Music as Medicine & Bridging Worlds With Poranguí & Ashley Klein [Interview]

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Reared among the three cultures of Brazil, Mexico and the U.S., Poranguí was steeped in various traditional forms of music, healing and ceremony since birth. Drawing from his cross-cultural background and ethnomusicology training at Duke University, Poranguí has over twenty years of international work experience as an artist, musician, educator, filmmaker, consultant and therapist, utilizing the healing properties of sound and movement to foster our individual and collective well being.

Porangui. Photo by Rowan Tyne

As his uniquely interdisciplinary career has unfolded, Poranguí has embraced its many opportunities:

As a live musician, world soul artist and one-man orchestra Poranguí weaves ancestral songs and indigenous rhythms from around the globe. Creating his performances from scratch using looping technology, Poranguí’s live grooves range from meditative to dance party, moving the body, lifting the spirit, and transcending the divide between performer and audience. An evening with Poranguí might take you on a journey from deep, earthy didgeridoo grooves to high-vibe ecstatic Brazilian beats to blissful African kalimba lullabies.

His World Soul concerts have been hosted by Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, Beloved Festival, Sonic Bloom, Sedona Yoga Festival, Illuminate Film Festival, BOOM Festival, The Chopra Institute, TEDx, SXSW, Meow Wolf, and many more. Poranguí has collaborated with Rising Appalachia, Desert Dwellers, Climbing PoeTree, Shamans Dream, Liquid Bloom, Ayla Nereo, and numerous others.

In sound design and media production, Poranguí recently worked with director Mitch Schultz (“DMT: The Spirit Molecule”) and executive producer, Aubrey Marcus on “Ayahuasca”, a documentary set in the Amazon. The soundtrack to this film, released in 2016, is Poranguí’s debut solo album, which was followed with a Remix album presented by Shamans Dream and released under Desert Trax label. His self-titled Live solo album releases in March 2019.

In his parallel practice as a therapeutic bodyworker, Poranguí draws on his academic background in neuroscience, his family legacy in the healing arts, and his training as a licensed massage therapist. His self-developed “Myorhythmic Release” technique combines the healing properties of sound, movement, and breath, supporting clients from all backgrounds and health conditions in finding freedom from the limitations and suffering of old patterns and trauma.

For Poranguí, this rich practice of music, healing, teaching, performance, and creative collaboration represents the intersection of journeys both personal and professional. The work continues to unfold. For Poranguí, this diverse creative practice is not only a profession but a calling.

We sat down to chat with world musician Porangui and movement aficionado Ashley Klein during Momentom Collective’s Lake Atitlan, Guatemala artist residency.

Ashley Klein (left) & Porangui (right). Photo by Arteriam.

Who is Porangui? Who is Ashley?

Porangui: “‘Who am I?’ is a good question. I think it’s an ongoing question in my life.

I question every day how I’m doing. It’s been amazing to be in a relationship with an incredible partner who’s an epic mirror to help me to explore and to poke into what I think I am, what I really am, and then what’s even beyond that.

So for me, I’m constantly reflecting on that.

We can talk about this “meat-suit” that I’m in: where it was born and who brought that in. I was born in Brazil to a Brazilian mother and Mexicano father. I grew up bouncing around through las Americas until I landed in the Southwestern United States in Arizona.

I grew up in a trilingual, tri-cultural family which has been a blessing and a curse. As a child, it was really a struggle because you never belong anywhere; you don’t know who you are. Every time you’re in any place, you’re always a foreigner, always a stranger. This informs my music and informs my art: who I am. Wherever I am is home, it’s where my heart is; That moment is home and that has given me a lot of medicine and understanding. It continues to be a guiding light and principle for me, one that helps me to always find my way back.

I feel that my purpose and what I’ve been brought here to do is to be a bridge of worlds. That medicine is really key because I’ve grown up having all these different perspectives coming from, not a place of affluence, not a place of influence. Coming from families who’ve struggled and come from really difficult backgrounds but then also having studied at Duke University – having been amongst the most elite of the world, if you would. I’m able to sit in both of those worlds, to have a foot in each and to be able to really navigate both.

