebook Page[non-primary source needed]
- Eminem, Four Tops among Detroit Music Award winners 2014 Detroit Music Award Winners in The Oakland Press
- "Best of Washtenaw" Current Magazine