Are You Listening To Conscious Music?
It goes without saying that music is a vital part of our daily lives. It can lift the heaviest heart, can bring back a memory with the start of a single note and can motivate a nation to action.
Grammy nominated producer and organiser of the music website, Earth Tones, Frank Fitzpatrick described music as “the most consistent and dependable way I’ve found to connect to my inner voice, lift my spirits and bring myself back into balance. Music has turned the most mundane and the most challenging moments of my life into deeply resonating human, and often indescribably divine, experiences.”
So what exactly is conscious music? Bhakti mantras? Southern gospel songs? Traditional hymns, indigenous sounds or street hip hop? This is the topic that is open for discussion on the free online Power of Music Forum in May (19 – 23), a gathering of some of conscious music’s most popular artists and producers; and also the question we faced when we commenced countdown on Soul Traveller Radio. We knew from day one that we had to present what the public would eventually perceive as the guidepost for conscious music.
A search or need for people to connect to even more conscious music has started to occur. There has been a shift, a swell if you like, towards a rise in artists and producers dedicated to bringing conscious music to the frontline. Brought about in part by the increase and interest in lifestyle activities such as yoga or meditation, world changing events like 911; the freedom of nations, races and sexes.
However whether we wanted to admit it or not, conscious music has always been a vital part of our lives and hasn’t just been reserved to those of us with a spiritual inclination.
As a teenager, I gravitated towards artists like U2, Midnight Oil, Simple Minds, Peter Gabriel, The Call largely due to their concern for the world around them. Likewise, a generation before mine were looking for Bob Dylan’s answer “Blowin’ in the Wind” or dancing around the room to the Rastafarian beats of a completely different Bob, but one that was no less conscious in his approach to life.
Conscious music has always been an integral part of our lives and the lives of those in need. The rallying together of artists for a cause like Live Aid brought everyone together under the banner of consciousness to facilitate change. And in the case of artists like the great John Lennon, their message of love and unity, remained as strong as the day it was penned long after their earthly bodies passed on.
So what exactly is conscious music? How do we decide that a song is considered conscious? A lot of questions were asked when we were programming music on Soul Traveller Radio. What were the guidelines for deciding if a song was conscious or not?
Is conscious music to do with having positive lyrics – not necessarily. Some of the greatest songs in history that motivated people to change were negative in their approach. John Lennon’s song God seemingly listed everything he didn’t believe in but the song, written after his great Give Peace A Chance, was the beginning of the symbolic John Lennon icon, stepping away from the past and focussing on defining an era in his own right.
Or U2’s Sunday, Bloody Sunday with it’s confronting lyrics “And it’s true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality, and today the millions cry, we eat and drink while tomorrow they die”. Not exactly an uplifting song lyrically however the song itself caused a great deal of commotion, bringing to light the social injustice occurring in war stricken Ireland.
Is it the life of the artist that determines conscious music? Again, this could not be used a guidepost. Some of the greatest conscious music songs were written by people that had their own personal battles and turmoil and some even ended their lives because they could not cope. One such artist was Nick Drake, a Welsh folk singer/songwriter who sung brilliantly depressing but consciously focused songs about love and following your heart.
After his death caused by an overdose, Nick Drake’s music lived on and has influenced a generation of singer songwriters since such as Peter Buck from REM and Duncan Sheik. His life was also the subject of The Dream Academy’s hit song “Life in a Northern Town”.
Conscious musicians seemed to have appeared in droves in recent times spurred on by the introduction of yoga studios. In reality conscious music has always been there. Kirtan and Bhakti were already celebrated by the Kundalini masters so when the Yoga Studio was born, naturally there was a gravitation towards the Kirtan standard of sound.
Steve Gold, who now opens at Deepak Chopra events explains that it wasn’t always so. He was a new musician wondering how his music story would unfold when he was noticed by Yoga guru, Shiva Rea who immediately funded his first album.
Steve explains that this gave conscious music a huge boost. ”Very quickly yoga studios became radio stations and yoga teachers became disc jockeys and my songs ended up on playlists.”
Organiser of The Power of Music online conference (May 19-23), DJ/Producer/Entrepreneur Fabian Alsultany said in a recent interview with Soul Traveller Radio that conscious music is “a music that is able to say a story of truth. And that story is one that is touching on The Divine, Love or Human Rights and Justice. For me those are the 3 Pillars that express what conscious music is.”
DJ Fabian sees the conscious music artist’s role as a facilitator of change. “At the core of it all there is a much deeper purpose why people are doing music…and that is the intention of the (Power of Music) conference…to get into the deeper “why” they are doing this…and the deeper story is, we are recognising what effects these artists are having in the world.”
“When we talk about some of these musicians it is easy to point towards people within the Yoga space like Krishna Das, Deva Premal, MC Yogi because clearly this music is being sung at Yoga Studios to millions upon millions of people. And people all over the world are gaining inspiration from that.”
