DJ Divine Mother & the Soul Vibrations

I don't know the mystery of the whole universe, but I know that I love music. Growing up in suburban Toronto, the rec-room of my youth was filled with stereo equipment and records. I was born and raised during the 1970s, the golden age of hi-fidelity components, when turntables and amplifiers were built like Mack trucks. My father loved to surround himself with reel-to-reel tape players, monstrous speakers, and lots of reggae and calypso records. I had three older siblings too, all with weighty vinyl collections. Before I had reached the age of ten I was submerged in the birth of New Wave, Punk, and British Ska. When I was twelve, I began playing records for the boys on my street, turning them into music fans too. Back then music was just music, and Divine Mother was something I had never heard of.

As I grew older I continued to appreciate music and sought out music that strived to innovate. Sometime around 1995 this continual search for new music led me to "techno"—a form of music constructed entirely with electronic equipment and geared towards making people dance.

The first techno events I went to were confusing to me. Unlike the concerts I was used to, the crowd was there to dance, not watch, and the music was played by a disc jockey. I scoffed at the apparent lack of "live" music, but as I was further exposed to the scene, I came to understand that these DJs had a special ability to create new music by "mixing" their records. Mixing began in the Disco days of the late 1970s when club DJs began to synchronize the rhythms of the records they played, thereby providing the dance floor with a continuous beat throughout the night. Over the last two decades, the art of mixing has evolved to the point where DJs put their own stamp on the music they play by blending different sounds, or by rapidly cutting back and forth between records with uncanny precision. My immersion in this world taught me that this music was indeed "live", and I took steps to become a DJ.

The spontaneity of a DJ performance has an energy that is instantaneously transferred onto a crowd. While hands fly across vinyl records, (the easily manipulated medium of choice for almost all DJs) crowds of up to 10,000 people of all ages, races, sexes and attitudes jump around to a single beat. When I see this, it's obvious to me that music is a form of energy that possesses these bodies and triggers them into beautiful spasms. It speaks a language that only the body understands. When I see this, it's easy for me to think that this energy, this music, is actually a manifestation of Divine Mother.

I remember the day when I realized that Divine Mother wasn't an intellectual concept—She was a feeling—a feeling of bliss, contentment and gratitude for being alive. It's the same feeling that music induces in me whether I'm listening to it in my room or playing it for other people. I can't rationalize this feeling, or explain why it happens or how it works. Who knows why a certain melody makes me feel melancholy or a thumping rhythm makes me want to thrash around? I am glad that I can't answer this question, because it reminds me again and again that I possess an intuitive nature that responds to meaning and beauty in whatever form it takes.

If one of Divine Mother's many manifestations is sound and music, than as a DJ I am a gateway for Her, whether I am conscious of it or not. Yet my own individual nature determines what form Her energy will take, creating the mood of the evening for all involved. Some DJs mix "happy house", others play "dark drum n' bass", others attempt to invoke nostalgia by playing familiar, classic tunes. All of these sounds evoke various emotions and feelings, aspects of Her nature. My tendency to play "experimental" music means that the mood I convey is one of uncertainty and surprise. This can be challenging and even uncomfortable to listen to, but sometimes I look out onto the dance floor, and read an unspoken message that a curious musical adventure is taking the crowd to another place.

Messages come back to me in the form of dance (or sometimes the odd yell) and facilitate a dynamic two-way relationship between the DJ and listener. This communication is essential to the creation of a good atmosphere. The DJ is a gateway for the music, but he or she requires constant feedback from the crowd if the night, like a living organism, is to grow to a certain level. At a private party last week I began with casual, light music while I watched the guests arrive and begin to make conversation with each other. I slowly switched gears into a mellow danceable groove, hoping to incite a reaction in the guests. It worked—toes started to tap, and a few people ventured out onto the dance-floor. From this point on I had to continually read the floor to determine the direction the people wanted to go. Each new element I introduce into the mix can potentially fly or die, and when mistakes are made, there is backpedalling to be done. On this evening however, things went smoothly all night and through to the early morning. As I was packing up my gear, the host told me that I "was a river on which the party flowed". I said that the music was the river and that both DJ and dancers flowed with it, and each other.

