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I’ve been telling myself this for a while now, and I’ve started to say it out loud. In terms that sound like what a visual artist might use, I have to say this is my post-kirtan period. In the past, I’ve called my music Bohemian-Glam, and more recently, Mantra-Pop. I guess in a way all those terms remain part of what I do since all that I’ve done will inform what comes next. There’s something that also appeals to me about the manufactured nature of any terms to describe music; they can point to a combination of sound and concept, at best, but you really get to make it up. Maybe I’ll declare “Post-Kirtan” a sound all its own.
This acknowledgment is showing up at a time that in my personal life I am actually coming back to yoga and chant music after a time of separation from most everything to do with it. Staying away was necessary for some shifting relationship self-preservation for a while, but I am glad to reclaim those practices that work for me now, in earnest. I am humbled to hear from so many people about how the work I’ve done with kirtan has had a positive effect. I won’t forget that. I am listening to mantra as I write this.
What I’ve known for a while, though, is that what feels like the peak time in my life to focus on chant, at least in terms of performance and recording, has passed. I have slowly been getting comfortable with this, and talked about it somewhat on the Positive Energy TV show in the summer. That doesn’t mean I won’t facilitate kirtan and other contemplative practices in public spaces at times. In fact, I just booked a concert and kirtan event for April 16th in Plainsboro. It doesn’t mean I won’t record kirtan if it arises again, or sing with the Kosmic Kirtan Posse, if asked. What it does mean is that I’m acknowledging how much I’ve missed being the full-on singer/songwriter, how necessary that path is for me, and it’s the path I set myself back on now. This is the path where the healing and power seem to occur most naturally for me.
It has been mildly traumatic finding the confidence to write again in the way I know I can, and focusing back on club gigs and beyond feels daunting. How did I lose that trail for so long? At least I have some sense of what’s worked before, what definitely didn’t, and some ideas about where I’d like to go. It’s time to ring in the new!
This Friday, I’m doing a two-set café show with Jessica Floresta on vocals and viola. It is a small gig in a very familiar place. I will be very happy to perform there, and I hope you’ll join us if you can. Each bit I do to prepare for it feels like a little triumph; a lessening of the distance between myself and where I need to be.
Come see us Friday, December 4th at grooveground, 647 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, NJ, 8pm.
I am planning my eclectic summer – feeling like it’s going to be a good one. Bhakti Dance! is on Saturday –It is one of the events I look most forward to these days. Dancing, in general, continues to save my life. My new partner is completely immersed in salsa and African dance – Maybe this New Wave chick will be learning some new moves.
Earlier this season, I was getting traveler’s blues in such an intense way. I didn’t have any major plans for a tour but I was seriously missing being on the road and started dreaming of taking a summer or fall cross-country drive. I was especially missing my friend Carol in Kansas City, and lo & behold, she wrote to see if I am coming out that way this year. No official plans yet, but with another call in for a potential show in Corvallis, OR (I won’t jinx it by saying more), I can start to envision something exciting coming together for this year.
Some of the usual fun stuff is on the horizon, with treks to Ohio for kirtan and DEVOlved bluegrass with the Mutant Mountain Boys. Before then, I’ll be happy to be part of the Hub City Music Festival again. Val at Rainbows of Healing has set up some more kirtan in the venues she works with in PA, and I feel good about keeping Bhakti Dance! going as a regular thing. Looks like I may head up to MA as well – Where is my teleportation device?
I still don’t know if this year will look like a tour or a bunch of excursions, but it is sure looking like I’ll be back in motion before too long. Want to help me in my travels? If you have or know of a venue, concert series, or alternative space that will host a concert, kirtan, or other event for this summer, the rest of 2014 and beyond, please do let me know ASAP: firstname.lastname@example.org. The schedule will be growing, and I’d love to add your city to it.
Saturday, March 15th 7-9pm 1/$15, 2/$20
10 N. Main Street, 3rd Fl.
Yardley, PA 19067
For more info: http://rainbowsofhealing.com/bhakti-dance/, About YogaLove: www.LiveYogaLoveLife.com
Come out on a Saturday night for a little bit of chanting and a whole lot of free form movement. Bhakti Dance! is a fun, transformative, alternative social event – Think of the high school dance only with great kirtan, mantra dance music, an uplifting party playlist, and none of the drama! Snacks and drinks will be available for purchase.
Friday, March 28th 7-8:30pm $10 suggested donation
10 N. Main Street, 3rd Fl.
Yardley, PA 19067
For more info: http://rainbowsofhealing.com/kirtan-with-robin-renee/, About YogaLove: www.LiveYogaLoveLife.com
Wednesday, April 9th 6:30pm
Hub City Music Festival
7 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
w/ Sounds of Greg D, Adam Bernstein, and Barbecue Bob
benefits Elijah’s Promise
Sunday, April 27th 4:30-5:30pm
The Peace Center
102 West Maple Ave, Langhorne, PA 19047
17X-Day @ Wisteria Campground
w/ The Mutant Mountain Boys!
