I unknowingly committed myself to music the first time I sang as a child, not because I wanted to but because it is the highest calling in my heart. It was instant love! It is in music, that I have truly experienced God and as a dear friend once said to me, “Put music (God) first, it is the reason you are here, and everything else will fall into place. It is true, Music has brought me gifts beyond my wildest dreams and opened doors where there were only walls. It has been my vechicle to experience God in this life and the truth of who I am. This is one of the many reasons I am so in love with Music, aside from the connection I feel to my heart and the portals that open to higher worlds (which I only have felt deeply in love or in singing/making music). In this world that we live in of illusion (Maya), to me Music feels real. I feel oneness, truth and unity in this space of creation. This place that everyone is searching for, for me is in this inner music. However, When I embarked on my journey to India in 2008, I never envisioned I would be writing sacred songs. I had come from working many years in the Latin Music Industry. At that point in my life (2008) I had written over 30 songs over the years, two that were translated by artists in other languages (German and spanish), including my translating the song, “Que tu tienes” that was released on Sony Columbia Records when I was a signed artist with them (under my birth name Jennifer Delgado).
From 2000-2007, My ex and I had an in-home studio, a Roland 2480 counsel, amazing microphones and cool drum machines. I loved having a home studio. I could write a song and within a week it could be recorded and up on myspace. It was so much fun to create, express and feel the instant gratification of birthing my songs. It felt like the universe was constantly moving through me in full self expression. I wrote about so many topics of love-the joy of it, the sadness of loss, the frustration and the longing of it. The last song I wrote in english (before leaving for india) was called, “Giving Up”, a rock song about wanting more from life and love and “Giving up” on the west’s idea of love as fast food and the flavor of the month. It reflected exactly what I was feeling about love at the time, I had had enough of it’s substitute, I wanted the real thing. A love that would endure the tests of time. A love I could believe in and count on. I wanted true love.
When I left for India, my friend said to me, “You’re bringing your guitar right?” I looked at her like she was crazy. I already had a huge luggage I was going to be carrying around by myself that was supposed to be a suitcase/back pack (that I turned out using as a suitcase because when I put it on my back, I almost fell over because it was bigger than me. LOL!). Anyways, at the time I couldn’t imagine carrying anything else, the suitcase was enough, but the shakti must have been laughing to pieces in my response that I was not taking my guitar for my 3 month (Turned into 9 month) journey to India. It knew better, but I’m glad everything happened the way that it did.
My first month in India, I was at my teachers Ashram in Ganeshpuri (in serious study of spirituality and the knowledge of self) and the second month I went on a 6 week North India tour with Amma (The Hugging Saint from Kerala, who has hugged over 32 million people in the world.) I had absolutely no idea that my time with her would ignite a whole other side of my songwriting and musicianship. However, it was about half way through the tour that a friend of mine from Mexico handed me her guitar and said, “Marfil, you’re a singer, play us a mantra song you know.” Well truth was, I did have a few mantra songs I secretly played to myself in my home back in NYC, so I began playing the guitar and singing “Kali Durga” a song I had written to get through the end of my relationship (God knows I needed Kali’s strength and Durga’s Love). When they heard the song everyone said, “More, more, play another one.” So they taught me a few chords to some Krishna Das songs like “He Ma Durga” and the journey began. Somehow I was elected one of the new kirtan leaders in the group, which was such a perfect fit for me at the time because to be honest, I was sick of writing unrequited love songs and sad love stories. Singing the Mantras (Kirtan) brought everyone together and everyone began forming a whole new connection with each other. I was so happy to be a part of it and I realized it was satisfying my love and joy of playing music and my profound desire to have a deeper connection with God and others. Throughout the tour, I borrowed my friends guitar and always somehow, as word got around in whatever town I was in, somebody would arrive with a guitar that I could play (This happened many times at my hut in the Andamen islands or at my hotel room in Rishikesh). Some random person (who had heard about me) would come knock on my door and call me out to play, “Come on, everyone is waiting, come play Shiva Shamboo.” I spent countless nights in a circle of International travelers and although we all spoke different languages, we shared a connection and love of music.
