Free Press

Philosophical Implication and Thoughts post FPSF 2013

Is this good for the community? Or is art and music continuing to become devalued?

Memories of the lost ages me in bottom left holding up some hater cars by a strang...

I performed at the 1st Block Party by Free Press with my band back in the day called Million Year Dance.  There was about 40-50 people watching our set.  I performed for the paper’s 3 year anniversary party in the back of Brasil with about 50 people there.  I wouldn’t say I’m best friends with the crew, and in fact in recent years I see them less and less, and still I do feel a kinship and community with them.  I’m glad to have known them and have been a part of a swelling storm of Houston music scene.  They have come a long way from those days and I’m supremely happy for them and their success.

Me and Doyle Odom III and my tree branch crown, trying out my theatrics on new audiences in 2007

My band performed at the FPSF for the past 3 years.  I released by album “Open Book” at 2010 FPSF.  I lost my journals and was completely devastated for a whole year at the 2011 FPSF.  I was shocked and surprised by Free Press that they found my journals and they returned them to me the day before we performed at the 2012 FPSF, which made this a very special performance.  Needless to say that I have had many emotional and insane experiences at FPSF.  This year was totally different as I was finally just an audience member.  And still, with the history and all the emotions; I felt that maybe I was also a member of this growing Houston music scene.  After all I started playing music in Houston when Michael Haaga, Tom Bunch and John Lomax were all ranting about how there was good music in Houston and no scene to support it.  So do we have that now?  Does Houston have a music scene, what is that scene, and is there a since of community in it?  All this was brewing in my brain while wandering the grounds.  I also wanted to be truly open and release all those previous feelings to have a fresh start and truly enjoy the festival as someone that wants to like music, as someone that wants to feel happy about the music scene in Houston.  I did not want to go into it with complaints and criticism, just let it flow naturally… (this portion is only to set up the fact that I have been along for the whole journey this somehow gives me more of and educated approach to this blog, I’ve been there done that sort of thing.)

My journals so dear to me were lost for an entire year, from Summer Fest to Summer Fest. I'm so fortunate and happy to have them back

As I cruised through the festival grounds I over heard several conversations and even engaged in a few with friends and fellow Houston artists.  It was mixed opinions.  Some said, “This is just amazing, I’m so happy they have done this for Houston and the Houston music scene.”  Here! Here!  Others complained, “This is ridiculous, these people don’t know how to run a festival, what sell outs, where’s the local artist this year?”  Hmmm, completely different opinions, you can never really please everyone.  I just wanted to remain neutral and a mindful listener.  Both sides had merit in my opinion of opinions.  Also there is a much deeper process that should be understood, what are we really all here for?

I performed at Bonnaroo and at FPSF several times.  I’ve performed and attended all the famous Austin festivals.  I know what I’m getting into when I step foot inside the festival grounds.  I know that human beings go there with the intent to take as many drugs as possible and become completely obliterated to forget their worldly troubles and maybe even their own identity.  And as the day grew on and the madness began to swell I realized I was an outsider in what I thought was my own community.  I began to feel that I couldn’t relate to this mentality of festival goers whatsoever.

I had earplugs in the entire time, and that experience just mutes the entire volume of Elenor Tinsley Park by a few decibels.  I was sent into an acid flashback in-between bands while I waited for Alabama Shakes.  I could hear the entire hillside in one breath, like one chaotic voice.  It reminded me of walking in the cafeteria at Hutto Highschool while tripping on acid and you can hear everyone’s conversation and the banging and clanging of dishes and silverware like the endless dribble of a chaotic human river gushing by at full speeds.  The sound of this mindless chatter made me think, “what are they all talking about.  Am I self-righteous enough to say that all these conversations bouncing off each other have no weight and no real sense of humanity in it at all, just mindless chatter moving its way up into the Houston atmosphere so that there is a little bubble of chaos floating over the bayou city.

Trying my best to insert some positivity into the youth at the FPSF 2011. Also we are supporting and promoting a fine art and science of Yoga and Meditation. This is how to improve community and mend broken hearted artists and drug addicts.

