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Interview With Wah!

by Edie Weinstein-Moser

Her concerts carry the energy of a ‘spritual rave’, with kirtan, rock and reggae bursting forth from her guitar and vocal chords. Wah! (yes, the exclamation point is part of her name) is one of the pantheon of sacred Sanskrit chant artists whose music touches a deep place within, regardless of whether the listener is familiar with the language. With 18 CD’s to her credit and one on the way, they bear names such as “Planet Yoga”, “Transformation”, “Savasana”, “Child’s Play” and her most recent release, entitled “Embrace”. Her latest project is a book called Dedicating Your Life To Spirit which contains images of yoga asanas (Sanskrit for seat), mudras (sacred hand postures) and text on chanting, meditation and yoga. I had the pleasure of participating in a kirtan/concert at Yoga On Main in Philadelphia and felt like I was afloat on the gentlest of waves on the way out. And her performances are just that; participatory events that draw the listener in and don’t easily let go.


Wisdom: What planted the seed that grew into your book entitled: Dedicating Your Life To Spirit?

Wah!: Everything is fan based. Basically, people would say “I love your music, but even more, I love what you say in the classes. It goes straight into my heart. You were talking about exactly what I was thinking.” When people starting asking to take the lectures home, we started taping them. Then we started taping the retreats.

Wisdom: What a brilliant idea! Did you think while you already had them, why not compile them into a book?

Wah!: I respond to what people request, what is helping them. There are a million techniques and a million teachers out there. I have like a hundred emails that ask “What is that song on your website, when your website comes up?” Everyone wants that song and it’s on the new album that’s coming out. My fans are very personable with me and they tell me what they want. What they wanted was the lectures from teacher training. That’s my barometer. The song on my website is called Maha Deva which will be on Buddha Cafe-Volume II.


Wisdom: So, it’s always about the relationship with your audience. It seems you nurture each other’s souls.

Wah!: Yes, that’s true.

Wisdom: Your book speaks of cleansing body, mind and spirit. How do you recommend doing that?

Wah!: The body, mind and spirit are connected. Cleansing the body for one person may not be the right thing for cleansing the body of another person. You have to ‘know thyself’ and the exploration of all these inter-related disciplines and various methodologies to follow. The question you asked is huge. As far as cleansing the mind; I feel that chanting is most effective and it’s very easy. It’s easier to chant than it is to sit silently and meditate. Of course the chanting leads to meditation as we sat silently at the end of the program. You can feel that presence that’s available. To ask a normal American to sit quietly, it’s too much of a jump. At the end of the chanting program, it happens naturally. Even though it’s a few minutes, it’s a taste of what it’s like to have cleansed your mind. Cleansing the mind often leads to cleansing the body as well by changing the way you eat, doing some yoga and exercise. Exercise by itself cleanses the body because the nutrients and toxins need to be moved through the muscle tissue and bones. All of the cells of the body replace themselves within fairly short periods of time. The eyes completely replace the cells within 3 days. You have to continually pull new energy through the body and remove toxins.


Wisdom: Another big question, based on what you have written; you speak of love. How would you define love?

Wah!: It’s a feeling of buoyancy and connectedness. We’re talking about unconditional love which is different from making some of the bargains we make on a personal level. The love I’m speaking of is a love that is 24/7 and it’s a connectedness to Self and the whole universe. The same buoyancy that sustains plants is the same thing that sustains us. If you play mantras in a greenhouse, the plants will grow larger. They’ve done it with classical music as well. If you play rock music, they’ll be stilted, if you play classical music, they’ll be healthy and if you play mantras, they’ll grow like crazy. This is the same energy that is capable of sustaining plants and nourishing them, is also capable of sustaining us.. I call it love because it feels nourishing in the same way a mother nourishes her child. It does translate over to all relationships; friends and lovers and parents, children and grandchildren and colleagues. It starts on a Divine level and filters down.

Wisdom: I was so moved by a line you wrote in the book about “praying with a melting heart”. Is that something that you live?

Wah!: I can’t say that I pray with a melting heart, but I think I get melted on a regular basis. Then I am praying with a melting heart.

Wisdom: How did yoga become part of your life path?

Wah!: I had a dance professor in college. I stayed with her over Spring break and she went to a yoga center, which back in the 80's, was almost non-existent in the U.S. Then my music professor brought in one of Ravi Shankar’s disciples to teach us raga ( Indian classical music). His name is Roop Verma and he is at Ananda Ashram in New York. A lot of things came at one time; music, yoga and meditation.

Wisdom: In what ways have you seen yoga benefitting your life and those who practice it?

Wah!: It’s appropriate at every age level and stage of life. For teenagers, it works great, for a pregnant woman, it works great, for an aging person, it works great. There’s always a benefit.

Wisdom: And certainly for a performer who spends a lot of time on the road.

Wah!: You’ve got to figure out how to keep yourself together, so yoga’s going to be high on my list.

Wisdom: Is it part of your daily practice?

Wah! : Yes, unless I’m too weak and tired.

Wisdom: Where do you teach?

Wah!: I teach at a studio called Lyfe Yoga in Hermosa Beach, California. “Hermosa” is the word for beautiful in Spanish. Their website is www.lyfeyogacenter.com

Wisdom: Whose music inspires you and keeps you juiced?

