Listen to Phil Cartwright’s interview with Jai-Jagdeesh about her album ‘All is Now Light’ and take a journey through the music on this album.
Phil: Welcome, Jai-Jagdeesh
Jai-Jagdeesh: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Phil: Now, we are here to discuss your latest album.
Jai-Jagdeesh: We are indeed, it’s a pretty exciting thing to be talking about too. You are the first person with whom I’m having a conversation about it, I mean, outside of the record label.
Phil: Where did the title for this album come from?
Jai-Jagdeesh: Well, I actually had probably a half a dozen different titles that were floating around in my head, which is often the case with different projects. One of them was… it’s actually a Coldplay song “A Sky Full of Stars” because there is something about this early morning energy that is linked to all of the song selections on this album, that just pulled up that visual for me and that energy as well of a sky full of stars, and humming along with that title, letting it sort of reverberate inside of me for a while is what led to the choice that I made to obtain the cover photo but then it didn’t make any sense to me to title something “A Sky Full of Stars” when the focus was most definitely the moon, and going a little deeper here, when we recorded this album, it was in a five-day period leading up to the full moon at the end of August of 2018, and it was a really alchemical moment in time. The energy of what we were experiencing and the energy that was seemingly around us just in the world in time and space and during that chapter, it was very full, very rich, sort of intense, but that’s I think the norm nowadays, and so the moon, the energy of the moon, the energy of the full moon, specifically feels like it is very present in the music as well. Now, if you think about what the full moon does, it brings this massive wash of light. The sky is brighter on a full moon night than it is at any other time in the cycle, and I like to imagine, I like to think, I like to believe that one of the things that music in general does, and specifically that sacred chant does is bring light into dark spaces, so that was my big art coming to the decision of the imagery and the title and I feel like it fits very very well with what we created sonically.
Phil: Now who produced this album All is Now Light?
Jai-Jagdeesh: My good buddy Ram Dass who also produced my last album “Down Come the Walls.” He and I started working together in early 2016, actually on a track that has yet to see the light of day. We did an a capella version of “Amazing Grace” that is just for the moment locked in his computer because it is not finished and other projects have taken precedence over it such as “Down Come The Walls,” such as “All is Now Light,” such as something that will come out next year, and it’s been a really extraordinary creative partnership. I feel so grateful to have worked with amazing producers to date. Krishan produced the first four projects that I put out into the world, and I’m so proud of them and I was so grateful for that collaboration and now this one has been fruitful in new ways, and fulfilling in new ways. It’s been the type of journey with him where the music just becomes itself through magic, I want to say. But like his understanding of music is something that gets constructed and also his understanding of music intuitively meets with all the creative things that are moving inside of me trying to find tangible form and it has been super sweet.
Phil: Now there are seven tracks to choose from, where would you like to begin?
Jai-Jagdeesh: I am going to begin at the beginning, because actually, I mean, you probably know and I feel like anyone who’s a die-hard fan of music, any music, any genre, knows that artists put things together very much on purpose, there’s nothing slapdash about the track order when it is picked. You know, we want there to be an arc, we want there to be a story that is told, we want there to be a journey that the listener goes on. I always hope that people will push play on my very first track and listen all the way through and give everything time to land in their bones, land in their heart. But this one, more than all the others, is important to begin in track one because they are all meditation pieces, even though what we did was strive to make intoxicating music that is just rich and nuanced and delicate and powerful in all different moments throughout each of piece and then throughout the arc of the album. The order for this one is as it was given by Yogi Bhajan many years ago for a morning practice, so track one, Wah Yantee, is the first in a series of meditations that are sung. In truth, there is one mantra that is chanted prior to the first six tracks on this album, but that one is coming later as a single because we treated it very differently, and like I said it is chanted rather than sung and it didn’t feel like the right track one for this project, so Wah Yantee…
WAH YANTEE PLAYS
Phil: Now, you have been touring extensively since releasing the album…
Jai-Jagdeesh: Well, I am sort of semi-permanently on the road and I do confess that “All is Now Light” hasn’t really been the focus of the touring that I’m doing at present. I have not yet stopped focusing on “Down Come the Walls” in the context of concerts, but now I’m beginning to weave pieces from “All this Now Light” to any given evening because people take some time particularly in our genre, people take some time to discover these songs, these mantras, these tracks and sometimes the love is immediate, sometimes they discover after a week or two or a month or two that’s something is their song. So I am giving priority at the moment to ones that people have been living with for the past year-and-a-half. I believe that I’ll be able to really share this sort of scope of the pieces on “All is Now Light” in particular contexts like Kundalini Yoga Festivals, where we do the entire set of chants first thing in the morning, but it would be fun to bring them into concerts, it would be really really special to find our way through them live, because live is so much more bolsee? 11:51 than studio no?, I mean, you can be super intimate live in the same way that studio is and you can be super bolsee? in the studio in the same way that live is, but you sort of want to find that delicate balance and let each piece be itself wherever it’s being played. These are intimate ones, these are cozy, early morning, just walking into the world vibes and it will be fun to to achieve that in a late evening setting.
