Category Archives: Reggae

In The Sunshine by Sakshi Zion

Recently we did a show here on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Here is a cool version of my song, “In The Sunshine” 🌞 Live at Herbivores in Kailua-Kona with my friends BenJah (keys), Tone-I (bass), Matt (drums) & Ian (sax).

This event was on July 24th, 2020 in celebration of Haile Selassie I 128th Birthday Anniversary.

Shine On! Thanks for watching! Listen to more of my music here…







Leonard Howell – The First Rasta

Leonard Howell (6/16 1898 – 2/25 1981)

Leonard Howell, known as the founder of the Rastafari movement, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica. On November 2, 1930, Haile Selassie I was crowned by the emperor of Ethiopia. Howell interpreted this as a fulfillment of the words of Marcus Garvey when he said in the 1920’s, “Look to Africa for the crowning of a black king, He shall be the Redeemer!”

In 1933, Howell founded Rastafari movement in Jamaica with Joseph -, Arch Bold Dunk and others. Howell was accused of sedition due to this activity, and was captured by police authorities for 2 years, but even after prison, he fought with the power of Jamaica and developed Rastafari movement.

[Early life]

Howell was born on June 16, 1898 in May Crawle village in the Bull Head mountain district of upper Clarendon in Jamaica. He was the eldest of a family of ten children. Charles Theophilus Howell, his father, worked as peasant cultivator and tailor. Clementina Bennett, his mother, worked as an agricultural laborer.

During the First World War, Howell worked as a seaman and served as part of a Jamaican contingent sent to Panama. Before temporarily settling in Panama in 1918, he travelled back and forth between New York City and Panama several times. While in New York he became a member of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) after being confronted with his identity as a black man in Harlem for the first time and meeting Garvey, the revolutionary UNIA leader, in person.

Howell lived abroad for a total of some twenty years in his early life, during which time he was arrested and jailed for his involvement with the UNIA because the organization’s pro-black messages were viewed as threatening. After migrating to Panama and the United States, he eventually returned home in December 1932 at the age of 34 after being deported from the US. He was deported because of his involvement with the UNIA, which was perceived as threatening by the US government, due to the organization’s messages of black power and anti-colonialism. Upon returning to his homeland, he decided to leave his family home and spread the word about Rastafarianism. This decision to break away from his home was due to a conflict between Howell and his family, presumably because of his controversial belief in the divine nature of Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

[Rastafari evangelism]

Howell’s first public articulation of the divinity of Haile Selassie occurred in January 1933. This first open deification, which proclaimed the Emperor of Ethiopia to be the incarnation of God, took place at “Redemption Ground” in Kingston but was not successful in gaining converts.

In February 1933, Howell relocated his meeting to a southeastern parish of St. Thomas and two months later, on April 18, he addressed about two hundred people at a meeting in Trinity Ville, St. Thomas. During this meeting, police were present to monitor and control the event, which they deemed to be of a “seditious nature.” Despite concerns, authorities chose not to press charges against Howell so as not to draw extra attention to his movement and decided instead to closely monitor him.

According to Howell and his followers, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was the “Black Messiah” – an incarnation of God predicted by biblical prophecy. Howell believed that the grand coronation of Haile Selassie (who was widely traditionally claimed to be the descendant of King David, King Solomon, and the Queen of Sheba, in part due to the medieval Ethiopian text Kebra Nagast), was the realization of a prophecy. The grandness of the emperor’s ascension to power appeared to validate Howell’s imperative claim.

Howell’s teachings often began with background information about the people, land, and sovereignty of Ethiopia as an unchanged land populated by original, primitive Christian people who were under direct rule of a king who was a direct descendant of King David. He idealized Ethiopia in his preaching, calling the country a land with unmatched people and a perfect language, the sole uncorrupted language on Earth. Howell emphasized the coming of a new civilization based upon and founded in the glory and power of Haile Selassie, the “Supreme Black King.” He instructed his followers to adore the Ethiopian emperor as the supreme God over all of humanity. In Howell’s view, it was through Ethiopia that the truths of good character, social order, manhood and womanhood were preserved and were unfolding for all to see. Howell preached that Ethiopian culture was re-emerging to overtake hegemonic Anglo-Saxon forces that had kept Africans enslaved.

[Core values, leadership, and social network]

Among his followers, Howell preferred being called Gangunguru Maragh or G.G. Maragh to distinguish his ritual, mystical personality from his secular identity. Howell’s ritual name is thought to be a combination of three Hindi words – gyan (wisdom), gun (virtue or talent), and guru (teacher). In Hindi, Maragh means “great kings” or “king of kings.” Howell used this name as a pseudonym when he published The Promised Key.

In a meeting at Port Mortant, St. Thomas, on September 1933, it is recorded that Howell held a meeting that began with the singing of hymns. Then, Howell reportedly taunted clergymen of other religious denominations at the gathering and discouraged people from attending church because “ministers were liars.”[11] He also spoke critically of slavery, claiming that “the White man stole Africa from the Africans, and that Black people should think that Africa is their home, not Jamaica”.

Howell’s message of praise for Emperor Haile Selassie also came with an open call for black supremacy as a way to combat colonialism and reject oppression by whites. At times, Howell would ask his congregants to join together and sing “God Save the King” – the king being Haile Selassie. Howell’s central doctrine acted as a force against white colonial ideology due to his placement of blackness as morally superior to whiteness, as is explained in his widely read publication, The Promised Key.

Howell is remembered as being a charismatic and authoritarian leader who sincerely cared about the wellbeing of his followers. In 1937, Howell founded the Ethiopian Salvation Society (ESS) whose objective was to use collective savings to better its members. A secondary purpose of the ESS was to help spread the good news about salvation and Christianity and underscore the value of self-help and good citizenship. These secondary purposes were expressly stated so as to shield the organization from suspicion that it was promoting sedition. Nevertheless, in 1940 the Jamaican governor responded to pressure from the colonial secretary and the labor leadership by officially banning a meeting of the ESS due to the resentment the organization was creating as well as its internationalization.

In addition to his leadership role in the ESS, Howell served as a role model and father figure for the growing Rastafarian community. His audacious, generous personality, combined with his well-travelled background, made early Rastafarians particularly receptive to his messages. Howell brought “the hope of a new generation, one which was inspired by the magnificence of the new Ethiopian emperor.”

To expand Howell’s Rastafarian network, he formed relationships with other black groups such as the Afro-Athlican Constructive Gaathly and the UNIA. Additionally he collaborated closely with other icons of the Rastafarian movement such as Marcus Garvey and George Padmore, a Trinidadian journalist.

Howell’s appeal for identification with Africa was in opposition to concurrent movements in Jamaica promoting a Jamaican creole nationalism. Howell positioned himself as an opponent of the labor nationalists Bustamante and Manley who had gained a substantial following among the working class. Howell preached to both the working class and the peasantry in Jamaica, attempting to unite disenfranchised black people to overcome colonial oppression. Jamaica’s independence in 1962 (which nevertheless maintained social, political and economic ties between Jamaica and Great Britain) was largely a disappointment for Howell, who had called for the complete severance of relations with imperial Britain.

[Trials and punishments]

In January 1934, Howell and Robert Hinds, another pioneer of the Rastafarian movement, were arrested and charged with sedition due to their gatherings and speeches at a meeting of 300 people at Seaforth, St Thomas, on December 10, 1933.

Howell was put on trial for sedition on March 13, 1934, and pleaded not guilty to openly expressing hatred and contempt for the Jamaican government and the King in addition to disturbing public peace on the island. Howell defended himself in court, using a photograph of Haile Selassie as evidence. During this historic trial, Howell is remembered as being the first person to declare that Haile Selassie was “the Messiah returned to earth.” Ultimately he was sentenced to two years in jail for sedition by the Jamaican chief justice, Robert William Lyall-Grant.