Wah!: That’s a really interesting question. Musically right now, a man from Toronto named k-os who plays hip-hop. Katiff is also hip-hop and rap. We’ve been listening to Michael Franti a lot and people say “You’ve gotta open for him!” He’s come up on the radar screen so much.

Wisdom: Interesting that you are choosing a type of music that is a different genre from what you play.

Wah! : Katiff is a jazz group. We’re doing more of that and more pop. My partner’s name is Paul Hollman and he’s into pop. The new album is more urban.

Wisdom: Just as you evolve, your music evolves. When is the new CD due out?

Wah!: By the end of this year. It’s going to be a compilation, called Re:mixed .


Wisdom: What inspires your own spiritual practice?

Wah! : That’s where the book comes from. In the morning I practice yoga, in the afternoon, I do like to take time for study; either something I’m not familiar with, or self studying and envisioning. Describing and attracting the energies that I most desire in my life. In the evening, it’s music. Those are my practices.

Wisdom: Can you describe the journey that led you to the place you are now?

Wah!: I’m still on it. It’s not like I found it. I went to Africa as a teenager, I lived in a shaman’s temple and really felt like it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a healer and drummer and be part of the tribe. As a teenager, I was finding myself. It became apparent quickly that #1 I was female and #2 I had white skin. I was accessing a former incarnation where I was male and had black skin. In a different outer form, staying in Africa would have been a good idea, but being white and female, it was not a good idea to stay in Africa, so when I came home, I was still searching. I did TM (Transcendental Meditation), a couple of yoga classes in an obscure place, out in Brooklyn somewhere. You have to understand that the path you’re taking is based on the desire of your soul and heart and so the things you are able to connect to are the things you most desire. That’s what started my path and that’s what’s continuing to shape my path. I’m so delighted that I have backup singers and that band in it’s current state is filled with people who desire to connect with the music and to the mantra and to themselves in such a whole way. That’s only been within the last year. Lots of times I was hiring professional musicians who weren’t feeding on it like this band is. Everything has evolved from coming home from Africa and trying to find a practice to now having a group of people that both give and take from the experience. It’s continuing to evolve.

Wisdom: As a result of what they’re experiencing as a collective and within themselves, they connected beautifully with the audience. I was looking around the room as I was listening to the music, you were all drawing us right in. I don’t how you all sustained the energy. How long were you performing?

Wah!: Two and half hours.

Wisdom: Something sustained you. That energy kept you going.

Wah!: When I was a teenager, I kept that practice and discipline. I felt that they would help me with my hormonal upheaval. I was vacillating back and forth from being excited to being depressed, being giddy to being in tears. I used the practices to rein it in a bit. I found my teacher Ammachi and have been with her 12 or 13 years now. Her approach is so loving and she also approaches it like we do, going in for a long drink. She’ll tip her head back and look up at the sky and I swear I can see the light just pouring into her body. She rejuvenates herself in our presence. It’s not something she does privately and then comes out and gives something. We have adopted that energy modality and then what we do in our concerts is feeding ourselves and that’s what you are feeling. You get drawn into it.

Wisdom: So, in many ways, kirtan seems to be a language in which love speaks.

Wah! : I hate to say that because people have religions that they follow that work for them, so I’m not saying that this is the only one. I do feel that music and some of these ancient languages, such as Latin, Sanskrit, Tibetan, they have certain power just within their words to connect each of us to a really Divine and amazing space. I think mantras do have a power to speak to the heart and communicate in unconditional love.


Wisdom: Do you feel that even if people don’t understand the meaning of the words you sing, they get the essence of them?

Wah!: I think it’s important to have some Sanskrit that you receive on a vibrational level and some English which is why I talk in between songs. People call them dharma talks.

Wisdom: Do you find that you reach a cross-over audience, people that are not necessarily yoga or meditation students?

Wah!: I’m really trying to do more festivals and get it out there as good vibe if you boiled it down. People can sing or dance along and access the energy and feed yourself with whatever way feels good to you. Yes, we are trying to branch out a little bit. We don’t do well through the South and the Bible belt.

Wisdom: Is your name a chosen name or birth name?

Wah!: It was a given name. I got it from a yoga master as a teenager. It means wow! People want to know why there is an exclamation point after it. That’s why. You really can’t say wow! without an exclamation point.

Wisdom: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Wah!: This is all part of the shift we are making as a global humanity. We are shifting from a fear based paradigm to a heart based one. All of these things we are discovering; the boom of yoga, Tibetans being ousted from their country and traveling through the world and Blue Cross Blue Shield honoring yoga as a healing modality. All these things are helping us through heart centered and compassionate choices.

Wah!’s website is www.wahmusic.com

She will be performing:

May 11-13

Basking in the love of Divine Mother

Yoga & Chanting Weekend with Wah!

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

Stockbridge, MA


May 27

Sun Valley Wellness Festival

Sun Valley, ID

This festival includes lectures by Robert F Kennedy, Jr,

August 31-September 3

Ecstatic Chant Weekend - Deva Premal, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Wah! and friends. Back by popular demand, chanting and satsang, all-night kirtan on Saturday night. A blissful, beautiful weekend....

Omega Institute

Rhinebeck, NY

Edie Weinstein-Moser is a renaissance woman: Free-lance journalist, workshop facilitator, interfaith minister, creative guide, reiki and massage practitioner and passionate yoga student. She can be reached via her website www.liveinjoy.com bydivinedesign@comcast.net

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