Backstage with Peia: in-deep and intimate with songstress, story-keeper and the Bali Spirit alchemist whose medicine makes honey out of what hurts you.
There are so many ways to do it… to bring your cup of love, longing and even pain to this year’s Festival and find a teacher, a musician, or even a friend – made on the lush lawns – who can transform the life you’re living into the life you know you were born for.
Here’s a suggestion, offered with love: come see Peia sing. She carries that medicine in the sweetest of ways.
Peia performs at 4pm Thursday at the daytime Festival
And on Sunday at Arma at 8pm – don’t miss her for anything!
Her offerings of profoundly healing indigenous song from around the world, original music and sounds, words and resonance she receives from the Earth, from the plants, winds, sky and stars are nothing short of exquisite!
You can listen to her here – as you read on!
On stage all over the world as she follows the fates of her song, Peia does not so much rock da house, as rock da baby inside her audience – her voice reaching, easing and touching something deep inside on sounds that have been used as medicine on earth for thousands of years.
Take it from me, you don’t actually listen to Peia – you melt into her, soften with her, and travel… her music is a magic that makes honey out of anything that has hurt you, all those things you long for and calls in the essence of who you are on Earth.
Which all boils down to two words, really…. bring tissues!
I had the chance to hang out with the songstress as she made last orders at Kafe in Ubud on the eve of the Festival, after her two weeks out wild and intimate with the rice paddies.. this is what we talked about..
Jade: You’ve told me before that you could sing before you could talk…
Peia: Yes, my mother loves to tell about how I didn’t speak until I was three years old but was always singing from a very young age in my own made up language. Every summer she would take us to the Pow-wows. I remember being mesmerized by the singers sitting around the drum. I remember the power in their voices and the how their song and that drum beat hit right to your core.
I’m so grateful that I was given that glimpse into indigenous culture which holds song and dance as sacred expressions and a way of life. This made a profound impression upon me and though it was a long road to understand my place in the one sacred song, these memories have shaped the way I came to music.
Jade: How important is the music to you?
Peia: Well, I think that I was given song really, to keep me here on Earth. As a child I would stop breathing, and one time I stopped so long my mother thought she had lost me. Song and sound and music were the gift I received to keep me breathing – I really feel that to be true, and so I live my life following that.
I’ve always been clear that I couldn’t sing just for entertainment, I can’t really wrap my head around that idea – or ever sing from a space like that because this is not an easy path and it’s not actually very easy for me to get up and perform, I still get very nervous.
Jade: Do you think by singing you are sharing more than just the music with others?
Peia: Oh yes! Sound definitely stirs up emotions, and there is also an actual effect on the body too that goes way beyond just ‘listening’. I believe that every cell is vibrating, living, responding to energy so essentially everything in the physical world is made up of sound and when we pour sound into physical space, everything changes and moves according that physical vibration.
Everything has a fundamental frequency – we can identify the fundamental frequency of a virus, of cancer in the body, of sadness, blocked emotion and love.. and sounds can help shift those things, help them and inspire so much love, beauty and inspiration. I would hope that the songs I keep and the music I write is infused with this because this is how I received them, and how I walk in life.
Jade: So you’re saying that sounds can heal and also create?
Peia: It’s just like what happens when an opera singer finds the pitch of a crystal glass and then sings it very pure and clear – the glass begins to vibrate and eventually, if the song is strong and pure enough, will just explode! It’s like this in the body, with illness, if a sound is very very powerful, it can melt and explode stuck energy, trapped emotion…
for me, music is one of the strongest medicines.
Jade: Is this why people tend to cry when they hear you?
Peia: [laughs] When I was a little girl, every time I sang my grandfather would cry. I remember it really upset me because I didn’t want to see him suffering in away way… but as I got older, and have been performing more, it has become a huge part of what is see that I do – every time I sing there are tears.
Song and tears are very close together. Tears welling up inside us is a beautiful release. It is also a giving of water – water, the giver of life. It is a very sacred thing, this giving of life, when we cry, in some ways, we are giving life to something that we’ve loved and lost. It’s true when I sing people tend to cry. I think those tears, in the same way as the songs, arise from the place of longing or sadness, from pain, when they fall it is a release, but it’s also on honouring.