“But additionally when we look into pop radio, and look at Playing For Change or an Alanis Morissette, these musicians are bringing forward beautiful positive messages in their music about unity, human rights, the divine, all of these different factions that make up the human experience. That is what we are doing with The Power of Music conference, helping to inspire people with their day to day lives and inspire musicians as well.”
Fabian Alsultany’s personal convictions have been refined over the years through opportunities to work with world music labels, such as Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios performing a posthumous remix of the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ”Fault Lines”, co-ordinating world music events and producing his own world music collaborations with some of the rising stars in conscious world music.
”There is a missing piece to this whole collage of conscious music that I am passionate about as a producer. We have so many cross cultural trailblazers like Karsh Kale from India, or Idan Raichel from Israel who, like Mark Johnson from Playing for Change, brings cultures together around music.”
”In fact just yesterday (because of the Power of Music conference) I finally met Hassan Hakmoun from Morocco face-to-face, had a jam session and he and Idan are now going to collaborate on music. That will likely be the first time an Israeli superstar collaborates with a Moroccan superstar.
Both artists have unique followings within the conscious music field. Although they are far removed from the popular and ever expanding Bhakti music genre, their passion for conscious music is the binding force…the DNA that connects them together.
Karsh Kale, who does not advertise his spirituality, is a hindu whose music is deeply, deeply immersed in the spiritual sounds of India. His music is rooted in the music that the bhakti movement emulates although his approach is a blend of electronic fusion, Indian classical music, rock, jazz fusion and hip hop, leading him to work with some of the most renowned artists from around the globe.
A perfect example of how the world is becoming a much smaller place with the introduction of greater technology, allowing conscious musicians from around the world to finally collaborate towards a common goal of change and total acceptance of one anothers culture and faiths.
On the other side of the world…the world of commercial popular music, Alanis Morisette also tackled the themes of love and change in her last album ”Havoc and Bright Lights”. Moving into the conscious music field, she announced in the song, Edge of Evolution, that after leaving her story behind, she was ready to ”push the envelopes into full blown consciousness”, a constant theme in the new music paradigm and a core value in the ”Love” Pillar of Conscious Music.
Whilst Fabian Alsultany has described it as 3 Pillars of Conscious Music, internationally acclaimed musician and sound healer, Chris James believes there is a 4th and vitally important pillar that we tend to neglect with conscious music. Energy
Attending the Conscious Living Expo in Melbourne, Chris was one of 4 panel members on a discussion we held about Conscious Music. All 4 panellists, Chris, Kavisha, Lou Van Stone and Sika agreed that having conscious lyrics was not enough. For conscious music to be completely effective, the connection to Source was integral.
Chris James has been in the industry for over 20 years as a successful artist, “It wasn’t until I had sold thousands of albums and had big following that I came to terms with the fact that my music wasn’t coming from the right space energetically, it wasn’t from the divine source within ourselves that we can all naturally connect to and express from. In coming to terms with this I made the decision to recall my music, redo it and send out a newsletter acknowledging this. Conscious music has to have the connection to source to be truly authentic.”
Instrumentalist, Sika, agreed that for music to be considered conscious, especially his as instrumental, there was a connection to Source that was vital. “How do you classify instrumental music within the conscious music field. It has to come down to the energy behind the music. I set an intention and connect with Spirit before I commence playing to ensure that I come from a pure place.”
Whilst we all have our personal preferences of what pillar of conscious music we prefer to lean on when we really listen, it is the energy behind the song that becomes the driving factor. Is the singer tapping into a source far greater than their own poetic ability? Is it driven by love, faith or understanding what needs to change?
This motivation for change is the reason the Playing for Change project commenced. In 2005, founder Mark Johnson discovered singer Roger Ridley singing Stand By Me on a street corner. Roger had so much soul and conviction, Mark recorded the song right on the street corner. When asked why he was singing on the street corner, Roger simply said, “Man I’m in the JOY business. I come out to be with the people”
It is this energy behind songs and artists like Playing for Change or songwriters like the Lennon’s or Marley’s or Drake’s that allow truly conscious expressions to be passed on from generation to generation. It is the connection of popular artists with Source such as Donna De Lory, Madonna’s backup singer or Simrit Kaur performing with Belinda Carlisle that is resulting in greater acceptance of conscious music. It is also the spirit behind current driving forces in the conscious music scene like Krishna Das, MC Yogi, Alanis Morrisette, Aykanna and Fabian Alsultany and their Power of Music conferences that will ensure that conscious music continues its momentous rise.
Frank Fitzpatrick, who is also a guest speaker at the Power of Music Conference aptly described it. “The more music continues to awaken my higher aspirations and light the path of my inner journey, the higher I am inspired to reach and the deeper I long to delve into those realms of the magical unknown that awaits me. If words are the limited language of my mind, music is the limitless calling of my soul.”
Let your conscious music be the light on the path to your inner journey and ultimately the calling of your soul.
Bhakti Images Courtesy of © LakshmiGrace Designs