Later, in 1938, Howell was sent to a mental asylum in Kingston called the Bellevue Aslyum after being certified as insane for the inflammatory statements he published in his book The Promised Key. In this publication, which was released while Howell was still incarcerated, he labeled the Roman Catholic Pope as “Satan the Devil” and created the impression that war was being declared against colonialism and white supremacy – which Howell asserted should be replaced with “Black supremacy.” Furthermore, he openly objected to locally created religious systems like Revivalism and Obeah, a Jamaican folk practice. Although small, the book was powerful and very popular to the dismay of the Jamaican government.

As one of the most charismatic and outspoken of Rastafarian leaders, Howell was incarcerated at notably higher rates than other pioneers of the Rastafarian movement, such as Joseph Nathaniel Hibbert and Hinds. Described as “the most persecuted Rastafarian to date,” Howell suffered considerably under constant state surveillance because of his Rastafarian teachings. Due to his repeated imprisonment and persecution, he suffered the blow of being absent during Haile Selassie’s 1966 visit to Jamaica.

Especially threatening to the powers that be was his prophetic call for people to destroy the legitimacy and might of the British empire and international white supremacy, a message that caused people to reconsider their for identity, agency, and socio-political mobilization in Jamaica and elsewhere.

[Creation of Pinnacle Community]

Following his release from prison for his teachings of black power and denunciation of colonial rule, Howell created the first Rastafarian village in Jamaica at Sligoville, St. Catherine in 1940. The settlement was called “Pinnacle” due to its high hilltop elevation and was symbolically located in the first free village established to house former slaves in Jamaica. Pinnacle was one of the country’s first self-sustaining communities, its community members were able to meet their needs without dependence on outside resources. Some refer to Pinnacle as a commune, in which Howell’s form of socialism was practiced. Soon after its foundation, other similar Rastafarian communities were established across the country. Pinnacle was especially known for the cultivation of ganja (marijuana) that has religious significance for Rastafarians.

In efforts to shut down Howell and his followers, police raided Howell’s community of Pinnacle multiple times and labeled the community a “communist experiment” in 1941. Just one year after the creation of the settlement, government forces infiltrated and arrested many of Howell’s followers. After escaping immediate arrest, Howell was eventually arrested and tried once again for sedition and consequently was faced with two more years behind bars. Upon his release in 1943, he returned to Pinnacle once again. Howell hired guards and brought in watch dogs to protect Pinnacle from future attacks.

The police raided Pinnacle several more times in the 1950s. In 1954, militia invaded the community and almost completely destroyed the village. Even after this mass destruction, settlers returned, though the settlement was never restored to its previous thriving state. During a final raid in 1958, the police cleared out the remaining residents completely. Despite its ultimate destruction, the impact of the settlement made it legendary among other settlements around the country, who were observed to have been “miniature Pinnacles.”

[Alleged disappearance and ongoing legacy]

Some claim that Howell disappeared from public sight between 1958 and 1960, completely dropping out of his role as a Rastafarian leader. Accounts that he was neither heard from nor interacted with between this period and his death in 1981 have been challenged by historians who examined his life, however. Even after the final major raid of Pinnacle and Howell’s confinement in a mental asylum, he reportedly continued in his leadership of the Pinnacle community and as a Rastafari foundational role model, as evidenced by his role as a defendant in several cases at the Home Circuit Court, Kingston, regarding disputes about his ownership of Pinnacle.

Today Howell is remembered as a pioneer of the Rastafarian movement. Additionally, in honor of his values and persistent fight against colonial authority, he is seen as a leader of Pan-Africanism. To fight for his remembrance, the Leonard P Howell Foundation was created to “perpetuate and honor the memory of Leonard P Howell.” The Foundation calls for the restoration of a portion of the Pinnacle Property so that it can become a UNESCO world heritage site, an international Rastafarian worship and research center, and a monument in tribute to the vision and leadership of Leonard Percival Howell.

Hindu Influences on Rastafari

There is only one Jah, one God with Infinite Names.

Aristotle referred to the Ethiopians as a people of both Kush (Africa) & Sind (India).. Queen of Sheba ruled over the land of Sheba/Shiva/Saba.. the indigenous traditions of the Sabians was ancient African Shiva & Shakti worship.

To overstand the issue with iconography verses idolatry one must know the difference between a graven image & sacred murti, the ancient Egyptians had a similar practice as Hindus when they would designate specific icons for temple worship and a ritual is performed where the breath of God/Life is breathed into the icon and thus the image becomes a living deity… that being said.. when Yeshua went to India, he learned about the sacred science behind murtis, mandalas, Hindu & Buddhist symbolism and yantras, mantras and pujas BUT he also saw the corruption of the caste system & how the elite class of Brahman priests and people in general would worship and lavish great riches and honor to their stone icons but treat their fellow brothers & sisters like animals or worse.. thus Yeshua preached a razor edge distinction regarding this.. and emphasized to the people that the real deity to be worshipped is within the heart of all living beings.. the so-called low caste folks (Dravidians aka Lost Tribes of Israel) loved Saint Issa, as they called him in the East, but the elites didn’t like what he was preaching at all (threatening their hierarchy of power), and the story goes that then Yeshu had to flee from some of these areas of India to the Himalayas and stay with some Buddhist monks whom agreed with his teachings on rejecting the caste system. These stories can be found in The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, The Christ of India & various other manuscripts that have been hidden & repressed for centuries. The secret archives of the Vatican has several of these various manuscripts as well as ancient icons/murtis of these connections and sadly many of these manuscripts were destroyed in the 2 worst literary holocausts in history.. the burning of the library of Alexandria & the burning of the Saint Thomas Christian’s library in India, both burned down by the Roman Catholic Church.

When Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia was gifted with a Ramayana by an Indian sannyasi, he smiled, and said they were all descendants of Lord Rama. He explained how the Ethiopians are called as Cushites, or coming down from Kusha, a son of Rama. The country is called Kushadwip, or the land of the son of Rama.

Ethiopians admit their ancestor as Kush, and they quote the Biblical story of Cush being a son of Ham (a phonetic misnomer of Ram). This only confirms to the widespread influence of Ramayana, even in a land that is 3000 miles away from the mainland of India.

Kemetic Yoga is the OG Sanatan Dharma brought from Ancient Kush (Ethiopia) to Ancient Sind (India) by the Dravidians in the first major human migrations out of Africa, and they founded the Indus Valley Culture & city of Harappan (Hara is a name of Shiva & Pan is an archetypal god often linked to Shiva) which was one of the most advanced in the ancient world, later it was the Aryans from the north that brought in many new ideas and later subjugated the Dravidians with the caste system. The Dravidians were mostly agricultural people who worshipped the Mother Goddess & Pushupati (Lords of the Animals) aka Shakti & Shiva in their indigenous African-Dravidian forms similar to the ancient traditions of the land of Kush/Saba/Sheba/Shiva but the Aryans were hunter/gatherers & would invade and conquer wherever they went, their pantheon was more War gods & Sky Gods like Indra and Surya.. these two traditions were eventually synthesized / merged to form modern Hindu religion. But the true mystical path of Sanatan Dharma is what the Sadhus (Holy Men) & Rastafari trod.. the lifestyle and consciousness of the Natural Mystic as Buddha, Krishna & Yahshua the Christ taught us.

Watch Yogiraj speak on his rare meeting with Haile Selassie I after his supposed death :

Read about the how the Ancient Hebrews worshipped Shiva here.

Leonard Howell also known as Gong Gang Guru Maharaj aka The First Rasta

Read this thesis paper on the “Hindu Influences on Rastafari” for more relevant information about Leonard Howell’s influences on Rastafari and his connection to Hindu ideas and traditions.

Many Faces Many Names (Official Music Video)

Backstory: We wrote and released this song over 11 years ago.. it became and continues to be one of our fans and friends favorites. Recently, B-Still and I were together in Bloomington, Indiana where we met and originally wrote and recorded the song.. and decided to shoot a video for our underground classic. We selected several spiritual destinations in “Btown” and Gabriel Lantz shot the footage. Yamily Creative Company edited the video and Chip Reardin, the original producer of the song, Re-Mastered the track as well. Enjoy! Namaste!


I am the One with Many Faces & Many Many Names,

God & Goddess in the hearts that flame,

The rain, the sun, the stars and the moon,

The earth and universe, the song and the tune.