Jade: Is this what sound healing is about? Is this part of what keeps you singing?
Peia: Yes, it’s just beautiful to support people express and allow their vulnerability. We are taught in the West that we are supposed to be self-sufficient, independent and strong. Emotion is frowned on, strong expression of emotion is even described as a sort of sickness! God! – we give people anti-depressants if they are grieving..
Our culture has got to a point where we say that if you have a deep well of sadness you are mentally ill! So all of this natural expression gets suppressed. It gets stored and passed on to the next generation, or it creates energy in the body that leads to disease. Anything that doesn’t get expressed has to go somewhere – if it’s not released – and I really believe, because I see it in front of me so often, that sharing music that comes from the vulnerable space, from receptivity, releases blocks and sadness and repression and gives people permission to go there too – to make it ok to let go.
Jade: Do you struggle as well, with sadness or grief?
Peia: My mum used to say that God made the Earth so beautiful to make up for how difficult it is to be here [laughs]. I know the music is my purpose and what’s keeping me here but yes, it isn’t easy to be on Earth at this time.
Jade: In what way do you mean, Peia?
Peia: I believe that the Earth is always speaking to us and I would say that my sense of it, my experience with this is that I often find myself in a place of despair just looking at everything that’s going on and what’s being done to the planet at this time.
To me it feels like there is a huge amount of disrespect and imbalance in life and in the treatment of the planet that has been provided so generously and beautifully for us since time immemorial and so I sometimes really find myself in that place and when I tune in to the land and to what the earth is saying what I just keep hearing is that she’s much stronger and wiser that we could ever know.
She has ways we can never possibly understand, cycles and expressions that are way beyond what we can imagine and for me, at least, I stay strong in the belief that life will go on, that we will find a way to connect and honour the Earth and be able to leave something beautiful behind here, as people.
Jade: What changes would you like to see, do you serve with your music?
Peia: The calling is for everybody, every one, to establish a direct connection with the earth and cultivate a spiritual connection too – the understanding that the earth is our sustainer and our life-giver and to honour her.
For me, that means when I make a prayer, when I make an offering , I am really aware that I am speaking directly to the earth, to the wind, to the water, to the fire. It’s not that everybody has to necessary pray in that way but having some sort of spiritual connection and honouring would radically shift a lot because the abuses that I see now are devastating for the planet and for the people too.
I don’t think we as humans want to do harm, it’s just a lack of awareness of how our actions will play out for the next generations.
Jade: Do you feel we are at a turning point?
Peia: Speaking as an American I think it’s incredibly important to realise that most of us are what I would call a rootless people – our ancestors came from other places, and lost their connection to the land. As North Americans we are not indigenous to the land we live on and I think it’s very important that we re-gain a true knowledge of the land, the plants around us, how to ground and be healed and inspired by the Earth.
Jade: How do you do this in your own life?
Peia: It is a great joy to be able to spend time in nature alone. I use and receive the sounds and music as part of walking this way in my life and I hope that what I am sharing though the songs, through the sounds and the lyrics is, in fact, that connection.
Jade: We all love music, and I know people are deeply touched by your work – do you think the songs are more than just heart-meltingly beautiful?
Peia: You know, music is such a powerful tool for awakening. It can touch places that words can barely begin to reach. Ass a songwriter, and also as a song keeper I am sharing sounds that come from indigenous traditions, that are expressed to me by nature and resonate back to a time when we as a people were more connected to the land. I sing these songs, and the audience gives them even more life by listening to them, and together we bring back a memory of a deep and powerful real connection we all have to life, to the earth and to each other.
Many times when I’m singing I feel that well of wisdom and emotions inside me, it’s a beautiful thing – to be able to cry.
Jade: You like to use water in your own work and ceremony, can you tell us about that?
Peia: When I was a little kid I used to tell everybody I wanted to be a marine biologist just because I wanted to be in the water all the time [laughs wildly…. ] . On stage I tend to chug a lot of water, I don’t know why exactly, but everything on the planet is alive, is vibrating with frequency, and water is the great medium for that. Water helps me to stay connected, to dive in deeper and also to protect myself. After a performance I use it to being myself back to the world as a bath or just as a splash. It’s very important to have ritual and support in life.
