Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creating from Passion: the Maker of the Bamboo iPhone Case

When I was first turned on to Mantrastyle I was stoked on both how cool the case was, how much it reflected the Yogi Tunes aesthetic.  The magic behind these cases is SF based artisan/entrepreneur Grace Tai.  Grace has created a cool niche and is indeed graceful in her approach to business.


What first inspired you to start making the cases?
I wanted to create a business that was a fusion of two things that I love: fashion and technology. I am absolutely obsessed with my iPhone and have never been able to find a case for it that I felt really reflected my personality. I wanted something that made a statement and bamboo not only does that but it's eco-friendly and incredibly sustainable to boot! 

How are the cases made? 
The cases are CNC milled for great precision and detail - people are always surprised at how thin and light the cases are! We get the awesome engravings on the back by using a laser machine that shoots millions of tiny little lasers into the wood to create awesome and intricate designs.

Did you have a specific background that helped you create your business? 
Some sales, some marketing, and a lot of passion!

Do you face any particular challenges in spreading the word about your creation?  
Absolutely - the Internet is a big place! One thing I have noticed is that it's one of those products that once someone sees it, they absolutely love it. I've had complete stranger stop to tell me how much they like my case. It's just a matter of getting the word out!

You seem to have an underlying message that comes through what you've created… if so, could you talk about that? 
Well, I wanted to create something that wasn't just cool, but also something that helped make the world a better place. One of my favorite things about Mantrastyle is  we get to donate a % of our cases to Freedom House,  a shelter that provides safety and rehabilitation for formerly trafficked women who have been rescued. Human trafficking has always been an issue very near and dear to my heart and  it's been a dream of mine to create a business that was able to incorporate this very important issue. What a great feeling to be making beautiful products for an equally beautiful cause!

I noticed you were selling your cases on scoutmob.com - can you talk a little bit about them?  They seem like they have a really cool concept. 
Scoutmob is one of our awesome partner sites - they feature an awesome array of products created by locals. You can search your city and buy stuff from people who walk the same streets as you - how cool is that? It's one of the great things about locally made products - not only are you contributing to your local economy, you are making an impact on the lives of real people, not huge corporations.

Do you have any plans to branch out into other products, or perhaps other phones?  
Absolutely; check out our site, we are already testing some new products out!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Child’s Song - By Alan Cohen

There is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they’re been born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.

And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.

In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

And it goes this way through their life. In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when this child is lying in bed, ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song, and they sing—for the last time—the song to that person.

You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little warbly at the moment, but so have all the great singers. Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home.

Reposted from:

Peia just happens to be an amazing singer!!


We hope to have her on Yogi Tunes soon :) 

Alex King-Harris
aka Rara Avis

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Hidden Cost of Convenience

Ever notice how with convenience often comes hidden costs?  It seems that with complete innocence we hunger to have our needs met in the most affordable, least time consuming way. However when we take a closer look at some of the services and products that fill our lives, we find hidden costs that put individuals, the environment and our future at risk.

In the music world, this is unfortunately no different.  Take Pandora Radio for example.  Amazing service right?  Right.  Pandora has created something that very few other music services can duplicate... an automated recommendation engine that literally streams endless amounts of music that is strikingly similar to what you already like.  It's free if you don't mind the ads, and very cheap if you'd rather have uninterrupted music.  An excellent way to enjoy listening to and discovering music online and it works well for yoga teachers, massage therapists, and other wellness professionals as an easy alternative to spending time hand-picking music for use at work.

However, as an artist, to earn a monthly minimum wage in the US ($1,160) via Pandora, I would need approximately 4,000,000 song plays. (Yes, that's four million).  Yet, if I were to sell around 230 albums via Yogi Tunes I'd make the same amount of money.  Now, I can't exactly live on $1,160 per month but there's definitely no way I can expect four million plays on Pandora per month.  If I was getting that kind of air time my name would be Justin Beiber and I wouldn't care how much I was making off royalties because I'd have 9 super cars, 12 houses, a private jet, a super yacht and would make more in one hour than most musicians make in their entire life time.

Yogi Tunes is a music service that has drawn a firm line in the sand around compensating artists and DJ's both for their hard work in bringing excellent music to the yoga community and beyond.  We pay DJ's a fee every time their mixes get published and offer a profit sharing model for both DJ's and artists if their music gets used in our subscription plan.  We then pay them more money for the retail sale of their music and try our very best to support independent artists and DJ's by marketing them and their music free of charge.  Sure, we hope to create a revenue stream that allows us to create financial stability in our own lives, but we're always doing it with the creative people in mind who power our service.