(Verse 1 – Sakshi Zion)

I Am That I Am, the light, shining bright tonight

Like the fire of Yahweh before Moses at Sinai

The burning bush, Ganja, Holy Marijuana

There’s a natural mystic blowing thru the air, Oh Jah

Heartbeats of freedom, Buddha, Bodhisattva Zen,

I’mma climbin Jacob’s ladder to the highest heaven,

to the palace within, I sip the chalice again,

on my flyin carpet Iyah soar Himalayan Mountains

(Chorus)

(Verse 2 – B-Still)

They call me Buddha when they know that money isn’t true worth,

they call me the Great Spirit when they can feel me from the earth,

they call me Apollo when they follow me to the west,

call me Jesus in the Middle East, that’s where you know me best,

call me the effect of drugs, when they only feel me shroomin,

call me their soulmate when they see me in a human,

call me the Self of all things when you see things clearly..

It don’t matter what you call me, as long as you can hear me.

(Verse 3 – Sakshi Zion)

I am the one in Kailash, where I smoke ganja

With my coiled dreadlocks dat dem call Jata

They call me Shiva, in Meditation,

I have been that I Am from Creation,

to the zenith of the One, all my relations,

Aho Mitakyasin to all the nations

They call me Krishna Kokopeli with the magic flute

The Kabbalic Tree of Life, with everlasting fruits

They call me Bacchus, Dionysus, got the wine of bliss,

intoxicated circle dance with the flower goddesses,

they call me Isis, Mother Mary, the Magdalene,

the Queen, Triple Goddess, Gaia Earth so Green,

they call me Allah, the Great and Powerful Source,

Kundalini Shakti coiling serpent force,

they call me Rastafari, the King of Kings

Bhakti Yoga is the path, see me dance and sing ahhh

(Chorus & instrumental solo)

(Verse 4 – B-Still)

If I came as a blind man, would you hold my hand?

If I came as animal, would you protect my land?

If I came as the tree, would you cut me down?

And if I came as the rain, would you thank me now?

I come in Rainbows, not jus one single color

So when I come in another race, will you still see me as your brother?

If I said it was you, would you stop searching for me?

I’m what you close your eyes and feel, not what you think you see

They call me 99 names cause you can only describe me,

said I had 1000 yes, Infinity you’ll find me,

call me Keeli-Ana-Kulu-Kulu if you a Zulu

Under the Bodhi tree, like the Buddha I school you

(Verse 5 – Sakshi Zion)

I Am the Omkar, The Primordial Sound

Look Around, I Surround, You’re on Holy Ground

They call me Shanti, Shalom, Pax & Peace

Zion Temple of Love, I Am the High Priest

Emmanuel, Melchizedek, Avilokateshwar

Medicine Buddha and the Green Tara

I Am the whisper of the wind and the ocean’s wave

Jah Redemption call, knowledge of Self that saves

Yeshua Kristos, Haile Selassie I

I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Baraka Kirtan – The Art of Spirituality

Baraka Kirtan – The Art of Spirituality (revised)

by Antonya Wallace (Anth-E200) 12/7/2010

Introduction: Baraka: a blessing, the essence of life, soul power. It’s a Thursday night, and while most people are headed out to the bars, I’m making my way across town to Sakshi’s house to sit in during a Baraka Kirtan performance. Kirtan is an ancient Indian tradition based on Bhakti Yoga, which uses music and chanting as an avenue to spiritual enlightenment. As I enter the house the smell of roasting vegetables, marijuana, and halava fills my nose. I later learned that food is almost always present and sanctified so that it can be offered to God. They believe that when one eats sanctified food, that the food purifies the soul. Since Kirtan has roots in India there isn’t any beef (or any meat for that matter) being served, due to their animals sacred role in India. Yet, not all Kirtankars (one who practices/performs Kirtan) are vegetarian. It just happened that everyone in attendance tonight was. Another thing that everyone shares is the use of marijuana, which is smiled upon, as it is believed to promote enlightenment, drive the music, and as an added benefit, make the food taste even more divine. Smoking was also used socially to bring everyone together to prepare for the beginning of the ceremony. I was only there to observe so I did not enhance my chances of enlightenment.

I thought it was important to note that as I entered the room; warm faces, hugs, and a plate of food greeted me. That hospitality was due in part because Sakshi used to be my neighbor and he was the first person I met when I moved to Bloomington. But the royal treatment wasn’t reserved just for ex-neighbors. As I sat watching I noticed that the Kirtan community is open and loving to everyone. As each person entered Sakshi’s house they were greeted by first name, a hug, food, and an offer to play music. I decided that I would not participate in the event so that I could have an etic point of view. I pulled up a chair slightly to the side of the group and began my observations. The heavy smell of incense being burned drowned out the colorful smells of food and ganja.

I really enjoyed the scent of the incense so after the event I asked what it was. To my astonishment it was part of another practice that I was completely oblivious to. “Agnihotra is a Vedic yajna and involves the burning of cow dung and ghee butter in an inverted copper pyramid at dusk and dawn precisely, while chanting Vedic mantras. Properly performed, this ritual according to the Vedic tradition brings about enormous healing and purification of the environment. The Agnihotra is a powerful yajna that in my experience brings about a deep sense of peace. This 5-minute process feels like coming out of an hour of meditation. It’s a grounding practices and assists in uncovering the real Self, hidden underneath all of the mental chatter. The fact that the dung of the cow is such an important part of this process is really significant given the way this culture brutalizes and tortures these sacred creatures” (ecovillage.wordpress.com). It seems that this practice speaks to the Kirtan community’s “love-all” mentality.

I learned that it was a good practice to do the Agnihotra before the real ceremony began, so that everything is cleansed. I learned, “The rites of the Morning-Agnihotra are almost the same as the rites of the Evening-Agnithotra; but, in many instances, the formulas uttered by the Adhvaryu or the Sacrificer are different” (Paul-Emile Dumont). I was only there for the evening Agnihotra so I cannot compare the differences with the morning ritual.

As the musicians began to take their seats, they ditched their shoes and sat in a semi-circle. The audience comprised the other half of the circle, therefore creating an atmosphere for the call and response style of the music. The simple act of sitting on the ground in a circle is an example of universal primitive behavior. Speaking generally, almost all ancient human groups have sat communally in circles during gatherings. Circular shaped atmospheres bring the listeners directly into the experience. They stop being just listeners, and become participants. The circle encourages each person to look into another’s eyes as they are beckoned to respond to the singer’s calls.

Each “Baba” grabbed their respective instrument; Sakshi Gopal Das on the harmonium, Arun Baba on the bansuri (a type of wooden flute), Zen-G on the guitar, and Ras D Hanubaba on percussion instruments, including the tabla, mridanga, djembe, and kartals. Kirtan events can be played in any musical style with any instrumentation. Baraka Kirtan chooses to stick with more traditional instrumentation on most nights. They also perform many different styles on their CD. Some of those styles include non-traditional instruments such as, electric guitars, bass, drums sets, and digital voice alterations. The style that they choose for each performance is generally based off of their mood that day.

The music begins and the first song (always) is Hare Krishna. Hare is the feminine energy of God, and Krishna means “all attractive one”. During the opening song, “a simple melody is repeated many times at continuously faster tempos and greater volumes until a climax is reached, at which point the whole process may begin again with either the same or a new melody…commonly a line of melody was first sung responsorily four times – leader, chorus, leader, chorus – before proceeding to the next line of the melody… [then] the whole procedure would start over…but at an increased tempo” (Slawek 80). Tonight’s leader, Sakshi sang,

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

The, the audience, some with eyes closed, some staring, some praying, would all participate on during the response. Everyone was completely indulged in their own self-awareness and spiritual being. The sound of all the voices in unison had a surprisingly rich tone. It was nice to be at a ceremony where everyone felt the freedom of creativity and experimented with harmonies, and adding their own flares to each response. The allowance of creativity offers everyone a unique personal experience for his or her spirituality. In some instances if the audience is really enjoying the performance, “The chorus of talkaris (kirtan) often interrupts the kirtankar’s sermon with the singing of a topically relevant abhanga and may take over the performance of a song that a kirtankar has begun. In fact, a warkari kirtankar can easily deliver an entire kirtan and only sing a few solo lines of the song” (Shultz 309). Since Indiana doesn’t have a very large Hare Krishna movement going on underground…Sakshi was more than welcome to solo until the cows (who weren’t eaten J) came home.