*performance date/time and more info TBA
Saturday, August 16th
w/ The Mutant Mountain Boys!
15711 Waterloo, Cleveland, OH 44110
*more info TBA
Saturday night was the second Bhakti Dance! at YogaLove in Yardley, PA. I am so glad the Bhakti Dance! idea came into focus at the end of 2013. Here is the way I’ve been describing it:
Come out on a Saturday night for a little bit of chanting and a whole lot of freeform movement. Bhakti Dance! is a fun, transformative, alternative social event – Think of the high school dance only with great kirtan, mantra dance music, an uplifting party playlist, and none of the drama.
We started out with about half an hour of chanting. I felt as though we sang just enough to become present in the room and in the event we were creating together. Then came the lights and the time to move. Transforming a yoga studio into a dance club is so satisfying and joyful! It is a good thing to have happened upon a truly natural expression of the connection I find between music and spirit. In the past I’ve had trouble creating the right balance in chant/performance spaces to reflect this. I’ve had trouble saying it in words. In the midst of dance, there is no need for words.
Val from Rainbows of Healing has been liaison for the event with the YogaLove space and has helped so much with her overall enthusiasm to make cool things happen. I love the look on her face when she hears the first notes of a back-in-the-day song and dives into the dance. Julio and Jana drove from NYC to join us, and were a total trip with their in-step dance moves and exuberance. Jane brought bindis and made everyone extra sparkly. Whenever I felt the urge to redirect the energy, thinking that people weren’t “getting it” or were heading toward boredom, I looked again and noticed they were dancing in their individual moments. I saw people keeping to themselves a good deal of the time and realized it as an indicator of deepening into the experience. There was also plenty of interaction – smiling, spontaneous rumba, clapping, random happy shouting. I’d planned to resolve the evening with “Shivo Ham,” but singing the Om Shanti together on “Holy River” turned out to be just right instead.
Creating Bhakti Dance! is feeling so amazingly good and it gives me encouragement to keep moving toward the singer/songwriter/rock performance meets chant meets dance party blowout creations I’ve been envisioning for a long time. My 2013 New Year’s resolution was “more dancing and more glitter.” It may sound silly and playful, and it is those things. It also turns out to have been more moving an intention than I could have guessed. I’ll keep it around this year. More song and dance and glitter all around!
A few tunes from Bhakti Dance! 1/18/14:
It’s time to see about taking Bhakti Dance! on the road. If you’d like to schedule one, get in touch at email@example.com.
Well, if you’ve ever had the urge to quote me on any number of topics, this is your week to gather material. Today’s stop on the Robin Renée Blog Tour is an interview by award-winning author Fran Metzman, whose book, The Hungry Heart Stories, I mused about here. She got me to think a lot about the step-by-step process that happens in the act of writing as well as kirtan’s effect on my singer/songwriter pop music and vice versa.
Read all about it and post your comment here: Fran Metzman Interviews Robin Renée
Tomorrow, the next stop is at Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.
Today’s blog tour stop brings me to Patti O’Brien’s blog, A Broad Abroad. I have enjoyed following her travels from time to time, so I’m honored she’d take a moment to write a bit about me, highlighting some of the places I’ve journeyed.
You can catch up with Patti’s discovery of Mantra-Pop, my upcoming trip to Canada (Finally!), and more here:
Tomorrow’s stop: A guest blog by Fran Metzman. You can check it out here.
I really love today’s stop on the Robin Renée Blog Tour. My friend Glenn Walker has had This. on his iPod for a few months now, and it is clear he’s really been listening. Coming from a perspective of someone with no background in kirtan, yoga, or concepts from those traditions, he took in the sounds, did a little research, offered his impressions of each song in turn, and gave me the chance to respond. It was a great experience to hear what he had to say and to get a unique real-life glimpse into another person’s encounters, questions, and growing fondness for the music. It was just as cool to take some time to respond to Glenn’s questions and impressions. Even though it was a challenge to explain what, for the most part, lies beyond direct explanation, I still managed to find plenty to say.
Read Glenn’s great blog entry here: This. Song by Song.
Remember to check out tomorrow’s travel-themed blog tour stop @ Patti O’Brien’s blog, A Broad Abroad.
Getting the word out on the new chant CD, This., has so far been a gradual, but purposeful process. The official press release is finally here. I have been sending some info out myself as well as finding more efficient, mental health-conducive ways to let people know there’s new music about. The business of music had me down when I last wrote here. Now I find a great deal of optimism in new approaches, and so today you (and I) have a happier me. It’s a buzzword, but true – I feel incredibly empowered to make different and better decisions, having decided to dispense with the status quo.