Alabama Shakes began.  I felt relieved, some real music and real artists, not faking a thing, just being real and sharing with us their deepest emotions and experiences.  As I was enjoying the music I looked down at a fellow human sitting on the ground searching for something.  He looked in his pockets and patted his clothing.  He took out his wallet and opened it.  Sheets of acid and other pills spilled out of his wallet.  I could tell now that he had lost his money.  He reached in his pocket and pulled out what looked like a zippo lighter, when he opened it more bags of drugs spilled out of it.  All those drugs and no money.  He was laughing and seemed disoriented, obviously he was high on his own supply.  Again I was sent into deep thought.  I know this exists, it’s nothing new, it happens and will continue to happen.  But I went back to the original questions, is this good for the community?  And what kind of community does it support?  Or is this festival a dream of music lovers that look to capitalize in a market doing something they love to do?  All these questions are of great importance because all to often our modern day dreams and visions are pursued without any mindfulness at all, so these questions really need to be thought about and answered by everyone, from the concert promoters to the humans attending the festival.  How can you even enjoy yourself and the music if you are that intoxicated?  Further more, is the festival itself programming and promoting that being a mindless drug and sex fiend is the greatest thing in life?

I looked around at my fellow human beings and could see in their faces that they live for this experience, this is quite possibly the most enjoyment they have in their modern lives.  It’s their way to escape for a while.  Maybe they don’t live their daily lives like this, and ok anything in moderation.  But to what end and what effect does this culture have on music, art and further more fine art?

I only heard positive messages in the music from two bands from the whole time I was down there.  I didn’t see everything so if you did and want me to know about it please speak up.  Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes were the only two acts that used their music to say and promote something very positive and inspiring, something that binds hearts and community.  I was wandering past the 2nd main stage to the neptune stage.  The Mavericks were on stage–multiple players all playing real instruments.  (Now some opinions)  I didn’t really care for that style of music, but I was thrilled to see real players and real song writing.  Only where were the people, there was hardly anyone watching them.  A few steps later I arrived at the Neptune stage where all I could hear were the most absurd techno farting sounds I’ve ever heard from DJ Borgore.  On the screen was just an ass in slow motion booty poppin’, and friends let me tell you that his crowd was packed with kids all jumping and bending to the will of the DJ.  A friend of mine later referred to Borgore style of music as “Butt Wave,” I laughed out loud.  So this is the experience that young ones want?  I never felt like more of an outsider in my own music scene as I did at that moment.  It made me want to leave, and immediately go write a song and write this blog, simply to counter the carnal energy that was now unavoidably washed all over my being.  Maybe I’m too sensitive, maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe I’m too principled?  But to me this festival does not at all improve community, in fact to me it perpetuates corporate influence in art and not to mention the extreme waste of resources and land it creates.

Two promotions at once. Gunjen Mittal is showing the audience classical Indian Dance an ancient fine art form, and I am singing a song about meditation and understanding that we are all experiencing each others suffering as a unified spirit.

I was glad to see some recycling bins this year, that was a first, if they were there previous festivals there were not enough because I looked for them and could never find one.  It still didn’t really matter, I watch hipsters, frat boys and progressives guzzle beer and drinks and throw their trash on the ground DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE FUCKING RECYCLING BINS.  The clean up crew will not sort out the recycling from the trash once it hits the ground its all going in the trash.  Not to mention how much of it will actually enter the bayou, one of downtown’s only natural water resources.  What a waste, something I can’t support and will no longer be a part of.  Even if it means buying a ticket to go in with trash bags and clean up after all my little piggy fellow human beings.  To me the lack of mindfulness and actual care and concern for the community showed its ugly face.  If you do care for the community your efforts are misguided and actually damaging the community in many respects.

Sure, many local businesses made more money because of the festival, the city and all the affiliates of festival raked in the cash, and some would argue that this capital gain is good for the community, and will over all give the mentality to the Houston audience that Houston does indeed have a music scene.  And after careful and mindful analysis that is the only good that I can honestly recognize.

