Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"My whole life's a circle,"

The Son

              Sunrise and sundown. I may not know where I'm going, but I do know where I have been. For the past two weeks I have had the honor of traveling with my mother and sister throughout India. They brought with them a feeling of home, and as we walk and talk together I feel that I am reconnecting with my origin, helping me to clarify my intention for the rest of my time in India. Traveling alone is extremely different from traveling with your mom and sis; there'll be no $2 sleeper trains across the country, no $3 dinners and certainly no $5 hotels...Oh no, for this kind of travel we will have to enable the "tourist bubble", and ensure western comforts are made available whenever possible.

              From Calcutta I traveled to New Delhi and randomly spent some time with the founders of an art collective known as Rumble Art. They provide an online platform for photographers in Delhi, and are looking to branch out into multiple mediums; if you're curious, click on this Link. I met my sister Rachel and m' momma Marie at the airport to escort them to our hotel. It wasn't long before I began to notice the increased level of attention we were receiving. Walking around in India with fair skin and brown hair I've gotten used to the stares, gawks and giggles that follow me wherever I go, but this was something new.

            At no point did I feel that we were in danger, I sensed a genuine curiosity from the onlooking locals and at times we would exchange a smile or a little head bobble. Rachel, the social butterfly, was happy to smile and wave to nearly everyone she saw, which often resulted in the inevitable questions: "Which country?", "What is your good name?" and of course, "One photo, please one photo." Again, this is common, although now I have been able to see the women openly express their interest and fascination in the traveling foreigner(s). In general, I have had very few passing interactions with women and young ladies, though with a bubbley blonde and a brilliant brunette, there was no end to the stream of giggling gals asking for pictures, and women having my mother hold their babies!

         We did the touristy sight seeing thing for a few days; Taj Mahal, Red fort, ancient tombs and such. Though we quickly discovered that we are more interested in faces than places, and started spending more time in parks and community gatherings as that is much more conducive to meeting people and having conversations. A friend of a friend invited us to stay with him in his home in Jaipur and we made a great connection. Having lived in the U.S for several years Srini was practically American, and more than able to accommodate our Western ways. Laxmi, the caretaker of Srini's home, was happy to meet us and even invited us to see her and her family's homes. This was a great opportunity for my mother and sister to see the real living conditions over here in India, and this experience was among the first attempts at bursting the tourist bubble.

        Despite the frequent shock and awe which my mother and sister exhibited throughout their time over here, they continued to fully embrace the people they met. At one point, while swimming in the Arabian Sea in Kerala, I noticed they had drifted from sight and much have wandered along the shore. As I went to investigate, I followed the unmistakable sound of my sister's laughter and came upon a small coupling of a few houses. I approached an open door and found the two of them surrounded by ladies of all ages feeding them cake, papaya and tea. They were all ecstatic! I hesitated to disturb, though once I caught the eye of one of the little girls, she shouted "Bhaya!" and everyone knew I must be the brother and they gave a warm welcome.

        Amma and Didi (mom n' sis) were really moved by what they have experienced, as they have expressed their wishes to stay connected with the families they have met during their travels. They have asked me about giving money to the mothers or sending school supplies to the children, and although I said that that would be appreciated, I assured them that by expressing compassion and acceptance they have already given so much more than anything that could be purchased. The three of us had many conversations about the state of the world, and the inequalities abound. I mostly expressed my belief that charity is good and helpful, though if any lasting change is to be made it must be in the form of something radical, not another "trickle down" method.

      We ended our time together in my current home; Hyderabad. We spent the first day at a Telugu culture festival (which we randomly happened upon), and enjoyed singing, dancing and some great south Indian cuisine (Rachel, of course stuck to her Coca-Cola and cheese pizza ;) ) The second day I showed them my stomping grounds on campus and where I've been working in the city. Nothing puts you in touch with your roots quite like family. Even if one does not fully agree with (or get along with) their family, it is important to accept them, as that is the first union, the first community, and the first love of this life. I love each of you, my beloved readers, and wish all of you a happy new year!

Granola Baba

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"Gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside"
- Houston

Ramblin' Jam

                 Kolkatta; the City of Joy. The capital of West Bengal, and widely considered the cultural capital of India. About two months ago I visited Kolkatta for the Durga pooja, the streets were filled with people singing, dancing and setting off firework. Now when I return I find this city much more tranquil, though still lively in character and culture. A friend of mine, Abir, invited me to stay with him and his family for some time. This has been an excellent way to experience Bengali culture, not to mention Bengali food.  My only planned objective in this journey was to reconnect with a friend I made last time I came to Kolkatta.