I listened to “Keshava,” the first song on This., today, and it made me smile. It is one of my favorite kirtans to share live. Having not been on the road much at all in recent months, I am looking forward to singing this with others for the first time in a while tomorrow evening near the Jersey shore. Another of my favorites on This. is “Blessed Be, Namaste.” It is one of those songs where the lyrics seemed to show up fairly miraculously at the right time and in the right order. Bridging and blending spiritual traditions is important to me, and this one does that. It feels good to enjoy the music again, after a bit of time away from hearing these recordings.
One common frustration I’ve heard other musicians talk about is the need to perform and publicize the current project while the creative impulse has already moved onto the next. I have been taking an easeful approach to the new songs. They are in there, but not yet clamoring desperately. Interesting phrases and definitely some wild dreams have been showing up. I’ll court the REM stage influence for a while longer and find instrumentation I’ll love. Today it felt comforting – not at all a frustration – to immerse myself again in the sounds of This. and embark on finding more ears to hear it and souls to sing along.
It’s actually happening. The finishing touches are finally being put on the new chant recording. A very brief post about it yesterday caused a little ripple on Facebook; in a way it served as a first bit of encouragement from outside the project. While working on This., I felt much more in a vacuum than during other recordings; I am not being coy to say the response was an honest wake-up moment about the coming of interaction with others again around the music. Soon I’ll be touring my way down to Florida and back. I’ll be inviting more people than I ever have to take part in helping the music to be heard. Possibly the most exciting and daunting part for me is that I’ll be working on the second half of the follow-up project, .. and everything else.
Back when I became completely immersed in kirtan, I spent almost a year listening to nothing else. Life was a constant meditation on the drone of harmonium or tampura. I absorbed mantras and melodies and the stories of Hindu deities at such a rate that when people asked me where I learned this or that, I truly had no idea. During that time I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another song. It only seemed relevant to talk about the totality of things. Life stuff was happening, but Om was the only relevant response.
Somewhere it became clearer to me that my path continued to be one of staying engaged in the day-to-day and writing down the stories. But by then I’d been through a kind of vortex that made it a strange exercise. I was frustrated over this for a while, but now I am giving myself a break over the times I wasn’t writing. Yes, some of that time away has probably been about avoiding pain or focusing on the minutiae rather than any larger project at hand. I suspect most of us do those things. But even more than that, I’ve been in a relearning pattern. Life feels a little different having been through this particular spiritual vein, and I am ultimately grateful for the shift. While grasping onto stories is still not as easy, they do feel rich and relevant. Lately, I’ve been in a primordial soup of happenings:
My home ashram has been steadily coming into fruition; there was an intense weekend with visiting Tantra teachers (Ran Baron and Monique Darling, with Edie Weinstein on Cuddle Party duties) and more and different events are in the works. Friends have been around sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the space. Some old friends seem to have left my life unequivocally, while others remain stuck in uncomfortable balance or misunderstanding. Other old friends have been reappearing in wild, wonderful, wacky, sexy ways. There are stories to fill a volume or two in these changes alone. I’m startled at how physical I want daily life to be these days – I can groove on hours of yard work with pruning, hauling branches, mowing, then swimming or running or tennis or hiking – it’s nearly all I really want to do. That is, if it weren’t for booking the upcoming tour, hopefully through D.C., Raleigh, Asheville, Atlanta, Miami, and back again. Meanwhile I have kept an eye out to see if there’s any way in the universe I can get to the UK for Robin Gibb’s memorial service, and I have met online friends who get why this continues to mean so much to me. I was sad to learn that I will be in FL on the day of a plaque dedication, but there may be another time to gather. I’ve been true to my promise to self to not let summer fun pass me by. Rocking out (well, blue grassing out, anyway) with The Mutant Mountain Boys in oppressively hot Southern Ohio on the 4th of July was a blast, as was rediscovering my love for the strangely wise absurdity of the Church of the SubGenius. I have had some joyful days at Gunnison Beach and a good peaceful time at this year’s Northeast Naturist Festival. Oh, and my friend LauraLynn Jansen and I are planning to co-lead a chant and yoga retreat in Nicaragua, January 2013.
At first, I thought it was ironic that the chant CD is on its way as I feel itchy for a full band, wanting so much to step back into the role of rocker chick. Really, it’s just typical artist stuff, I think. Project done and my being is moving onto the next, to be painted in singer/songwriter/rock sounds and maybe some spoken word. I do ultimately trust that when it’s time to be in the midst of any of these expressions, I’ll show up and be present. I hope This… and everything else together will tell more of the story as an exploration of life – or at least as extrapolated from this particular life – in something close to 360o.