For a local band to play the festival it is damn near a waste of time and energy.  Yes you receive clout and some level of hype.  However, you don’t get paid, and in fact you work and suffer so hard just to play the festival that it drains you emotionally, physically and you spend hundreds of your own hard earned dollars just to get it together to play the festival.  Every year I played FPSF I came out in negative.  So I can’t honestly say that this has been a good thing for local artists whatsoever accept for the trickling of hype I mentioned above.

The corporate grip on art and music is strangling it to death.  I’m confident that the artist is so creative and adaptive that they will always find ways to break through the corruption and end up on the other side performing great acts and inspiring others.  Artists are nothing but vessels of expression, and there really is no value that can be placed on ability that you are born with to allow others without this ability to feel emotions, listen to great stories and inspiring melodies.  Corporations and these festivals are only perpetuating the destruction of fine art, and furthermore promoting a lifestyle of lost souls.  The focus is completely misguided.  Maybe people want that experience?  Maybe people don’t want to look deep within themselves and be mindful and change their lives to move in positive, regenerative and sustainable directions.  Fine arts and real song writing and artistry is continually being shoved into the back of our minds by corporate entities, thus becoming devalued.  Everything is being produced fast, and the content can only be something that people being programmed by these commercial entities can relate to, thus the creation of the worst sounds in the world “Butt Wave.”

We applied to Free Press for art installations at the festival and were NOT approved. It cost no money, I would do it myself, and rubbing turmeric paste on the trees not only gives nice color and intriguing presence to the tree, it is also very healthy for the tree enriching it's growing ability. It's also an ancient act of giving highest respect to nature that has been done in India since antiquity. I did see some nice gadgets attached to a fire hydrant giving people drinking water, that was leaking and wasting 100's of gallons of water just spilling and pouring out into the gutter, and why we were not allowed to put yellow paste on the trees is beyond me?

I would like to personally encourage an enlivened debate about these topics and at the very least think about all the questions raised.  Because if you want to improve your society, your community and support and uplift art and artists, by all means there are ways to do it.  Thank you to all things sacred for the fine arts, for artist like Pandit Jasraj who revive our love for fine art and Indian raags.  Thank you Pink Floyd for showing audiences that a rock show doesn’t have to be all about depravity, that you can fuse several forms of art to create a masterpiece that has stood the test of generational gaps.  Thank you to Mariza Fado for having the most amazing voice on earth and bringing classical music and opera to a world stage in a very modern and relatable way.  Thank you to Vintage Trouble for saying some caring and positive words during your set to a crowd of crazed, drunken, drug and sex addicts.  They are the ones in most need of this kind of positivity.  Thank you even to the band The Manichean.  Since I was 15 years old I have wanted my show to be more like a play and a theatrical experience, I’ve worked my whole career toward this vision and I have yet to gather all the resources together to make it happen.  So was the Manichean the first to do this, well no, and neither was I, and at least someone is.  At least the Manichean is saying to the audience, “No, you are not limited to relating to “Butt Wave,” you too can experience art, open your mind and heart and understand that there is more to life than drugs and sex and loosing your identity and wasting and trashing the earth.  That’s why I support The Manichean.  If I don’t have the resources yet to pull off my vision I will join theirs because if they succeed it means that my vision will also.  These acts will create a sense in the audience that this kind of art is worth something of value to them.  That is how you build community and support the arts.

And of course thank you to Free Press for trying your damnedest  to do what you love and do it well.  I would like to suggest that now that you are successful with Summer Fest, let’s pull back a little and reanalyze what “supporting the community and local artists” is all about.  Maybe you can start up a “strictly local” festival again, without any corporate influence whatsoever, so that the local communities can thrive without the corporations taking the biggest slices that leave the locals going, “well that was fun, now what.”  Because a real community of support is possible.  I just can’t say I have seen it yet, and I’m happy and open hearted enough to believe that it’s possible.  Or maybe it should be up to us, maybe we should stop waiting around for someone else to take the lead and deliver what we ask for, maybe we should take charge on our own and make our own visions and dreams come true?

Cheers and as Ellen Degeneres says, “Be kind to one another.”