So there’s an interesting thing that has arisen out of that; Spirit has given me the tools so that I can be a shape-shifter and transform to whatever situation and to be what is needed – to be in service in that way, to facilitate transformation. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to for me. The art of this is about transformation. What I’m most excited about is, ‘How do we create art, not for entertainment, but for transformation?’ Yeah. So transformation, music, movement, and sound have been the core of my studies.

Porangui leads a Music is Medicine Workshop at Momentom Collective Guatemala. Photo by Celeste Veurman.

I actually thought I was going to be a medical doctor. I was coming from a family that was really struggling and was the first one to ever go to an Ivy League University. There was an expectation of, ‘You’ve got to be the one that makes it for us. Make the money, help the family, etc.’

I was doing the pre-med at Duke; I spent a year in China. In that whole process, I felt was being called is to be a healer. I was blessed to have people in my circles of influence, who helped me to see that I could actually design my own course of study, which I did at Duke University. I combined multiple departments and designed my major: Healing Through Music and Dance: Psychological and Cultural Perspectives. I combined the departments of neuroscience, dance, music, philosophy, cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, and wove them all into this really interesting course of study.

That’s continued to be my ongoing work, asking: what is it about movement and sound that is present in every single culture and every single part of the world? It is so interwoven into the way that we are able to find meaning in our existence as well as to find healing. There’s something that happens when we layer movement, sound, community and improvisation. It creates a situation where the mind doesn’t have enough bandwidth to keep analyzing or thinking. All of a sudden, the mind gets into the body. You’re fully embodied, and you have the self-awareness that you’re in it. This has been like the core of my work.

But beyond the meat-suit, who am I? I would say a Quetzal. The symbol of Guatemala, actually. It is the only bird that, if you put into cage, it will kill itself. It is a symbol of freedom; Freedom of movement, freedom of expression. That’s what it’s all about for me. My soul – it’s seeking the freedom.”

Ashley: “I’m a star being just come here to hold space. My mind wants to jump in to say, “You share that, you teach that, or you do that.” But I’m just here to be a container. I’m here to feel God, to feel spirit, and to feel oneness through humaneness and through humanity.”

How do you generate creative energy?

Porangui leads a voice activation workshop at Momentom Collective’s Guatemala Residency on Lake Atitlan. Photo by Celeste Veurman.

Ashley: “Through sleep, stillness, quiet, and meditation. That still point is the portal into movement and expression. Silence is the portal into sound and vice versa. For me, only from a place of having enough rest, quiet, space and stillness does my creative spark just ignite.”

Porangui: “I don’t feel like I generate creativity – its more that I get out of the way of it. Move. Get out of the way and let it be the hollow bone, which is medicine. The hollow bone is where I find the greatest inspiration, power and genius. It’s the creativity that flows through me from my ancestors, from creator, from the unknown, from history. The capacity in which I can get out of the way is the power of what comes through.”

How do you get out of the way?

Ashley: “Stillness is one of them for sure.”

Porangui: “Coming into stillness is coming into emptiness. Another on is through movement. Moving the body and moving the energy. It propels and starts to shake up the mind: the chatter, the noise and the judgment. The inner critic really wants to say, ‘That was good or that was bad.” But you never get stuck if you’re always in motion.

I also try to surrender each note – note by note. As the next note comes – how do I fully embrace it and let the next note just arise? Without being attached to the last note or thinking about what’s next. Just continuously moving. And this is, I’m able to continuously move and stay in motion. Motion is that improvisation, it’s the creativity, and it’s the stream that’s constantly flowing.

Ashley: When I’m doing my spoken word piece on the stage, I have to have enough room there to dance. I can only be out of my own way if I’m moving. When my body is constantly moving, my mind stops. Then, I can know what I’m hearing is not me anymore, but that I’m hearing the collective and what I need to say.

I’ll give an example of when I realized how crystallized that was. We do blindfold dances where we just guide it to make sure people don’t trample each other. I realized that even though everybody was blindfolded, I was pacing. I realized that when I stood still, my awareness went away and thoughts started coming in. But when I was moving it kept distractions away and I was able to be fully present in guiding this experience.

That’s where I learned to trust this voice that I hear when I’m in movement. Same thing applies if I’m hiking, or I’m just in constant movement. The voice that I hear, I know, is the voice of nature, the voice of the collective energy in the room, or it’s the voice of spirit. There was a process of learning to trust this, ‘Well, I don’t know why I would say that. But what happens if I say it?’ Then I say it and someone in the room bursts into tears. It was a process of learning to trust that.”