Phil: And where are you speaking from today?
Jai-Jagdeesh: Right now I am in Switzerland but I won’t be here for long.
Phil: And before that, were you touring in the UK?
Jai-Jagdeesh: I was, yeah, I get to come, the current rhythm is I get to come to the UK once every two years or there-abouts. I get to come to Europe once every two years, Australia, New Zealand, once every two years, but actually I’m going to tour a lot less in 2020 and do have a reset, return to studentship for myself, spend some time digging into things I want to learn or grow into or become more proficient at, that definitely requires staying still for longer and hunkering down, digging in. There is also new music to record, I mean it’s sort of endless these days, the creative pulse that is happening, and I know I’m not alone in that. I look around at all of my peers and people are always pulling up some new creative thread, it is pretty extraordinary.
Phil: Now I noticed that as the last track of the album you put a version of “Long Time Sun.”
Jai-Jagdeesh: I have, and it is my version and I love it! Well, I should say I’ve been playing a different one than this to close my Kundalini Yoga classes over the course of the past seven years. I sort of took a melody of someone else’s for another piece altogether. This mantra that I would often sing at the end of a Kundalini Yoga class and I piggyback on that with the words for the “Long Time Sun.” It just became my version of the “Long Time Sun,” but when we went into the studio to work on it, Ram Dass said “You know, this is nice but I feel like it can be more delicate,” which was a great note, a great observation for him to have because all the rest of the music had a delicacy to it, all the rest of the things that we’re going to go on this album.
So we kind of strippend away and made it super soft, super sweet, super mellow and as intimate as it can possibly be. You know what? It’s one of the last things we recorded, so it was probably done either the day before or the day of the full moon was storming out while it was happening and we caught some thunder in my vocal track, and probably also in the guitar track, three of us for recording at the same time. And when I first heard the playback, I was like “Oh my God, is the storm is still going?” and Ram Dass said “No, that’s caught, that’s captured” and I love that it’s there because it holds the electricity of what we were experiencing then. I am sort of sorry not sorry for all the people who will hear it in classes and think “Oh oh, it’s raining outside.” But by the same token I just love so much that it’s there that I cannot possibly apologize for it, with any sincerity. But the thing that it is most exciting to me about the “Long Time Sun” is that I actually recorded it in almost a dozen other languages in addition to the English version. So the English one is on the album, it is what will come collected with the rest of the pieces, but then over the course of a couple of months, towards the end of this year, we’re going to be putting out all the other languages which includes French and Portuguese and Italian, and Spanish, and German, and Dutch and Russian, and the list just keeps going on, Mandarin, Chinese, that was one of the hardest ones that I did, and we had consultants for every single one of them to help ensure that me with my American accent and my very particular way of shaping words wasn’t a limiting factor in getting these languages correct, so I got proper coaching on pronunciation, and according to everyone who reviewed down everything is as close as I could possibly get it without being native, so I am excited to start rolling those out late in the year.
LONG TIME SUN PLAYS
Phil: And which country did you record the album predominantly?
Jai-Jagdeesh: Mexico, we went down to the Caribbean and Mexico in a place called Tulum, which it, well, it has a magic of its own. That’s what I was referencing when I talked about the time and space that we were in. Certainly done your homework, either that or Spirit Voyage has given you a good set of notes.
We were in Tulum, in a little home studio, so we were at the mercy of the neighborhood noise, all of the dogs that were roaming around, you know they bark when they feel like it. There’s construction next door so we had to be maximum flexible with whatever the world was doing when we went into the studio and if we listen to the rhythm that the world was creating for us, we ended up pressing record in the exact right pockets of time. It’s almost like the Universe was saying: No, no, no, not yet, don’t hit record yet. Here is a dog barking and a chain saw buzzing, and now there’s a quiet, go! You’re going to tap into the best frequency. That is what it felt like, it was really cool.