With all my heart and honesty

Tyagaraja

This is the character I'm playing (not far off from my real personality) in the Manichean rock opera "Lovers" on June 28th at the Alley Theater. Promoting the idea that art can encompass multiple themes.

Summer Fest a Day of Mourning…

Keep your stuff in sight, some people just wanna steal thangs… One year ago this Summer Fest 3 of my journals where stolen in a laptop bag. I’m still in mourning. Summer Fest has bitter-sweet memories for me… I know it may be silly to mourn my journals when there is so much sadness and blood shed in the world, but I can’t help it, it hurts…

Let’s be honest, putting something together like Free Press Summer Fest is a huge undertaking.  Things aren’t made any easier if people jack you of your most prized possessions in the process.  Yes, this self proclaimed yogi has prized possessions and attachments.  Many people connected with me at that time to give support and lend some help.  Cactus Music even helped getting in the twitter game to bring them back to me.  I’m still not over it.  One year ago I lost my most precious musings.  3 full notebooks spanning over 8-10 years of my life… things I have written down from my teachers mouth, and priceless images of my travels in India.  Completely irreplaceable memories and some of my best lifelong writings.  There are no copies.  People told me there was a deeper meaning and that all that work was still inside me.  I responded to that in an earlier blog here: Dealing with Loss.  So Summer Fest in Houston Texas is now attached with these feelings for me.   We will be performing the festival again this year and I’ll have to dedicate a portion to my books. I am still hoping and praying that whom ever stole my precious books has been living with them, reading them and somehow reads this blog and decides that the best thing to do is bring them back to me.  If you have any information about where they may be, call a brotha…

Get Summer Fest tickets if you dare here:   Summer Fest Tickets

For now I’ll turn you to a poem I wrote while in India this last time around.  It’s more like a love letter to my books I suppose.  Sorry it’s a bit dim, that’s what blogs are about sometimes I suppose… a cry out…

My Darlings

I miss you my darlings.

Your words stay in my heart but your faces don’t show themselves long enough for me to make any sense of it all…  Will I ever remember those thousands of precious words?  Those beautiful words and their limitless meanings and potential.  I hold them so dear.  Are they within me?  Or are they in limbo lost in the dancing space?

I hear some songs ringing clearly reminding me of those precious experiences and awakenings.  Some tunes never come to mind they were never meant to be I suppose… Locked in a vault of the stolen prison of my mind on paper.  My hand transcends the message and the words lived and breathed the manifestation of my body.  Those soft pages held the fragrance of my soul.

The Books as a whole represent the legacy of my life.  Where are you my darlings??? I will forever be in search for you…

two of my precious babies, and the rare mercury sri chakra murti I found in India

starting over...

We'll be in the wooded area again this year trying to give some free yoga lessons and what not, maybe you could bring my books back to me...

Tyagaraja Live @ Free Press Summer Fest 2012

Tyagaraja has surprises up his Kurta Pajama for this years Free Press Summer Fest June 2nd, 3rd 2012 Houston Tx!

Summer Fest Flyer
TyagaTentFlyer web version
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Summer Fest Yoga
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Tyagaraja will be delivering yet another unique performance at this year’s Free Press Summer Fest.  This two weekend festival is putting Houston on the map and bringing acts like Snoop Dog, Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers and more…

Summer Fest 2012 Trailer! Intense!

Listen/Download Tyagaraja\’s Music!

Look for the “Tyaga Tent” at this year’s Summer Fest for FREE YOGA SESSIONS, live music, farming advice, and hand made or Indian Jewelry.  The “Tyaga Tent” is thus far pending approval…

"Tyaga Tent" provides FREE YOGA SESSIONS, live music, and hand made or India Jewelry

Look for us in the wooded knoll! That's what he said...

FREE YOGA SESSION from last year's Summer Fest

Live from previous Summer Fest

Tyagaraja All the Names of God Promo Video

Video shot by Zenfilm during performances at Warehouse Live and Free Press Summer Fest.

