By Ashley Shires
Saul David Raye is an internationally acclaimed yoga instructor, healing practitioner and kirtan artist. He draws on the depth of bhakti and tantra yoga tradition, and his music is influenced by his travels in India and his work in the music industry, growing up in his dad’s Avatar Recording Studios in Malibu. He will be teaching yoga and playing music from his new album, 10,000 Suns, at the Hanuman Yoga Festival in Boulder, Colorado, June 15 – 18, 2017.
We’re excited about your new album, 10,000 Suns. Can you tell us a little about it?
I have a little joke about the album, that we did ten years of pre-production. My main work in the world has been teaching yoga, and I have been so grateful for that. The music has always been something on the side – I always brought musicians with me on retreats, and then at a certain point, we started developing some chants.
About 2004/2005, I was playing with Tony Kalife; he grew up as a child soldier in Lebanon and music saved his life, brought him over here. He’s an incredible tabla player, and we played together for about four years. We developed a unique sound, and then I met Jim Beckwith, and it was like when you meet someone and you know you’re connected. We started traveling together and making music, and one day I had this download: it’s time to make a record.
We crowd-funded it and it took two years to complete; we wanted to take our time. But at a certain point, I had an existential crisis: are we ever going to be able to pull this in? I meditated on it – I remember I was in Santa Barbara, and I saw Dave Stringer’s face. I was like, oh – Dave’s an amazing producer and he brings a different skill set – he’s more like fire, pragmatic, organized, and Jim and I are more in the ether. Dave was the missing piece. We also had a great engineer who had done a bunch of Spirit Voyage music. I met Yoshi [the founder of the Hanuman Festival] through Jim Beckwith. He plays guitar on The River Song and Chamundayai. And we have Grammy nominee and Emmy winner, Toni Childs.
The album comes together so beautifully, with so much soul, so much heart.
Everything about the music for me is intuitive – music is about the fullness of life. What I would say simply about the record is that it was a full circle completion of many years of my life, bringing in many of the people I’ve known and played with for many years…since I was 19 years old. A record totally from the heart, the fulfillment of the heart.
What is it like teaching yoga and playing music at the Hanuman Festival?
2013 was my first year at the Hanuman Festival, and this will be my fifth year. It’s like a celebration: it’s a high-energy festival. It has a really beautiful community focus with the tents and the big lawn, in the middle of the mountains. And it’s spread out over the city – not contained in a big hotel. I love that they use the grounds of Boulder High School, in nature. The center is really green, like the heart chakra, that big lawn. It’s just a beautiful community, with amazing teachers and high energy.
Hanuman [the deity] represents bhakti, devotion, serving a higher principal, ram. We are more powerful when we are all together. What makes the festival so great is that you have all the styles and traditions coming together, which makes a very rich experience.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Just about the times we’re living in. Any spiritual teaching or inner path has to be relevant to our life and what’s happening. In its deepest sense, spirituality is meant to make us more present to life and we’re living at a really historic, powerful time. One of the things yoga teaches is to see beyond what is on the surface and go into trust into something deeper than the material world.
It can be easy to freak out and lose faith, to go into anger, blame, polarization. As yogis and beings who want to work for peace – that includes many people who aren’t labeled as yogis – this is the time to step up. The people of the world want peace, and yoga is more relevant than ever before.
What’s important is to do your spiritual practice and have faith in the world we can create together. That’s why we’re here. A lot of stuff coming to the surface has been here all along, hidden in the closet. The challenge is to see through the illusion, to see that humanity has a deeper journey together. And god bless us all, no exceptions.