Phil: And what would be another track you’d like to feature now?
Jai-Jagdeesh: Well, let’s just go in order, shall we?
I didn’t actually mention anything about Wah Yantee, but suffice it to say, that’s the one that was track number one, it is the opener. The second one, the Mul Mantra is the fate killer, takes us out of being stuck in a cycle of…just being tied to things as they are and it really allows us to elevate the space, elevate ourselves to step out of patterns that don’t serve us, out of karma that we are ready to clear, and it allows us to live into our destiny vs. being stuck in our fate.
Phil: When you are recording, do you still get up in the middle of the night and have cold showers and do…
Jai-Jagdeesh: The answer to that is no, as you can probably tell from my loud cackle. No, I am… so, OK. I have for the life… for the life of me? that’s what I was going to say that that’s incorrect. From my life to date not felt like a morning person, I’ve always craved the morning but I feel such a vibrant energy at night but I’m often up very late. Midnight is usually the earliest that I go to bed and sometimes is more like 1 or 2, or 2:30. Sometimes that’s for creative projects, sometimes because I am not tired, and sometimes it is just because there is a vibe that it is keeping me awake. And yet, I always felt like I was missing out on something in the morning, which I know sort of the world has conditioned us to believe that everybody should be in the 9 to 5 model right? That everybody should wake up first thing and hit the ground running and fulfill everything they need to fulfill, and then clock out and do all the rest of life after that.
But some of us are flipped flopped? And I think that for the first 35 years of my life I have been flipped flopped, but last time I went back to the US after being in Europe, I didn’t adjust… rather, adjusted in a very interesting way that allowed me to be a morning person in the state… perfect.
I felt very much like my self, only more so, like all the things that count normal to need before about being a night owl, everything was 4:00 amplified and heightened by rising relatively early in the morning. We are not talking right at dawn, we are talking more like 6, 7, 7:30. But I just felt this relationship that I’ve been craving with the early morning suddenly blossomed into the sweetest romance. I was really happy to be awake and alert, and I found myself more energized than usual over the course of a day, and more in tune with the projects and more able to face my procrastination tendencies head on anytime they ? their 25:28 ugly head.
There was something about it that was wonderful to me and then it just takes one late night or one gig night, or one travel day to the West Coast to throw me out of a rhythm like that, and then I’m back in the late night rhythm once again and I miss it, I miss that morning…I was going to say sweetness, but I’ve been using the word sweet a lot so I just need to find another… but truly its got a magic to it.
Having said all of that, 4 a.m. is hard for me. Many yogis wake up at 3:45, pop in their cold shower, get all bundled up if it’s cold out or get dressed normally if it is not and then sit down on their yoga mat and start the sequence of things that are a Kundalini Yogi’s typical daily practice.
But I am lucky if I can get an 11 minute meditation under my belt during any 24 hour period, and I also love hot showers so much, that what I do is I take my happy cold ahower and I ended up with a splash of cold to make sure that all of my cells are awake… so yeah, the person you’ve described is not me, although there is a part of me than longs to be her and hopefully one day we’ll find a happy marriage between the person who does late gigs and the person who gets to wake up in the morning and have that romance.
Phil: India is a place close to your heart, I am speaking in June 2019, do you have any plans or have you been to India this year or last?
