2013 Presenter Q & A: Sacred Earth brings Bhakti to Life
“Music is a language unto itself, it speaks to the heart… we don’t need to understand the lyrics or the language being sung to receive the depth of the message that is being expressed. Through music we can break down the barriers of race, language and religion.” Jethro of Sacred Earth
Sacred Earth joins the 2013 BaliSpirit Festival!
Based in Victoria Australia, Sacred Earth is the creation of Jethro & Prem Williams. For the last 12 years, they have traveled the world together, performing live the music that defines Sacred Earth. Prem shares her heart-felt devotion for the Spirit and our precious Mother Earth through mantra and song. Jethro plays an array of instruments from around the world, including the shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Indian bansuri, Irish tin & low whistles, and acoustic guitar.
Sacred Earth (Jethro is the respondent):
1. Which three groups or artists most influence your unique approach to kirtan (or is that the right word to describe what you do)?
This is a hard question; I guess our music would be called kirtan inspired music, because our journey with Sacred Earth started as street performers, kirtan is classically call and response, this was not an option when busking so we adapted our music to suit busking. Our music is influenced by our life in Australia and our previous experiences within the music industry as much as anything else, the practice of yoga, meditation and Mantra have shaped us as people which in turn has had a significant effect on our music. To name three artists I would be more naming some our favorite artists rather than those that have influenced us, although I am sure the influence is there… Jai Uttal, Deva Premal and Miten and OKA.
2. Tell us about the kirtan/devotional music scene back home in Oz. How does it compare to your experiences with devotional music in your international travels—particularly in its birthplace in India?
Australia is unique in that we are a large island disconnected from the rest of the western world, when we first started Sacred Earth 10 years ago we didn’t really have a reference to what others where doing in the States or Europe and so were able to approach our music with a sense of freedom that might not have otherwise been available. These days the world is more connected than ever before and Australia now has a diverse Kirtan scene that is much the same as the rest of the west.
3. The popularity of devotional group singing traditions has exploded over the last ten years. In your opinion, what accounts for this progression?
I think people are looking for a more meaningful way to connect with themselves and their community. Kirtan or devotional singing offers so much inspiration and creates an instant sense of community. We play all year round in different locations to thousands of different people and yet every gathering feels like and extended family. I put this down to the common focus of inward searching and a love of singing mantra.
4. What has been the highlight of your music career?
I guess there are a lot of highlights, we love touring in Europe, the festivals are amazing. I think the most heart expanding moment was playing music in the main street of the L.A Market seven years ago and having people stop to meditate with us, one man came in his electric wheel chair, reclined it, closed his eyes and stayed there for several songs, this blew me away as it was a place of hard energy and obvious struggle, yet people still got what we were doing.
5. How do you usually spend your time when you’re off the stage?
We have two children, so family plays a big role in our time away from performing, we have weekly open house meditaions when we are home and are both avid vegetable gardeners, surfing, yoga, hiking, breathing, learning… we love to be active and adventurous.
6. What excites you about performing at the BaliSpirit Festival?
We have been coming to Bali for years and support a charity in Ubud through our music. Like so many Australian’s we have a love affair with Bali and the rich spirituality that is the daily life of the Balinese. We are both really excited to have the opportunity to share our music in Bali and support the work of the Bali Spirit Fest.
7. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will you hit the recording studio? Head off on tour?
We will tour in Australia and America this year and will be back in Bali to run our annual Retreat this July; we are focusing on touring this year so there won’t be any new CD projects.
8. In addition to performing at the festival, what are some things you’d like to do while you’re in Bali?
Jethro is a super keen surfer so time on the coast is a must, Prem’s brother Chris is in the band OKA (also playing at Bali Sprit) so we have family coming over for the festival and a few friends to catch up with, we will spend some down time before and after the festival enjoying the slower pace of the tropics.
9. The Bali Spirit Festival is about social action, as well as great music. Why is music an important agent of change?
Music is a language unto itself, it speaks to the heart… we don’t need to understand the lyrics or the language being sung to receive the depth of the message that is being expressed. Through music we can break down the barriers of race, language and religion.