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Free Press Houston Article On India Tour

I feel more at home in India and we’ll be able to share with each other to make a very beautiful thing in the end. We also aim towards bridging the gap between the East and the West through our music/dance and through open dialogue, which we hope to document and film.

Tyagaraja (with India Dancer Gunjen Mittal) kicks off his India Tour with a Fundraiser this Saturday at Khon’s. Photo by Mark C. Austin

When I think of Tyagaraja Welch there is one word that comes to mind – sincerity. When he performs live, he will sit with his acoustic guitar and sing as if his heart is ready to burst and each syllable were his last breath. That is no act but the real deal. Welch is someone who lays himself bare in front of an audience and, ironically, that is more a million times more rebellious and challenging to an audience than the booze and tattoos rock bands you so often see in clubs. Say what you want, love or hate his music, but you have to give the guy some respect for his honesty and for being true to his vision. This month, Welch kicks off his tour of India at Khon’s and we had a nice chat with him about his music and the country he would be visiting again this month.

FPH: I wanted to just talk with you about the whole tour. I know you did one last year. Why don’t you just explain the whole tour, how it came together the first time, and why you embarked on it to begin with.

Tyagaraja at Summer Fest (Photo by Kori Beardon)

Tyagaraja: Well it’s actually a really looooooonnnggg story but I’ll break it down a bit. We’ve been to India many times now. We’ve sought out deep austere practices, traveled to sacred places, and studied in depth. So, this time, we have a clearer focus of going there for what we call “work.”

We have some friends that live in Mumbai who have made major connections. They’re encouraging us because the underground indie rock and arts scene is blowing up and if you have a right state of mind you can make anything happen in Mumbai, as you would anywhere. They are doing it. Our friend has already turned out a role in a major Bollywood film. So, they were the ones that pushed us over the edge. We were going out to India again anyway so this time we just changed our focus and we’re really going there to pursue music and art.

FPH: Oh wait, so the previous jaunts to India weren’t music trips?

Tyagaraja: Well not completely. If I’m being entirely honest, I feel that most of the general public that I perform for and even some of my close friends don’t really connect or understand what we are doing. I’ll get back to the previous jaunts. First, I was Jonathan, then I came back from some inner quests and studies with my teacher as Tyagaraja. It was just frankly weird to some…weird to even my best friends and family. It took time for people to realize that this was not an act; I live and breathe this lifestyle. It’s very real for me and this trip to India makes sense for us.

FPH: How do you mean?

Tyagaraja: …because of my great reverence for and better understanding of Indian culture, I feel we have a deeper and more expansive chance of connecting with the people of India. Some young Indians reject their traditional and cultural upbringings in their search for something else, but at the same time being Indian is not something they can escape – it’s in their blood. So we can connect with their eastern and western identities (pauses and laughs) aaannnnddd we play amazing powerful rock music! It’s just an overall win win for them and for us because our music is just as authentic as anything else in our lives. It’s not some western bubblegum pop music, it’s the real deal, organic. So we feel we have a better chance in India than we do in the states. Not that we are abandoning our own country, it’s just that I feel more at home in India and we’ll be able to share with each other to make a very beautiful thing in the end. We also aim towards bridging the gap between the East and the West through our music/dance and through open dialogue, which we hope to document and film.

FPH: Some people just go and play a show for an audience and leave but you are also connecting with the culture. So I dunno it just seems a there is a little more there than the usual tour thing. Again I’m probably romanticizing this because India sounds so exotic.

Nov 5th poster (click to enlarge)

Tyagaraja: Well, India can’t escape its own mystic quality. What we don’t understand or know of becomes “exotic” or “mystical”, while it’s a simple lifestyle for the people of India – there’s no mystery or romance. Its atmosphere is just much more conducive to the life of a pilgrim/an ascetic and that is what my soul wants. To generalize, people in this country don’t understand it, and they don’t make it easy for a person to live like that. This country is hard on people – it’s a grind and it ruins people’s sense.

FPH: Well, India has its own grind. Don’t they still have that whole caste system thing going on?