Main Argument: While I sat there watching everyone divulge all their energy into devotion through song, I found myself wondering why a genre of music that provides so much peace to people is not more mainstream. In fact, I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever heard Kirtan music on the radio, except when Sakshi would call me and tell me to tune it to Bloomington’s public radio station when Baraka Kirtan was playing.

Sakshi said that Kirtan is actually becoming a new genre in popular music, whereas before it was seated in the world music category. It seems that Kirtan’s growing popularity is due to its message of love, peace, and self-awareness; which can be contrasted by the mind numbingly idiotic music blaring on B97.7 day and day out.

I don’t want to come across as a racist person but I did notice that everyone in attendance (with the exception of me) was Caucasian, and none of us were from India. So my research question would have to be, How did an Indian tradition that’s not very well known, become a subculture in the United States? What makes this music more popular than other forms of world music?

Theory: Those who practice Kirtan disregard arbitrary attributes such as gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion. Kirtan is a catalyst to deeper spiritual awakening. People are instantly drawn to the ideology of togetherness that Kirtan offers. While most religions in our society offer a “Get Saved or Burn for Eternity” methodology, Kirtan’s job is to improve each person’s relationship with their own spiritual power.

Unlike most organized religions in the world, which ask you to abandon any other religious beliefs that may conflict with their doctrines, Kirtan lets you keep any, and all your beliefs. The point of Kirtan is to deepen your own spiritual awareness, in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of the spirit, self, and even other religions. It seems that since Kirtan offers such a contrast to more popular well-known religions like Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, etc…that people are also attracted just to get a taste of something new. Kirtan differs from other world religions in that they have never gone on some “convert or die” crusade. Instead of seeking out new members, they let the members seek them out, and then welcome them into their community with open arms. This method of gaining followers actually appears to have gained more devoted participants because each person is expected to find their own path into the Kirtan realm. If you want to become a part of the Kirtan community you have to make an effort to do so, unlike getting saved at a Baptist church which could be likened to going through a “McSalvation” drive through. Literally, anyone could walk into a church at any time and get saved, as many times as they want…without any real impact on their spiritual receptiveness.

Kirtan offers a tailored experience to each person. The natural feel of Kirtan takes away the hierarchal feel of organized religion. For example, the musicians take off their shoes before they play, everyone sits on the floor together, and shares food. It seems that those actions level the playing field between audience and performer, devotee and sit in, old and young, etc. Other factors that attract people to Kirtan are their love of the environment and preservation of ancient practices.

In the days when going to church has become “the thing to do” and if you don’t then you’re damned, people miss out on a real and physical connection with their spirit. From what I’ve seen many people just go to church to maintain their reputation, or they go but don’t practice what is preached. Churches have become kind of like fast food chains, in that they cater to the masses instead of the individual. The strength of major world religions seems to lie solely in the number of followers as opposed to the devotional strength of said followers. To see devoted followers, head over to a Kirtan event. Before going to the event I had no clue why it was growing, but now I understand that the personalized feel and unique musical styles is driving it to become a more prevalent part of our society (and most likely, many others).

Methodology: Being in such a laid back atmosphere, I thought it most appropriate to just jot down a few notes here and there, and casually start conversations. I began by asking Sakshi what Kirtan means to him. I used the genealogical method in a very loose sense so that I could get a grasp on which he learned from, since he was not born into the community. He actually mentioned that he thought it was a bit funny that here are four Caucasian men observing an Indian tradition, and really using it as a way of life. They have at times been misunderstood, but they simply just want to respect and enjoy the aspects of another culture.

I only observed during the event so as to remain neutral to my experience. We also met at Laughing Planet one day so that he could clarify the words of the songs for me. After talking to an insider, I thought I would interview someone who had no previous knowledge of Kirtan. I talked to Samy Estrada, who gave me her brief thoughts on the atmosphere and preaching of Kirtan. Since she was unable to actually attend the event with me, I asked her to watch one of Baraka Kirtan’s online performances. Since she is also a dancer I asked her to describe the music. She said, “the instrumentation was really unique, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought that it might be kind of lame because it was just acoustic instruments; but toward the end when they picked up the tempo it really got funky! They have a really cool message too” (Estrada)!

The rest of my research was done on www.BarakaVision.com, the band’s official website. I used this page to access the band member’s bios, mission statement, and preferred instruments. I also read a few articles on www.jstor.org so that I could read about Kirtan from an Ethnomusicologist’s and Ethnographer’s point of view. These pages gave me insight into more of the cultural implications and history than I could have gained in personal interviews. I couldn’t find much information about Agnihotra so I used www.google.com which led me to a brief review on ecovillage.wordpress.com about the book “How to Save the World”, by Peter Proctor, a biodynamic farmer.

Data Analysis: First, I needed to satisfy my curiosity about how Sakshi even got involved with the Hare Krishna movement. He said, “I was attracted to it years ago due to its instrumentation; especially the sound of the harmonium (which looks like a Dr. Seuss instrument), the message, and the ancient prayers which made me feel in tune with my ancestors” (Sakshi). I accessed his biography on his webpage for more insight on his background. “he lived and studied with many Elders and Mystics (including Ras Pidow, Dr. James E Mumford, Srila Turiya Das Mahasaya and more). Lived and studied at several Ashrams, Temples, and Binghi Camps across North America, Jamaica, Hawaii, and India. In the summers of 2002 and 2003 he traveled across N. America with a traveling cultural festival called “The Festival of India” in which he was a main contributor of set-up and break-down, cultural plays, food distribution, chariot-parading, and sacred chanting. He has been in several musical projects, including: Baraka Kirtan, Santos and the Saints, The Nyahbinghi Livity Choir, Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble, Kuru Dynasty, La Onda, Roots Groundation Family, Parrhesia and more” (BarakaVision.com). I thought that his eclectic musical diversity alone spoke to his openness to new cultures and creativity. If we use Sakshi as an example of the average practitioner of Kirtan, we can see how interesting and appealing the community is. As a side note, he also told me that he does not adhere to any organized religion. But he also does not judge or discriminate anyone based on his or her personal religious choices. His opinion is that people have their own path to embark on to find spiritual peace.

What Sakshi and the Kirtan movement do not do is tell people that they need to submit to their code or way of life. Their message is one of understanding and compassion. In Kirtan, God appears in many forms and usually his/her appearance is different to each person, because God can have an infinite amount of forms. In Kirtan, God can manifest as any deity such as, Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Ganesha, Kali, and many more. These deities share similarities with, and are usually connected to Catholic Saints. To communicate with the deities, they use music, which can be in any genre, just like God can appear in any shape. The musical style creates an openness, connectedness, and receptiveness, among each person’s spirit as they sit in the circle. Just like the participants, each song as a different flavor and mood. To connect with the gods they try to achieve spiritual awakening. Though the Kirtan spiritual awakening may be called different things, spirit of devotion, divine connection, right brained experience, or spiritual openness, these things seem to be held as a common intention to the band members.

Another common intention among the band members is to maintain old practices, like call and response. Samy’s reaction to the call and response aspect of the event was that it was reminiscent of tribal chanting (the band’s desired affect). She also thought the music was calming and soft, until the tempo picked up and it got intense. But this particular event that she saw was calmer than others because it did not use any electric instruments, which are more stimulating to the listener than acoustic ones. She also noticed that each person seemed to be in their own world, yet at the same time connected to everyone in the room. It was almost like Sakshi’s calls put everyone in to a trance, and they could only come out of it by singing the response.

