Symbiosis Gathering 9.19 - 9.23.13
Words By B. Getz & Maria Herrera
Photos By Kauai Ric & JMH Mixed Media
Now in its eighth year, Symbiosis Gathering 2013 was a living, breathing dragon of pagan synergy, an event filled with spiritual confluence and an electronic-sonic paradise — a rigorous program featuring dozens of the best intergalactic yodas in EDM, yoga and sustainability practices. This was a transformational festival, and despite some disorganized infrastructure, the event broke new ground for what can be created in this type of community gathering.
Amidst the well-curated lineup of workshops and speakers ready to educate the masses were Darin McFadyen, better known as FreqNasty, and his yogi counterpart Claire Thompson, who opened the Empire of Love Stage Friday morning with a unique take on the therapeutic properties of combining yoga, dance music and sub-bass frequencies. The pair used meaningful insights from the foundational texts of Yoga and Buddhism along with sub-bass sounds, or sounds which are approximately below 60 Hertz and extend downward including the lowest frequency humans can hear, to create something Thompson called the Bass Wash – an energy cleaning experience that unites the realms of sound healing and meditation.
The Bee Hive Collective, a group of artists and activist who have taken on a plethora of pressing environmental and political issues, gave a fierce presentation on the impact of mountain top removal and coal mining using a 8-15 tapestry that illustrated the struggles for land, livelihood, and self-determination playing out in places like Appalachia. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the nonprofit Food and Water Watch and author of Foodopoly, encouraged festival growers to rise up against the stronghold multinational corporations have on our food source.
Dub Kirtan All-stars, led by Freq Nasty and David Starfire with special guests J Brave of the Luminaries, Srikalogy and Caitanya, set it off proper on Thursday night at The Cove stage set lakeside, dripping in bamboo and psychedelia. The Kirtanic enchantment within “Hari Krishna” sent people into a mystical procession of Zen aerobics, while “Sita Ram” captivated and enchanted, a mid-tempo dub- ridah and mesmerizing pulsation filled with bombastic drums and soundsystem rudebwoy swagger. Tracks from dreamlike EP Subsonic Devotion were recreated with live chanting and vocals drenched in a lathering of bass buoyancy. Later, emcee collaborators hailing from Brooklyn drove the carpet ride decidedly to the streets, and the New York chants met the Yoga of bass. Kirtan channeled its inner b-boy from the corner of Paul’s Boutique and a new style.
Their potent alchemy of analog synths, acoustic guitars, emceeing, live vocals and vocal samples, warm and fuzzy filters and distortions, all of which were infused with recordings of Shipibo Shamans derived from the Peruvian Amazon. This was the living story of the Jungle, transmitted through Ikaros, the Sacred Song of the Plants. Just when you were meeting the God within yourself in the midst of a two-hour hajj to Amazonian healing modality; the entire ensemble unites in a sublime, somber-yet-uplifting rendition of the sweet, serene Bob Marley hymn “Soul Rebel.”
One must acknowledge to stunning and grandiose performance from dancer/sorcereress Ka Amorastreya(of Serpentfeathers and Visionary Arts Foundation). Her enrapturing sacred dance and her elegant serpentine feather ensemble were positively breathtaking. The entire Liberation Movement experience at The Pantheon could be describe as a personal human awaking, focusing on the potential of the complete sound spectrum, and reminded us all what it means to meditate through the might of music and performance art.
Ott set up at Pantheon and manufactured what was another of the finest displays of artistry over the Symbiosis weekend. He kicked things off with a solid forty minutes of mind-blowing psychedelic dub reggae, mining the Kingston yards for the finest in rudebwoy soundclash. The monster Function-One speakers didn’t just hold the rolling bass lines; they propelled them beyond the stratosphere; and it was Blunted in the Bomb Shelter, live from a new Nepal. Classics from the annals of King Tubby, Mad Professor, and Augustus Pablo were underpinned by the spastic low-end calisthenics. His patented mixture of Psybient Dub arrived late in the set, the lengthy, interesting “Rogue Bagel” shining through; yet his return to the island was overstood with authority. Ott. forwarded a massive “No, No, No” by Sister Carol that set the dancehall ablaze in the dirtiest skanking the evening would provide. The Pantheon nearly burnt down as we screamed “More Fiyah” and howled into the night.
STS9’s return to the NorCal environs was the subject of much buzz, both in the 9 community, and to a lesser extent the festival itself. The huge-by-comparison Big Island Stage was host to many of the weekend’s headliners, but it was definitely the place to be for Soundtribe’s three-hour tour de-force on Saturday night. First and foremost, Saul Williams took to the mic and delivered a fifteen minute opus, a stream of consciousness free-verse from one of his long form poems, and left the audience slack jawed, and teary eyed. Then, after a moment to breathe, STS9 took assumed their position, and “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist” came first.
Hailing from SoCal and New Mexico, the amazing ensemble Desert Dwellers first welcomed the new Monday morning with a ritual de lo habitual dripping in meditative beat- science and angelic dust. Bringing an electronic bass music cross-pollinated with the Yoga scene, and like Dub Kirtan All-stars, employing the global sounds of both galaxies in an eclectic stew. Sacred bass treaded the modern edge of electronica with ancient and organic soundscapes, this was a set of genre-bending at its finest. Hosted by the apropos Pantheon, Desert Dwellers delivered one of the single most engrossing sets of the weekend, taking the massive on a journey to the core. Main members Amani Friend & Treavor Moontribe hosted a squad of guest collaborators in a procession of earthly percussion, ethereal voices, and culture-crossing instrumentation; the downtempo’d dance grooves were impeccable way to greet the morning. The steady stream of guests, live dancers, and visual arrangers were a tremendous accompaniment to Desert Dwellers entire two hour epic breakfast blessing.
Rab puts emphasis on forward progression, a style that makes songs feel looser than your standard build-tension, drop-bass one-two step. Without the lavish percussion it would be difficult not to get mired in temperate noise. Rab’s music doesn't rely on simple looping or repetition, and instead assemble patiently, arching its way into a beautiful vocals and dancing to and from by pulling bass in and out of the mix. Even at the nearly two-hour mark, the producer/composer/savant keeps it ever-so-fresh, accentuating a tiny drop with a musicality that makes it clear he's unwilling to rely on simple tricks.
Mixing in the most effective handclaps since D’Angelo’s seminal Voodoo sessions, a positively tearjerking version of “The Plastic People” was especially cherished, as were many of his new songs from a forthcoming album later this month. Selections from aRose and Vissurreal were received like a sonic manna from a new Heaven, newer compositions like “Clairvoyer” resonated with profound meaning and an emotional connection. Groups of friends, old and new, rejoiced and reveled in a heightened sense of community, and dare I say…love, was present throughout the entire one hundred minute priestly benediction of bass and benevolence.