I played out almost every night for months and months and as the heat began rising in Rishikesh (to about 115 degrees), I spent alot of my days in my air conditioned room at Raj Palace writing mantra songs (that were inspired from songs I would hear at the marketplace in town). I loved walking by the stores on the other side of the bridge (The smell of incense and mantras blasting throughout the streets, seeing monkeys and cows, friendly faces and sadhus). My heart was so full at that time, I had to come back to the room and express this fullness. The music I was writing at the time was so tender, so sweet because that’s how I felt inside, a rebirth of the feminine awakening in me. I was falling in love with life again, with the newness of the culture and the little girl inside me that felt like I was inside one of the scenes from “it’s a small world” at Disneyland. I loved that the Indian culture was so well preserved and seeing the women in saris and colorful punjabi’s reminded me that woman are Goddesses and princesses at their core. It was so beautiful to see the truth of the feminine essence after years of living in a culture where the sacred feminine face was shown to us through Mary (A virgin or a whore). Where were the real women in our culture celebrated? How could we love in a way that was honoring of our true divinity and essence? and where were the men who could truly love and cherish us in this way? I had never really experienced it, so I was curious and thrilled to be shown another way. My time in Rishikesh opened my eyes to this new realization. I felt like I was living on another planet, underneath the Himalayas and above the Ganges (the vibration there was so high, I was bathing in Shakti) It opened so much for me! My friends were yogis, Sadhus, spiritual masters, sikhs and foreigners. I think I knew maybe six Americans who passed through town the whole time I was there. The rest was like being in a Bollywood movie filled with colorful and interesting characters.
So one day, this desire to play the guitar was unbearable. A guitar had always presented itself, but this day there was not one guitar in sight. I searched the town like an addict needing a fix, my hands were fidgety and I was so restless. I had never felt this desperation to play before, it was all consuming. I had always been a singer, I never thought of myself as a musician (even though I had been playing guitar for many years now), but today my hands were strumming chords in the air and I was restless. I had only one thing on my mind, I needed to play! So I went to the rooftop of my hotel with a view of all of Rishikesh and prayed to the universe to help me find a guitar. I realized I had formed this new relationship that I did not know had happend until I felt it’s absence. I had crossed to the other side without even knowing it. I was having a new love affair with the feeling of playing the guitar because it connected me to something much greater. God, all I wanted to do was play!
Like a hawk from my rooftop, I saw a japanese traveler with a guitar strapped on his back and I ran so fast down 5 flights of stairs that I almost fell skipping a step. I then followed him to a nearby hotel. I had never done this in my life (ask someone I didn’t know to borrow their instrument) and I don’t know where the courage came from, but I walked up to his door and knocked. The sweetest japanese man opened the door and I said, “Hi name is Marfil and I know you don’t know me, but I also play guitar and I really, really have a burning desire to play today. I can pay you whatever you want, but can I borrow your guitar for an hour? I promise I will bring it back.” He very calmly and casually said, “Sure, you can have it for the day, just bring it back tonight and if I’m not here just leave it at reception.” and without a beat, he handed me his guitar, no questions asked. “Enjoy!” He said.
I gently grabbed his guitar, my heart racing and my hands clutching onto it for dear life and I took it to my hotel rooftop where I played for next 5 hours straight. One song after another arriving, I was in the bliss of a love I had not felt in a long time. I was in a parallel universe filled with such joy that when I opened my eyes, I didn’t realize that an english couple had been sitting there listening. They applauded me when I looked at them. I laughed out loud awkwardly out of embarrassment and then we spoke for awhile as I described my day in my quest for a guitar. Then the woman said, “You have to buy yourself a guitar, I know there is a music store in Lakshman Jula. You should go there and see if there is one for you that you could take with you on the road while you’re traveling”. So I took her advice. The next day I walked 3 miles into town to the tiniest music store I had ever seen, walked into the store and instantly saw the guitar I had envisioned for years. I knew it was mine because I had been gifted an Ibanez acoustic electric blue guitar years before, but knew that the guitar that I would one day have, would be a much more vibrant blue. I walked in and there it was, the only blue guitar in the store awaiting me. Love at first sight!