How much are we informed by collective consciousness in the decisions we make, in comparison to our own voice?

Porangui: “I think we’re all tapped into that. But I feel as an individual that there’s an artistry and a mastery and a refinement that comes from really deep listening.

Ashley is an empath. For me, it comes in other ways. I often feel it through an oral kind of energy. I can feel something is rising in the room and I tune into that in an extra-sensory, sonar kind of way. That’s the best way I can describe it.

It overlaps into other senses as well. Sometimes, when I feel a group’s energy, maybe there’s tension happening in the space. I will try to break that tension and something tells me, ‘This is the tool for that’ and I listen.
It’s like painting: this color, and now this color, this color… and next thing you know here’s this whole canvas.

I also am watching how the movement is in the room. Does it need to go up? Does it need to go down? Do we need to create more space? Do we need to lift it? Do we need to build tension? It’s storytelling through sound. It’s also a dialogue and a conversation.

Sometimes the audience is very much in conversation with me, which is amazing, because then it gets really juicy. The conversation becomes really complex and nuanced and powerful. Whereas I’ve played other shows where there’s alcohol and other substances in the field. It’s a whole other thing, like I’m dealing with this big dense like blob that I’m trying to pierce. It’s a whole other dance. In those instances, I have to generate more. It’s as if I have to go into a monologue, and I have to create this one-way transmission. That can be exhausting, and I literally feel like I switch from being like a conduit for infinite energy to move through me and being able to play for hours and hours, versus being on a battery pack. When that dialogue is not being reciprocated, the energy is not going out from me, and it’s not coming back. Whereas, it’s very different when it’s a cathartic ecstatic dance experience where people are co-creating the energy with me.”

In those situations, how do you invite people in?

Porangui chats with Momentom Collective Co-Founder John Early prior to his Music is Medicine workshop in San Marcos La Laguna. Photo by Celeste Veurman.

Porangui: “Sometimes we literally just tell people: put your drinks and phones down and come closer! (laughter)

Also, one of the most powerful dynamic tools I’ve learned is silence. If I take the sound away, we instinctually, as animals, we’ve notice and wonder what just happened. We pay attention. So, that’s a powerful way to use dynamics and sound by removing the sound suddenly or making a sudden change.

Another really great tool I like to use is to break the invisible barrier of stage and audience. That’s why I work with wireless microphones. People may think I’m going to stay in my little pretty spot, but then I break out and come right up to them, which is an interesting way to create more engagement.”

What’s your relationship to the elements, land, nature, plants, etc.? How does that play a role in how you create as an artist?

Ashley: “For me, I would say it’s almost entirely what has inspired me to be on this path. When I went to study dance in Brazil I was getting a daily dose of what’s called Silvestre technique, which is like a ballet class but instead of using ballet terms you’re talking about the elements. You’re connecting with the water in your body to do this movement in a certain way, but then engaging the fire. Then, maybe wiping the slate and doing the same movement from the perspective of air.

This bridges to the afro-Brazilian traditions of movement: spiritual practices call on elemental forces to inhabit our bodies and teach us and our community things by being a channel for nature.

In my first class, I was weeping the whole time because all of a sudden, all of the movement that wanted to come through my body had a meaning.

A huge part of the reason I facilitate these experiences is because it helps us recognize our Oneness, as well as our humanity. When we recognize these things, then we’re better to ourselves, we’re better to each other, and we’re better in relationship with the earth.

If I take on all the different faces of the ocean, what can that teach me?

And then, how can my embodiment teach that to the observers in a performative state?”

Porangui: “My relationship to the elements and to nature is something that’s been primordial and intrinsic to my very makeup since I was very young. My mother is a very spiritual woman and that was always spiritually curious. She was always exploring various lineages and various ways of spirituality. Being her first-born child, she dragged me to all of it.

She was vegetarian since I was born. She’d always been that way, before it was a trendy. And she really shared with me why we do that, in the sense of our connectedness to our nourishment when it comes to our food, as well as where we come from and what we’re made of. That’s a core principle for me. When we’re in right relation with the elements, and with the earth, then we’re right relationship with ourselves. Then we’re more capable of being in right relation to others.