Tyagaraja: Dude, everywhere in the world has a “caste” system and yes India’s segregation is still very powerful in certain parts. The economic disparity between the few wealthy and the majority poor is far greater and dire than it is here. There is now a growing awareness about these issues within the society. There are still immense problems in India, I simply mean for the life of a pilgrim. There is a certain honor, dignity and respect which makes it easy to live that way [in India]. That life is not celebrated here.

In India, people who give up material life for the search of God and inner beauty can be highly revered. There are some in India that consider them bums and/or fraudulent (and to be honest some of them are), but we never really know what circumstances led them to live like that, what pain and suffering they must have endured. I have never seen more pure-hearted devotion in a group of people than I have seen in India and that is something I value. Love and devotion can carry you very far.

FPH: ..and upon seeing that for the first time, how did that affect you?

Tyagaraja: I exploded into millions of pieces of joy and covered the landscape with a blanket of love and gratitude. I truly felt unworthy to witness such a thing! It made me want to seek my inner-self even more and it also put my whole life into perspective. That is something that this country also lacks. At the same time with this “Occupy Wall Street” movement, you can see the pure devotion toward fellow people in the hearts of our American youth and it’s very encouraging.

FPH: Do you think a lot of the problem in the states is people’s cynicism or is it something else?

Tyagaraja: I think it’s really just delusion – people are blinded by the machine that tells them what to do, how to think, and what is important. Most people are searching for things externally, become greedy and forget how to remain human. People need to take the time to slow down and look within. The problem is not with the people in search of true humanity – they are fine and will make it – it’s the people that are blinded and controlled, who need love, and inner search the most.

Tyagaraja in front of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk (Photo Amber Roussel)

FPH: Let me get back to the tour. You mentioned “work” earlier. What did you mean by that?

Tyagaraja: Well, my wife was laid-off by cuts made by Rick Perry and I finally quit my job to dive into my music career full time so for us art, music, and life is work. It’s quite amazing and liberating and very very difficult; You never really know if you are still sane or not.

The thing about India is that people still read the newspaper there and millions live in concentrated areas, so it’s very easy to get exposure. The press can carry you a long way because there is such a mob mentality over there. As soon as you hit it, millions of people are watching you. If you work hard and are aggressive with your passions, you can make anything happen in India. That work ethic is applicable universally, but is taken to another level in India where things are moving fast. Every kind of business is booooooming out there right now. Plus, we actually stand out quite a lot in India. What I am and what I do is not that common over there (nor is it here for that matter). Only in the last 10-20 years have they started fusing more rock guitar and rock music into Bollywood movies. Not that Bollywood is everything, but it is quite the mecca of entertainment. It is the largest film industry in the world! As soon as something comes out in Bollywood, it’s instantly a huge success. Plus, there is a huge movement of young people mobilizing right now against corruption and this music and the scene goes hand in hand with that.

FPH: That sounds familiar.

Tyagaraja: Yeah, it really is happening all over the world. There is a 70 year old man, Ana Hazari, who went on a hunger strike as a part of an anti-corruption movement. That spark has turned into a flame and a real movement is happening again much like what Gandhi and countless others have been striving for in India. We also want to go to India to give back in our own way. I hope to learn from as well as to improve the lives of the people that we cross paths with and contribute to sacred programs that preserve the Divine Knowledge and ancient Indian culture. The path is just endless there, and it can be a shared relationship.

Sorry to ramble…

FPH: How has India affected your music?

Tyagaraja: Well, regardless of what my music sounds like India has had a huge impact. India and my experiences there – especially this last trip in July 2010 – left a huge impression in my subconscious and every single stream of thought or artistic expression has come out of that. My newest song, “The Meaning of Life,” was spawned from some of that connectivity.

Tyagaraja in IndiaFPH: Give me something very specific…

Tyagaraja: OK, when I was in Madurai, I went to the famous Meenakshi temple. It’s an extremely powerful place – some parts date back to 3000 years. No joke! I sat for 8 hours a day for 3 days straight inside the temple meditating. I became intoxicated with the amazing dance of the temple. I was in a dancing love affair with the energy that some may call God and I can draw on this experience at any time. It made me realize that time is only in the mind, while memories and history are all piled inside of God consciousness – constantly happening at every second – this is the basis of my entire thought process.