I found that their website was extremely useful for bios and band info. I chose to focus primarily on Sakshi because he is my closest friend out of all the band members. But I did make sure to look at everyone else’s bio and they proved to each have completely different yet extraordinarily interesting backgrounds. It’s compelling to see that people from such different roads can all meet in the middle and work toward a common goal of harmony. Some of the ways that the band members spread peace when they’re not performing is Story Time Yoga, a group started by Sakshi, which incorporates yoga into fairy tales. Ras D likes to change the environment by teaching sustainable farming to Bloomington’s Community. With Kirtan the sky is the limit on creatively spreading the word of peace, harmony, and love.

Conclusion: Unlike other world religions Kirtan offers more than just a guide for living which can be summed up by the golden rule. The Hare Krishna movement brings entire communities of varied people together to function as one spritual entity. Kirtan allows each person to find their own path and use Kirtan as a means to help them spread love and harmony in whatever way they choose. For example, Sakshi’s yoga, and Ras D’s farming; they are each doing what they love to do, while weaving in Kirtan to spread a message.

The beauty of Kirtan is that while it is a deeply personal experience it is also very communal. The participation of the person sitting next to you, chanting, and playing music will directly affect your experience, and vice versa. The “primitiveness” of it makes the participants feel as though they have just relived something that their ancestors probably did long ago. As the tempo speeds up, so does the heart beato f all those involved. The music literally seems to pull your body toward the instruments. Everyone in the room seems to into a spiritual trance, as they slowly forget all the hardships in life outside the Kirtan room. When I was there, I wasn’t even participating but I found that instead of thinking about my bills, homework, exams, or life drama, I was just focused on the rhythm of the drums pulsating through my body. It was as if my brain turned off, and I didn’t have a choice, it was time to meditate.

Kirtan offers an authentic feeling of togethness that people usually do not get from day to day living. After the event eveyone kind of looks around smiling, like “now what?”. In such a short time they ate, smoked, chanted, blessed, meditated, and laughed together. I can truly say that I understand now why Kirtan is becoming so popular. It is a message that can virtually be played with any instruments, in and setting, and any time. Most importantly I found out that it can be played by anyone of any color or creed, etc…as long as they embody the message of love.

Since Kirtan is so musically amorphous it appeals to a broad audience of musical tastes and can easily become a tool for social change. “[It] is an especially effective meduim for the propegation of nationalist ideas because of its devotionalized context and Kirtan music’s potential for group participation, experiences of emboiment, and multiple interpretive possibilites” (Shultz 307).

After doing this Project I think that I have learned that Kirtan has the potential to create strong and loving leaders, who don’t adhere to social convictions of discrimination. In Kirtan you can come from any background because the importance rests in the spiritual world instead of the physical. Hopefully the Hare Kirshna movement will continue to spread, and add much needed harmony to the crazy world we’re all living in.

Works Cited :

Hindu Nationalism, Music, and Embodiment in Marathi Rāshṭrīya Kīrtan

Anna Schultz

Ethnomusicology

Vol. 46, No. 2 (Spring – Summer, 2002), pp. 307-322

Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/852784

Moi. “Cow Dung and It’s Many Wonderful Properties « EARTHKEEPIN.” EARTHKEEPIN. 27 Sept. 2007. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <http://ecovillagelife.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/cow-dung-and-its-many-wonderful-properties/>.

The Agnihotra (Or Fire-God Oblation) in the Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa: The First Prapāṭhaka of the Second Kāṇḍa of the Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa with Translation

Paul-Emile Dumont

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society

Vol. 108, No. 4 (Aug. 27, 1964), pp. 337-353

Published by: American Philosophical Society

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/985912

Popular Kīrtan in Benares: Some ‘Great’ Aspects of a Little Tradition

Stephen M. Slawek

Ethnomusicology

Vol. 32, No. 2 (Spring – Summer, 1988), pp. 77-92

Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/852037

Wind, Arun B., Sakshi G. Das, Ras D. Hanubaba, and Zen G. “Divine Music”. Baraka Kirtan – Divine Music. DigitalNature, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 04 Nov. 2010.

Baraka : From the Experiential to the Analytical

Baraka : From the Experiential to the Analytical

by Aaron Pollitt, (IU Folk 450) 4/23/10

It has often been the case that an ethnographer with the intention of developing their analytical and academic understanding will enter and immerse themselves within a culture, in order to gain an experience of it from the inside. In my case this is rather the opposite. I am a member of the band Baraka, and for the past year or so I have been the flamboyant, joyous, flute player and member of this band. I have immersed myself in a melting pot of ecstatic chanting, cultural co-creation, divine connections, and holistic exploration. I have traveled with this group to many interesting places, made many amazing friends, and felt an awesome sense of spiritual development within myself. This has been a profound and wonderful experience in my life, and my desire to enhance my abilities and participation within it has steadily been growing. In the creation of this document, I have set myself to the task of gaining a deeper understanding of this experience of Baraka. I am stepping out of the role of band member and friend, and taking on the role of the researcher and ethnographer. I am looking back at this band with my analytical mind, from a prospective that I had up until now, largely left alone. Through interviews with the band members and its affiliates, and comparisons to other studies of spiritual music and culture, I attempt to develop an understanding of what Baraka is, what effect the music has on its listeners and members, how Baraka fits in to the greater American culture, what Baraka and its members hold as their intention, and why they are using the methods they are. After answering these questions, I hope to step back into the role of band member with a greater ability to both experience this musical cultural process and participate in this co-creation.

The official members of Baraka consist of 4 young white males, native to Indiana. The members have all come from a relatively mainstream American upbringing, which is a stark contrast to the identity and style which they are now embodying. The band comes together to form a kind of spiritual and cultural anomaly, or phenomena within a greater culture. It acts as a bridge between mainstream America and an ancient Vedic tradition reaching back some 3000 years ago in India. “Yes, were all white and American, but we look for our identity outside of our culture. We are privileged, so we have the opportunity to do this. We happen to be white, but we are trying to represent different cultures.” (Ras-D, interview). The band Baraka is a bit hard to classify, as it is rather dynamic in its identity. The main musical style of the band is known as Kirtan. Kirtan is a form of devotional communal chanting sung in Sanskrit to the Hindu gods and goddesses. Along with this however, the band also plays Reggae, Nyabinghi chants, Hip Hop, Rock, New Age spiritual folk songs, improvisational instrumentals, and many fusions of these different styles. With all these different possibilities for style one may think that the band would be very scattered, but interestingly the underlying feeling and direction of their performance seems to be relatively the same. “Baraka is a hard working band that is unified in its intent of artistic effort towards a spiritual end.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). The performance of this band is held as highly valuable and important to the band members. The development of this performance is given great attention during practices and shows for a few reasons. Certainly it seems to be the selling point of the band, the reason that they are seen as valuable to potential listeners and venues, but the band also takes a great deal of pride in their ability to create a very attractive performance. “This is largely about co-creation of a story, immersing people in another world that they aren’t used to or aware of, it’s the mythic and the mystic, it’s the the foreign, the colorful and the ancient” (Sakshi Interview). This development and structuring of the performance is very specific. It’s not everything all at once but rather carefully selected stories and styles used to create an atmosphere that is most attractive, and immersive to those listening. “It’s like getting into these epic stories of where things all came from. Taking ourselves back to a very simple time. These songs are so simple and often we don’t even understand most of the lyrics. It brings us into a Turning off of our analytical minds.“ (Zen –G, interview). “This is very primordial, many of these elements have been with humanity forever, communal chanting, deities, sacramentals, and ritual are part of our human story, but it’s very new and fresh, to our American culture” (Sakshi, interview). The band gives focus to connecting to that which is part of human history, trying to recreate a feeling of the lifestyle from long ago. This seems to connect with people on what might be considered an instinctual or intrinsic level, building off the universal similarities in primitive human cultures, and in doing so creating a very natural and welcoming feeling to the performance. In a normal performance the band often takes their shoes off and sits on the ground facing one another. The simple act of sitting on the ground in a circle is an example of this universal primitive human behavior. Most all ancient human groups have sat communally in circles on the earth. Creating this a part of the structure of the performance adds to the intended ancient mystic atmosphere, and brings the listeners directly into that experience so they are more than just listeners, they are participants. The instruments themselves are largely all authentic and traditional in style. They act as center pieces to the performance creating what appears to be an alter on the ground in front of the performers, often decorated by the band members with small figures, gems, feathers, and colorful cloth. The instruments, draw a lot of attention, and are marveled at by the participants. “These is a community of humans that exists across time, These instruments have been worked on over generations for thousands of years, and have been handed down through time and culture to us, they carry in them all this artistry and care and intent” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). Because of this the instruments are seen as having something of a mystical power within themselves much like the instruments described by Sue Carole DeVale in her writing, Power and Meaning in Musical Instruments.

