LARAAJI is a conduit for sacred sound.
A classically trained musician, LARAAJI has always had an interest in sound and music. His unique presentation of sound was born out of studies into eastern philosophies, his own personal meditation and yoga practice and musical experimentations.
Immersing himself in the New Age movement in 1970’s New York City, a notable turning point arose when LARAAJI bought a Zither from a local pawn shop and connected it to an amp. There was no turning back in the haunting celestial sounds that LARAAJI continues to conjure.
However, it was when busking in Washington Square Park, that his mesmerizing vibrations caught the ears of a certain Brian Eno who invited him to record. The subsequent album he produced, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance (1980), received rapturous praise as one of the decades finest ambient releases.
LARAAJI uses sound to communicate his experiences with consciousness and guide others to connect to higher levels of ‘awakeness’ or connectedness to themselves and humanity. He does this with humor and a lightness of being.
Working from the understanding we are multi-dimensional beings and that whatever we consume has an effect on our mind, body and psyche, LARAAJI has developed his laughter meditation technique to support the functioning of the endocrine system and lift our spirits.
Ahead of the UK leg of his Euro Play Zone Tour (London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol), we caught up with him to find out what makes him tick, how he sees the role of his music playing a broader function in society, and as a healing/meditative medium.
Do you see music as medicine? How?
LARAAJI: I see music as an environment providing thinking, feeling and imagination, an alternative space, container, within which to behave differently. In the case of music as medicine, such music allows for thinking, feeling and imagery to reconnect to a deeper sense of integration, union, oneness, connectedness, flow, lightness, openness, Inner harmony, positivity, celebration, appreciation... medicinal music may suggest the effortless flow of breathing, blood circulation, body movement, and organ functioning. I see the power of music is in its ability to suggest states of functioning; optimal functioning of body emotions, thought, imagination. Peaceful music suggests a calm stress free functioning model which the listener takes in via sympathetic vibration. This influences the listener on whatever level that he/she is receptive to.
Once a wheelchair bound women attended my celestial music concert in Florida. At the closing of the event, listeners offered to share their experiences of the music. This wheelchair woman shared that she could not walk but while I was channeling music, she was transported into a vision of her self-dancing. Several months later I met the same woman at a Unity Church in Florida, I didn't recognize her at first because she was walking towards me with a man at her side. She approached me and re-introduced herself as the woman who was in the wheelchair a few months ago at my concert, and that she now was walking and dancing and wanted me to meet her dance teacher. This was a rather startling confirmation of the medicinally suggestive power of music.
Possibly, all music is medicinal to someone. Connecting each one to a relatively lighter, freer, positive, enthusiasm. Promoting celebration and release from heaviness, anxiety and the mundane. Music as medicine lifts the spirit above the seeming limitations and distractions of one's mundane location and circumstances.
What is your definition of meditation and how do you feel music can help connect us to that space?
LARAAJI: My definition of meditation is non-verbal. Yet words that help to honour meditation are timeless awareness, being present as infinite nowness, suspension of relativity perception, and dwelling in absolute present time beyond duality. Letting this frequency of conscious awareness serve as the foundation of my identity and personal expression. The right music can guide the emotional body, the breathing, the imagination into meditation and deeper states of relaxation. Music with drone element, music with concophony, music with sensitive prana breath modeling, as well as music that transports one to altered present time perception, can support entering into meditation and timeless awareness.
Nothing takes the edge off like meditation. Music can suggest Savasana or Samadhi and in doing so can generate a listening environment for effortless natural meditation.
What inspires you?
LARAAJI: What inspires me is the eternal cosmic feeling that comes through me during meditative practices.
Also what inspires me is walking softly in parks and in nature near trees, or near a body of water. I am richly inspired when collaborating with innovative artists and producers. Performing live inspires me, exploring new open tunings on the Electric Zither inspires me a lot. THE SUN is one of my biggest inspirations. In fact it inspires my name LARAAJI. Raa:Sun God Dancing freestyle inspires me. Zydeco-Cajun dance music inspires me.
Laughing with playful people, shopping for orange things and new musical ideas that can serve my work.
And what makes you laugh?