                Soohel was the first person to walk up and speak to me upon my previous arrival, and we ended up spending the next nine days together. This man lives a difficult life sleeping on the street and doing odd jobs for money. Despite these challenges Soohel remains a man of exceptional character who is respected and loved all over the city. Both his parents died when he was very young and he lived with his older brother and sister. Eventually they each had their own marriages as well as children and Soohel decided he should travel to Kolkatta to find work and send money home. As we roam the streets together the shop keepers call his name and the children chase him chanting "Dada Bhai!" (older brother)

            He showed me around the city and introduced me to Bengali culture, being with him was the first time I started to feel Indian. Not only did we explore the Durga pooja, but Soohel insisted on taking me Bolpur in northern West Bengal; he wanted to introduce me to his friends (one of which is from my home state!) who are studying art and philosophy at a university/ashram in a village called Shantineketan. It was there I learned of Rabindranath Tagore, an epic thinker, composer, poet, dramatist and writer who has been a great inspiration to me and is one of the icons of Bengal. Those first few days in the village felt like my first days in India. It was as if everything I had seen before then had been some sort of emulation or remainder of Western culture.

            Soohel has no phone, as each one he buys is taken from him in his sleep, so our plan was to meet on a particular street sometime early December. Once I was finished with the research project/music conference in Chennai (more on that later), I blazed the railway straight from Hyderabad to Bengal meeting cool people and munching on some excellent street food all the while. Abir met me at the station and showed me to his house. His mother and father have graciously accepted me into their home, and they treat me like their own son. My first attempt at finding Soohel failed, so instead, Abir and I strolled upon a park where they were having a free concert with Bengali, Bangladeshi and Nepalese bands.

           Today, however, I found him. We decided to travel to the river Ganga to visit a small Shiva temple by the waterside. We gathered around a funeral pyre burning along the banks as the sound of a drum approached ushering in the bride and groom and their respective band of merry family members from a nearby wedding. The riverside temple is lively with children running and playing, and at the time solemn as the elder folk sit quietly or talk among themselves. My friends and I sat in a circle passing the time and chanting Bom Bholle as the pink sun settled over the river.

Tomorrow I leave to meet my mother and sister in Delhi and we will do some adventuring around the country as a trio!

Much Love,
Baba Granjam

Monday, December 2, 2013

We gotta take the power back
- De la Rocha

A Privileged Puppy

            Question the norm. It's the hip thing to do. Discussions about psychology, gender, and other philosophical matters are often seen as edgy and progressive. Though we are only given the opportunity to pontificate on such things because basic survival needs have been met. While radical thinkers debate existential concepts, a Palestinian family may be wondering whether or not they should risk dodging snipers and bombs as they take their children to see the doctor. The idea of spending one's life creating art with music, poetry or paint, or merely thinking and writing blog entries is unthinkable to some. Not because they cannot think, but because the resources and opportunities are simply not available to them.

            I am finding it more and more difficult to discuss topics such as GMOs and gay marriage when the majority of the world's population does not have their basic survival needs met. It has been said that the American way of life is not sustainable, because it does not take into account the rest of the world. As "developed" countries continue to consume the world, they are doing so at the expense of the "developing" countries. Funneling their resources and exploiting their own opportunism.

        Guilt, I believe, has no place in this discussion. It was not I who decided to systematically conquer and consume the world, nor was it my immediate ancestors (despite my last name "king"). This is a movement that spans far beyond our understanding of the past, which has undoubtedly been molded to fit and idealistic view of HIStory. Responsibility, however, does come into play. I find myself in a privileged position: food, water, clothes and shelter are readily available. Furthermore, I have the luxury of sitting back and discussing "fine" art in an academic setting while considering aspects of the mind and the nature of reality. This is all well and good, but at who's expense am I receiving such abundance.

          As thinkers who find themselves in a privileged position, it is our responsibility to examine ourselves. There are some in this world who have no voice; no outlet of expression. To bring about change from a position of scarcity is very difficult and almost impossible. Until the world of prosperity is willing to share is wealth, until those in power become so bloated and proud that they destroy themselves, or until people begin to re-imagine humanity's role in this reality, we will see no true liberation. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, we must recognize who holds the power in this global community and how are they using (or abusing) this power.

         I wish to inspire and build new ideas. No one ethnicity or group of people should be singled out as responsible for the world's shortcomings, however, there are certain people who have the opportunity to bring about substantial change. We must begin with ourselves, only from within may we blossom. At the same time we must be aware of the state of the world. Donate to some organization if you wish, but be wary of such activities which dismiss the problem by simply passing a few pennies on to some unfortunate soul. What we need now is thought. Critical, deep and controversial thought. I think we are on the right track, and there is certainly no need for worrying, though there is a strong need for awareness.

