The Tantra of Truth - Pioneering The Sacred Music Paradigm
We are born as music: our heart pounds a steady rhythm that changes in response to different experiential textures. All of our bio-chemical-psychic systems, in fact, are constantly expressing rhythms and frequencies, acting in an extraordinary integrative fashion that brings to mind the idea of a great organic symphony. Music is but an expression of these deeper harmonies, both subtle and gross, and gives us a chance to express the inherent beauty of nature through wonderful means. There is no art as immediate as music. It shifts, transports, alters us in an instant because it speaks to our own essence as vibrating spirit; as cosmic flow.
The Tantra of Truth has been a labour of intense love. Sessions for my new album began after I returned from a profound trip in India where I travelled and explored conscious communities, such as the extraordinary Auroville, and experienced some significant spiritual pivots. One of those was a teaching I received while in Auroville in the most unlikeliest of situations: while playing the transformational game, "Leela", an esoteric version of snakes and ladders. In this game, each square represents an aspect of the evolutionary spiritual journey toward ultimate consciousness and union with the divine, correlating to a teaching from a manual that karmically represents us in the particular moment of playing the game. Ultimately, the experience of playing the game ("Leela" literally means the cosmic game of life itself) yields a profound stream of insights and synchronicities, forming an entire spiritual teaching in itself that is personal and transformative.
One of the first squares I landed on led to a teaching in the manual that derived from the Sanskrit word, sudharma, which translates as "apt religion" or, further elaborated, "...adoption of the course of action best suited to the player's own self...one's own dharma."
The manual explained that we are best served in life by following the skills that come most easily to us because they provide us with a path to explore mastery and refine our inherent value to the world, culminating in the highest expression of our gifts. I knew that this flew in the face of what we are conditioned to believe in Western culture, which is to earn a living foremost, even if that means taking on some form of drudgery as work, ignoring what gives us deepest pleasure in the perpetual and tragic sacrifice of our passions and dreams to unwholesome notions of pragmatism. Here before me lay a much more ancient and tried and tested knowledge that considered a deeper appreciation for the human condition, bringing the whole notion of the soul into the discussion. And what struck me with endearing immediacy was that my work in the realm of music, namely music of sacred intent, mystically derived through creative channeling, was no doubt my sudharma.
When attempting to describe someone's music, it's natural to compare it to something else. I have trouble doing that with Darren Austin Hall's album The Tantra of Truth because his sound is so original. Sometimes I feel I'm listening to a modern shaman; other times I envision myself sitting on a vast delta in India watching the sun rise, or in the depths of an ancient temple in Tibet. Guttural calls from deep in the throat manifest as sutras, then something else. Spontaneous poetry and evocative rhythms bring to mind yoga or psychedelic journeys. I alternatively want to meditate and dance to this fusion music: this could be the sound track for what Terence McKenna called the Archaic Revival." ~ Guy Crittenden
I have been a musician for as long as I remember, as I'm certain many of us have.
My own work as a musician is unorthodox by modern cultural standards, though familiar to ancient sources. I have always had a fascination with improvising or channeling music, something I was in constant performance of as a child, even in ecstatic shaking episodes almost every night in my bed when I would go into trance immersed in the inner-music that was perpetually pulsating in my soul. I thrived best before a piano, with the reverb pedal always laid down for ambient effect, following harmonic waves rather than attempting to master techniques through scale work.
Sadly, I abandoned much of my mystical improvisations as I grew older and attempted to clumsily mold myself to the horror of social norms. Luckily, the wild wisdom of life reclaimed me: I discovered the realm of sound healing while studying Chinese Medicine in my mid-twenties and instantly merged my musical inclinations with a deeper purpose of healing and even spiritual inclination. I was introduced to the crystal singing bowls which inspired much of my first forays into sacred music making where I would tone the celestial drones and sing intuitively; wordless melodies of a shamanic style, following songs that came through, ever-present in prayer to the creative flow, which blessed my performances with a power felt by many.
