Medicine Songs, etc., Peru

Icaros de Peru: Vencedor, Rio Pisqui and San Francisco, Rio Ucayali

Music from India


Recordings from Sápmi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watson Report Highlights

As an aperitif (or appetizer for those of you who don't drink) to my upcoming beautiful beast of a blog entry, here is the jist of my latest Watson report:

"India, aside from Delhi where I now know to never go unless I absolutely have to, has been very good to me. In many ways it has taught me devotion… to music, its philosophy, practice, and all its various means and ends, with the singular aim of pleasing its divine essence and so bringing this profound beauty into the world. Music is extremely revered in Banaras… my Guru’s Guru - so he told me - practiced sixteen hours a day; though this is perhaps something Gurus say of their Gurus to students who squeeze out anywhere from one to six hours of their busy schedule into practice, the message is clear as day (which incidentally one would never see if one practiced inside for 16 hours): PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! When I practiced for less than two hours - which sometimes I had to because I was busy going to Bhajans, taking Hindi class, doing interviews, meeting people, going to concerts, doing puja, etc. – my Guru seemed unsatisfied, showed me in the lesson the level where I should have been, and told me at the end of class to practice more. After learning more about this tradition, discovering the importance of gratitude in my life, and realizing what a wise teacher I had through attending his performances, I did indeed practice more and begin to embody devotion with music.

            This path of devotion is the one I am taking in life, progressively more and more, and this Watson experience is a serious and constant reminder that however far I want to reach in knowledge, and the capacity to exercise it, is entirely up to me. I was not born into a family in which I had to play music to survive, nor into one in which I had to play for God (perhaps meaning that highest potentiality of consciousness and action to which we may ascribe). Thus I have to continually motivate myself, find out what it means and looks like to play and live for my highest vision, and push myself harder and harder against all those egos, lethargies, distractions, self-doubts, fears of intimacy and “the other”, which persist inside me. I was aware of my potential to learn and manifest music in Norway - and of course before - but in Banaras I went much further because I was inspired by others’ devotion to music and by my wonderful teacher, who served as a persistent and loud external reminder of my progress.

            Perpetually drawing me further along and invigorating my purposefulness is the experience and philosophy of the practice and performance-offering of music. Experientially, I was on several occasions moved to tears by music in Banaras; it made that bell inside me ring most triumphantly, brought me to densely emotional memories long forgotten, and feelings of myself and the world that exist in some hyper-reality where the finest fruits are fermented into wine and the most wretched creatures of the Earth sneer at you inches from your face. When tracing the means for creating such richness of experience, one sees such a high degree of integrative intentionality in the music and the realized musician’s efforts that such can only be explained and understood in a philosophical framework. As allowed by the Bhakti sect of Hinduism – in which one seeks personal union with the divine through one’s devotional efforts – Music can be a religion of sorts, the realization of its governing principles guiding those of the musician; in working towards creating high art, one gradually perfects one’s powers of attention, perception of concord and dissonance in the world, emotional sensitivity, memory, patience, grace, priority, and surrender of the ego to that which is truly great. Thus through the proper practice of Music, we refine our own vibration and get closer to enlightenment, meaning the embodiment and creation of that beauty which we attribute to God.

            My good friend Ramon once said - perhaps ironically since we were in the computer lab working through one of too many all-night sessions - “The Means are the Ends”, and he is profoundly right. That is the fire that was lit inside me in Banaras; I want to embody the vibrance, beauty, transcendentally emotional, intellectual, and spiritual power of music, and so I am eating, working, loving, and sleeping in it in hopes that it will bestow upon me some of its nutrient richness. Indeed, though the exact nature of my learning, practice, and action concerning music will change drastically throughout this year – and surely after - I have never so clearly seen the nature of the divinity inherent in music, and so I will continue to hunger for and cultivate Music.

            Once again, and again, and again, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to follow “The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music” with my every breath. This is the best gift I have ever been given and I am doing my best to express my gratitude through dedicated learning, internalization, and externalization from all my efforts and those around me to understand, grow, and give..."

"Since I know you are also looking for an account of successes and failures, as these demonstrate how I am interacting with the world around, I have listed many of them to give you insight into my experience.