Much Love,
Granola Baba

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Campus Concert by Ms.Vidhya Rao

Beyond Boundaries: Sufi and Bhakti Songs sung in the Thumri style

I recommend letting this play throughout the rest of your computertivities. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"I am you and what I see is me"

Busy Bee

         Study abroad? Well there has been some studying, but most of what I have learned has come from sources other than the institution of which I am enrolled. Extracurricular activities such as teaching, volunteering and adventuring have brought about some grand realizations, although, I require a significant amount of reflection time before I am comfortable sharing such findings. However, in response to my friends and family who are curious about my recent activities I will give a glimpse into my Indian life.

        Student teaching has been quite an experience. I am working with the Hyderabad foundation for western music, and recently completed a course in music theory and ear training. The students came from many different backgrounds and levels of musicianship and there was a wide range of age difference from eight to eighty! The most interesting observation on my part was how the students interacted with me. Despite my 'easy-going' attitude and demeanor, the students were very hesitant to speak in class and at first they never even asked any questions. "This is an interactive experience" I would tell them,  "I am not the only teacher in the room. We all have something to learn from each other, including me!"

      I spent a lot of time with the students outside of class, either in a formal tutoring session or just a casual chat over chai. In this way, I was given insight into how most teachers are perceived in India. "They never admit fault" one student told me, "and they perceive any question as a challenge to their authority and intelligence." With this understanding I continually altered my teaching style, slowing giving more and more student independence with the material; reinforcing the idea that they are teaching themselves and I am only a guide and eventually they were even interrupting me with questions! In the last session, I asked the students for a teacher evaluation (a foreign concept to them), and in reading the responses I have decided I would like to continue teaching. It would seem that I hone my entertainer persona whenever I get in front of a large group of people, as they all gave remarks about being thoroughly engaged for the full two hour session each week.

          I have also been directing a choir. The manager of the choir contacted me when she heard there was an American music teacher in Hyderabad. They had suddenly lost their conductor and were in need of finding a replacement. I informed them of my experience with instrumental ensembles, and that although I have sung in several choirs I have certainly never directed one. Despite my lack of experience, they were eager to have me on board. The music had already been selected and is predominately, much to my surprise, church music. Even though have no experience with liturgical music I decided I should still give it a shot.  I am learning so much in working with this group who, much like the music class, have a wide range of skill sets and span across many different age groups. Our concerts will be on the 3rd and 5th of December and we will be performing several Latin American folk songs, a Hindi lullaby, some Christmas tunes and Gloria from Mozart's Coronation Mass.

        My research has brought me to the Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet, an ancient Indian text which discusses aspects of music theory and aesthetics. The nava rasa theory states that music (and other art forms) have several predetermined rasas (moods or sentiments) which can bring about or alter the audience's emotional state. To test this theory several musical excerpts have been selecting from a wide range of musical styles, each with their own expected emotional response. The audience is asked to answer a few questions regarding their level of musical engagement. They are then given the option of selecting which emotion best describes the musical excerpts provided.

     I conducted the research project during the SIP (study India program) cultural show, of which I was also an MC! What?! (more of the entertainer persona). The project lives on as I have landed a sponsor, Creative India, for my research in Chennai at the IndiEarth music and arts festival. The dates are the 6th, 7th and 8th of December so Ill be hopping a train immediately after the choir performance and arriving for the first day of the festival. Yowza! After that Ill be bouncing around India for a while with no solid plans until my mother and sister arrive to visit. Yay! We will travel around a bit and celebrate Christmas together.

I hope all is well with everyone everywhere. Sending love to all my friends in America, Europe, India and all other places in the universe.

Nathan King - Granola Baba

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"A rollin' stone gathers no moss"


Click here to see a video of my Kolkatta experience. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

"The Love you take is equal to the Love you make"
                                                               - Lennon

The healer

           We can all agree that life forms have the ability to heal themselves. Whether it is the Earth, a plant or a fellow human being, there is a natural process of regeneration. This is understood largely on a physical and mental level as one gets a cut or has a bad experience and within a few days the body has healed the wound or the emotional distress. Of course, we also have ways to increase this rate of healing through applying bandages, ointments, practicing meditation or perhaps some sort of psychotherapy. There is, however, one aspect of the human experience which is often omitted in this mind~body paradigm. Oh yes... Spirit.

          While practicing yoga back in the U.S, I found that the instructors rarely (if ever) made mention of our etheric body. Even in India most young people, and "westernized" individuals, roll their eyes and snicker at such ideas of the soul, spirit and trans-empirical body. I understand that this topic is not for everyone, and it may be met with great aversion and skepticism among many of my friends and family. I do, however, feel a strong calling to share what I have learned regarding energy and holistic healing, for I sense that this information is vital in our modern age.

