Thunder over Varanasi
The city of Benares/Varanasi is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the known world.
Steeped in eons of history that disappear into the mists of our most ancient human experience, Varanasi is wreathed by the holy Mother River Ganga, graceing her rising and sinking temples like a necklace of shimmering beauty and seething sorrow; here, human beauty and majesty lives and breathes beside human suffering and indignities on a scale of contrast that tears open the hearts of all who witness and embrace her. Ma Ganga, the Holy Mother of all Rivers; elephants bathe in Her as the bodies of children float by, face down; garlands of fresh flowers and candles on floating leaves, tokens of the prayers and hopes and dreams of unseen multitudes, are carried slowly downstream; exquisite perfumes and oils on floating effigies of Gods mix with human and animal effluent, all of it drifting away toward the unseen ocean beyond the distant horizon; all of it a living breathing metaphor of the human experience.
“India does not exist for herself alone; India exists for the whole world” as Gandhi once said.
And that is especially true of Varanasi, crown jewel of North India, a city where ancient past and modern present meet for tea everyday; iron in the blacksmiths hearth rings out --molten and glowing-- under hammer blows of the blacksmith, as it has for a thousand years, next door to the cell phone shop, where a trendy young man, impeccably dressed in Western attire, demonstrates the latest programming features in the very latest wireless handheld.
When thunder clouds form and explode with lightening over this sacred city, sheets of rain follow, washing away all manner of tawdry excess and human and animal detritus, purifying the air and earth, and also cleansing the hearts and minds of all who live here, who love and revere and fear the cycles of flood and famine that are the life blood, and returning death and rebirth, of this seething human megopolis known also as “The Eternal City.”
This song, based on the Hindustani Raga/melody known as Raga Megh, evokes the power of thunder and the torrential rain of heaven, that are often both the fatal onslaught and the very life’s blood of this of this blessedly beautiful city. Sitting on the floodplains of the river Ganga, where Shiva’s heavenly generosity floods Ma Ganga’s bosom with life-giving water, River Ganga bursts forth from her banks across the wide river basin around Varanasi, to re-fertilize her soil every spring, while also taking a lethal toll on the elderly and the young and infirm, for her life giving waters are also life-taking as well.
“Thunder over Varanasi” calls forth the power of heaven to bring forth new life, its heroic pathos evocative of the power of nature and the living spirit within us, its stately rhythm reminiscent of the walk of elephants, carrying all earthly patrons along the road of beauty, sorrow, joy and illusion; our souls journey of awakening through this exquisitely miraculous and mysterious world.
“Thunder Over Varanasi” features the sublime vocal imagination and sitar artistry of Deobrat Mishra of Varanasi; the beautiful and lively rhythmic guitar phrasings and of Keeth Apgar of Port Townsend Washington, and myself on percussion and supporting vocals. This song is of authentic “East/West” vintage, and is literally the play of one afternoon together in our home studio in Seattle; please savor it as a rare feast of delicious sound-food for heart and soul.