Featuring The Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra
'I believe Love is action. Those of us who respond to our ability to be love – to illuminate – those of us who share our love and our desire to love and our passion to act – we are illuminators. This is any one of us at any point in our journey when we feel connected and are not living in fear.'
Having visited ten countries over the past three months, I’ve been blessed to further my awareness of the diversity of human cultural expression. Having witnessed behavior, language, food, fashion, music, etc. transform from country to country has been akin to traversing along the spectrum of visible light. Like the colors of the rainbow, the human race is a vibrant spectacle to behold.
Naturally, I am drawn to the traditional song and dance that each pocket of the world uniquely expresses; it brings to life the soul of their land and people. In some places more than others, like Indonesia and China, traditional music is still very much alive. These sounds and songs retained by generations today are like sonic blueprints extending their reach to early and ancient times.
As an American I found myself asking, “What are the sounds of our people?” I guess that depends on whether you ask Black Elk or Christopher Columbus. Nevertheless, I began to ponder the musical legacy America is leaving behind.
Walking historical European streets, breathing in the aroma of traditional cuisine, I found myself in every single country unpleasantly interrupted by distasteful mainstream American music blaring through the speakers – music condoning belligerent behavior, co-dependent relationships, violence, the list goes on. This experience began to paint a bleak picture of America’s musical legacy and left me feeling disheartened. America gave rise to plenty of musical geniuses, so why are these shallow songs the ones infiltrating the world?
With this unfortunate narrative playing out in my head, I knew the next muse for this series needed to embody what I consider the true essence of American culture – that which cannot be found in the mainstream but is hidden away in the underground of small towns, alternative scenes, musicians who live and create outside of the corporate limelight.
America has its flaws but what’s so beautiful about it is the chance to experience all the colors of the human race in one country. The melting pot of America creates music that features sounds from all over the globe. We are like the paint palate when an artist has finished creating a masterpiece; all of the colors mixed together produce unique and unexpected results.
It is with this that I auspiciously share our muse this season: The Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra. My enthusiasm is not only about supporting grassroots artists (which was the initial inspiration for creating Muses) but also for presenting a brand new project that weaves together so many global sounds and traverses so much of the musical spectrum all in one album. Today we’ll hear from Brent Kaufman, or BURNTmd, a friend of mine and the founder of The Tribe of Light Symphny Orchestra.
The Shakti Journal: MD, recently you wrote to me,
“We have the ability to respond to adversity by painting the picture we wish to see with the colors we wish to glow. With that in mind, we don’t use colors we don’t want present. That means integrity. What is it, who has it, and where do we find it?”
So, to you and the whole Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra (TOLSO): What is it? Who has it? And where do we find it?
BURNTmd (Brent Kaufman) of the Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra: What it is: Integrity – the reflection of our values in our actions. Who has it: Those of us who subscribe to a formula for a noble cause. Where it’s found: In our willingness to activate, coupled with a dedication to taking care of ourselves so our energy can flow at an optimal frequency and allow us to glow.
SJ: I know the debut TOLSO album is not out yet, but what has it been like putting this project together?
MD: Everyone who contributes to The Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra is someone who truly stimulates me in ways that you can only imagine by experiencing their energy yourself, and once in a lifetime you get to hear everyone together!
We are super focused on the creative process at the moment. Soon we’ll be crafting some video to offer tasteful visual stimulation to correlate with the orchestrated symphonies. I haven’t released an album since 2012, and my life has taken many shapes and forms since then. But I’m definitely operating at a much higher frequency now, and I’m super happy to share these inspirations and share it all the right way when we are ready!
SJ: Tell us more about the diverse musical components of TOLSO.
MD: Absolutely! The Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra is shaping up to be quite a masterpiece. In its current state, this illuminating experience offers an epic array of live instruments from around the globe recorded in a state-of-the-art studio including calabash, didgeridoo, sitar, gong, ngoni, viola, piano, guitar, bass, drums, singing, rapping, chanting, prayers, sound healing and more!
Just as every great recipe is crafted, there are many elements involved. One is the Shakti Queen herself, Moriah Hope, who’s offered one of my favorite pieces to date. I really feel lucky to be a part of it and want to shout out Mike Cash of Electric Bodega who really did beautiful production work on that song, and on other pieces for the Orchestra too. Cash recruited his longtime collaborator Jesse Blum for the keys, as well as the mesmerizing Martin Fairlie of Hugh Manatee for strings.
We are so lucky to be working with Chris Wright over at Violet Recordings in Boulder, Colorado thanks to Casey McCarthy who has also contributed to this record with a powerful tune I asked him to help me recreate. This tune was originally written years ago when friend DJ A-dog passed from leukemia. Nate Eaton, an up and coming producer, sent some of his music production for me to work with and when I found out A-dog had died, I spilled my blood, guts and tears into the music.
SJ: What was is it like making music through grief? Has that process developed over time?