         About two months ago I experienced a strange pain in my right shoulder blade. I had done nothing in particular to injure my shoulder, although I had been trying a new meditation on the heart a few days prior. Once I realized the pain was actually getting worse, I decided to seek out a prana healer. I had been told to be wary of phonies and con-artists in this regard, however, upon meeting this young lady I felt an initial sense of genuine compassion and nurturing energy.

          I was asked to sit in a chair with my palms facing up and my tongue to the roof of my mouth. The healer, Madu, proceeded to light incense and presented a large bowl of salt water. Afterwords, she stood near me and moved energy with her hands and no touch was applied. Before the session I rated my pain as  7/10, and as soon as she was done there was a considerable decline to about 5/10. As the day went on, the pain continued to diminish until I woke up the next day completely healed. I was not charged for this first healing, and all future sessions were to be fifty rupees (less than one U.S dollar); she is practically doing charitable healing.

         Energy, otherwise known as prana, operates based on intention; it can go where one wishes and do as one commands. Similarly, if someone does not believe that this type of healing will work, the energies will not heal that person because they are not intentionally being received. I sat in meditation as Madu healed my shoulder, and apparently when she was standing behind me working with different chakras I was eliciting physical responses such as shifting in my seat as she adjusted the root or wiggling my head as she energized the crown. In later sittings I completely opened up to her. We discussed issues I have faced in the past as well as emotional blocks and spiritual hindrances I experience each day.

        I have since introduced several like-minded friends to this holistic-healing method, and they too have found it with great enthusiasm. To be clear, prana healing is in no way intended to replace or be held above physiological or psychological methods of healing; it is instead meant to work alongside these other aspects of healing. The health of the physical, emotional and spiritual body are interdependent on one another. Without addressing the ailment of one aspect of our being, we will see a deterioration on all other levels of our existence.

      I would like to invite readers to comment on this post, either here on the blog, on facebook, or in a private message. Light workers, open minds and skeptics are all welcome to contribute to the dialogue. Again, the affects of this type of energy work is solely dependent on the participant's openness to the procedure. There are workshops and ashrams where this is taught and I plan to learn as much as possible before I come back to the states. If anyone is interested I will be happy to spread the Love and Light.


Nithin King <== this is an Indian name that sounds like mine and is easier for Indians to say, so I go by it often! : P          <3~ GrAnOla BeAr~<3

Oo0Oo0o, and if you would like to chat with Madu and learn more about prana healing, visit her facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pranichealing.miracles?fref=ts

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Why can't we be friends?"

Seeking to understand

     As long as I can remember I have been advised to avoid the following two topics in casual conversation: Religion and politics. However, it seems that those conversations are always the most spicy! I learn so much about somebody by discussing social or spiritual views with them, and not only that, but I end up learning about myself by articulating my beliefs.

    Upon arrival, I met a nice young man named John. He's about my age, a philosophy major, likes to sing n' play guitar, and he practices Christianity. John eventually introduced me to a kind and courteous gentleman named Mahmoud, a Ph.D. student from Gaza studying linguistics who happens to practice Islam. The three of us shared many evenings drinking tea and going for walks. It wasn't long before curiosity about each other's spiritual and religious beliefs began to dominate our regular subject matter.

    As you may or may not know Christianity and Islam share many similarities as well as glaring differences, and the debate over which one is the most pure religion is an age old quarrel. Despite my efforts to neutralize this endless debate, these two crazy kids would carry on citing scriptures, sharing videos and having lengthy discussions. I began to have a genuine interest in the flow of their dialogue.

   When asked to share my views, I found that I was smack-dab in between the two. I believe that everyone, whether religious, secular, sacred or profane, has something to teach. I believe that God/Supreme consciousness/ Source energy /Allah/ the Universe has chosen to manifest itself in many forms such as people like you and me, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Rumi and Mohammad etc. as well as nature itself; the starts, planets and all of the cosmos. Some refer to this as Pantheism (seeing Everything as God). Although, this often does not always satisfy those who inquire because I have effectively avoided selecting one box with which to place my spiritual understanding, instead I identify with the path of modern Shamanism.

        The dialogue continues with myself acting as somewhat of a mediator between the two, until one day a challenge is posed. Mahmoud asks John to present written evidence that the Bible is the "true word of God". Upon hearing this I couldn't help but roll my eyes, "When will it end?!" I asked. However, after reading John's statement and Mahmoud's response, I am actual quite glad that I have been caught up in the middle of this friendly dispute.

