I discovered Daniel Higgs, through the song, “Say God”. This poem/song/whatever is deeply moving to me, and it is the kind of thoughts that I would like to have rolling through my head all the time. Or, at least, I would like an abundance of thoughts like these to frame the lack of thoughts like these.
You click here to buy his stuff on amazon, of course
I had the good fortune to interview Benjy Wertheimer at Bhaktifest, 2011. I was really interested in his prison work, and so I asked to talk to him about it. Benjy relates with startling clarity and compassion, discussing his work with kirtan and world music at the Oregon State Penitentiary. It was truly moving to hear him talk about relating with these devoted souls who have managed to turn a prison into an ashram… Please enjoy. (more…)
Baba’s main message, which I really appreciate, is the preciousness of human life. How easy to lose and how difficult to obtain. The importance of making the most of it, when you have it. It was powerful times, as energy swirled, and subtle channels opened, and knots untied, and karmic residue came to the surface to find acceptance and release. Of course, as the fates would have it, Sally ended up two cushions away, and although there wasn’t any eye contact or communication, the proximity added an extra electric charge to jolt my system. Challenging, but healing. The next day, I came back to YOM to do Baba’s Nada Yoga Workshop. Really it was a 3.5 hour Bhutta Shuddhi practice, chanting and purifying the chakras with mantras and visualization. I experienced some wonderful insights, and energetic openings. I wished it went on all day, and has inspired me to practice Bhutta Shuddi more on my own.
His wife is producing David’s new CD, and I got a text asking me would I let him crash the night at my place. I hauled myself down to olde city, and climbed the stairs to the tin angel, was really, really happy to watch and listen to this guy. Gritty Country Blues always moved me deep in my soul, and mad me proud to be an American. Grayson, indeed, made me proud to be an American. His songs told the story of an America untouched by time, pure and true, stories that sound like they were left to age in an old mason jar that still has a little moonshine in the bottom. And so many songs of heartbreak and loss, songs that made me feel less alone in my own secret pain. “There are some scars that just never heal,” he told me after the show, “not much you can do except have a sense of humor about it.” And speaking of which, this one is hilarious. He makes a good case.
And just because good things come in threes, I was gifted this really nice Jazz CD in the local book store today. Philadelphia is home to Hip Cinema’s Nadine Patterson. Nadine is working on a film featuring a local Jazz musican, Warren Oree. The soundtrack is really enjoyable, and here is a clip and the description of the film.
Ancestral echoes of the Middle Passage reverberate through the upright bass handed down through three generations of the Montgomery family. Each generation deals with conflicts between dreams deferred, and the unfinished business of the past. Grandmom Mozelle was a pioneer in an all women’s band in the 1940’s, but she gave up her musical passion to raise her family in a segregated America. Her son Casey became a revolutionary of the 60’s and 70’s and used music to voice the ideals of the Black Power Movement. Upon his passing his daughter Zera finds herself ill at ease, struggling with her own issues of family, career and music, but also being pulled by something else. Where does this music come from? What is this music really about? Whose cries do we hear across time and space? Do we dare to listen? Do we dare to be healed?
Balinese Monkey Chanting is something that someone told me about once. I think they even offered me a small demonstration (to the best of their ability). I loved the idea, and it stayed in the back of my mind for a couple of years. Last night, the monkey reared its head, and I found myself compelled to start googling for everything I could find; video (below), audio (courtesy ubuweb ethnopoetics), and workshops (apparently your best bet outside Bali is Seattle or burning man). Unfortunately, noone on the internet seems to know all that much about Ketjak, and everyone seems to be quoting the same sources, and it is hard to get to the original knowledge. Any way, here is what I could gather. I was suprised to find that the monkey chant was a product of the 20th century, I expected it to be much older. Apparently it has roots in a much older Balinese Exorcism Ritual, but the monkey chant proper is from the 1930s. Which brings me to my next misconceptions. I believed that monkey chanting was a somewhat random affair, perhaps with a conductor to guide the experience of shrieking and howling, but still very open to inprovisation and play. What I learned is that Ketjak is a scripted piece. It is a reinactment/retelling of the Ramayana focusing on the battle between the monkeys and the demons, and perhaps, told from their perspective. As the chorus chants, they sway and wave their hands, sometimes chanting together, sometimes dividing in two groups and chanting at each other. Occasionally a figure such as Ravana will pop up, and he will be chanted at (exorcized?) As a practice it seems that it must provide an extremely invigorating, and trance inducing experience. It is said that it takes participants white alot of time to ‘come down’ from monkey chanting. The ritual choreography also creates an interesting experience of group mind, perhaps the same kind of group mind that Hanuman’s Monkey Army experienced when they went to war in Lanka. I am always amazed at the practices that evolve out of devotion and a longing to understand and feel close to their chosen dieties. Ketjak appears to be a powerful tool for creating a certain bhava, or divine mood; a mood that allows one to feel the epic of the Ramayana play out inside the body. We are so lucky that human creativity is able to meet the challanges put forth by the very human need for divine connection, be it with yoga asana, kirtan, vedic chant, or ketjak.
video is from the movie Baraka, which is excellent.
The great thing about great truth, is that it tracends all genres, all areas of life. What is true in yoga, is true in art, music, cooking, love, and life. So it comes as no suprise to me that the words of Thelonius Monk speak volumes in its crazy, jazzy wisdom. (crazy, man, crazy)
I found a ukulele in the thrift shop in P’aia a couple of weeks ago. Well, actually, Carl found it, and told me where it was, but that is another story (like, who is Carl?) I’ve really been enjoying it, been playing it more than my guitar. I really enjoy playing for my students in yoga class, and i adore the portability aspect. I’m also kind of into this artist i discovered on ‘boing boing‘, Amy Crehore. There is a print called ‘The Creature” in the back of the yoga studio that she painted. It is a gentle fantasy set in an apparent island paradise, tucked away in a valley. Two beautiful, brown skinned women sit at the edge of a clear blue pool. Both nude except for hibiscis flowers in their hair, one holds a monkey in her lab while the other plays a ukulele! Oh, and the uke player has a tail. I imagine that she is the creaure, as the other two characters eye her curiously as she strums away on her little instrument. A remarkable depiction of magic and wonder, which also happen to be two of my favorite things. Cool thing is, I liked her art even before I started playing uke, I don’t think it even registered in my mind that it was an ukelele in the print until i started writting this post. Trippy. Amy is having a show in Los Angeles in February/March, called “Dreamgirls and Ukes“. Above are some of the sketches for her show. If you happen to be in LA, and make it to the show, send me a postcard, would you?