This year no, last year no, but the year prior, yes. I had the great fortune to go to Portugal spend time with an organization in Ahmedabad in Gujarat where is doing what I think is some of the most incredible work maybe in all of the world, certainly in communities of people of service. It’s called Manav Sadhna, it is under the umbrella of the Gandhi Ashram. God, the list is so long and I would be here forever if I give full detail, but basically they created programs that help serve all these different facets of what has been happening in India for generations. So they teach courses to men and young boys on the importance and value of respecting girls and women, and they record this courses as well so they can take them out into more rural areas. They have created avenues out of sex work for indentured sex workers, and they have a full support structure to help ensure that it’s not just an avenue, but it is a full path, a full journey. They are building schools in slums, so that kids there can have an education. I got to play music in one of the classes, in one of these little schools, one day when I was there. They go to the terminally ill ward of hospitals at specifically the terminally ill children ward of Hospitals, and dress up as clowns to bring some levity into that space. They built a toilet museum to teach locals the importance of hygiene and they actually pay people to use some of the toilets at the Toilet Museum so that they can help create better habits. I mean, the list is so so long…They pay a fair working wage to women to go out and collect the recyclables from the street then they use those recyclables as supplies for craft projects for the kids and then whatever the kids make from those they sell to help raise money for the program. I remember sitting in the first night’s meeting I’m so jet-lagged but I knew we needed to be there while people was going around the circle talking about the latest updates to their projects, and the more everybody shared, the closer my jaw get to hitting floor. I was just in so much awe, and I felt so much gratitude for what each person was contributing to do to the healing, the wellness, the growth, the beauty of a country that I care so much about. And most of them are local within India, some of them are Indian to move to the States, or they are second generation Indian American or Indian Canadian. Some are Europeans, they basically come over with ideas that are aligned to their skill set and make proposals and find ways of implementing those ideas…aaahh…That is a wow moment for me in my life, being around those people and getting a grasp of how huge it was what they were doing what they had achieved so far. And there’s still so much work to be done in so many places in the world, more than anything else, many of us just need to put our money into it because that is a resource that is needed greatly and there are so many people already on the ground who can do the work that needs to be done, but yeah, if anyone is looking to contribute to something special, something that is healing the planet in a huge number of ways, Manav Sadhna is the way to go.
Phil: Now, you’re speaking from Switzerland today. Where will you be tomorrow?
Jai-Jagdeesh: Still in Switzerland, thankfully, but in a week I will be in Amsterdam and a week after that I will be in France, and then down to the middle of the country in the Chateau Anand valley. That is the site for the annual European Yoga Festival, that I feel so lucky to be a part of. From there to Spain for Yoga España, which is a beautiful festival that I also feel lucky to get to be a part of…and then probably by the time people are hearing this, Mid August, early September, I will be kicking off my fall European tour before in the Netherlands.
Phil: You start in The Netherlands, but I am sure you will hit a lot of European countries before you head back to the States…
Jai-Jagdeesh: Yeah, and actually I won’t even go back to the States, after Europe I will pop up in Australia and New Zealand and then down to Mexico before I get to spend any quantity of time back in the US. It is quite a loop for the Fall tour in Europe, we are doing two cities in the Netherlands, two cities in Germany. Let’s see, let me name them properly, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Sweden, and Berlin, Germany, Netzeband, Germany, and then down to Bratislava in Slovakia, my first time ever there. Then down to Budapest in Hungary, my first time ever there, then to Barcelona in Spain, also my first time there. I have been as a tourist but never as a presenter and then we are trying to add something in Madrid in an open space, and also in Geneve, those are taking some time to finalize so I can’t promise I will actually make it, but we closed the month. The last weekend of the month is going to be in Beligum, in a sweet city called Leuven, and it is a nice circle. It seems a little erratic but it is all very purposely fully planned, it is a good flow.
Phil: And where would you call home at the moment?
Jai-Jagdeesh: That is such a good question, and the answer is right where I sit right now, partly because I’ve been here for nearly four weeks and any time I get to spend that amount of time in a single place I start to create home rhythms there and it feels like it has the familiarity of home, plus this happens to be a beautiful place, the home of some friends of mine, and they have opened it up to me in a way that makes it feel like it is mine, for which I am so grateful to them. After this the next time I spend a large quantity of time somewhere would probably be Mexico but I couldn’t say for absolute certain, but suffice it so say, wherever I am that is where home is.
Phil: Now, you used to have a passion for Indian dancing?
Jai-Jagdeesh: I still have an enormous passion for Indian dancing, both the Classical kind and the Bollywood kind, just in general I have a passion for movement, and I do not claim to be proficient at any one style of dance. I studied a form of classical Indian dance called BharataNatyam but there are literally thousands of people who are infinitely more skilled than I am, and I would point to them to show you an example of what is possible within that art form rather than trying to demonstrate myself.