       Some would say that in the U.S Muslims are often perceived to be a dangerous people, filled with evil intentions and such. Since my arrival in India, I have met many Muslims, and each one has been very polite, humble and peaceful; not at all terrifying. The unnecessary Islamaphobia portrayed by the media has actual stirred up quite a bit of interest and curiosity among Western minds. For those of you who are interested to read the written exchange between John and Mahmoud, I have attached their documents.

       PLEASE feel free to comment and share your opinions either on this blog, in a facebook post, or personally with me in an email. I am also quite certain that either of these gentlemen would be happy to elaborate on their views and share more information. WE are ALL brothers and sisters, and the more we see each other as such, the closer we get to realizing world peace. Believe in Peace.

Nathan King

Bible Proof - John

In response to John - Mahmoud

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Don't doubt the fact there's life within you."


           In 2004, the Indian subcontinent was hit by a tsunami. The indigenous tribes living on the islands and coast decided to travel to the hills and mountains several days before the tsunami hit. Anthropologists report that the tribal people knew the storm was coming because they noticed a change in the flight patterns of the birds around them. Indian military personnel, fisherman and other people living on the coast died, yet the tribes were left unscathed.

        Development. What might be right for you, may not be right for some. While studying applied anthropology and tribal welfare, it has become apparent just how difficult it is to determine what is and is not a tribe. The level of assimilation into "civilized" society is a major determining factor. Yet what is compromised by this assimilation? Is it possible to introduce Wi-fi and Snuggies to tribal communities, while retaining their essence of identity? For that matter, how much intervention do these communities even want from modern society?

        The University of Hyderabad is located outside of the city, and the campus is filled with thick jungle, huge boulder fields and beautiful wildlife. A midst this serene scene are a multitude of fifty story condos, massive malls and shopping centers, and there is no sign of stopping as more and more buildings are erected each day. Much of this development, I'm told, has happened only within the last ten or fifteen years. This is all well and good, however, one has to wonder how much attention and care is being brought to the villages and tribal communities.

         Consider again our clever tsunami dodging tribal sisters and brothers. Is it right to consider them primitive, backwards and less knowledgeable? Sure, they may not be able to speak English or update their Facebook statuses, but when you consider things like food sovereignty and self sustainability they begin to appear quite knowledgeable. What will happen if the food truck drivers suddenly decide not to deliver to your local grocery? Or if water doesn't come out of your faucet? What if the power sudden goes out indefinitely, or the petrol pump is bone dry. Maybe there are some things us "civilized" folk can learn from our tribal friends. Thoughts?

Much love to all,
N8KING (gRaNoLa BeAr)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Music is a world within itself"
                                                - Wonder

The musical yogi

        Once there was a saint named Swami Hari Dass who was absolutely in tune with the universe. His music brought flame to candles, and rains from the sky. One day, as he sat in the forest singing in his traditional Dhrupad style, King Ahkbar came strolling through to find this yogi in absolute musical bliss. "You there!" said the King disturbing Hari Dass from his meditation, "Your singing is exquisite, and I must have you in my court as entertainment for my esteemed guests and royal family." Hari Dass sat on the ground in his loin cloth smiling and politely declined the King's wish.

       Shocked, the King exclaimed, "I will adorn you in the finest of fabrics, and you shall be surrounded by beautiful women and luxurious accommodations!" The saint continued to gently shake his head. "Your talents will be known throughout my kingdom, and you shall be held in high regard above all other musicians! How could you possibly decline such a bountiful opportunity?" After a moment of silence and few gentle breaths, Hari Dass told the king, "I need only to work honestly, meditate everyday, meet new people without fear, and play". With that, Swami Hari Dass returned to his mediation, and King Ahkbar went on to employ the saint's finest deciple, Tan San, to play in his court and begin the Sani Gharana musical tradition.

         Music has not always been a performance practice. Originally there was no need for a stage, an audience or even a preconceived aesthetic with which the artist is expected to mold their expression. The musician was focused primarily on honing his or her connection with the universe; and through that connection realizing a state of Ananda (bliss). This state is realized when the musician becomes the composer, performer, and listener all at the same time. My teacher and I both believe that this state of bliss may be realized through visual art, dance, poetry, love, and many other form of expression.

        In the Western world, it seems that there is a common understanding that the brain is the main control center of the body, and the heart is like a pump that keeps everything running smoothly. However, I am beginning to think that there is more to this mind~heart connection. The HEART is the center of our being. It is the heart that sings, the brain that interprets, and the body that manifests the interpretation. Practice is when we refine this ability to immediately understand our heart's intention and execute the action fluidly. This is why musicians drill scales and rudimentary techniques, they are strengthening the mind~body connection so that when it is time to express the feelings of the heart, there is a clear channel of energy, and a seamless delivery.