So the next time you're craving convenience, it's always worth looking behind the ease of use to make sure it's genuinely fair trade and good for everyone.  It's not always the case that it's bad - I'm not saying to distrust innovation.  Just asking (myself included) for some awareness around whether or not it's good all the way down the line.

Alex King-Harris
Yogi Tunes Co-Founder/CEO

The following graphic is an excellent tool for understanding the current state of affairs in the world of music royalties:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lookin' for Adventure?

I have the absolute joy of living in one of the nicest, most progressive, chilled out towns anywhere: Ashland, Oregon.

We are up in the mountains about 1/2 hour from the California border and life here is safe, peaceful, affordable, the city has an ordinance against billboards and large scale chain businesses, plus it has one of the nicest city parks I've ever come across.

One of the reasons we moved here was the local Waldorf school that our now 13 year old son attends. It's very low cost for a private school, has the most amazing teachers and a philosophy about childhood development that we resonate with.

One of the many perks at the Waldorf school is our son's teacher Kelly Shelstad and her husband Tom who are very gifted childhood educators. Since our son joined Kelly's class we've seen him truly blossom into a happy, healthy, content, funny, relaxed individual. One of the key things Kelly and Tom do is take the entire class on multi-day hiking trips. The first time they went on one it quite simply transformed the emotional and social dynamics of the entire class within a period of 3-4 days. They came back more themselves than I'd ever seen them, and the long term effects of Kelly and Tom's presence in our child's life has been truly a blessing.

Tom has an amazing company called 'Inner Guide Expeditions' through which he shares his passion for the wilderness and love for humanity in two ways: transformational wilderness trips for teens in the Pacific Northwest and customized family expeditions all over the globe. Through personalized attention, heartfelt connection, individualized feedback, and outdoor adventure they create a foundation for awareness and transformation to flourish. They hike, play, share, reflect, and explore their way through some of the most beautiful wilderness in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

"Something astounding happens when electronics are forgotten and an “analog” rhythm of life emerges center stage - wilderness becomes adventure, challenge becomes insight, campfires become council, strangers become family." Tom Shelstad

In 2013, Inner Guide is providing custom family expeditions in Washington, Oregon, and a 105-mile circumnavigation of Mont Blanc through France, Switzerland, and Italy. The trips are custom crafted to meet the unique needs of each family from the design of the expedition, to the level of facilitation and location. These rare experiences, as a family in a wilderness setting, guided by skilled facilitators, with opportunity to connect deeply away from the day to day, are exquisite opportunities to turn towards the people that matter most in your life.

If this resonates with you it's because it's really frickin' cool and you should definitely consider going to their website and booking a trip.

You can do so at: www.innerguideexpeditions.com or call them at (541) 261-4959

Alex King-Harris
Yogi Tunes CEO/Co-Founder

Monday, April 8, 2013

Qawwali Music Explained: An Interview w/ Tahir Qawwal of Fanna-Fi-Allah

If any of you have ever had the absolute pleasure of sitting in on a late night jam session with Fanna Fi Allah, then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say the air fills with a palpable sense of mysticism, devotion and a serious connection to the groove.  While I am myself a well trained musician, i've often wondered about the under lying structure present that is capable of bringing to life such an amazingly intricate and yet delicately simple form of devotional music.

To learn more, I sent my friend and band leader Tahir Qawwal some questions and was really inspired by the responses... read on for the interview!

You can listen to their latest release here:

And all of their releases here:

Can you briefly talk about the roots of Qawwali singing?
Musically speaking qawwali singing comes principally from the classical raaga tradition of the Indian subcontinent. All qawwalies are composed inside of a raaga framework which span both classical & semi-classical raaga's. Since qawwali singing is done in the high register, the texture of this singing is most closely related to folk & bhajan. Most of the vocal ornamentation in qawwali singing is contained in the Indian classical system, while a few special techniques come more specifically from Persian singing.