Once the stage is set and the instruments are in place the stories and songs can be brought in to the performance “in the energy of the great figures, be it Yahshua, Krishna, Jah, Buddha, Ganesha, or Bob Marley. These are characters and deities are symbols.” (Sakshi-I interview). These are all highly praised mythic characters, that the band is singing to and telling stories of. They are surrounded in symbology and ritual, some of them are deeply meaningful to of the participants on a very spiritual level, as they may likely have had or a profound connection with such a figure in the past, or at least know of someone who has. The characters most commonly brought up by the band are the Hindu deities. This atmosphere of mystery, story, symbolism and ritual, develops a very spiritually conducive mindset in the listeners. “Baraka makes the Kirtan so delicious that people really do stop. And intentionally or unintentionally become more receptive spiritual entities because of it.” (Bamboo steve, interview). The music has a certain quality about it that causes the listeners to go into a kind of trance, to allow their analytical mind to turn off and for them in that moment to sink into the experience and co creative flow of the music. This seems to be where the greatest power for the band is held, and perhaps their greatest intention. “The Sanskrit term rasa… rasa is a religious sense, a feeling of unity with the world beyond oneself, a transcendental experience induced by an artistic event. From the invoking of indigenous.” (Judith Becker, Tantrism, Rasa, and Javanese Gamelan Music) this Sanskrit concept of rasa seems to have carried over through this musical form and still holds true in this new context of modern day America. This trance like, unified, transcendental state seems to be a common side effect of the Baraka performance. “It’s about the spirit of devotion, unity, the love of story, the love of diversity,” (Sakshi, interview). “The divine connection transcending religious boundaries, coming together as one spirit in celebration, with common intention of co-creation through sound. “ (Ras-D, interview). “The underlying mission of our music is to get us into a Right brained experience, losing ourselves in the joy of creation” (Zen-G, interview). “We play to get ourselves and our listeners into a more spiritually open, receptive, connected state of being.” (Arun Baba, interview). Though it may be called different things, spirit of devotion, divine connection, right brained experience, or spiritual openness, these things seem to be held as a common intention to the band members, and understood that they are using music as vehicle to bring them and the participants into this state of being. “Each song has a different flavor, a different mood. The musical style creates this openness, connection, receptiveness, but the content is what is being opened up to, connected with and received. For example we chant a song to this elephant deity Ganesha, this figure represents beginning, good luck and overcoming obstacles, That is the kind of energy that we open up to and really are able to take in. Kind of like summoning the power of this deity to aide us.” (Arun Baba, interview) The band sees these different deities as symbols of different energies, and chanting their song will bring them that type of energy. There seems to be 2 ways that this is seen. One side sees this as an inwardly psychological change brought on by the action of focusing on a type of energy. The other side sees this as a more outwardly calling of energy, that through focusing on a symbol the associated energy will blessed to them from without. Though these 2 different viewpoints on chanting seem to exist within the band and its following, outcome seems to be entirely the same. Both seem to see the creation of this music as forming a personal relationship with the divine, weather the divine exist within them or without them seems unimportant. “Like trying to join the divine in heavenly song, in a mystical sense, trying create a personal relationship with the divine“ (Bamboo Steve interview). This concept of personal relationship and moving towards union with god seems to be a common on, and is very similar to many Sufi practices as described in the writings of Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, in the article, Sufi music of India and Pakistan.

The experience of Baraka seems to be received with such appreciation and relief by so many of its listeners and participants, as though the experience is greatly healing to them. “There is a need for this in our culture, the simplicity and spiritual drone of this music is something which is obviously missing. Our culture is such like a drive up window culture now now now. There is a profound loss of connection in it.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview). The type of mindset that this music brings about seems to be one that is highly uncommon in the society in which this band exists. The exercise of playing this music is such a contrast to the normal American life that those who practice it seem to do it as a way of healing and balancing themselves. “It’s a daily challenge to get into that. We come from a very the left brained society. How do I bring out my heart, my soul, my spirit, this whole other side of me? I think that’s part of our venture as a band; to strike balance between the analytical and the experiential.” (Zen-G, interview). “Even what we are doing right now (in this interview) is intellectualizing about this, and at a certain point you just have to shut all that off and just experience something. That raw experience is totally different from the concept and its way more fulfilling.” (Zen-G, interview). Some of the band members and followers see the society that they live in as being very spiritually immature, as though it has actually been trying to get rid of spirituality within it’s citizens. “this band is my spiritual outlet, to help me with my emotions, with maintaining my peaceful life, as a way for me to release pent up energy, as a way of healing. (Ras –D, interview). Many see this as something that is actually very rare and difficult to find in this society, so the band members are taking it upon themselves to create it. Though this style of music is relatively unique the intention seems to be very much connected to a broader movement. One of spiritual connection, community, and celebration of diversity, “It’s part of the spiritual consciousness movement, we are trying to embody, and set an example of a healthy, holistic, conscious lifestyle.” (Sakshi, interview) different manifestations of this commonly held intention seem to be popping up everywhere and secretly this is one of the fastest growing social movements there is.” (Arun Baba, interview)

Though the band’s intention seems to be pretty clearly that of creating right brained spiritual experience and connection, they seem to have another very important intention in their music. Through observation and much questioning of the members it seems clear that one of the most foundational concepts that this band bases itself on is the celebration of diversity, and love of culture. It seems that a mission of this group is to aid in breaking down the social boundaries and walls. “Baraka is trying to bridge 2 cultures with art. White American young people backgrounds and playing devotional chant form India. The way it’s played is a fusion, not the music itself, but the place they are playing it. It’s like a translation, Translating Kirtan into American, and making the underlying message accessible to American people.” (Bamboo Steve, Interview) The band sees itself as a cultural bridge, as carrying across valuable cultural experiences and presenting them to the people of this culture, in a way that can be easily understood and accepted. “I love to be able to opens people minds, this is a very mind opening band, open to how other people do things. Cross cultural collision; this is a big part of our country. We represent the essence of this collision, we as a band embrace many cultural elements, and are hoping to embrace more.” (Zen-G, interview) “We want to connect with other cultures and learn from them and share with them, we go in humbleness, We see so much beauty in diversity in other cultures, and we’ll share what we have, but we want to represent these wonderful and powerful stories and styles in an honorable way.” (Sakshi interview). Baraka has a commonly held view point that they are embodying a cultural openness, that diversity is beautiful and ought to be celebrated. Though at first glance Baraka may seem to have the identity of a purely Hindu group, they see themselves as being centered in the celebration of diversity, rather than the celebration of one culture. They believe that it is one of their greatest missions to aid the world in opening its heart and mind to the beauty of diversity, not to hide from it, or try to destroy it, but to celebrate it.

“We are about the essence of life within all religions. The spirit that inspires man to create a religion, people get caught up in the secular and dogmatic, but this is transcendental. We may have leanings towards one or another on a personal level, but this is about the mystical energy, whatever it is. Reggae and Kirtan are our means and they work great, they are beautiful forms of music, but it could be any style and I bet that it will be.” (Sakshi interview) “This is a universal thing, of coming together as community and howling at the moon, just coming together and chanting, is like a universal language. It’s not about which story is true; we accept all these different stories, it’s about the experience of sharing these stories through music.” (Zen- G, interview). This concept that no one story is the true story, that the act of experiencing the stories is what is really important, is at the heart of this band and the movement that they see themselves as being part of. These young men have found the vehicle of music to be the best way for them to spread this message, as it is so present, so mold-able and expressive, it can spread their message of celebration of diversity far and wide while at the same time actually manifesting it in what they are doing.