       The story in the beginning of this post is a combination of what I have learned from my gurus and friends Joe "Rahini" Ridolfo, Trip "Bholla" Slagle, and Professor Raja. I have paraphrased, included a few historical figures, and added some 'story telling spice' of my own. I would like to encourage each of you to seek out and enjoy your own means of expression, and let it bring joy to your life and to the lives of those around you. Listen to your heart; as it is always humming, and sometimes it is singing! Follow your passion and always remember to play.

Love and Light,
Nathan King (Granola Bear)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Breathe, breathe in the air"

Use the force

           It is common knowledge that taking a few deep breathes can help one to stabilize their state of mind and find peace. When we are emotionally upset we may be breathing irregularly, and some people believe that taking a few deep conscious breaths can help one to overcome feelings of anger or intense sadness. By tapping in to our connection with the air around us we enhance our state of being, and in turn, the effect that we have on the world around us.

          Energy. We are surrounded by an infinite field of energy that is often referred to as Prana. It is from this life source that we receive unlimited vitality, wisdom and power. Consider stopping for a moment and think about the inhale and exhale of one breath. Go on... This is a practice of linking the mind and the body. When we do this, we alter our energetic frequency and open our mind to higher states of consciousness. I can go into more detail on what I have learned regarding pranayama and the states, attributes and activities of the mind if there is an expressed interest in the comments.

          For now, I would like to invite each and every reader to consider focusing on the breath. This does not require any religious ritual; you don't need to bend your legs into a pretzel or go to a yoga class to work towards clarity of mind. Meditation can happen while you drive your car, or even as you calmly walk through your house. Patanjali says that we need only to focus the mind on one thing to experience yoga; this can be an image, music, an idea or (best of all) the breath.

         However, the mind wants to focus on many things all at once. So each time you gently pull the mind back to it's point of focus, you are strengthening your "meditation muscle" and bringing yourself closer to equanimity of mind. Next time you find yourself being forced to wait for something, don't hate ~ meditate. The universe is giving you an opportunity to experience stillness. Breathe. I love each and every one of you with all of my heart, may we all bask in Love, Light and Peace.

Nathan King (Granola Brer)  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"We are all together."
                                     - Lennon


          Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Qawwali performance by the Warsi brothers at the DST auditorium on campus. Outstanding delivery! The Warsi brothers were singing and playing harmonium as they displayed their music with elegant and poetic artistry. The two brothers were accompanied by two additional singers as well as tabla and mridangam. The singers brought a sense of genuine passion and devotion to the stage, and the crowd responded with uproarious applause and cheering during and after each song.

         I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my new friend Sritama, a graduate student in the sociology department here at UOH. Sritama helped me to understand the poems and brief speeches given by the singers. Many times their messages were regarding unconditional love and universal peace among all cultures and religions. I had previously not been familiar with the Sufi Qawwali, but it seems to be closely related to the devotional practice of Bhakti.

          In addition to helping me understand Hindi, Sritama also shared with me some responses to my previous blog entries, particularly regarding my remarks about being treated differently because of my skin pigment. Sritama suggested that instead of the "colonial hangover" perspective I have adopted, this different treatment I am receiving is more of an Indian hospitality practice; as if I am being treated as this county's guest. I like that perspective. : )

         I am extremely open to feedback. In fact, I would like to strongly encourage comments either directly on the blog posts or sent to me in person. I am surprised each day at the number of views! Thank you all so much for sharing and reading this blog, it inspires me to keep writing. I am feelin' the love.

Nathan King (Granola Bear)

Monday, August 5, 2013

"The life I love is makin' music with my friends"

Seek and ye shall find

         Huzzah! I have landed an internship with the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation. After following several leads, I ended up finding one of the most amazingly wonderful facilities I have ever seen. Lamakaan is described as an "inclusive cultural space that promotes and presents the best of the arts, literature, theatre, debate and dialogue." There is a little canteen with lunch and tea available, and lovely places to sit and chat. In addition to the classroom I will be teaching in, there is also an outside performance area with a large stage!  Check em' out: https://www.facebook.com/lamakaan

        I just so happen to arrive at Lamakaan on the last day of a six week music theory and composition workshop. Mikhail, a young man of Indian decent who is studying in Chicago, delivered a general overview and introduction to the world of western music. The students were so attentive and enthusiastic, and their ages ranged from twelve to seventy. The class size was originally about thirty students, and by the end of the program there only about twelve. This is common with music classes like this, and I could tell that the twelve remaining students were very dedicated and focused.

        After observing the class and speaking with the students and Mikhail, I have decided to give my own brief introduction to music and then begin with ear training. I have been told that Indian academic culture is very reliant on assessment. So (like my guru Dr. Roland Carter) I will likely give weekly ear training quizzes. Pitch, interval and chord identification and dictation will help the students to conceptualize music in the western way. Most important to me though is what the students want out of the course, so I plan to have lots of in class discussions and workshops.