Well, look at the time… It has been ridiculously long since I’ve written here. I’ve written a few poems, done quite a bit of ghostwriting work, finished most of the forthcoming kirtan recording, and I still have fantasies that tease of a novel. For a lot of the time I’ve been absent from this blog, I’ve been thoroughly sick of my own navel-gazing. I never could quite bring myself to share it with everybody else. The CliffsNotes will be much better, trust me.
Since I’ve written here, I’ve tried hard to think of myself as a semi-retired musician. Many months of a seemingly lost ability to tell a story that matters, an economy that ceased to even kinda-sorta support traveling singer-songwriters (at least this one), and a couple gigs in a row too absurd to mention were all contributors to this shift. I asked myself if I am neither making ends meet nor having fun, why am I doing this? “Because it’s what I always do,” wasn’t a good enough answer. So, I set upon the exciting adventure of not doing what I always do.
I’ve discovered that I can’t retire from music. Sounds show up. Words show up. They will become something even when I resist. I decided I wouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time pursuing performance and traveling without focused assistance. It felt good to take off the bookings hat. I decided I would respond happily to requests while I re-imagine possibilities. Offers do arise while I work on other things. The forthcoming chant CD that I’ve been recording at glacial speed has come back into my heart. I feel the spirit that sings through those mantras and songs again. It will emerge of its own volition.
Casting off the have-to’s has led to more rediscoveries than new discoveries. I am dancing again. Not only at the Sex Dwarf dance party off of South Street, but as much as possible. The beach last summer. Latin Heat class at the gym. When I wake up and Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” is a leftover earworm from dreamland. I used to walk for miles everyday and it made me inherently happy. I have been taking a lot of that back from the suburban abyss.
I used to write for the absolute love of it. Age-old wisdom would indicate that making the thing you love your business will alter it, perhaps not for the better. More wisdom would indicate that if you do what you love for your living, you are truly blessed. I’d say both are correct.
There will be more music, more concerts, more creative surprises, and new approaches. There will be art for love and art that matters, at least to me. I have begun to write through the gunk and the fear to get to the center, the heart of things. I am reminded of Om Mani Padme Hum – the jewel in the lotus. No matter what whirlwinds I spin around it, there is that.
Eyes strain open above water
Lukewarm, then too warm to escape
This is the science
of my regularly scheduled life
the art of evolving
from surface tension
The memory of arms flailing
to seek the winter sunlight
and keep moving.
One afternoon on Facebook, Preetamdas Kirtana posted something like “F*!k tolerance! What if God practiced ‘tolerance?’ Practice love!” “That should be a T-shirt,” I commented. He said I ought to go for it – and so it is. => here Thanks, Preetamdas, for the inspiration. The Coexist movement is headed in the right direction. I hope this bit of in-your-face yoga inspires many more to approach life from a place of love.
Last week, I was at Jack and Jenn’s working on the preliminary recordings for the next chant CD. As the day to begin work drew closer, I felt as though I was cramming for kirtan. I had to solidify ideas that had been floating along for months. I needed to make decisions about instrumentation. I wanted to strongly suggest to divine inspiration that a visit would be more than welcome. “This is no way to approach bhakti,” I thought. These sounds should emerge whole from pure love, unabated. I was angry with myself for my process. All music should be effortless, right? I was angrier that I had been letting relationships and meekness and random distractions throw me off my game for too long. How long ago had the trail branched off? I realized that Virgo Obsesso, my inner critic, was at it again. I noticed that sometimes I manage to coexist with the process it takes to live and grow and create. Sometimes it feels farther off than that, and I barely tolerate my own mind’s changes. Life is a meditation. The point is to notice the straying, and return to center.
Recognizing that the shirt’s message must first be realized internally – spiritually – emotionally – was a revelation. Seeing this brought on an immediate shift. There is time to remember the breath and time to extend compassion to the inner struggle. Time to remember that music and art and awareness of spirit all show up where there is kindness to self. All of us woo-woo types talk about “You have to love yourself.” It was good to actually get it in that moment. I’m sure I’ll forget again and remind myself. Again. As with any practice, the hope is that the cycle becomes gentler as we move along the path.
I am now quietly excited about allowing the new sounds through. Seven new chants and spiritual songs are in the works. Recording felt easy, as if it was happening of its own accord. I love one song that I am so far calling “Blessed Be – Namaste.” It is exceedingly simple and is a blessing that seeks to make a bridge where the Pagan and Hindu traditions in me meet. The words and melody were sweet enough to show up the night before the recording session. I believe that often the best thing one can do for anything musical or poetic is to get out of its way.
Blessed Be and Namaste. May we be good to ourselves and practice love in our travels. May the reminders harm none and lead us back in those moments when love has been forgotten.