I picked up the guitar and started singing and playing. Everyone there began to gather around me. I played it awhile, feeling it was my guitar but then I looked at the price. It was probably the most expensive guitar in there. I felt so discouraged knowing that I couldn’t spend that much for any one thing. I had already been traveling for 5 months and still had to pay for my yoga teacher training in Nasik in August. I felt so sad, I had found my guitar but it was out of my price range. As I went to leave the man asked, “That guitar is perfect for you, aren’t you going to get it?” I explained to him the situation, then he said, “Oh I see. Wait here.” He picked up the phone, called his boss, took all his discounts and came back to me with a new price (which was less than half of what they were asking for it). He said, “In my country, Music is God and the way you play and sing with such love and devotion in your heart is a blessing and a gift to the world. I cannot in my right heart, let you leave without doing everything in my power to make sure that God continues to sing and play and share love though you. Here is the new price. I will also include a traveling case and a tuner. Please accept my offer, you will bring great joy to many with this guitar. I hope you decide to take it. I really want you to have it” I knew in my heart, I couldn’t leave without it. My hands were stuck to the fretboard, completely glued and unable to let it go. I smiled, handed him the money (trusting somehow it would all work out) and thanked him with nodding and putting my hand on my heart. Then he said, “Think of me and send me blessings when you play, that will be my karmic reward”. I gracioulsy agreed, knowing we had a deal that worked for both of us. To this day, I still think of him and send him love through my guitar.
Anyway, I joyfully put the case on my back and ran (almost skipping, lol!) 3 miles to the Arti ceremony area at the foot of the Ganges in Ram Jula. There Indians and travelers gather at sunset every night to offer their pujas (mini alters made of huge leaves, colorful flowers and a little wax candle at the center that is to be lit and put in the Ganges, offering prayers and blessings to the Divine Mother (which is what they say the Ganges is). You cannot even imagine! It is the most glorious, beautiful sight to see! Thousands of candles on the water floating downstream together, blessings drifting and prayers invoked. It really makes one believe in the goodness of life. So I ran to the steps, took out my guitar and began to sing at the top of my lungs all the new bhajan songs I had been composing, as well as mantra songs I already knew. I could not contain myself. I had the guitar I had dreamed of in my hands and I was overjoyed. My eyes were closed (I’m sure for over an hour) basking in the delight of manifesting my new love/travel companion.
I opened my eyes after an amazing inner journey, only to find myself surrounded (once again, LOL!) by a circle of about 35-40 indians, dressed in their most festive Arti clothes. It looked like a huge celebration and somehow I was participating without me knowing it. In my shyness, I quickly began to pack my guitar. I don’t know why, but I felt so exposed. I went to pack up and the crowd began to cheer, putting their hands in prayer position, “Please one more. One more”! They began to yell. So I smiled, took a deep breath in and began on the spot to make up a Hare Krishna song. I found some random chords that could become the hook/Chorus and just committed to singing this hook over and over. Then they all began to sing it with me. This new Hare Krishna song (that I don’t even know where it came from) arrived and somehow, they loved it. We must have sang together for another half an hour. Then I finished the song and they all ran over to take pictures with me. Pictures with me and their families, me and their babies, me and their aunts and uncles, it took me at least another hour and a half to get out of there, but I returned back to my room so content. It had been an extraordinary day!
So the next day, wanting to play but also just wanting to just spend time alone, I walked towards the Maharishi ashram (my friend Ravi’s parents had been caretakers of during the height of the Beatles invasion, etc). So awhile back when I had first arrived to Rishikesh, Ravi had taken a group of friends of mine to these secret caves that were on the Ganges, where you could go and have some privacy. Mostly sadhus lived in the caves, but because he knew them all, they didn’t mind us going there to hang out when we wanted. So I headed over to these Ashram/caves and found some steps that led into the ganges. I took out my new love (Guitar) and put my feet in the water and began to play. Again, I lost myself playing (No surprise here at this point, LOL!), but this time I don’t know for how long. When I opened my eyes there was a bouquet of little wildflowers tucked into the fret of my guitar (underneath the tuning pins). I couldn’t believe it because I don’t know how it got there without me even noticing, but sure enough sitting next to me was a Sadhu with a huge long white beard. He had no top on and was only wearing an orange skirt (Kurta) wrapped around him (typical sadhu attire with a mala bead necklace and sadhu lines on his forehead). He motioned me to continue playing, so I did and he sang along with me. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we exchanged everything through smiles and gesturing. After a while, I touched the body of my guitar and it was on fire! I mean burning! Then I realized how incredibly thristy I was, so I gestured to him that I was going to go back to the hotel to get some water. (Later I found out it had been 117 degrees that day).
