Sample from the Spring 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
An Interview with Wah! by Laura Sevika Douglass
Wah! has been immersed in the healing tradition of music since her teens. Her travels throughout the US, India and Africa have lead to a weaving of devotion in sound, in an effort to bring healing to those she encounters. Her deep, soulful music is a reflection of her travels, both geographical and spiritual. Wah! currently tours the US and Europe with her offering of traditional bhajans, Western music sensibilities, stories and teachings to elevate audiences worldwide.
Sevika Douglass: How did you start working with traditional bhajans?
Wah! I went to the Oberlin College and Conservatory, and during winter term you can study whatever you desire. A disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar came and offered a course on raga, using orchestral instruments. That was the beginning for me. I was 17 at the time, exploring classical music, world music, jazz, raga, performing arts, and so on. Over time, my music evolved into something much simpler than traditional classical raga. The chants I use now are basically folk music. It is music intended to gather people together in community. It is music intended to bring healing.
SD: Do you think that chanting can help build global community?
W: The music I am attracted to is used in community, and gathers people together at a higher vibration. The chants inject a really wonderful, etheric quality into the music. It’s a spiritual element that uplifts, purifies, and gives us a chance to evolve. Each of us has a physical body. But, each of us is a soul too. The physical body has more density and moves slower than the spiritual body. The chants vibrate at a soul level, the molecules move faster, there is great healing potential there. Through the music, we are able to inject some of the spirit world into our bodies.
SD: What does the name “Wah!” mean?
W: I was given my name by a Yoga master when I was 18. I was told it meant bliss beyond perfection. I didn’t know what bliss was at that time in my life. A divine name is a catalyst; it often represents a hidden energy in you that needs to be uncovered. When people call your name, they activate the energy of that name. Every time someone asked for “Wah” I had to respond. The bliss in me was activated partly because people kept asking for it to appear!
“Wah” is described in Yogic texts as an indescribable peace, a joy beyond comprehension, an ecstasy beyond the senses. As my spiritual practice continues, I realize that my true nature actually has no boundaries, just like my name. I seek the essence of my name, tuning into the indescribable joy and peace that comes through spiritual purification.
SD: How does chanting assist the process of spiritual purification?
W: In my view, when the vibrations of the chant enter the body healing energy moves freely and blockages can be removed. The chants we do are the simplest mantras. It is not Vedic chanting. You don’t have to be a Brahman, or study and spend long hours memorizing. Just say, “Sri Ram, Jai, Jai Ram,” while you are plowing the fields, or making the bed. Chanting can elevate you in whatever you are doing.
It is the simplest practice, which is why I do it. There are no qualifications. Anyone can do it, and that means I can connect with more people. In India, everyone sings and plays; chanting is the folk music of the people. The folk music of America is pop, so we introduce some of these elements and instruments into our music. We want people to relax, feel comfortable and at home–with themselves and with us. That is when healing happens…
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2005 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine .