Five Questions — LEAF preview

MC Yogi is the stage name of Northern California-based musician and yoga teacher Nicholas Giacomini. His sound is a danceable blend of world beat, hip-hop, Bollywood, reggae, dancehall, house and dub, fusing Hindu chants with club beats. His most recent album is Pilgrimage; last year he produced the video “Be the Change (The Story of Mahatma Gandhi)” in celebration of Gandhi’s birthday. He performs at Lake Eden Arts Festival this May.

Find the full festival schedulehere. LEAF runs Thursday, May 9-Sunday, May 12. Tickets are for sale (online or by phone at 686-8742) in advance only, through May 9. $184 adults/$153 kids ages 10-17 for Thursday-Sunday with camping. $159/$134 Friday-Sunday with camping. $106/$94 Friday-Sunday no camping. $47/$38 Friday evening or Sunday day only, no camping. $57/$50 Saturday only, no camping. Parking is $5 per vehicle with free shuttle.

MC Yogi and his wife, Amanda Giacomini, will also teach a yoga workshop at Asheville Yoga Center on Thursday, May 9. 6-8 p.m., $40.

Mountain Xpress: Was there an experience or moment when you realized that you could blend bhajans and hip-hop? How did that fusion come to you, and what influence found its way into your life first — hip-hop, or yoga and chanting?
MC Yogi: Hip-hop came first. In the beginning was the word, and after being broke down and feeling lost, yoga helped to bring it all together.  

There’s a real sense of joy in your music, but it seems like you risk crossing a line where you could offend various groups. Is there a thought process that goes into writing rhymes/songs that involves checking the intention of impact of your music? And how do you hope for it to impact your listeners?
I always strive to do what I love and create something that will make the world a better place. I’m a huge nerd and making music and art is really just an expression of what I’m really into and believe in. Yoga saved my life, and brought a lot of light into some very dark places. It helped me to get to know myself, and showed me how to connect to the world around me in a more peaceful and kind way. If that offends people, then I have a lot of compassion, because they must be in a lot of pain on some level. My hope is that through the practices and through the music, we can help to lessen the suffering and bring more joy and conscious celebration into the world. 

I’ve noticed that in past blog posts, you’ve covered spiritual graffiti and comics. Can you talk a little bit about using pop culture to relay spiritual messages?
Growing up I loved reading comics, watching cartoons, painting graffiti and listening to hip-hop music. When I got into yoga, my love for the yoga tradition infused everything I was doing, so naturally pop art became a great vehicle to share my love. Pop culture is like the mind, it can bring awareness to anything. It’s like a light, and when used for a higher purpose it can accomplish great things. Look at John and Yoko: They used “Mad Men”-style marketing tactics to promote peace in the same way you would promote and sell toothpaste. It’s an amazing vehicle. 

I saw you lead a yoga class at LEAF last year. You weren’t playing hip-hop music at the time, but I wondered if you ever used hip-hop while doing asanas.
Sure, I play everything from Lee Scratch Perry to the Beastie Boys and Bob Marley to The Beatles. When music comes form the root and makes you feel good, it can be a great catalyst for yoga, which is the realization that everything is connected.  

You’re a return visitor to LEAF. Tell us what you most look forward to seeing and/or doing while you’re at Lake Eden.
I really love the vibe in North Carolina, especially at Lake Eden. I met some really cool people there last year and look forward to turning a new leaf.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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