LARAAJI: What makes me laugh? My LAUGHTER MEDITATION WORKSHOPS makes me laugh a whole lot. This is where I get to hang out in the play zone with lovely beings across the planet who are ready to explore the healing benefits of their heavy laughter. Funny people with hilarious material make me laugh: GEORGE CARLIN, RUSSEL PETERS, WANDA SYKES. Also I find myself laughing at and with the more recent US television commercials. I can also project myself into laughter release by thinking of my own wild laughter or by practicing my own laughter workshop exercises.
Have you experimented much with sanskrit mantras? What effect did you feel that their vibration had on you, emotionally, physically?
LARAAJI: I have experimented with Sanskrit mantras for over 30 years. Of them all, the simple AUM or OM has been my favorite. Om relaxes my nervous system, my breathing pace and rescues my awareness from mundane moods. OM reconnects my awareness to inner Cosmic sound pulsation, the Ocean of NADAM. However, the most TRANSPORTIVE and affirming mantra for me has been my own mantra, which is spontaneous and cannot be repeated. It keeps me open to deep wisdom and flow. My mantra guides me into creative improvisation. It also keeps my breath flow open for performance vocal work.
How do you see your work affecting people, what is your vision for the impact of your music on people?
LARAAJI: I see my work, both in music and in laughter, affecting people's social behavior, inviting a warmer, inclusive composure. Also on a deep consciousness level, my work offers people relief from subconscious stress patterns, as well as opportunities for dropping into meditative relaxation. I also see my work helping creative artists reconnect to their bigger visions. My vision for the impact of my music on people is that of reaffirming a common cosmic family, capable of bliss and peaceful co-evolution.
How do you see the role of music in society and in what way do you think it could be used to promote more awareness of ourselves and our connection to nature?
LARAAJI: I see the role of music in society as a harmonizer, as a forgiver, as a guide to deep introspection, as a background for radiant social networking, and as an instrument for communicating transcendental vision. Music brings out the inner sunshine and supports blissful reflection upon nature.
Do you see your work as your spiritual practice?
LARAAJI: I definitely see my work as spirit self practice in creative action. My work is in engaging spirit field here where I am, integrating spirit and channeling spirit consciousness into and as creative being, as creative service. This practice keeps me in my Bliss.
Nature or city dweller? Where do you feel most at home?
LARAAJI: I feel the most at home anywhere where I am surrendering into my meditation. Sometimes while sitting in Near Lotus yoga posture in performance or while recording new music, or channeling my cosmic friend Doctor Love. I also feel very at home on the creative movement dance floor, where my center is continuously moving. The city is where I call physical home, Harlem, NEW YORK CITY, but I go upstate frequently for a balance of soft country and flowing nature.
Does creating music lead you towards silence or does being in silence lead you into creating new sounds?
LARAAJI: Creating new music leads to awe-inspiring moments, to a silence of great respect and bottomless joy. Being in contemplative silence leads to my opening into fresh new sound channeling both in recording and live performance.
Finally, can you tell us a bit more about the Play Zone tour that you're bring to Europe/UK?
LARAAJI: The Play Zone tour for me is an exciting opportunity to interact and to co-channel with Sun Araw - a team of musicians from LA/California whose sound style will be a new exercise for my collaboration skills. I suspect there will be funtastic electronic surprises and awesome transport to unfamiliar landscapes. Alongside this musical COLLAB, I will be offering quite a few actual Laughter Meditation Workshops. Cameron will be doing his DJ Work at special venues. I am expecting to have some serious fun. From Barcelona to Bristol… This three and a half week tour is tightly booked, I am preparing to pace myself lovingly.
5 compositions / songs that make you smile are…
HAPPY FEET SONG / LARAAJI
YOUNG AT HEART / FRANK SINATRA
IT'S A BEAUTIFUL WORLD / LOUIS ARMSTRONG
LARK ASCENDING / VAUGHN WILLIAMS
LAUGHING IN TONGUES / LARAAJI
LARAAJI is in the UK from the 4th to the 8th June with the Play Zone tour. He’s also promoting his recent vinyl and CD releases ‘Celestial Music: The Two Sides Of Laraaji: Essence/Universe on All Saints Records and Warp Records along with some exciting new LARAAJI remixes.
See below for UK tour dates and ticket info.
Words: Dory Walker / yogakutir
Credits - Main Image & 3: Liam Ricketts
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