Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler Overdose

When I first hear a song that I really love, I tend to over-listen to it. I listen to it in the car both to and from work, I listen to it at home on repeat, I pound it into my brain for a week or more before I've had enough of it. All manner of songs have been subject to this treatment, from Paul Simon to Lady Gaga. A couple of years ago, that song was "Come to Me" by Wah!, a kirtan artist of great repute and popularity.

The world of kirtan reminds me a lot of the world of Christian music; it's a whole subculture of people buying and selling and sharing music and attending concerts that goes on more or less entirely under the radar of people who aren't aware of it. I believe there's probably good music and unfortunate excess in both genres. There certainly is in kirtan. At its worst it's repetitive and kind of self-indulgent, with no value to a wide audience unused to its negatives. Ganga White said to us at teacher training that there's something funny to him about chanting to excess - Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Hare Krishna over and over and over, every hour of every day, gets worn into your brain such that your brain maybe can't develop new patterns. As long as your dominant pattern is Hare Krishna, you may not wind up growing very much in your spiritual journey. I'm paraphrasing very badly, but what he said made good sense to me, that chanting in great extremes leads to a failure of imagination.

That said, part of what I love most about "Come to Me" is about six and a half minutes in, when she switches to Sanskrit. The Amrita chant she does is so lovely, and so understated, that it always makes me feel consoled. (Appropriate for a song that's about Amma.)

On Tuesday, I attended the yoga class at Whole Yoga that I enjoyed so much three weeks ago and subbed for last week. I hope I can go to it regularly. One of the songs on the mix for class was a re-do of "Come to Me" that Wah! released on a more recent album - it's slower and shorter than the nine-minute version I love so much from Hidden in the Name. But it reminded me that I hadn't listened to the song in probably over a year. I had over-listened to it on my old iPod, and had never put the song on my new iPod when I bought it in 2009. Hearing her lyrics on Tuesday night made me feel old, loved, held, tired, mournful and rejuvenated all at once.
Come to me
I will take away your sorrow, come to me
I will open your tomorrow, come to me
I will open up your heart, come to me
We will never be apart
Not, perhaps, the most creative lyrics on planet Earth - kirtan lyrics rarely are - but her melody is simple, convincing, full of free-floating love. I couldn't find the long version on YouTube, but this website will play it for you via MySpace.

The following morning, I paid $0.99 to download the song to my iPhone so I could listen to it on the way to work. I sang along. I over-listened to it for most of last week. Then, on Friday, when I was full of jitters and loose ends and terror about my last day of work and what it held for me, I just kept the song in a little pocket in my mind, murmuring "Remove all fear, come from where you are to here," when I felt sad or anxious. It helped so immensely - it's a great debt I have to this song, now, for its soothing powers during the past week.

Even so, I think the song helps to demonstrate what Ganga said, because when she makes jai ma into the chorus toward the end of the song (jai ma is perhaps the most basic and widespread of all chants, and the one most likely to be irrevocably patterned into Wah!'s brain), it feels like a bit of a creative failure. I'll still sing along, but it seems like overkill that she put the Sanskrit in there at all. She could have just repeated the earlier lyrics. But instead, she's got to work jai ma in there somewhere, because everything comes back to jai ma, jai ma, jai jai ma.

I still haven't managed to insert this song into any of my class mixes. It's too soft for the majority of the music I use in vinyasa classes (which is stuff like Thievery Corporation and Cafe Del Mar), and it's too bouncy for restorative or yin classes. I'll figure out a chill mix to put it in, because others deserve the gift this song gave me, but it'll have to be next week, when I have time enough at last to pick through my music as I've been wanting to for months. I'm thinking of putting together a mix called Inevitably Makes Me Feel Better (or something rather more catchy), with "Rocket Man" and "When I Come Around" and "Enter Sandman" and "Come to Me" and others on there, songs that never, ever fail to fix whatever ails me for four or five minutes.

No comments: