This album was recorded live on Sunday, June 9, 2013; at Espace Pop, in Montreal, Quebec.
The vocalists are Athena Holmes, Amanda Strawn, Ian Macaulay, Jill Campbell, Meghan Riley, Dan Parker, and Kurt Chaboyer.
My instrument is the Guzheng. It was given to me by Rebecca Li, a Chinese exchange student whom I met in a Computer Science class while I was studying Music at McGill University. She gave me an initial lesson; I promptly forgot everything and started messing around. I learned to play the instrument on balconies and in yoga studios.
This project begun as a concept by first renting the space. I knew it would be perfect for filming a video, and later decided to make use of it for the evening as well. I thought to give a meditation concert, as I've done in the past. Then it occurred to me that pop music should be played at Espace Pop.
Only after working out the entire repertoire did I approach singers whom I thought might enjoy a song. Something particularly important to me was when songs held some special value to the singer, as these songs sometimes can with all of us. The value of popular music is that it allows a special and particular feeling to be broadly shared, largely because the listener's familiarity allows her to contribute more deeply to the music.
I am releasing this under the LiveYogaMusic.com
name, even though this isn't music intended to be played in yoga class. This project, however, was one of community building - kula. Anyone in the know will tell you that yoga is about more than postures. Also, I want to centralize my marketing and promotional efforts to leverage my brand across different markets.
Modern Western Yoga is a culture in which business and entrepreneurial vision are admired. Though some may argue that the tradition of yoga is ancient, and has been corrupted by Western consumerism, I maintain that modern yoga began with the appropriation of Western values by Eastern teachers - and Western influence is not only a contaminant but a vital source of energy as well. (Let's not throw the happy baby out with the bath water, so to speak.) I have the same reservations about capitalism as the next informed yogi, but I do believe it is possible to operate within it's framework in a way that breeds harmony, balance, respect; values held by my understanding of the yoga practice.
I've worked on establishing musical connections with the singers in this album, all of whom I've been blessed to have met and worked with in some capacity over the last few years. Just as I practice working with yoga instructors - as a dynamic interplay, where I try to follow more than lead - these vocalists have shaped the broad strokes of these pieces, and I have attempted to provide a responsive canvas.
Song structure is rigid, but we were able to maintain a feeling of freedom and spontaneity, largely by not over-rehearsing the music. I am convinced that something very special was captured on this evening, shared by everyone who was there, but ultimately never to be repeated. Listeners accustomed to the (often-sterile) perfection of the recording studio may balk at the subtle mistakes in delivery. I am ignorant of none, but I maintain that the value of these performances transcends their technical shortcomings.
Now that the songs have crystallized, we will no doubt perform them at subsequent events with more polish and finesse. But something of the vital rawness and magic will be lost, and on the recording it exists in perpetuity.
The sound was entirely acoustic, and the room is small. The audience, therefore, plays a very strong role on this album. On many songs, the room can be heard with chant-like reverberation, filling out the music and confirming the fullness of the evening. I have included the lyrics to these songs if you feel like joining in. There is something tremendously healthy about singing, and it is almost tragic that our society relegates it to a speciality. The widespread timidity I've observed over the voice, I believe, is culturally induced - and I value those that encourage others to sing; kirtan is a particularly wonderful manifestation I expect to explore someday.
Alas, I hope you enjoy these songs, and share them with others if you do.