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Lions Roar : March 2013
BUDDHIST MUSIC: WHAT IS IT? Is it gongs, bells, and chants? Well, yes. And, no. Sound has always been part of Buddhist practice, of course, but as the dharma has made its way into the West—and the West has found its way into the dharma—the idea of what might constitute Buddhist music has opened up. It was in 2005 that I first noticed how varied, fun, and meaningful modern Buddhist-influenced music could be. Music had always been a constant in my life, and that wasn’t going to change now that I’d taken up Buddhist practice. I’d come up as a punk-rock kid, so I started with what I knew and found out about the “first Buddhist punk band,” Ruin. If Ruin was out there, and was so good, I reasoned, there had to be more. I found many musicians with the artistry, the inventiveness, the passion, and the commitment I’d come to see in my fellow practitioners. I started mapping them on my website, TheWorstHorse.com, and it didn’t take long before an exciting new world appeared to me. Today, the gongs, bells, and chants of yore might be sampled or stood in for by scalding punk guitars, otherworldly vocals, or wholly unforeseen new approaches across a variety of genres. Sometimes the connections are explicit, sometimes less so—sometimes they’re bald-faced marketing choices—but like the dharma itself, Buddhist-inspired music can prompt us to see beyond the boundaries we so often take for granted. It can be (almost) anything. So now’s a great time for dharma-music nuts like me. Here’s just a sampling of the many artists who are making it so. The dharma speaks through music— it always has, it does today. From jazz to metal to rap, ROD MEADE SPERRY surveys the scene. 61 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 The Cult’s Ian Astbury Born I Music k.d. lang PHOTOSFROMTOPTOBOTTOM:GARETHCATTERMOLE/GETTYIMAGES,KEYWEST,OZVILLANUEVA