       Speaking of studying music, I attended my first session with my music guru Dr. Raja (Raja means King in Hindi. Two Kings discussing music, I love it) . We are still refining exactly what it is we plan to cover in our two semesters together, however, he has had students like me before and there are several paths we may take. Professor Raja is less concerned with teaching me mechanical nuances and instrumental technique. Instead, he and I are going to dive deep into the theory, history and culture behind the music of both Hinduistani and Carnatic music. The title of the course will be,  "An introduction to the nature and characteristics of Hinduistani "Shastriya Sangeet" (which loosely translates to "book of musical truths").

    I confessed to Dr. Raja that I have already been teaching myself how to play sitar. To which he responded with a quote from Ravi Shankar, " Your music your life." My method of self instruction has always felt more natural, although, the musical journey is not complete without other more experienced musicians who can provide an example of excellence. My guru seems very open and supportive of the idea that I teach myself while receiving as much guidance as possible along the way. Dr. Raja hails from the same lineage as Ravi Shankar, and assures me that he is a purist in regards to Hinduistani classical. I love purists, even though I am far from one myself.

  Also, I am joining the HWMF choir and jazz band! Rock n Roll.

Hugs and kisses to my friends and family back home!
Missing you,

Nathan King (Granola Raja)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Shiny happy people holding hands"

An American in India

                  Exciting news! After about thirty years of protest, the people of Andhra Pradesh (the state with which the city of Hyderabad is located) have succeeded is breaking away into three smaller states. I am not very experienced with politics, however, it seems that by dividing into smaller states there is a wider dispersion of government aid among the people (though I am sure it is much more complicated than that!)
Either way, I am no longer in Andhra Pradesh, instead I am in Telangana state.

                   I have found that location plays an enormous role in the identifying of one's self. At least, this has been prevalent in my own personal experience. For example, it wasn't until I was registering with the local police that I began to identify myself as a 'foreigner'. Since then I have become very aware of the attention that is brought to me because of my skin color. This color pigmentocracy has its negative and positive effects. On one hand, I get the feeling that people (mostly young people) are interested in me and would like to chat and become friends. One the other hand I get the feeling that some people view me as a walking dollar sign. There is no telling how many times I have paid 'tourist' prices, though I am not complaining.

                To be clear I am not judging the people of Andhra (excuse me, Telangana), I am merely making observations. One of the most interesting interactions I have noticed is the way that young people socialize. There is not much difference from the socialization found in the U.S, except that young men are much more comfortable displaying their affection towards one another. It is quite common to see boys my age walking with their arms on each other shoulders, holding hands or even linking pinkies. My friends and family back home might see this as 'queer', though I assure you that this is an expression of friendship and compassion. It's quite beautiful in my opinion.

                An outstanding cultural experience occurred last weekend! My yoga theory teacher invited the entire class to her house for a Pooja in honor or Sri Krishna. Upon arrival I noticed that there were many people (maybe a hundred) congregating in and around a large beautiful house. As I took off my shoes and walked inside, I was immediately greeted by loud singing and jubilant dancing. Yashoda (my guru) gestured for me to join the circle of dancers and begin singing, chanting, and dancing. What a way to arrive! After the dancing subsided, a Brahman (scholar of Hinduism) adorned in lavish surroundings of flowers, pictures and fruits, gave a recitation of sacred text.

              Then Yashoda gave an outstanding performance of Kuchipudi dance, a traditional art form that depicts a story from Hindu texts. Yashoda's dance told of Lord Krishna saving the lives of his devotees by lifting a mountain to shield them from the lightning and rain of the God Indra. After the dance, Yashoda and her husband were seated together before the Brahman and recited a series of prayers. As we prayed, a man came around the room giving us each a handful of flowers that have been blessed by our previous chanting.

            One by one, each person dressed the idol of Krishna by placing their flowers, a spoonful of milk, and bit of orange dye directly on the idol that sat before the Brahman. When I went to reach for the dye I did so with my index finger. "Ohhh no no no!" said several men around the Brahman, "You must use your ring finger." I am still unsure as to the significance of the finger, but it was a funny exchange to say the least. I then took it upon myself to walk by the Brahman and bow as I touched his feet. He spoke in Hindi as he touched my head and gave me a banana. We then partook in the eating of prasad (food that has received the blessings of Krishna), and it was delicious! I have always enjoyed viewing and participating in different religious ceremonies and rituals, and this Pooja was extremely interesting and inspiring.