My father taught me this notion of: make it more beautiful than you found it. How do we bring beauty into the world? How do we make everything more beautiful than we found it? And when we do that, the world is a more beautiful place.

So there are the two sides of this: the relationship of being in the right relation to the elements and to the environment, and making things more beautiful than how you find them. I weave those two principles into the fabric of everything I do. It informs who I am.

My mother named me Porangui. ‘Poran’ means beauty, and ‘Porangui’ is the one who walks and moves in beauty. So, my whole life has been this interesting dance of how to live up to that prayer.

A lot of our work together involves asking, ‘How we can cultivate and use the elements that have so much knowledge and wisdom?’ As individual elements they have their own individual power and grace. But then, how they all come together creates this experience and this collective dream. So, it’s a powerful framework that allows us to go deep into transformative work wherever we go – whether we’re in Australia, or the United States or in Asia or Europe, etc. That framework has a resonance, because it’s so primordial, it’s so essential, it’s so elemental. It is the very fabric of everything. When we really embody that and start to like reconnect to that, it really dissolves. It dissolves all the constructs that we have about how we’re different.”

Have you taken influence from plant medicine ceremonies?

Porangui: “My mother has been in many spiritual lineages and one of them was the Santo Diame church. Their primary sacrament is ayahuasca. There are those lineages as well as the Peruvian ways of working with ayahuasca. What’s really interesting and informative for me is that the Brazilian way of working with abuelita is very much a light on experience, and is much more of a communal, outward experience. Whereas the Peruvian Shamanic way is very much an internal shadow journey in the dark. Both of those really have informed and been master teachers for me.”

Additionally, just ayahuasca, the grandmother herself, has been one of my greatest teachers. Also with that have been other plant medicines as well, but she’s probably been one of the one of the biggest ones.

Ashley: “Even in indirect ways – being in a ceremony to teach you a lot about the way sound travels or about the energies that are emitted from specific instruments or frequencies. About how our bodies sensory systems respond to sound.”

Porangui: “The relationship with her has been one of her grandmother. Teaching me, which Ashley is reminding me of right now, to understand how each song is a spell. It’s a code. It’s an algorithm. And then, being able to weave those at the right moment when they’re called for. When we do that in a masterful way by listening, really deeply, then when it’s the right time that code can unlock and move and shift and transform the whole reality of those around us. For the individual or for the collective,

That deep listening is taught to us by the plants. They carry this knowledge and wisdom. There are medicine songs and there are songs that have been passed down. But then there are the songs that come from the work that I do, where I just empty myself. Songs where you tune in, like a radio, tuning through the stations and all of a sudden, ‘Ah, there it is.’ It comes right through you. Those are the ones that come through me when I’m performing. I’m not performing; I’m a channel.”

Ashley: “It’s also a reminder to everyone that all the plants that we work with, are always in our system. They always stay with us, as if they’ve stitched themselves into our aura. So, we don’t have to be in ceremony to access that medicine. We all have that ability to remember that we’ve created a bond with this planet teacher and that we can access that at any point. Music can be a fast track to that remembrance.”

Photo by Celeste Veurman.

What does circus mean to you?

Porangui: “Circular. I connect to the energy of the fool. The medicine of laughter, play, and playfulness. Playful spontaneous play in a circle is what comes forward. It also contains this archetype of being able to access the emotional body. And to do this emotional work in a safe container.”

What inspires you now in your life?

Porangui: “So many things but at the core: individuals and leaders who are taking risks now to make leaps for humanity in whatever their medium is. Elon Musk, Aubrey Marcus, Barba, Bobby McFerrin is a big influence, teacher, and inspiration for me… Also, listening to spirit and to nature.”

Ashley: “When you say, “who” I think of my dance teachers. Nature. Playing with these concepts of the portal between sound and silence, stillness and movement.”

What would you say to your 15-year-old self?

Ashley: “Don’t stop dancing.”

Porangui: “Don’t stop playing music. Embrace yourself: all of yourself. Don’t hold it back. If they can’t deal with it, it’s still going to be ok.”

Want to immerse yourself in supportive environments filled with these types of inspiration, workshops and more? Check out our upcoming residencies as well as 10 insanely talented and inspiring artists you can live and create with in paradise.

Connect with Porangui on SoundCloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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