What are the general themes you are singing about?  Love?  Spirituality?  Devotion?
Well qawwali covers a very vast subject mater, spanning over a thousand years of culture & sufi poets. Generally speaking the principal subject matter is ' Ishq ' divine love, the passionate & emotional relationship with Allah. The typical subject matter for expressing this sacred devotion within qawwali text is offered to the name of Allah directly, towards the beloved prophet Muhammad ( pbah ) & his family, sufi saints of the Indian subcontinent & simply to the beloved, called by many names like: Sajna, Mehraman, Dholena... The qawwali texts are in languages such as: Urdu, Persian, Punjabi, Seraiki & Purbi.

Can you describe how the structure of the music works? (how it's composed and performed)
The musical structure of qawwali is quite unique, yet much of it's arrangement has certainly evolved out of older Indian musical genres. The main body of the song is comprised of a central sufi poetic text which is divided into two melodies, the astai ( lower melody ) & the antra ( upper melody ). In addition to this principal text we have firstly the ' saazina ' ( instrumental intro ), ' alap ' ( wordless vocal intro ) & ' Dora ' ( poetic invocation for the song ). Once the main text begins there can be many improvised solos sung spontaniouslly by the front line vocalists, these improvised bits known as ' amad ' are passionate offerings sung to embellish the raaga even deeper. As well, our qawwali repatoir is completely traditional, the melodies being composed by our maters & their for fathers. Being the group leader, it is also traditional for me to add relevant poetic material to the song as spontaneous solo or call/response sections.

I've seen it performed many times, and it seems like everyone gets a chance to solo but how is the solo order determined, and how does the ensemble know when the solo is over and it's time to sing the chorus?
When it comes to ' amad ' solo parts, it is the duty of the advanced vocalists in the front line. There is certainly no order as impulsive passion is the way. There is though, a communal respect given first to the advanced singers. When it comes to how to start or finish, this is all empathic, as long as a solo is aesthetically within the feel of the track it all lines up naturally.
On behalf of the whole ensemble, how did most of you get involved? Was it different for everyone?

Well, my beginnings in the qawwali field evolved directly out of studies in Indian classical music & my journey into sufism. When Fanna-Fi-Allah was created by Aminah Chishty & I back in 2001 we tried our best to build the group from skilled vocalists who were passionate about this musical genre. Qawwali is an extremely difficult & sophisticated form of music. Because of the perpetual musical training involved in our ensemble, it is treated as a very long term commitment for anyone to join the mob. Yes, it was truly different for each of our beloved members.

It seems like you guys are family and all share a common bond within the music… can you talk about that?

We certainly do ! Sharing devotional music has been a profound way to experience friendship. Keeping the peace within our crew hasn't always been easy, but now that were all well out of our twenties inshallah generosity & maturity will guide our way forward.

Are there particular challenges you face in touring with such a large group?
The most confronting challenge of touring as a large ensemble is simply the cost. After our first decade of touring professionally we all decided that it was time that we would only except gigs that were fairly paid, this has created some limitations for venues & festivals with small performer budgets. On top of this we typically accept one or two benefit concerts each year as well as perform in India & Pakistan without any concern for compensation.

Do you ever perform in smaller numbers? (duo or trio, etc.)
Traditional qawwali as passed down from our maters can only be accomplished with a group. There are specific rolls that must be fulfilled for an offering that is truly qawwali. Singing the sufi texts in a classical ( duo or trio ) is beautiful genre called Kafi. My other musical ensemble named Sufi Soul Sangeet is designed for this more subtle & soft traditional art.

Do you have any tips for people interested in singing Qawaali who might not have access to an ensemble to practice with?
First off, the guidance of a qawwali ustad ( teacher ) is completely necessary since the form is much too advanced to imitate. Most of the practice involved is purely classical training which is done alone. But when your ready for an ensemble give a call !

Is having a female tabla player unusual?
Yes, female tabla players in Pakistan seem to be presently almost non existent. Thanks to her heart felt dedication to the path & her initiation under qawwali great Dildar Hussain Khan, Aminah is proving herself exceptionally well in this field.
Can you talk about how, as a non-indiginous ensemble, you've been received by traditional audiences and/or venues?
Honestly when performing in Pakistan, since the traditional setting of qawwali is completely sufi in nature there is only kindness when we offer our sound. The virtues of hospitality & warmth come much more easily than cultural discrimination. That being said, we are very young in this path when sitting at the feet of our teachers & their many generations of qawwali history. Qawwali music is much more of a spiritual experience than a cultural display. As I've explained above there are many languages in qawwali, therefor even local Pakistani qawwal's have to study hard if they are to thrive.