As I performed to wider audiences in sound healing workshops and sacred music concerts alike, I incorporated these ancient and novel aspects through group creations of healing chant, discussions on reaffirming the spiritual aspect of music and encouraging audiences to receive the music through dance, meditation, yoga and a deeper listening via the whole body as receptor. I've even begun working with musicians in one-on-one sessions who wish to deepen their appreciation for these more mystical origins of music. It's incredible to see such a vast reclaimation of music as not only a spiritual art but something to be used as a force of powerful healing.
I returned from India emboldened in the knowing that sacred music was my sudharma and that I must surrender to it completely so I can be of the best service to all life. Since my first album, Crystal Hymns, a meditative recording of my unique singing with the crystal bowls, I'd evolved tremendously as a musician and healer, incorporating now amplified guitar, dynamic instruments such as the Indian tanpura, the lyre-harp, ancient monochord and lyrical improvisations along with newly cultivated skills in overtone chanting. I had been burrowing for months developing a powerful new expression of my music and I was keen to share it with the wider world through a new album.
I began working with my good friend, Stephen Bahnesli, as a producer and co-creator. Stephen is one of the most phenomenal guitarists I have met and his jovial soul is a beautiful companion to have in the throes of music-making. He'd been accompanying me in performances and my popular Chakra Journey workshop series. Stephen had never produced an album before but had been rigorously learning his way and his early work was impressive. Stephen also both shared an appreciation of electronic music as one of the most evolving forms of musicality, and its empowering force of awakening the masses through ecstatic dance. I was keen to explore my sacred music with such elements and so we began to journey on the adventure of crafting an album.
The sessions were extraordinary. As the months went on, wondrous jewels of sonic exploration came to fruition from our diligent and jubilant work in Stephen's studio. Many of the recordings featured improvised sessions with voice and instruments, adding production textures in their ecstatic wake. The song "One'd", for instance, features myself intuitively singing to an improvised guitar song Stephen hatched. Even the lyrics of the epic climax were channelled. It's humbling to be a conduit for the extraordinary creativity afoot in all of nature!
Interestingly, only when the album was mastered and manifested in its completed wholeness did it actually come clear what it represented. As I listened one evening on my back porch to the title track with headphones under a dome of blinking stars, tousling my gaze to motherly moonlight, I found myself standing suddenly erect, my chest pronounced as if Heart were asserting its power. My arms came by my side in gentle curves of posture, as I stood with a kind of warrior dignity, facing the mystery of the night before me. I had drifted into utter unison with the song (the stirring tanpura drone, the medievalesque-bombastic drums, my yearnful singing and the staggering dubstep bassline) and it formed me so, empowering me in a towering sensibility that instantly plugged me into a greater vitality. As I listened on to other songs, I realized there was an inherent transformative quality to them all. This was not music to be listened to passively--it was impossible! This was music of an affecting, enhancing, altering and transformative quality!
As I listened to the completed album, the vision of it came clear: these were spiritual anthems to help initiate people into new dimensions of consciousness through ferociously expressed feeling/wild free-singing, sacred instrumentation and the ecstasy of electronica; spontaneously derived songs, odes to the creative master-blaster that chimes, hums, beckons through us all. Even the title was anointed--when I chose The Tantra of Truth months ago it was a challenge as the album was not near completion and yet this phrase kept tapping me on the shoulder. Now I know--it's a confirmation of a prophecy spoken to me by one of my great teachers that 'tantra is the spirituality for the new/aquarian age'. Tantra asserts full, rapturous acceptance of everything, which creates a potent energy of fierce love and light and constant transmutation. It leaps over all limits, will accept no separativity, is wondrously mundane and extraordinarily ordinary (breath is bliss) and is the exact force and multidimensional perspective we as a species need to unleash ourselves beyond antiquated beliefs that have, for aeons, stymied the glorious fruitition of essential and infinite human potential. Tantra literally can be translated as weave and, thus, it is the force of union and love that leaves nothing behind.
