Hip, Hop, Harp
JULY 2007, KRIPALU CENTER FOR YOGA & HEALTH, Lenox, MA
I was sitting in the back left corner where they stored the blankets and backjacks. Its the spiritual-gua in ‘feng-shui-speak’, of the Main Chapel and I was self-soothing with my harp, Angelina. It was a safe spot where I knew I could recover from the day’s stress. I had gotten reamed out by a 6’2” incredibly handsome Native American Indian chief for playing with his eagle feathers. Who knew?! “Don’t touch!” he screamed at me just after I had picked up a heavily decorated bundle of them. My hands just can’t resist touching sometimes.
Just being in this space was soothing, but being here at Kripalu with “Angelina” was really special. I’d had many different experiences with her here, and I can certainly attest to the commonly held belief that harps are magical. To be at Kripalu with my harp is a union of magic & spirit that keeps me coming back to this place, still.
The chapel was being set up for the weekend finale and all was a buzz with joyful, anticipatory energy. Volunteers were setting up back jacks, audio people were untangling wires, musicians were tuning, someone was playing with the lights, and I was just plum excited to be a part of it all. I had been part of the geek squad doing A/V for years. I longed to be part of the musicians group. Later that day, over 400 people would crowd into this sacred space together for the highlighted concert featuring spiritual music from many different world traditions. And of course that would include the bhakti yogi community which includes the chanters, musicians, dancers, and various others. Not everyone who practices yoga practices asana.
I was one of the unpaid volunteers that happily did whatever was asked of me and thus I was assigned to the group of pow wow drummers which is how I came to be with the Indian Chief. It was my responsibility to attend their workshop and satisfy their needs as a representative of Kripalu.
Well, I learned that one does not touch an Indian Chief’s Eagle feathers. It really upsets them.
So, I’m on the floor strumming my strings and soothing my rattled ego, when a tall, thin, young, African-American man came up to me and introduced himself as Akim Funk Buddah. He was in the chapel doing a sound check for his performance later that day. All the other performers were using live music with live musicians. He, on the other hand, was using only recorded music but wanted to include some live music too, but how? It was literally the ‘11th hour’ and he only had himself, it was much too late to call in any of his musician friends.
“Hey! Would you play your harp during my performance? ” he asked. I had no idea what his performance was, I’d never heard of him before, but, I thought, ” I’ve loved everything that I’ve heard here at Kripalu so how bad could it be?”. Of course, all the ‘I’m not good enough’ thoughts crowded into my mind too. Those thoughts were really, really loud! But, I reminded myself, again, ” I’m at Kripalu and nothing here can harm me and I’ve been sitting in the spiritual corner? It’ll be ok.” Faith & I were friends at Kripalu.
So, I leaped at the opportunity! Have harp, will share…..you know? I explained that I wasn’t exactly a pro but I would do what I could. He only had 10 minutes to rehearse with me, and that was it. Up until that point every performer and workshop leader had offered music that induced a spiritual trance state. There were sitars, harmoniums, drums, gongs, bowls, and shakers of every kind. So when Akim put on his recorded music, which I hadn’t heard before I impulsively agreed to play, and performed his ‘act’, I went into a complete panic! Yipes! It was Rap to some electronic beat rhythm! “That’s not music,” my judging mind shouted at me. I revolted and rebelled and reminded myself of how much I resist that genre of music.
So, how do I play the harp with this? Not a clue. My higher self said “just play, do your dharma, let go of outcome, dedicate it to the well-being of all, see what happens.” But still, there was no melody to get in tune with, nor were there chord progressions, or harmonies, or opportunities for arpeggios to embellish and add to his performance. Harp & Rap?
And later I heard from many how absolutely mesmerizing it was to hear/feel those harpstrings weave in and out and all around the heavy electronic beat of this rappers rap. No one had ever heard anything like it.
Nor will they again, because some things only happen once which is why it’s so important to experience the present moment, all the time.
Someone took my picture during that performance. Photo’s & recording devices were not allowed in the main chapel back then and I personally prefer it that way, but, I am so grateful to have this photo to remind me that yoga means union, and there’s only one musician here.
©All rights reserved. Ida Cullen, 2016