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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tucsonans should embrace unity through art

    As a native Tucsonan, I grew up complaining that there was never anything to do in Tucson. There never seemed to be anywhere to go unless you counted the neighborhood shenanigans. While age and wisdom have now conquered my delight in putting dog poop in newspapers and porn postmarked by the Church of Latter-day Saints in random mailboxes, and I have tapped into the community in a far less destructive manner.

    Tucson is a hot spring in a cold river for local music. But beyond the music, or rather through it, there is a community that believes in the music and its creative expression.

    Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Global Chant, a “”growing network (whose) mission is to use chanting as a vehicle for global transformation and healing.”” In addition, I sparked up a conversation with Keith Cooper, an up-and-coming musician deeply rooted in the local music scene here in Tucson. I was astounded by the thoughtfulness and emphasis of not only the lyrics, but of the meaning behind them and their influence on the musician and the audience, as described by Cooper and put into practice by Global Chant.

    “”The words are central,”” Cooper said. “”The music helps evoke the meaning of the lyrics (and) they work together to describe an idea.””

    The setting of Global Chant, at Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Blenman Elm neighborhood, is as unassuming and unpretentious as possible. Upon entering, you are given a printed index including the words to each chant so that you may follow along. They are simple but profound. About six chants are performed at each gathering, followed by quiet time during which the circle sends out its energy.  

    “”The whole point of Global Chant is to assemble as a community with one common goal: to send out love, kindness and positivity, and take that out into the world when you leave,”” said a regular attendee of Global Chant in Tucson who wished to remain anonymous.   

    To my mind, there is something truly mesmerizing about hearing 200 voices operating on the same plane.  It is a captivating, inspirational, moving and empowering experience. It is mimicking the sound of the entire cosmos. What is even more beautiful about Global Chant is its non-denominationalism; the current collection of chants includes Hebrew, Christian, Buddhist, Native American, Hindu, Sufi and Sikh chants. The crowd in attendance is multi-national. There is a group of musicians and various musical instruments: guitars and percussion instruments; tambourines and gongs; bells and maracas. But every voice and clapping hand is an instrument as well.

    Cooper, whose foray into the world of music began in high school as a drummer, has developed Overcast Off, a current project with drummer Jack Mattern and bassist Danny Mott; Cooper is the guitarist and vocalist. “”We describe it as electric folk music that doesn’t sound like folk music,”” Cooper said. “”We all believe in the importance of music and creative expression.”” Overcast Off will be playing a show at Plush this Thursday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. They will be playing with TV Buddhas, a group who originated in Israel, as well as Lenguas Largas, who sing many of their songs in Spanish. Here, like at Global Chant, you have members from different walks of life, coming together under the same umbrella, with the same purpose.

    I tried to keep up with our conversation, as I am not the least bit musically talented, which is where Global Chant comes into the equation. Global Chant, at least for me, blends the performer with the audience. It’s the ability to have a foot in each canoe, so to speak. It’s like a wave going back and forth, a reciprocal relationship between the two; each feeds the expression that the other expresses. To make an analogy, it is like writing a song. Cooper explains that it’s all about the words; the melody is crafted from the words themselves. This is a pivotal aspect of Global Chant; music is non-denominational and it gives one the opportunity to be incorporated into the music.

    Music, like space or the printed page or art hanging in a suave gallery, all connect with an individual. That’s the whole point right? The artist hears or sees and needs to express, to communicate with his or her audience and have the audience receive that communication and go out into the world with a new perspective. You don’t have to be good at music to appreciate it or be moved by it; Global Chant and Overcast Off serve as examples to this testament. I can appreciate the sound of their music, and be a part of each in two distinct ways, even though I am tone deaf and can’t keep a rhythm to save my life. Essentially though, expression benefits both the audience and the performer, so in each case you are the audience and the performer. They each see something in the other. The two become one. They coexist.

    The art of influencing the world through words and giving the community something to be excited and inspired about happens everywhere. But more often than not, it’s going on right under your nose. There’s a lot going on locally, you just have to pay attention to it. So the next time you’re at a show, or if you go to Global Chant or Overcast Off, be the audience and the performer. It’s like an equation; without one plus one, two does not exist.

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