After a my time of immersion in this experience, and having a vague and dreamy concept of what we are doing as this band, it has been refreshing to take a different prospective on it. I myself I feel much more balanced now in my relationship to Baraka, having fulfilled both my right brains need to experience, and now my left brains need to develop an analytical understanding. I think that I can safely say that I have come to a much more clear understanding. Baraka’s intentions seem clear to me now, spiritual connection, and celebration of diversity through music. We use Kirtan and Reggae as our means because that is what we have come to know, and they seem to do the job very well. We are filling a profound and important niche with our culture and within ourselves. I’m sure there is far more for me to learn and reflect on regarding what this band is and my experience of it. Now with the clarity that I have found I hope to return to this multi-cultural musical conversation, with more strength I had before, and I hope that I can embody my own identity with more certainty as I aid the group in this co-creative process.

Resources :

Harvard University, Center for the Study of world Religions, (Enchanting Powers): Judith Becker, (Tantrism, Rasa, and Javanese Gamelan Music)

Marina Roseman, (Healing Sounds From The Malaysnian Rainforest (Temiar Music and Medicine))

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, (Sufi music of India and Pakistan)

Sue Carole DeVale, (Power and Meaning in Musical Instruments) 95

Aaron Pollitt Field study, Interview with Steve Pollitt(Bamboo Steve), founder of Hymnosophy, 4/18/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka member, Sakshi Gopal Das 4/20/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka Member, Gabriel Lantz (Zen-G) 4/21/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, Interview with Baraka Member, Danny Atlas (Ras-D) 4/21/10

Aaron Pollitt Field Study, interview with Baraka Member, (Arun Baba) 4/20/10

THE WORLD-WIDE INFLUENCE OF RAMAYANA

When Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia was gifted with a Ramayana by an Indian sannyasi, he smiled, and said they were all descendants of Lord Rama. He explained how the Ethiopians are called as Cushites, or coming down from Kusha, a son of Rama. The country is called Kushadwip, or the land of the son of Rama.

Ethiopians admit their ancestor as Kush, and they quote the Biblical story of Cush being a son of Ham (a phonetic misnomer of Ram). This only confirms to the widespread influence of Ramayana, even in a land that is 3000 miles away from the mainland of India.

Phonetic describes the way spoken words sound or are pronounced. When we closely examine the names of various places across the world, we can logically deduce how the culture of Ramayana must have influenced these lands, even thousands of years ago. Egypt derives its name from Ajpati, a name of one of Rama’s forefathers. Even the various legends in Egypt contain references to Dasharatha, the father of Rama, and thus even five thousand kilometres away, Ramayana had an influence.

The traces of Vedic age can be seen even today. Iranians have the culture of reverence to fire, an essential sacrificial tool in Vedic process. Armenia has an ancient structure, called the ‘temple of the little blue boy’-referring to Krishna. A French historian even claimed that the original Armenians were worshippers of Radha and Krishna.

This is explained in the Vedic scriptures: Parashuram was a great warrior who destroyed warrior class many times. As a result many kings ran to faraway lands and settled there. Over a period of time, due to the far distance from the main land of India, the culture of Rama and Krishna worship deteriorated.

Nearer home, in the South East Asian regions, Ramayana’s influence can be seen even today. Thailand’s national epic is called ‘Ramakien’– glory of Rama. Until the late 18th century, the capital of Thailand was Ayutthaya, derived from Ayodhya- the capital of Lord Rama. Most of the kings of Thailand are called as Rama-I or Rama-II and so on.

When Lord Rama shot an arrow at demon Maricha and disposed him off to the middle of an ocean, he settled in an island there. That place was called Mauricha or later evolved as Mauritius.

These instances prove that story of Ramayana is not simply a story that belongs to India; this is one of the most powerful stories in the history of the world.

Just as Bible has played a pivotal role in shaping the history of the Western world- you can read novels, appreciate art and history, and you will find some Biblical references there- similarly Ramayana has shaped all of Asian civilization. China, Japan and Korea have their own version of Ramayana story telling. Indonesia- the world’s largest Muslim country- even today has a popular puppet show on Ramayana.

Japan created an animated Ramayana made for the Japanese market by the Japanese; they too love to narrate the Ramayana. Over three hundred different versions- from South Indian to Urdu- Ramayana has captured the imagination of the people all over Asia for millennia.

In recent times, lands outside of Asia-like Africa and Europe- have revealed Ramayana’s influence. The Warner bros in US made a movie, ‘A little Princess’; the heart of the movie is the rendition of Ramayana by a young girl Sara.

The Ramayana story thus has a universal appeal. And that’s because it has all the ingredients of a good story: there is a hero, the princess, the damsel in distress. Adventure, romance, action, it’s all there. Yet, there is something more in Ramayana. It is the ‘adi-kavya’– the first poem. And the poetic masterpiece of Ramayana is known to humans for thousands of years.

Unfortunately modern scholars declare Ramayana to be a fiction; in most book stores, Ramayana is classified as ‘mythology’. However we need to remember that Ramayana is not a fairy tale born out of the fertile brains of some creative writers. Ramayana is a product of divine inspiration, revealed in the heart of a devotee by the Lord himself.

Even when Lord Krishna was personally present on this planet-5000 years ago- Ramayana was well known. That’s the reason the speaker of Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Sukadeva Goswami devotes only two chapters to the Ramayana. The epic was sung in the courts of kings even those days.

*Article written by Vraja Bihari Das*

Jai Rastafari! Jah Krishnafari!!

Jai RamaChrista! Jah RastaKrishna!!

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you got lots of VALUE from this post! Questions or Comments always welcome!! Thank you!

~Sakshi Zion

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This Is The One! King of Kings Haile Selassie I

This is the One!

    It was in 1892 in the province of Harrar, Ethiopia that Lidj Tafari Makonnen, Haile Selassie was born to Ras Makonnen and Waizero Yeshemabet. This child was a direct descendent of the Biblical King Solomon of Jerusalems union with the legendary Queen of Sheba of the southern most region of the Ethiopian Highlands.

     A prolonged drought had parched the land making life very difficult for man and beast, and the populace prayed for rain as all their crops had died. Ras Makonnen and his wife Waizero Yeshemabet not only prayed for rain but prayed that this time the child she was about to deliver would live, as in the past all seven children had died prematurely.

     It was the 23rd July 1892 and the process of childbearing was in motion. Waizero was accompanied by a group of midwives to ensure that all necessary assistance was present. Prayers went up for her safe delivery, and the entire province of Harrar was in silent meditation. Meanwhile, Ras Makonnen waited on his verandah hoping and praying that it was a son and that this time he would live.

     The heavens above became darkened with clouds not seen in a long while, as the chant of the midwives break the utter quietness of the night. One of the midwives uttered May Mary be near her and may the child live (referring to the Mother of Christ). Soon, the midwives rushed outside where Ras Makonnen was waiting, A Son is born! while the villagers fired their rifles gleefully in the air.  Ras Makonnen rushed inside to behold his only begotten Son of the line of King David, while the midwife anointed the childs lips with butter and honey as was the custom.

     The torrential downpour continued with thunder and lightning and the whole of Ethiopia knew that something significant had happened. The prolonged drought had ended at the instant of the childs birth, and a bright light shone from the universe, described by scientists as one of the brightest comets. Surely this was synonymous to the star which appeared at Christ birth and was the fulfillment of Isaiah 9.6. The downpour however did not prevent the people from all parts of the province to make their way to Ras Makonnens house to pay respect to the only surviving child of the union of Ras Makonnen and Waizero Yeshemabet. This child was the future King of Ethiopia, The One that would lead them.

    Many tales began to circulate about Tafari’s boyhood, the most notable concerning his supposed ability to speak to animals. During his youth, it was claimed that he was seen on more than one occasion in the bush conversing with leopards and lions and the fierce jungle beasts becoming docile at his feet.