MD: After performing the verse for years, I decided it was time to evolve the song because the content just kept getting more relevant and important. It’s like this: when a baby is seizing and cannabis is the only thing proven to help, safe access is paramount and a parent should not have to turn criminal just to protect their child. The song is dedicated to safe access for medical cannabis for children, adults, animals and basically everyone. A-dog’s passing catalyzed me into a life of service and education on how we can help ourselves with cannabis.
The truth is, cannabis is saving many lives and this TOLSO project is a testament to that. We were so excited to get to film at a 180-acre cannabis farm called Blue Dog Hemp in western Colorado, and ya best believe we brought the drones out thanks to the homies Totem/Phoenix Clay and Kody/Pushin Positivity. I’m so stoked for this powerful, tear-jerking yet joy-filling music video.
SJ: Tell us more about this song, other collaborations you have in the works.
MD: This song features one of Denver’s best drummers Johnny Jyemo, one of my favorite vocal queens Nyki Flyin, Mr. Martin Fairlie on the viola, rockstar guitar slinger Geoffrey Grayson who just really blew me away, and another favorite Graham Marshall Meuller who threw down some healthy percussion. Producer Chris Wright is really helping fine-tune this album and he sure does take our craft seriously. He’s a real gem.
Also important to mention is Ahmad Sawalmeh who offers cross-cultural sound healing elements, Jiiniikwe Medicine Bird who is a Native American Sundancer and Native American Music Award winner, and the great Eric ‘Sugarsnap’ Pea who plays different instruments and sings; we are also lucky enough to be graced with the angelic presence and voice of MiaAja Melchizidek who is another one of my favorite up and coming artists.
And I also want to salute Brian Dickenson who blessed the tribe with a super special gong bath. The magic is happening, that’s for sure! It’s exciting to see who will contribute to the final Orchestra lineup to round this album out for the glow!
SJ: With over 10 years of experience producing events, surely you’ve noticed the unfortunate tie between the entertainment industry and alcohol sales. Do you envision changing this structure, or working with other venues that don’t sell alcohol?
MD: Great question. The bigger picture leads me to consider the fact that many venues prefer to book acts who do well for their bar. You can have an act that never sells max ticket capacity, but has a loyal following of heavy drinkers, and that act will typically get booked.
This means that in order for much of live music to be successful in the current paradigm, enough alcohol has to be sold to satisfy the businesses profit model. The excessive alcohol consumption many of us are familiar with all too often results in a gauntlet of horrifying possibilities – from drunk driving to unnecessary violence, spousal/child abuse, etc. Not to mention the harm to our own health.
This is not to demonize alcohol consumption, but we do need to consider our options. After all, many of our favorite artists have had severe drinking problems, in addition to so many in the entertainment industry that work outside of the spotlight.
SJ: What do you see as a possible solution or new way of looking at this epidemic?
MD: Perhaps we can research the impact alcohol has had on our communities, on our favorite artists, and its role in driving accidents, especially at night when people are vacating the bars, clubs, and concert venues. Perhaps there are safer options we have yet to entertain that are still enjoyable.
In the spirit of connecting with the now, there are special methods, tools and techniques to experience a higher quality of life other than inebriation, which essentially disconnects our spirit from our cells in order to escape the now. With preparation and opportunity come luck, and it’s our intent to cultivate the world we wish to see by painting our reality.
SJ: A tribe being a community of people sharing common customs and values, what are the values of TOLSO? How do you use these values to paint your reality?
MD: Expressing honor through interactions with self and surroundings. Respect for life. Integrity. Accountability and reliability. Choosing to operate at our highest frequency. Doing the work that needs to be done and realizing that energy is our true currency. Applying our ability to tone with healing frequencies as tools for ease and conflict resolution. TOLSO is a constantly evolving creative portal and it’s truly an honor to present such an incredibly genuine effort.
SJ: More and more we are seeing conscious artists organizing community action days around their events. Do you foresee incorporating this type of action to support a cause?
MD: Absolutely! The vision is to travel, learn, teach, heal, share, contribute, protect, build, etc. This might come together as traveling ‘festival’ (or better term) founded on waste-free, compostable, permaculture principles that cultivate sustainable community, teach independent learning and sharing, and create and implement formulas that support local productive function well beyond just a single event.
The Shakti Journal: You and I both are fans of word play – I’d love to hear your interpretation of the words ‘Tribe’ and ‘Light’ in relation to The Tribe of Light Symphony Orchestra.
BURNTmd (Brent Kaufman): It’d be a pleasure. Tribe of Light: I believe Love is action. Those of us who respond to our ability to be love – to illuminate – those of us who share our love and our desire to love and our passion to act – we are illuminators. This is any one of us at any point in our journey when we feel connected and are not living in fear.
“If you ever feel lost, ask yourself, ‘What do I love?’ I wasn’t sure for the longest time what I loved, I just knew that I loved love, and anything less than love didn’t feel right. I realized the love I was always looking for existed within me. My life gravitated towards that love by shedding what did not serve me over time, refining my pattern of decision making, and learning what not to do – a lot of what not to do.”
With her amalgam of certifications in holistic arts and over 10 years of personal practice, Moriah is devoted to addressing the harmony of body, mind and soul so that we may effectively participate in creating sustainable change in the world.