In the video above, filmed in 2008, I guide young men through celebration ritual using traditional West African Drumming and spoken word as a means of expression, initiation, and transformation.
The wisdom of the ancients is not just something for interesting ethno-anthropological studies, read by academics secluded from the societies in which they are rooted. Rather, these studies are ways of mapping the future for one’s own self, family, and society. As in music, without a conscious attempt to integrate rhythm, all that one creates is noise.
It is my belief that troubled young males are in trouble precisely because the containing structures of myth, ritual, and mentoring are not there to help them traverse the dangerous path from youth to adult. Left on their own, they make “noise” and are punished for it. It is thus all the more essential to explore ancient practices and find effective ways of bridging the gap so that an almost-lost generation becomes the fire that burns for the good of self and other rather than a wildfire that destroys.
Shine Another Light is a very special song that took 10 years to fully manifest. My producer Mars and I created the music video above, dedicated to my friend Peter, and his village in Kenya. They have struggled with years of a terrible drought which nearly decimated the village and the land. The miracle of a donation to drill a borehole just brought the mercy of water and new hope to their community.
The world needs my light. It needs your light. We come in with a particular vibrational frequency to give. And if we don’t, if we really don’t shine our lights, if we don’t step into the destinies that we’re meant to live to at a soul level, the world is sunk. So it’s crucial we do this. This is the time to do it.
A Decade in the Making
The song’s lyrics first appeared in my mind when we lived in Malibu, back in 2013. I was sitting out on the deck and “Shine another light…. “ just wafted through my head. I’m like, “oh, that’s a great chorus for a song.” And so I started crafting verses and developing the song.
My wife Annette moved back to New York in 2013 to manage all of three of the facets of business and operations at the United Palace and Cultural Art Center. At that time there was a lot to oversee: television and film shoots, events, and concerts were large and continous. Artists like Adele, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and everybody in between have performed there. It was an unbelievable amount to hold.
In 2015, I felt my soul needed to create my music again because dealing with those three businesses at the United Palace was crushing me. I reached out to my friend and Producer, Mars Lasar in Napa, California. We hadn’t worked together since, year 2000. . I could feel myself needing to get back into writing and creating music, and Mars is my guy for that. He just has a way of working with my ideas, massaging them, and arranging them brilliantly in terms of his theoretical knowledge, chord construction, and layering different of orchestral sounds with instrumentation.
So we started, as I say, throwing the football back and forth coast to coast. Shine Another Light was one of the first three tracks that we were working on. And, I wasn’t really finding the form that I wanted for it. It was a slow progression. It was just one of those things. We would work on it for a while, then set it aside. And then he and his wife Cindy came out to New York.
I said, “Hey Mars, you’re coming out and we have this amazing band, (which I think was my favorite part of being there, working with the band and the kids) it would be great if we could actually do some recording while you are here.” So we arranged to have our singers and our band play the song. Our Musical Director helped with the vocal parts. And so we did this recording there on the stage of the United Palace, and that formed the basis of Shine Another Light. We worked with it and we got it to a certain point, and again, set it aside.
In 2017, Annette and I move out to Napa, nextdoor to Mars. Now we get to sit together and work every week, which is just glorious. So we’re working on it, and then Mayan’s voice was singing lead with Anwar singing. For my singing part, my sense was to just introduce it, to set it up, and sing the first verse and let the “real singers” carry it through. In my mind, I wasn’t a real singer.
We worked that formula as best we could, and got it to a certain point, set it aside, and started working on some other stuff.
Now it’s 2023, and we came back to it again. I was like, “oh, damn, I’ve gotta sing this song now.” I have to sing it. I mean, really sing it.
It’s been such an in-depth learning experience it’s pulled a lot out of me. One of the core movements in the song is a bridge that is all about the surrender, and releasing, releasing all of our fear. “Surrender so the soul can draw near you. Surrender, let go of the fight. Surrender, remember the light.” That is an expression of what I’ve been going through with my spiraling down and spiraling back up now with this song.
There’s a lot of different meanings and interpretations that I receive from this song. Creativity is living and it’s active. It flows through you, it changes you. Shine Another Light – the idea that the light of the divine is always there within us, around us. And we forget it. That’s part of the song also: forgetting and coming back to it and remembering.
There’s also the light, our light that the world needs. The world needs my light. It needs your light. We come in with a particular vibrational frequency to give. And if we don’t, if we really don’t shine our lights, if we don’t step into the destinies that we’re meant to live to at a soul level, the world is sunk. So it’s crucial we do this. This is the time to do it.
Let’s shine it! Turn the lights on! We need it now. This is what the third act or the fourth act… 11th hour so to speak. We have a responsibility.
And also we’re allowed to have our little “wrestling a crocodile” struggles too. When I hear the words “shine another light” I think of the reinvention too. This is the light I was shining before, and now I’m gonna shine another one. I’m gonna shine a different one. I’m gonna shine a new one. I’m gonna embrace a new take on this.
Perhaps it’s an additional light. An extra light. A light that we haven’t shown before from a depth we haven’t yet opened to. Or maybe again, the Divine is ready to give us light that we weren’t able to receive before. Because all of our senses and our nervous system and all of those subtle systems have been preparing to receive more light and information. We are now able to take in more light now than we used to be.
We each have a real opportunity to begin again, start fresh, and step out authentically as you are.
While in the Tengeru region East of Arusha, our group we went to “The Small Things” Children’s Center, which is inspired by Mother Teresa’s quote, “We can do not great things, only small things with great love.” There we delivered some of the school supplies we’d brought to Tanzania that some of the travelers and others had procured by my friend Rev. Kevin Ross’s congregation at Unity of Sacramento—a very progressive metaphysical church that he pastors. The staff there gave us an orientation and introduced us to some of the kids; that was a beautiful experience and our first opportunity to be with a group of children. This is one of those places that takes in kids from all over the community, including those without families or with difficult family situations.
It was interesting because our group met on a little hill with the classrooms down below. You could hear the kids in the classrooms singing and dancing and doing percussion or reciting their lessons, which was a wonderful feeling. I felt the urge to grab my drum and join in with their energy, but I did not want to disturb their studies; plus, I also enjoyed seeing them in their daily activities. They seemed so happy and allowed just to be kids, and it felt good to hear kids feel safe, loved, and cared for.
In Summer of 2022, I embarked upon a life changing and profound 17-day excursion to Tanzania with a group of travelers representing Unity of Sacramento. Enjoy this short film documenting our group’s experiences, joy, and adventure during our time in Africa with the social impact safari company, Adumu Safaris. I highly recommend this company for your trip to Africa!
On this first day of winter here, summer at home, I woke up at the Ilboru Safari Lodge contemplating the Solstice winds blowing in the night. Solstices mark endings and beginnings as we leave an old season and move into a new one, and I felt it in the air. This first day of a new season inspired a feeling of change. How apropos, as it would be a full day of unique experiences.
We began with a journey to an organic and fair trade community coffee plantation in the Tengeru region East of Arusha, and we were welcomed by being danced and sung onto the farm by old Meru women at the very hour of the solstice. This was our first initiatory experience. I’m brought back to the idea of “rejoicing in the presence” that I feel from the essence of Africa. That’s what welcoming is, and that’s what love is. The people of Africa know how to welcome you, which was a consistent, touching element throughout our sojourn. It was an honor to be so welcomed with song and dance, an offering of rhythm and spirit that pulled us in to participate as if we were long-awaited returning family members.