This album is my offering of a soundtrack for such human endeavouring. For those that are now the masses who are interested in finding the luminous wildness of our natural lovingness; who believe ecstasy is a daily ritual of intensely felt aliveness; who feel light coarsing through their veins, this is your album! The album veers from crystal bowl trance ("Calling the Awen") to an honouring of indigenous prayer with robust guitar, stirring beats and meditative harp ("Soaring [When Eagles Come]) to the luminous rendition of the Gayatri mantra which opens the album in a massive invocation of the power of light and consciousness. The album also features the yogini and spoken word artist extraordinaire, Megan Marie Gates, who lends her angelic vocals to "Woman Is Sacred"--an anthem for the return of the sacred feminine. Finally, Liz Huntly features with her seraphic violin. Each of the nine songs is an epic journey unto itself to be enjoyed in solitude or in the throes of an immense shamanic dance party.
"We are doing our part 'for the greater glory of this Creation,' in a way, to symbolize what heaven on earth would be. Maybe it is just a dream we cannot wake up from, but we cannot stop feeling that our work here on earth is to make it like heaven. We have to sing our own songs, give of ourselves, make our own 'joyful noise,' not so that the Creator can hear us, but so that we can hear the Creator." ~ David Hykes
Ultimately, this album is a force of healing. In fact, any connection with the sacred provides such benefit. Here, I consider sacred deriving from the Indo-European root sak meaning 'power'. The sacred is literally anything that connects us to a feeling of innate and also transcendent power. It's the feeling we get when we walk into an immense, towering temple or a sublime natural environment and are engulfed by the sheer magnitude of beauty before us. It can also be the feeling we get when we surrender utterly to an ecstatic dance, the rapture of sex and even the passion of an inspired conversation.
One of the great challenges of contemporary society is an affirmation that heart and the wisdom of feeling is king-queen of our beingness, usurping millennia of wrongful rule by the intellect, often at the expense of brutal persecution of our loving, spiritual nature. As a sacred musician, I open myself to feel what others have a challenge expressing and express it for them in wild song, evoking that feeling to be felt in the transformative force of music. This empowers the audience to open their own hearts, to be encouraged to feel immensely and intensely, which reveals our inherent and indomitable beauty and truth. This is the healing power of music of sacred intent. The sacred musician literally gives people the space to allow for deep and intense feeling by modelling it themselves through ecstatic music making. Ecstasy, after all, can be defined as "intense feeling states" and modern culture often suppresses our ability to feel so freely. As music is transmitted sacredly (meaning powerfully), people are inspired to open to greater feeling states, moving stagnant energy in their being, liberating a higher expression of their energy field, and coming into more union with the wisdom of life seeking to ever-connect with us.
The musician was traditionally viewed as such an initiator of sacredness, able to shift the vibrations of people and a space with masterful power. This is the ancient way that is now returning to help us in these incredible times to transcend former limits so that we can all stand in a place of mastery and power, guided by the wisdom and enigma of the Heart, sailing on the constant beauty of the soul... Darren's new album and all music is available for digital purchasing and download here: www.darrenaustinhall.bandcamp.com. For those who are interested in learning more about the notion of the sacred musician, please go to Darren's blog, The Druid, and read his recent two-part article on the subject. Darren Austin Hall is a pioneering mystical musician, sound healer and yoga teacher. His music is crafted from the infinite creative moment in spontaneous transmissions, devoted to fostering connection to divine power. His legendary performances entail diverse, salving instrumentation (from crystal singing bowls to lyre harp and guitar) combined with his powerful shamanic singing. His new album, The Tantra of Truth, is his soundtrack to the revolution of consciousness of our contemporary times. He teaches a wide array of workshops on new paradigms of healing in sound therapeutics, energy medicine, and eco-spiritual perspectives. Darren also authors a widely read blog called The Druid and is a renowned poet. DarrenAustinHall.com.