Dance clubbers all over the globe may soon be grooving to timeless jewels of wisdom spoken by Ram Dass, blended with cool electronic beats of Australian DJ Kriece. The just-released "Cosmix" CD features atmospheric dance tracks like "Mantra," "Stuck" and "Spacesuit For Earth," along with a video excerpt from Ram Dass' last recorded conversation with friend and consciousness explorer Timothy Leary.
"Kriece wrote that he was interested in putting my words to sounds," Ram Dass says of the unusual collaboration.
Beaming, relaxed at his Maui home, the cultural icon goes on to point out that as a former cellist and classical music lover, modern chilled dance music ain't exactly his cup of tea.
* The “Moment of the Heart” retreat at The Studio Maui runs Friday through Sunday. Lei’ohu Ryder and the Ohana Band perform on Friday evening. The retreat includes yoga with Marc St. Pierre and kirtan with Ty Burhoe. A one-day pass for Friday or Sunday costs $40, or $60 for Saturday. A three-day pass costs $108. Evening events are priced at $25.
"But they say they will love it," he continues, punctuating this statement with a hearty laugh.
Appreciating the trippy CD as a contemporary vehicle to disseminate spiritual messages, Ram Dass adds, laughing, "Cello music wouldn't do it. I think it's great."
We're sitting in Haiku with respected Hawaiian musician/teacher Lei'ohu Ryder, who will collaborate with him at "Moment of the Heart," a weekend retreat at The Studio Maui.
"Here's a soul who has dedicated his life to the planet in service," Lei'ohu says. "Aloha brings us together and a desire to allow the heart to flower. We balance each other and have fun. The weekend is an invitation to come play with us, to sing and dance, and be present."
Empowered with ancestral wisdom and blessed with a beautiful voice, Lei'ohu's recordings include "Kukuipuka," "Lady of the Mountain" and "E Ho'i Mai Ke Aloha Hou."
She has contributed chants, music and narration to the award-winning documentary "Red Turtle Rising," and was featured in the Nature Conservancy's documentary "Let Earth Live." She was also filmed for the multicultural, global fusion sequel to the brilliant "One Giant Leap" CD/DVD project, that has yet to be released.
Making Maui his home, with Aunty Mahalani Poepoe and Lei'ohu as guides, Ram Dass has come to deeply respect Hawaiian wisdom.
"Through Aunty Mahalani I got the spiritual elder traditions of Hawaii," he notes. "I love to go to the spiritual roots of a place."
A former Harvard psychologist and devotee of Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, Ram Dass has penned such influential guides as the classic "Be Here Now," "The Only Dance There Is," "Grist For The Mill" and "Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying." He suffered a massive stroke in 1997, while working on that book.
A life-long pioneer of inner space, exploring the frontiers of consciousness, Ram Dass has in recent years become a symbol of how we can best embrace inevitable aging and dying as gracefully as possible. In "Still Here" he describes himself as an "advance scout for the experiences of aging."
"I've been part of a movement called consciousness aging, and not what the AARP shows in their magazine," he says. "I'm modeling old age. Just before I came to Maui, I visited Benares where Hindus go to die. In looking in the eyes of people dying, they seemed satisfied, they were content because they were in the right place at the right time. I said I would like to have that. I'm getting it. It takes time. I've just got to stop and place my roots and feel the ground and feel my dying. I've taken a vow to not get on an airplane and that will keep me on this island. I want to fix my roots here."
Since the release of its seminal debut album, "Handsworth Revolution," Steel Pulse has railed against racism, colonialism, social injustice and environmental destruction on classic songs such as "Earth Crises, " "Ku Klux Klan," "Tribute To The Martyrs," "Ravers" and "Bodyguard," and most recently with "No More Weapons" and "Global Warning" from its Grammy-nominated CD "African Holocaust."
One of the world's most popular reggae bands, Steel Pulse initially honed its infectious roots sound before wild crowds of punks in its British homeland. Formed in 1975 in the industrial hub of Birmingham, Steel Pulse's militant music brought the group to the forefront of Britain's Rock against Racism movement, opening for bands like the Clash, the Police, and the Stranglers.
The musicians of Steel Pulse felt a kinship with some of these rock bands because they were exploring similar issues. Rather than singing about traditional Rasta issues, they turned the spotlight on problems in the U.K.
"The influence rubbed off when it came to subject matters," recalls Steel Pulse co-founder David Hinds. "A general reggae subject matter is usually 'Jah Rastafari,' or 'let's chant down Babylon,' and if it was a love song, 'baby, I love you,' in so many different ways. And the Police were writing songs like 'Message in a Bottle.' They were very interesting lyrics."
Steel Pulse built a reputation for mesmerizing live performances attracting audiences with its infectious music and theatricality - wearing outrageous costumes such as Klu Klux Klan robes and hoods.
"When we first came to America we just wore the Klan hoods," Hinds continues. "It was quite controversial."
The first reggae band to play at a presidential inauguration (for Bill, not George), the first British reggae band invited to play Jamaica's Sunsplash festival and the only British reggae band to win a Grammy (for "Babylon the Bandit" in 1986), Steel Pulse has forged a potent, upbeat sound that has brought them international recognition. Over the years they have always managed to craft stirring music that engages both the mind and the feet, protest songs that you can dance to.
Inspiring crowds for more than 30 years Hinds concludes: "It's a long time, but it also feels like yesterday, because we've been reinventing ourselves and exposed to different things as the years go by. We've still got places to go, and the music is still very underestimated and underrated in the industry."
Steel Pulse performs on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 day of show. Advance tickets available at the MACC box office, Premiere Video & Music in Kihei, Old Lahaina Book Emporium and Request Music in Wailuku.
Opening and closing with songs from her latest CD, "Camp Lisa," Lisa Loeb performed to an appreciative crowd last Saturday in Castle Theater in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Mixing hits with fun sing-a-long kids songs, she was aided by Gail Swanson and Pat Simmons and Hapa's Barry Flanagan who raced over from his "Kaanapali Nights" gig at the Royal Lahaina Resort.
Barry and Eric Gilliom's Saturday show has been extended through the end of the year, on a bi-monthly basis. Recent special guests enjoying the duo have included Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx and Mick Fleetwood Band guitarist Rick Vitto who sat in.
Californian rockers Unwritten Law play the Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday. The band will release its first live album and DVD, "Live & Lawless," in September. With nearly 2 million albums sold, Unwritten Law has scored five Top 20 singles, including "Seein' Red" and "Save Me (Wake Up Call)."
* Contact Jon Woodhouse at email@example.com.