Nathan King (Granola Bear)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"We don't need no thought control" 

              School. The biggest surprise I've had so far regarding my studies in India, has been that I have actually enrolled in grad school. Whoops! This does not, however, seem to be an issue as I have been able to follow the lectures and comprehend the concepts. It has been quite interesting to observe the differences between my education experience in the states, and the way things are done here in Hyderabad.

            For the most part, teachers are given a very high level of respect. Students rarely, if ever, ask questions and would certainly not challenge the teacher in front of the class. My friend Dash, a theater teacher in Dehli, told me about how much honor is given to teachers; they are almost as revered as medical doctors. Student also are held in high esteem, for instance during a lecture yesterday a man came in with little cups of chai for everyone! Its the little things, you know? Assignments are also handled quite differently (though this may just be because I'm in grad school) , instead of frequent homework and in class assignments, there is often only a midterm and a final. As of now, these are my classes:

Yoga theory and practice
Quantitative research methodology
Basic writing
Applied anthropology and tribal welfare

       In my international hostel I am meeting some really amazing people from all over the world. Musicians, scientists, writers and philosophers have come from countries such as Dubai, Iceland, Afghanistan, Finland, Iran and Russia to study here in India. There have been an innumerable amount of fascinating cultural exchanges that are often times consisting of musical instruments and singing. I plan to post many pictures and vidies soon.

              For now, please enjoy this musical taste of south Indian carnatic music, provided by the Study in India Program. I did not record the whole performance, as the violin player (known as Violin Vasudevan) asked me to capture with his camera as well. Indian musicians speak often of moksha, which is a divine purpose or essence achieved by playing music. These gentlemen certainly brought the moksha last night. It was all I could do to keep from whistlin' and hollarin' as if I was in a jazz club.

Big Love,
Nathan King (Granola Bear)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
For me, for me" 


The musical anthropologist 

                I feel inclined to give a little clarity as to my intentions with this blog. In addition to providing infotainment for my friendy friends and famajams, this blog is acting as somewhat of an 'experience vault' that I may revisit down the road to assist me in my research. What kind of research you ask?
Many of you may already know that the study of ethnomusicology tickles my fancy in many ways. I am fascinated with the way in which culture is expressed through music, and how one's understanding of  a culture's music can give great insight into many other facets of a given people's world view.

              India being the intensely complex culture that it is, there's SO much musical depth to explore. Let us begin on the surface with the pop culture scene. Before leaving the states I meant a very interesting young lady named Claire who spent several months in India quite recently. I had known that India's youth was strongly embracing western culture, and Claire clued me into some of the music that is really popular right now on the radio stations. So day three in India has yielded my first ethnomusicological excursion: KARAOKE NIGHT!

              As a musician, I was very pleased with the singing of the Hyderabadi people. These cat's got some pipes! I walked into the bar as Pearl Jam's Im still Alive was playing, and was convinced it was Eddie Vedder singing until I saw this young guy really rockin out and nailing that grungy vocal sound. The rest of the night just kept gettin' better as nostalgic jams from the 90's thrilled both international students as well as the locals. Literally every song that I heard was of western origin; absolutely no Bollywood or eastern pop of any sort was performed or played. Lady GaGa, The Cranberries, Linkin Park, Crazy Town, Micheal Jackson, Elvis?  Hyderabad knows how to party. 

I love this city, and I love all of you. Thanks for spreading the granola around; feel free to share this bear.

Nathan King (Granola Bear)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The journey begins...

"Though I've crossed one hundred thousand miles, I'm feeling very still."
                                                                                                                      - Bowie

                 Time is very strange, and even stranger is the interdependence of time and space. Nothing brings out this funky perception more than international travel. Flying into tomorrow, yet sleeping within yesterday can leave you feeling frazzle-dazzled and somewhat loopy. Through my thirty something hour journey to Hyderabad India from Chattanooga Tennessee in the U.S, I met so many extremely kind souls. Some helped me to make connections to music and art scenes in India, and others helped me to make connections to flights within foreign airports.

                 There have been bits of culture shock here and there, but what I find more interesting is what I like to call reverse culture shock. This is when you are surprised by similarities instead of differences. After only one day of observing I have a strong feeling that the peoples of India wish to be as westernized as the people of the Americas. Music, clothes, food and social graces of the west seem to be fully embraced by the Indian people. Whereas the mystic guru approach that westerners often identify with India appears to have very little popularity in today's modern culture.

     Granted I have only just arrived, so all of my observations so far have been mere first impressions and lack any great depth. I plan to explore this culture exchange in great detail in a later blog entry. For now, I would like to assure my friends and family that I have arrived safely, and that I am settling into my dorm nicely. Oh my Goddess, I am actually in India!!

Love and Light,
Nathan King (Granola Bear)