There is synchronicity with being in the right place as the right time, several instances of thievery, moments where I was trying to interview musicians speaking Rajastani with my fairly beginners grasp of Hindi, an overnight stay in a village in which the Bhopa people played their songs and told my friend and I their (music’s) meaning and purpose, an all-night bhajan to bless the house and new marriage of one of my new friends, pujas in Banaras and Pushkar, seeing pujas by fake and greedy priests done to honest foreigners, conversations at tea shops, ghats, temples, my friend’s bike shop, and other meeting places about society and God, lessons watched and learned with my Guru Pundit Pashupatinath Mishraji, some incidents of falling asleep while practicing late at night and during aarti, getting lectured about calling the Ganges dirty because “sacred” and “dirty” at least seem mutually exclusive, ratting out the stealing guard at the guest house/school I was staying at and thus changing the quality of the education of his children, touching Guru’s feet, learning never to show up to class late again, writing love songs and poetry in Hindi, exchanging hard words with rickshaw drivers and one obstinate salesman, celebrating Christmas in a temple with fifty others, meeting the family of the priest where I did bhajan the most and teaching his son some harmonium basics, giving guitar and music theory lessons to an exceptionally gifted neighborhood kid and so learning what it’s like to be a Guru here (though he never touched my feet, his family did feed me a few times, even fish from the Ganges!), almost fainting and/or vomiting at a puja in a temple in which one of my mentors thinks a lot of negative energy gets stored by the end of the day, going to the lectures and performances of an incredible sitarist-philosopher, walking the ghats in awe and watching people staring, praying, pooping, bathing, begging, talking, playing, flying kites, singing, working, mourning, burning, everything all at once, washing my own clothes sometimes, using my left hand, bathing in cold water, making love, praying a lot (mostly to be a good student and a devoted medium for the divinity of music), saying Namaste/Namaskar, trying to read while children and then adults surround you because you speak Hindi, making my Hindi teacher laugh by using local phrases and making him blush by asking him for taboo words, eating Banarasi pan while learning devotional yet sexually suggestive Hindi sayings, singing –or at least trying to – sing Hindi devotional songs to people you meet, drinking as much tea as is right to accept, enjoying how strangers put their hand on your leg without even noticing (like we are brothers and not competitors), enjoying how strangers come over to help you when you are stuck in a situation or are making a stink because you are getting ripped off (because one’s problem is symptomatic of everyone’s), learning never to trust strangers in Delhi speaking in good English and offering to help you, hating on ex-pats that don’t get it (who look terrified of everyone, make out with each other in public, wear effortful dreadlock-parachute pant-prayer bead-spiritual as fashion garb), crashing a cycle rickshaw the one time I asked to drive one, eating lots of samosas, eggs, yogurt, potatoes and chick peas, on the street shoulder to shoulder with other hungry-but-too-busy students and working men, extremes of having deep and meaningful conversations in Hindi and feeling proud of my language ability and having moments where I feel like I must have failed in my Hindi studies because I just don’t get what this guy is saying after two months, trying to fend off guys from molesting my female friend, being encouraged rather than asked to shut up when practicing music late at night, laying on a bed in silence exhausted but with much work to do before the next day, being and feeling too far away for relationships with lovers, friends and family, weaning myself from the postmodern purgatory of the internet, wishing I had taken a speed reading course and/or had the kind of motivation and organization to read all the books I wanted to, craving much better discipline and focus to have more and better music practice, wishing I had bought a camera after mine was stolen and not just written down images now imprinted in my brain[1], wrote in the beginning, and kept posting this beast of a blog that is still hissing at me, feeling very much a neophyte in academia when speaking with Fulbright scholars and their research methods, wishing I got to say goodbye to everyone, wishing I practiced Hindi more on paper and by the book, being happy that having a wealth of probiotics from yogurt, and the exercise of sleep, music practice, drinking lots of water and eating minimally, has healed me from the effects of those local bugs that have come into my foreign system, realizing that people look at me much differently when I am well-groomed and when I walk with confidence, realizing that I can learn and experience a lot with other foreigners and their syncretic art and insight, ripping people off who I thought were ripping me off, paying dues to the wrong people and thus depriving those whom I should have given something, and of course much much more…."

[1] Cows gathered facing walls where political slogans are written, kites stuck in power lines, cows and dogs laying down or eating “trash” side by side, the advertisement “Dominoes coming soon to Varanasi” on a boat behind the stage of Krishnaloka’s holy performance, legs and arms sticking out from cycle rickshaws which are way too small for a human to sleep comfortably but just big enough that exhausted drivers sleep in the space where two people sit, a massive tree with fruits falling, which from my perspective was growing from the head of a most wise mentor, etc.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, yes, beautiful beautiful. What to say besides 'keep it up?' Whatever the 'it' may be...practicing (in all that word's resonance), doing puja, swindling, being swindled, taking prasad in whatever form, learning Hindi and the local Bhojpuri permutations, bhakti yoga...and writing about it, for all of us shipwrecked stateside for the time being.
    Om namah shivaya.