You know, years ago when I was digging into that art form a friend filmed me performing on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California and he was one of those wonderfully pushy people who say “Can we put this up on YouTube? That would be so great!” and he did, we did, I consented to it and they’ve been a fascinating mix of people enjoying that their culture is being appreciated by a foreigner, which I obviously am. There’s nothing about my genetic makeup that is connected to India, it is entirely a chosen place. My family converted to Sikhism. I don’t identify as a Sikh, but since I grew up over there it feels very much like a part of me, although I don’t claim any ancestry there, but there are individuals who say that they appreciate that a foreigner has taken interest in this. There are others who critique my form which they are right to do, it needs work. There are others who are very angry that I’m doing it at all because I feel like I should be much better if I am going to perform. They’re still others who are angry that I performed in the streets because according to the long history of this culture, the classical Indian dance form was only ever done in the temples and in prestigious halls, auditoriums, stages. I remember somebody giving the critique that’s the street is an unclean place where everyone throws their trash and were dead bodies are thrown and where the lower cast is living, and I could feel my heart responding to that in a lot of different ways, you know I I feel similarly to one of the founders of Sikhism who said once: “Show me where the Divine is not and there is where I will point my feet. But you can’t tell me where the divine is not because the Divine is everywhere and so for me, I would then say, the Divine is in the street and why shouldn’t I perform this beautiful art in any place, in any part of the world because the Divine is there to.
The concept of the caste system, that I can’t… that is human rights violations up and down and I have this big argument to them having that argument, and at the same time I want to be super respectful of people’s culture, the point of origin for something that I came in as a guest and learn… so it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride inside of me and I mostly don’t read the comments anymore because they flip flop between hate and love and it is too bipolar, it wouldn’t cost me I think too much damage to be on that kind of life roller coaster but yeah I have links to classical Indian dance and I strongly encourage people to go in search of examples of this beautiful art form, there are so many online, what a time to be alive.
Phil: Thank you for being so generous with your time again, you’re in Switzerland and there are lots of chocolates to be eaten.
Jai-Jagdeesh: I love you for that. Oh, it is so true. Oh man, Phil, I am such a fan of the chocolate. I went to…I took a little day trip to Constance in Germany yesterday, I went to a little restaurant the name which I don’t remember, but it is an organic one, Bio Natural conscious cookery type of place in Constance and they served me the most incredible gluten-free dairy-free chocolate mousse slice, and I know that’s not technically Switzerland, in fact it is not Switzerland at all, is Germany, but this region, Europe in general have very extraordinary chocolate and I have been taking full advantage. So, yes, I should run away and eat some chocolate, although to be perfectly honest I already had quite a bit today and it is only 4:11 p.m.
Phil: What track would you like to leave the listeners with today?
Jai-Jagdeesh: I’m going to leave it up to you to determine whether you play the fourth one or the fifth one.
Phil: Tell us about the fourth one.
Jai-Jagdeesh: The fourth one is called Rakhe Rakhanhar. I hate to pick favorites, in fact I have a rule against it, picking favorites because it is like picking favorite children no? To choose favorite songs on an album everything is creation, everything comes from a deep place, nothing is better or worse. Rakhe Rakhanhar, I think ended up being the track that says everything and encompasses the entire tone of this entire project. It’s my voice and two male voices doing harmony, it’s a very simple sparse guitar in the background and it captures this late night like late late late when the collective consciousness is so quiet, so more like early morning, middle of the ocean, middle of the Galaxy, heart vibe and I have to say, has floored me every time I’ve listened to it and I was a co-creator and still when I listen to it, I just find myself softening in every conceivable way and actually my brother wrote to me, he sent the sweetest message after he listened to the whole thing. And he said: “I’m familiar with most of these pieces since you’ve been playing them live for some years – because I have, I’ve been playing them in the early morning meditations- but Rakhe Rakhanhar is the one I am least familiar with and I have to tell you there’s something in it that has just taken down my defenses and listening to it all day and it brings me to tears every time.” And that, I feel like, if there’s nothing else I do at any point in my life I will have achieved something that is incredibly meaningful to me, that has brought a little bit of healing space into the heart of someone I treasure so much, that is valuable beyond measure, beyond words…
RAKHE RAKHANHAR PLAYS
Phil: Thank you for your time Jai.
Jai-Jagdeesh: Thank you for yours Phil, I really appreciate you, really. I know that you take time to do this with so many of us in this community and it is just lovely that you do and I thank you for taking the time with me today.
Phil: You are most welcome and I hope to see you with chocolate soon.
Jai-Jagdeesh: I will welcome that with open arms.