I didn't realize how apt the river metaphor was until I remembered Divine Mother again. In India, Divine Mother is known as Saraswati, a water goddess presiding over a river of the same name. Legend has it that she seized a demon and used his body to make the world's first veena, a sitar-like instrument. This legendary connection of music and spirituality plays out in the daily lives of devout Indians. In a discourse explaining the meaning of Classical Indian music to Westerners, the master sitar player Ravi Shankar said, "We view music as a kind of spiritual discipline that raises one's inner being to divine peacefulness and bliss. The highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects, and the ragas are among the means by which this essence can be apprehended. Thus, through music, one can reach God." I've seen this with me in so many different ways: in the way music trains me to listen carefully, challenges me and exposes my fears when I'm nervous about spinning. Music is like a light that reveals to me my own personality in ways that extend beyond the DJ booth and into my daily life.

Music also helps me to celebrate life. The most obvious way that I and other fans of techno do this is through dancing. It is a way to feel the most connected with myself, and therefore Divine Mother, because to dance my entire body is involved. When music takes me over, I can almost see shackles flying off of my limbs. I love how dance events take place in dark spaces, where reduced vision allows my other senses to focus solely on the music. I am not alone in finding a spiritual connection in electronic dance music. Many events have a spiritual bent, as evidenced by the eastern imagery that decorates the warehouse walls. I am under no illusion that most of those people in attendance are attracted to this sort of happening for its faddish nature, or that the warm feelings expressed are often induced by drugs (such as MDMA or "Ecstasy"). But I do know many who go for the music, the dancing, and the connection they feel through it.

Of course, techno is not the only form of music that has otherworldly effects on the listener. Much has been said in the last few years about the healing power of music, most notably in Don Campbell's book The Mozart Effect. I think that any form of music can affect the listener positively, as long as they are willing to wholly embrace it. I also experience these effects when I play Ambient music for people. The term "Ambient" was coined in the 1970s by musician and visual artist Brian Eno to describe his soft, beatless, atmospheric music. It was not only the launching pad for the entire New Age music movement, it was the catalyst for electronic dance music too as Eno showed the world the musical potential of electronic equipment. Much in the same way a DJ creates an atmosphere, Eno consciously attempts to effect listeners' minds by giving them a musical meditative environment. He calls his music "a tint" that subtly colours one's surroundings—not busy enough to distract the mind, but calming enough to inspire clarity of thought and imagination. Like nature, his pieces often change only imperceptibly over time, so that there is, in his words, "a perfect balance between permanence and change."

In this I see a similarity between the effect of ambient music and that of mantra, for chanting mantra provides me with both a feeling of calm and a hum of energy. It seems almost a paradox to me that in relaxing my mind I am able to perceive this energy. I dedicate my chanting to Divine Mother, and the feeling that I am communicating with Her calms me, yet allows me to focus on Her dynamic qualities: compassion, grace, power. Ambient music has much of the same effect—it brings my "monkey mind" to a place where insight is given space. Its smooth tones promote relaxation while providing a beauty on which to centre my mind.

It is during these placid moments that I cease to think of music and Divine Mother as separate entities. I've known music for so long, and Divine Mother for such a short time, that I don't always remember that they are one and the same. When I first met Her a few years ago my attraction was based on an idea that She was an omnipresent being who harmonized daily events in order to foster life and learning. I'm not so sure that I would have as thoroughly understood the concept of harmony had I not been exposed to it in music. Today I see in her female form a perfect symbol for intuitive abilities that, as a man, I am seeking to develop. Through music and my life as a DJ, the search for Her continues.
Gordon Allen (aka Oval Roaster) is a DJ and one-half of Technot, a project conceived to promote fringe electronic music in the Toronto area. Find out more at www.calefaction/com/technot or email

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