Jade: Do you use any other rituals along the way?
Peia: Yes, I have a medicine pouch that I wear while I sing that has some very strong very deep connections for me, and if I feel I need assistance or extra support I roll a smoke from sacred herbs and tobacco that were also given to me for that reason. You know, I think it’s also very important to keep present with asking for guidance and for support, and maintaining an intention to stay clear, and to keep on loving learning.
Jade: This is your first time on Bali, how do you like it so far?
Peia: In a word: Wow!
It’s busy and exciting, but there is a blanket of tranquility and serenity in the local people here that I am just marveling at. I’ve loved riding a motorbike around for the first time too [laughs long and beautiful] and noticing just how aware the people are, how present and careful and sweet toward each other.
Jade: Have you been inspired here?
Peia: Oh Definitely! Already there are a lot of songs being born on Bali. Nature is my biggest inspiration, I draw on a very deep well that comes from my love for the Mother Earth, and Bali is just dripping with it – flowers and temples and ceremony.
Jade: Bali is known as a magical place, and Ubud as a place of medicine – how has being here influenced your work so far?
Peia: I came two weeks before the festival and found a place way out in the rice paddies where I could be away from all sound and just write and play and allow the nature to speak to me. It’s so incredibly strong here; the nature, the elements, the natural forces – the nature spirit, the beauty of the storms rolling through every day – the thunder and the lightning –and all of the birdsong, the rain, the crickets and the frogs and the lizards.
I think of nature and song and music being absolutely inseparable.
I’ve loved visiting the water temples to see new ways of working with water, prayer and cleansing. Bali is so earth-based and sensual in its traditional way of living, honouring, praying – and that is just wonderful to experience, as well as the community – the dance, the sweetness, the play and celebration..
Jade: How do you feel about the Balinese culture, it’s very based in music and ceremony and water.
Peia: There a beautiful balance here, the men seem very balanced in their femininity which is very beautiful to see, and of course, the place is drenched in flowers. This reclaiming and honouring of the feminine is something we can all learn from – there is so much power in the softness of woman, and the receptivity. In some ways we’re all looking to reclaim the power of the womb, the ability to give life, to connect more deeply to all life, to really feel the sacredness of it.
Jade: Is that what music is for you?
Peia: I sing, I follow the notes and it has lead me here, so I trust that. In reality I am all about home. I really love to be at home, to be able to grow food, one day make babies and be with the fire. I travel because this is my calling and while it is serving I will continue. There is so much beauty all over this Earth and that is the gift of being in new places – seeing cultures, the threads that tie us together and the beauty of the world.
Jade: Can you say the same thing with music?
Peia: Yes – Blessed We Are – it sums up everything we’re saying!
Jade: Where did it that song come from?
Peia: Well, I can tell you exactly! I was living in a very special community in Southern Oregon where we pray and do ceremony in a Teepee with peyote ceremony. I was in a journey there for a young woman turning 18 and getting into trouble with some poor choices for herself, and causing harm for herself and her parents, people who had known her since she was in the womb. There was a lot of love there and strong words asking her to realign with her purpose, her beauty, her goodness – asking her to look at the way her decisions and actions were affecting the people who loved and cared for her to heal and restore her life.
The next day I was playing a melody that I already had, something very powerful that I didn’t yet have the lyrics for and the words just came through.
It’s a song aout woman’s connection to the earth as provider and life giver, machi video –a video we made, talks about the power and the healing force of woman, moon and earth – I like to speak about this and sing about it as well.
Jade: I know you’re also very inspired by Xavier Rudd, who happens to be here this year too – and whose work is inspired by nature and healing… how do you feel about sharing a stage with him?
Peia: Oh, that is a great honour! I lust learned of his music, his work, this year through my sweetheart who works on the Beloved Festival and was sent Spirit Bird for consideration. He played it as I was cooking dinner – that song came on and I remember exploding into goosebumps all over my body. I’m pretty sure I burnt the whole dinner – I was so taken by it.
Jade: Peia, I’ve just loved connecting with you – have a magical Festival! And I can’t wait to hear about your work and also your experience at Xavier Rudd’s gig – enjoy!!
Peia: Oh thank you, here we go!!!
Written by : Jade Richardson