FPH: How do you see what you did before after having those kinds of experiences – both MYD and your solo work after?

Tyagaraja: Love. Love can make you see anything. Even at the point of MYD, I was still meditating. I had just been certified to teach yoga when MYD began. Million Year Dance song was called “Met with the Soul,” a rock ‘n roll instructional on how to meditate and what happens to you in the process. Reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda was a life changer for me; it became my bible and my way of life changed forever. Before that, it was my father that granted me the loving sight of equanimity.

FPH: Do you see your art differently now or is more of a continuum of the same thing?

Tyagaraja: …almost a continuum. I can’t right self-hate or anything really that negative anymore – it’s just not in me. I can remember a song of mine I wrote in high school called “Uni-God incorporated”. It was my teenage philosophy that I took all the best qualities of my spiritual studies and made my own philosophy out of it. I think everyone should do this. Everyone should be their own source of divinity.

FPH: How does that divinity play into music? Not just for you but in a very broad universal way?

Tyagaraja: Music is the voice of God or angels and it can also be the voice of hatred and anger.  It’s just how you harness it. I’ve always felt that I have no control over what I do; I am merely a vessel and the energy of music surges through me and out on to the paper, guitar, or out of my voice. When I am singing, it’s my deepest trance-like state. It’s when I truly bare my soul and if you ever want to see what I look like from the inside, all you have to do is watch me sing. I’m not saying I’m divine, I’m just saying that I have no control. What do you call that? Insanity? I feel that these messages come out for a reason and I would be wasting it if I didn’t share with as many people as I could.

Cover art for “Open Book”

FPH: You mentioned that music can also express hatred and anger. Do you mean that in a negative sense or do you thing there is a balance in having music express darker emotions.

Tyagaraja: It can be an outlet and expression and I am not one for censorship of any kind, yet at the same time, there are some things I’m quite conservative about. I think that it is the responsibility of the artist to know what energy they are putting out into the world and how it will affect people. What message are you trying to get across? That’s important, especially when it comes to younger generations that are so impressionable. They need to hear words of encouragement and love and so few have it. That’s my role I suppose – to counterbalance. There are enough bands out there that preach dastardliness, dunkerdliness, and overall low guna vibration behavior. I’m offering something else. I don’t advocate those things because that’s not how I live my life. I can only sing or write about the things that are real to me. I cover up beer banners with fabrics when we play because I want the youth gathered there to have those impressions wiped away from there subconscious for a moment so they can be open and free enough to touch the space inside where love rests. They’re already bombarded by ads of consumerism everyday.

FPH: But I’ve never seen you look down on someone for drinking a beer so I’m assuming that covering up a beer banner isn’t a way to pass judgment, just a way of defining yourself and your message.

Tyagaraja: Yes, in fact, Paramahansa Yogananda said that even the drunk is in search of God because they think that alcohol is going to fill the emptiness in their heart. Every human has the longing for something greater, they just don’t always know how to find it or even know what IT is. I’m no one to judge another person at all because I’ve been there too. The difference is in what I’ve decided to do with those experiences. This is their path…just not mine.

I have a song called “We Will Meet Again” the lyric goes, “All it really says is to love all/ we all want someone who cares and understands/ I knew it’d be you” and that’s really all there is to it. People just want love and most have been deprived of it in one way or another. That might be why people feel so uplifted at our shows. That’s all I’m offering from my heart when I sing, love.

Tyagaraja performs November 5th at Khon’s on the Roof Top  with Eextended performance by Tyagaraja’s Full Band with India Dancer Gunjen Mittal (2808 Milam St.Houston, TX 77006)
$10 all ages

[An abdridged version of this interview appeared in the November 2011 print issue of the Free Press.]

For More on Tygaraja and his tour of India:

http://tyagaraja.com/

Hear the new single, “The Meaning of Life” by Tyagaraja, on Bandcamp.

Indiegogo Page of the India Tour
Facebook Event for Nov 5th India Tour Fundraiser in Houston

Website link to Nov 5th show information