Wai Lana is both a musician and an internationally known yoga teacher, with her series Wai Lana Yoga. Through her songs, she spreads the messages of yoga teachings. Most recently, she released “River of Forgiveness” to align with International Day of Friendship and Global Friendship Day.
VENTS recently interviewed Wai Lana about the “River of Forgiveness” music video, the meditative quality of her songs and videos, and more!
Walk us through your musical journey. How did you get to where you are today in your musical career? When did your passion for music begin and how has that passion grown and/or changed?
Music is a very powerful medium that most people enjoy. My intention is to use this medium to spread hope and positivity to all who want to hear. There is so much negative stuff going on in the world and, as a whole, the music industry tends to spread negativity. But from the feedback we are getting, people find it very refreshing to hear positive and helpful ideas.
While music by itself can be very beautiful, when music complements the deep and significant messages of the yoga teachings, it becomes a very potent combination. I’ve found that uplifting music and lyrics can be very helpful in everyday life, allowing us to relax, calm our minds, and enter a peaceful and meditative state.
Music has always been a big part of my personal yoga and meditation practices. Decades ago, when I began producing holistic yoga instructional videos for public television, I incorporated beautiful music with meditation. After receiving so much encouraging feedback from people, telling me how much it has helped them in their lives, I’ve continued to put out more music. But making music has never been a career or business for me. Rather, I see it is an opportunity to share the wisdom of yoga that has benefited me so much in my life.
Can you explain what your writing process is like? Where do you tend to find inspiration for your music? Do you draw from other artists or even from your connection with yoga?
I’m usually not very organized in my song writing. A song will often just start with an idea. If I like the idea, it will stay in my mind for days and weeks, and I begin to write things down and further develop the idea. Then, once I’m clear on the message I want to communicate and I’ve thought about how I want to approach the music, I’ll share those ideas with my musician friends and we start experimenting. Once the music starts coming together, I’ll adjust the lyrics as needed. So, it’s a very organic process rather than just trying to compose a song all at once.
As far as inspiration, I draw heavily upon the wisdom of yoga for my songs. Yoga applies to all aspects of our lives, teaching us how to deal with all sorts of problems, so there is no shortage of ideas to explore.
“River of Forgiveness,” along with your other work, touches upon many vulnerable and unique topics. Why is it necessary to address these issues within your music? What do you hope listeners will take away from your creations?
It’s hard to look out into the world and not have compassion for the suffering so many people are experiencing. Everyone is struggling with something—broken relationships, death, disease, addictions, war. I feel so fortunate to have been introduced to the teachings and practices of yoga, and I have seen again and again how much they can help everybody. It is such a wonderful treasure that has been shared with me. How could I not share it with others?
As far as dealing with a sensitive topic like anger, it is a reality that people are suffering because of anger. Just like relationships have brought everyone some degree of joy, they have also caused some degree of pain. So, to help relieve this pain and the other problems we all face, we must address the cause and the solution. If we avoid difficult topics and hide the truth, it doesn’t help anyone. We just remain unhappy within. Not only that, but the stress caused by holding on to anger for months or years can take a tremendous toll on our health and wellbeing.
With this particular song, I had to be careful because many people are carrying a very painful burden in their lives. A broken heart can be devastating. So, I didn’t want to pour salt on their wounds and increase their suffering. But at the same time, I tried to make the music video a little lighthearted so maybe the viewers can find a little humor in their own situation. The challenge was to strike the right balance in the mood while shooting and editing the music video, and I’m very happy with the outcome—as are many others based on the feedback we’ve been getting.
The visuals are striking and contain many metaphors. Which scene from the music video is your favorite, and why? Are there any easter eggs that you feel are important to mention?
This is really the fun part of making music videos—getting to match the scenes and locations to the lyrics. As you mentioned, we try to take advantage of symbolism to help convey the message of the lyrics.
My favorite scenes are by the rivers at the end when I start to give the solution to the viewers, “Let it go.” The rivers are so beautiful and go very nicely with the lyrics and music.
Another scene that is a quite unique is when I’m singing about being mad while surrounded by mud volcanos. You can see the volcanos in front of me and all around which are symbolic of explosions of anger.
“River of Forgiveness” contains a meditative quality in its lighthearted sound despite the darker lyrics. Can you talk us through the decision to make an uplifting track with a more pessimistic start? Did you know how you wanted the song to sound from the very beginning?
As far as the melody goes, we tried to focus on the tongue-and-cheek aspect of the lyrics and then we maintained that throughout the darker parts of the song. So, the melody was bright and uplifting in contrast with a fairly heavy subject matter. In this case, these two opposites worked well to complement each other.
I knew that if I followed the tone of the lyrics throughout, the song could have come out with a depressing feel to it. I wanted to avoid that and instill a sense of hope and optimism. Like the quote at the end says, “Anger is darkness, love is light.” There is no shortage of darker messages being spread in the world. I wanted to share love and light.
But ultimately, you really can’t avoid being a little pessimistic if you’re dealing with the reality of suffering in this world. Burying our heads in the sand doesn’t solve anything. It’s much better to be open and honest and talk to people in a way they can relate to and appreciate.
As far as music, my favorite style of music is what we did for “Lay Me Down” and “Oh My Sweet Lord” but that style wouldn’t have fit for “River of Forgiveness.” In this song, some of the lyrics are very sober, so I wanted to contrast that with a more upbeat, faster-paced melody.
Coming up with the final music really was a challenge. I had a rough idea and a picture in my mind about how I wanted to approach the song and sound when we started it. But the first part of the song is serious and sober, then we swing into a more thoughtful mood, and then it goes into a more cheerful, happy segment. So working out the transitions so it didn’t sound like we were hooking completely different songs together was very tricky. So, it’s really been a very creative process from start to finish.
I’m extremely happy with the end result and feel we were able to take on a very serious subject matter in an entertaining and upbeat way, while still being respectful of the feelings of people who may be suffering from the situations described in the song.
Would you like to share any dreams you have for the future, or exciting upcoming projects?
I don’t really have any dreams for the future – just like I didn’t have any dreams in the past for what I’m doing now. I just try to be of service and look for opportunities to help others in their lives.
As far as upcoming projects, I have been going through some sadness in my life, so it’s quite possible my next song could be a sad, emotional love song. But like “River of Forgiveness,” I hope to be able to offer encouragement to help people through difficult times, rather than something that’s too depressing.