He walked me back towards the direction of my hotel, but then gestured me over to a pipal tree (A sacred tree in India). In front of the tree, he had an alter with all the deities- Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna, Lakshmi, Kali. He grabbed a huge blanket, opened it and then spread it out in the shade of the tree. He gestured me to sit for a moment. Looking at his alter and with my new guitar, I knew I could not leave without at least offering his puja a few songs, so I did for awhile. Then I realized my hands really hurt from all the playing, so I stopped. He smiled and then he began doing some yoga moves to show off his skills. He must have weighed 95 pounds at 6 ft. tall. He was very slender to say the least, I wanted to cook him a big latin meal. He definitely needed some arroz con abichuela, tostones, bacalao and acapuria, LOL! I mean the man needed to eat! I felt so bad, but he looked so content smiling through his eyes. Then to my surprise and with his tiny frame, he went into headstand and his skirt came down over his head. Now all I could see were his little chicken legs and his bright orange thong and little jewels hanging out. I felt like I was on Candid camera, it was so funny! It took everything inside me not to laugh out loud because it was hilarious. But without missing a beat, he continued with his very macho yoga poses (which by the end of the trip had become a standard of how men tried to hit on me, LOL!) going from headstand to touching his toes to the ground in front of him, then going back into headstand. He must have done this about 15 times. I was impressed! I know the kind of inner strength and control it takes.
When he finished, I applauded as he puffed up with pride. Then he went into a pushed up lotus and was dangling about 5 inches above the ground facing me. Then I went up into a dangling lotus as a challenge and we went into a lotus face off, both of us staring at eachother, keeping ourselves off the ground with our core and arm strength. Then it was as if time stopped and I entered a portal. In my mind, somehow I had returned to the year before when I had attended a psychic fair at ARE in NYC. The woman who read me had predicted the end of my relationship and then pulled the last card as she said, “This time next year, your life will be the complete opposite of what it is now. You are being asked to make a sacrifice and in it, you will gain the world. But you’re life will be completely unlike anything you have experienced before”. As I remembered this thought, I was shot back into the present time and it was as if my inner eye was above me observing everything and I witnessed myself in India, on the Ganges, underneath a sacred tree, next to the famous Maharishi ashram, with Sadhus and monkeys on my left side (which I was unaware of with my eyes, until I was above myself) in a face off with a sadhu and it was as if I heard this woman’s voice reverberating throughout the universe saying, “THIS TIME NEXT YEAR YOUR’E LIFE WILL BE THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF WHAT IT IS NOW!” and then two moments merged into one and I realized I had arrived at the moment she had predicted. The sadhu and I locked eyes, and in an instant this wave of energy hit both of us and we both fell out of lotus and began laughing so hard we were rolling around in hysterics! It was the funniest, most intense laughing kriya I had ever experienced in my life! It was so hysterical! We were rolling around laughing so hard that the sadhus watching us I’m sure wondered if we had been smoking chillin. Then I heard an elephant in the distance calling out and we laughed even harder!
Here I was in India, in a complete parallel universe than I had lived in the year before. Everything that was happening was changing me so deeply on the inside that I knew there was no turning back. A part of me was dying and a part 0f me was being reborn. I had crossed the bridge of illusion. I was on the other side and I knew there was no return. Whatever was exchanged between that sadhu and I in that moment, I knew life would never appear the same to me. It all seemed like a dream. As the crash of delirious bliss began to wear off, he took off his mala necklace and put it around me as a gesture of gratitude for my playing. We had been in beautiful satsang for over 4 hours now and I had completely forgotten about my thirst. As I got up, I hoped I would make it back to the hotel without collapsing from dehydration. Luckily, a helper from the ashram appeared with some bottled water, just enough to get me back.
As I entered my hotel room, I looked at my guitar knowing somehow that this guitar and I would have many experiences together on this trip. This being the first of many. My new chapter of music had just begun! That day was the beginning of a new path that was opening up for me.
P.s. During my Yoga teacher training in Nasik, India, I had a dream with Amma. In the dream she was giving Darshan to everyone and when she saw me she yelled out loud, “Marfil, Why didn’t you tell me that you sing?”, I said, “Because I was shy Mother.” Then she gestured me to the front of the line, smiled at me and put her Mala Beads over my head in complete Blessing and approval. Although I was supposed to leave September 1st of 2008, I changed my ticket to stay for 3 more months and headed down to Ammas Ashram in Kerala. There I spent two weeks during her birthday Celebration. At the end of my time, I went on stage with my guitar in hand and she blessed my guitar, strumming it and kissing it with pure joy. It is for these reasons that I love my “Blue Pearl Krishna” guitar with all my heart! Since I bought it in 2008, It has traveled with me all over Southeast Asia, The United States and the Caribbean.
So now you know…