Having just released his seventh album, “The River of Song,” Jim Beckwith’s music is becoming increasingly well-known. Over a musical career of 25 years, he has long been a well-loved singer, songwriter and fixture in various genres of music, including chant.
Jim Beckwith will be at the Northwest Yoga Conference in March 2016, offering healing through vibrational medicine of chant music and accompanying teachers such as Janet Stone and Silvia Mordini.
SYN: What inspired your new album “The River of Song”?
Beckwith: In part, traveling to India and other exotic places allowed me to witness firsthand how people everywhere are so much alike and have so much love to give. Walking around, it’s clear that music is the shared language of the soul. It speaks volumes – you can see how people’s faces light up especially through chanting! My life, too, has been transformed by the power of feeling the flow of music and chant as medicine.
At the same time, we need not travel farther than our mediation cushion to tap into the great spiritual power of devotional music wherever we are. I believe I can inspire with English words (as it is my native language) just as much as sanskrit. My intention is to marry East and West influences in a non-dogmatic and approachable way. I like to draw upon the archetypes I grew up on as well as the ones from ancient cultures and combine the two.
I feel the development of my latest album was a result of learning the art of trust in my life. I had to let go of needing to know what comes next. I truly allowed myself to experience the magic of natural flow, like that of a river. To be honest, this album didn’t get completed when I wanted it to. It took well over three years.
At times, I tried to swim against the river in getting it done but I couldn’t force the direction or timing. I learned from the making of this album not to “push the river” as my friend, Shiva Rea, says.
The name didn’t reveal itself to me until I was totally finished with the mixing of the project. I had some times of nervousness leading up to the finish of production when I realized I had no concept for a name or graphics. Then, there it was. I thought of my favorite photo from my pilgrimage to India – this beautiful woman sitting on the banks of the Ganga River in Rishikesh in a beautiful, flowing dress looking melancholy. It was like she was sitting there in this perfect scene in perfect light waiting for me to come photograph her.
Somehow I knew I had to use this image for the cover and then the title came fairly quickly. River of Song. The power of that metaphor has continued to reveal itself.
This was an exercise in keeping the faith and following where my path leads. The learning has been in living my dharma as it is, not always as I perceive it to be.
SYN: What makes this new album different from your other Kirtan albums and your other six albums?
Beckwith: This one includes mantra in every tune. Previously, on Lovelution, I had a few mantra based tracks, but this one is a full band orchestration and every song is built around a chant.
SYN: What does music mean to you?
Beckwith: Music is the most powerful language without words. Unless, of course, it has words (I love great lyrics, too). It’s like poetry with a melody. Music has the power to move people. It is amazing that way. Somehow, I’ve been given a gift, a voice that has something special in it. I don’t take credit for it, I just feel like my job is to figure out how to use it more, how to get it in front of more people and inspire them to love.
SYN: What has your musical career included?
Beckwith: I had a production company doing music for commercials, film and video as well as recording and producing artists working on their own projects. One included an international award-winning radio documentary featuring James Earl Jones.
I have worked with everyone from rappers, rockers, poets, Irish folk singers, African drummers, jazz musicians, documentary film producers and Kirtan artists. Because of this I am able to record and mix my own projects as well as from start to finish.
Little known musical facts about me:
- I studied the African djembe drum and am pretty good at it – My first CD review said “Jim Beckwith, mostly a percussionist…”
- I had a radio hit in Ghana, West Africa.
- I play over 30 instruments including: Sitar, djembe, cajon, kanjira, shakers, cartals, frame drum, djun djun, cowbell, sabar, seperwa, ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, fretless bass, electric bass, Armenian duduk, Native American flute, trumpet, gong, harmonium, hand pan – hang drum, mouth harp, harmonica, mouth bow, udu, digeridoo, tibetan bowls, dinner plates…
- I have like a 5-octave vocal range.
- I don’t really know how to play the sitar. 😉
- I am quite a good record producer and mixer, on par with the best.
SYN: Who inspires you?
Beckwith: Anyone who is following their passions and finding what turns them on in this world and going for it!
SYN: What are you most excited for during your 2016 tour?
Beckwith: Connecting with more amazing, beautiful people in more great places! Seeing my music get out there to more people in this world. Getting to continue to do what I love!
SYN: What is your favorite thing about being a Musician?
Beckwith: The thrill of inspiring others with my voice. The victory of overcoming my shyness to present something to a crowd of people.
I also learn a lot from interpreting the energy of the moment, instrumentally, in yoga classes. Improvisation is a great practice. It’s an exercise in being present and getting open and staying open enough to be a channel to support and inspire the message and movement. I do use my voice – I like to sing whenever I can, but it’s not always appropriate for the moment. Sometimes it’s better to use the voice as an instrument without words. I call it vocalizing. I consider myself a Sound Colorist – not a virtuoso on anything, but someone who can pick up whatever instrument is necessary to add the right shade of sound to support the flow at that moment.
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