    Tafari was extraordinarily bright and advanced student at a young age. His knowledge concerning religious and mystical matters amazed his teachers. He could quote freely from the Book of Kufale, the Book of Enoch, Hermas the Shepherd, Judith, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, the Metsahfa Berhan (Book of Light), the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses, the Book of Eden (secretly deleted from Genesis during the Dark Ages), all thirty-one books of the Hebrew Bible, the twenty-one Canonical Books of the New Testament, plus numerous Apocryphal and pseudo-pictographic books. On one occasions a priest asked Tafari where he got his knowledge. Tafari’s reply was, he got much of it at the time of his baptism, conducted, according to tradition, on the fortieth day of his life. The Kes (priest) who presided at the ceremony had opened Tafari’s eyes with the first touch of Holy Chrism, then everything that ensued, was comprehensible to the infant, as if he was an adult. He remembered the priest pronouncing his surname and then his baptismal name, Haile Selassie I (meaning Power of the Trinity), and then he blew softly in his face to ward off evil spirits. This was the instant Tafari claimed he felt himself enveloped by a golden glow and as the priest began to anoint him, water touching his forehead, breast shoulders and all other thirty seven prescribed places, he felt his knowledge increase, filling him up like a vessel and endowing him with a great sense of clarity about creation and the final purpose of man.

    Lidj Tafari is said to have made it quite clear that he was well acquainted with the rare manuscripts of Abba Aragaive and other Coptic Monks, known as the Nine Saints, who entered Ethiopia in 480 AD and founded the first monasteries in Tigre province. He also revealed that he was acquainted with the occult applications of Urim and Thummim and the Mezuzah, as well as the use of the magic words Gematria and Notarilon in Egypt, necromancy and also the magical names Adonay, El, Elohe. He exhibited familiarity with the Cabalistic doctrines and the writings in Gilgamesh. The pagan rituals surrounding the worship of Isis, of the serpent Arwe and of the Abyssinian gods of Earth, (Meder), Sea (Beher) and War (Mahrem), as well as the Arcane of astrology and numerology, but most importantly, Tafari exhibited to the priest his understanding of the central messages in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Book of Two Ways. At one stage, an old Abmnet (or Abbot) allegedly asked to examine Tafari’s palm. He saw that there was stigmata there and that the lifeline backed up on itself in an emblem of infinity. Tafari whispered a word in the Abbot’s ear and all color drained from the old man’s face. He left the room apparently in shock, refusing to return or to speak to his colleagues. Tafari addressed a monk who had served in the Cathedral at Axum here the Ark of the Covenant is kept. Tafari described to him, in Cushite, the Kedusta Kedussan, The Holy of Holies or Inner Sanctum where the Tabot, the Ark is kept and recited various inscriptions written upon it. Close to fainting with shock at what Tafari had disclosed. The stories about Tafari’s childhood encounters with priests, his occult, wise mind and uncanny powers, spread like wildfire throughout Ethiopia.

    Then the day of Biblical Prophecy came on Nov 2, 1930, Ras Tafari was formally crowned His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Emperor of Ethiopia, 225th descendent of King David in the Solomonic Dynasty.  Representatives from 72 nations came and bowed in reverence to His Majesty. The ceremony was conducted by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and He was first vested with a gold sword along with the exhortation: May you be enabled with this sword to punish the wicked and protect the righteous.

    This was followed with the bestowal of the Imperial scepter of ivory and gold, and the golden orb (globe), a diamond incrusted ring, two traditional lances (spears), the imperial vestments, and finally, anointing His head with oil, the priest placed upon Him the Triple Crown. Some of the vestments like the robe and crown were believed to be King Solomons ancient kingly attire. The Archbishop concluded the anointing with the words: That God may make this crown a crown of sanctity and glory. That, by the grace and the blessings which we have given, you may have an unshaken faith and a pure heart, in order that you may inherit the crown eternal. So be it. Haile Selassie also had his wife Empress Menen coronated with him, a first in Ethiopian Royal History. The final part of the ceremony was a tour of the cathedral by their Imperial Majesties, escorted by the bishops and priests, the princes and dignitaries, assistance and others, carrying palm branches and chanting, Blessed be the King of Israel.

    During this era Selassie was an inspiration to the Ethiopians living on the Caribbean slave island colony of Jamaica. One of these was Marcus Mosiah Garvey who is regarded as a prophet by Jamaicas Afro-Ethiopian community. He told the people to look to Africa where a Black King shall be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He shall be the Redeemer. And so it was, that soon after this prediction Haile Selassie was crowned and the black people of Jamaica looked in their Bible, seeing the fulfillment of Revelation prophecy come true: The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of Judah, Black King of Davids Line has been crowned in Majesty and Glory. This is the One! This is the One that will save us!

    The movement of Rastafari was manifested. Oppressed black peoples had waited in hope for the One that would lead them. Haile Selassie was their King, and because He was King of the oldest Christian monarch in the world, and the only remaining African nation that had not been colonized by white people, He represented a dignity that all black people could be proud of. He had fought on the front lines with his people against the invaders of Italy led by Mussolini, protected the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church, built schools, highways, airports and in many ways led Ethiopia into the modern world. Ethiopia is without a doubt what it is today due to the contributions of Haile Selassie. For Rasta people, with Selassie I as King, they no longer had to accept the white Jesus, as portrayed in their slavery/bible school, but saw God with their own eyes, as Marcus Garvey taught. They saw themselves again as black kings and queens of a Royal and Holy Family with their Black King and Queen, God and Goddess, Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen as their Divine image and object of Love and Reverence. They Know! They know when He has the look! Yes! They can tell! Hallelujah!

HAILE SELASSIE I
JAH RAS TAFARI!

(Inspired by the African American Gospel song “This Is The One”)

Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you got lots of VALUE from this post! Questions or Comments always welcome!! Thank you!

~Sakshi Zion

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Serendipity Festival 2014 – Matisyahu, MC Yogi, The Tuff Tones and More

Last weekend my band The Tuff Tones were very honored to play for our second year at the Serendipity Festival in Cloverdale, Indiana.

We played with many great artists like Matisyahu, MC Yogi, Arjun Baba, GuruGanesha Band, Donavon Frankenreiter and many more musicians, artists, and awesome conscious people!

Hope you enjoy the video I made of the event! 🙂

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I hope you got lots of VALUE from this post! If you have questions or comments, please share your comments below! 

~Sakshi Zion

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Illuminati Congo – Still Got My Sinse – Official Video

You must definitely watch this new music video by Illuminati Congo “Still got my Sinse”. Illuminati Congo is a friend of mine and “my personal favorite” underground artist! Me and him have done a couple tracks together on a Krishna Conscious hiphop project called Age of Gaura and also Mix of the Mystics

I enjoy this new song a lot because he raps about how his girlfriend left him, and how the ganja, the sinse, is there to comfort him, to help blanket the pain possibly or to just give a broader perspective. I connect to this song because I lost my woman too. She is my daughter’s mother and she broke my heart. And there have been plenty of times where I’ve used the holy herb to comfort my heart and help me see beyond my present pains and see a greater perspective on the situation. Ganja doesn’t solve the problem but it definitely can be used as a tool towards transformation. Besides all that, the song is just really fun and dope! lol

Marijuana and Hemp are so beneficial to the planet and human beings in countless ways, stay tuned for another post about that. Ganja truly is the Healing Herb, and by the way, this video is really well done and cool too! Illuminati Congo is lookin smooth in his hat, the girl in video is hot and the special effects are neat too! And also check out my other posts about Illuminati Congo’s other song “Chalawa” and his educational video about “Sacred Smoking of Cannabis & the Tree of Life”. So, until next time, Fiyah Blaze & Enjoy!

ILLUMINATI CONGO – STILL GOT MY SINSE (Big Ganja Tune!)

Be sure to check his website & support Illuminati Congo
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I hope you got lots of VALUE from this post! If you have questions or comments, please share your comments below! Thanks for visiting my blog!

~Sakshi Zion

Ps. Get Access Now to my FREE Ebook! How I use Law of Attraction to Travel the World and Live my Dreams!