Darren Austin Hall is a Canadian artist and holistic healer whose mystical musical offerings are renowned. His unique voice, a blend of overtone and intuitive chanting, is a powerful experience to behold. Darren is passionate about making music that speaks to the soul and creates devotional and transformative states.
Today Darren talks with us about his journey with healing music and his new album ‘Songs of Source’.
Electronic Groove: Hi Darren, thanks for your time today. Please tell us about your intimate relationship and journey with sound. When did you realize you had this unique ability to heal people with sound? What was your childhood like?
Darren Austin Hall: Thanks to you! My journey really began with realizing how sound could heal myself. Indeed it began as a child. As a young lad, my world seemed to be suffused with music. I constantly heard music, songs, celestial sounds in my inner-world, as if I was tapped into a constant source. When I would go to bed at night, I would utterly surrender to it and would sing myself to sleep while shaking and banging my head against my pillow like a make-shift drum, and oftentimes for hours. I would go into a kind of ecstatic state of spontaneous song making, hearing this inner-world of music, and expressing it with my voice. Interestingly, anytime I was sick when I was young, with the flu or fever, I would lie down in my bed and do this because it alleviated my feelings of illness. I didn’t know of course I was tapping into a kind of shamanic technique. It was only many years later while studying under the eminent Dr. Bradford Keeney, who had been initiated into the shamanic traditions of the San Bushpeople of the Kalahari Desert that I realized my eccentric music-making was perhaps part of something much deeper and sacred. When I discovered Sound Healing around that time and began performing the crystal singing bowls, I began to allow that channel to open again and would sing in this kind of wordless manner as I used to as a child and people started have extraordinary experiences. The San Bushpeople called the shaman a ‘song catcher.’
EG: You’ve done work with “shaking medicine”, would you say that this is the next frontier in science, if not already, playing a significant role in healing, removing the need for allopathic treatment?
Darren Austin Hall: I would never condone removing allopathic medicine. It has its merits for sure. But it is also struck with a particular myopic being grounded in materialist science that has shunned much of the mystical and energetic/spiritual realm. Shaking Medicine was what I learned from Dr. Bradford Keeney and he from the San Bushpeople and entails ecstatically shaking and moving the body until one enters into highly energetic states that remove blockages in our being, enthuse us with inspiration and truly liberates us from inhibition. The suppression of our life-energy is truly one of the biggest dilemmas in modern society which frequently conditions us to repress our wildness. Ecstasy means ‘intense feeling states’ and I do believe it is a new frontier in medicine that needs to be embraced. When one looks at many indigenous cultures, one witness that they have very low mental illness rates (those untouched by colonialism of course). Many of these cultures sing and dance in the community daily as a way to maintain high energy and reach enhanced states of joy and love. We of modern society are bereft of this ecstasy and our high rates of mental illness and devitalized bodies burdened with immense disorders speak to this loss. My own work sharing Shaking Medicine workshop and ecstatic dance experiences are about reclaiming the healing potential of our wildness.
EG: With sound healing’s increasing popularity, there is so much variety people can choose from as to how they wish to go about accessing the healing properties of sound. Your latest album is an incredible tool I use to center myself on a daily basis. Talk to us about what goes into making an album of this kind and what sorts of creative inspirations come about during the process? What advice can you give people when it comes to selecting the best method to heal through sound?
Darren Austin Hall: Indeed, sound healing is emerging now as a very potent paradigm that is revolutionizing health & wellness. From soundbaths to crystal bowls to ultrasound frequencies being used to treat cancer, there’s a massive diversity of methods and applications. I would advise people to simply begin to explore all the wonderful offerings! My own journey began with a mundane google search of ‘Sound Healing.’ There’s so much to taste and deepen our experiences with.
Recording an album is always a special experience for me. I love the journey from creative inspiration to finished product. Obviously my new album ‘Songs of Source’ is a taste of ‘shamanic music’ and ‘song-channeling’ so the recording process was very different from capturing a bunch of different tracks and composing a final song. All of the recordings were fundamentally based on a one-take inspired session of me shamanic or intuitively singing while playing the crystal bowls. I would zero in on an intention and allow myself to enter into a state of being a portal for sacred sound and visions. The voice in this manner becomes an instrument to transmit sacred wisdom and inspiration. We recorded many tracks, many which didn’t make the final take. It became an intuitive journey of seeing which felt the best and having enough variety to give people a sense of a journey. I was also adamant about having one very long track for people to dive deep and so ‘Sacred Sound Ceremony’ emerged which is just over twenty minutes long! People are really loving going deep with the album.
EG: For tens of thousands of years, “ecstatic dance,” which produces an altered state of mind, has been a popular spiritual movement. Can you talk to us about your involvement in this beautiful release of human energy and how you incorporate your mystical sound baths into the energies of the dance?
Darren Austin Hall: As Bradford taught us from the wisdom of the San Bushpeople, for them true meditation occurred a prolonged healing dance ceremony; after their bodies had been flushed clean by the ecstasy they embodied. To lay down after such wildness and surrender to the natural serenity of the body of rest is true when a lot of the visionary states can be entered. These can, of course, also be attained during the dance but after everything has been shaken up, and we are in the sweet serenity of the exhausted physical body, we are really primed for a deep inner-journey with our souls so enthused. When I began teaching my own Shaking Medicine classes, it only made sense at the conclusion to break out the crystal bowls and support this journey with the healing sounds of the bowls which amplify relaxed states. Through ecstatic dance and shaking, we do have the chance to release so much tension that we hold in our bodies, mind and lives. To then enter into a soundbath offers us the chance to then take advantage of a more clear state where the mystical is much easier to access.
EG: You have studied with numerous masters of sound from both the scientific and spiritual tradition- who was the most inspiring?
Darren Austin Hall: Dr. Bradford Keeney was integral in my journey in the acknowledgment of my shamanic singing gift. The two years I spent training with him unleashed my creative spirit in ways I could have never imagined. Dr. Mitchell Gaynor as well as a profound inspiration. Although I never met him, his integration of sound healing with crystal bowls in the treatment of cancer and other disease is bold and remarkable. I also need to honor David Hickey of Crystal Journey. It was his performance of the crystal bowls and his planetary gongs at the commencement of my journey that rendered a new archetypal form of the sacred musician which I have been embodying ever since. I also pull a lot of inspiration from the ancient world, particularly the Vedic sciences of mantra and sound, especially elucidated by Russill Paul, and the ideas of Pythagoras are eternally profound.
EG: In his book “This Is Your Brain On Music” Daniel Levitin states that “there is every reason to believe that some of our brain states will match those of the musicians we are listening to.” This might imply that the power of sound can alter the cellular structure and molecular structure- the DNA encoding etc? Can you share your thoughts about this impending fact?
Darren Austin Hall: This makes me consider the idea of ‘entrainment’ which is a sound healing term that describes when a frequency influences another to match it. Thus, when we are listening to music, we often entrain to its frequencies and are influenced by it. This is why 120 BPM dance music often gets our heart-rate going and our body wants to move and dance, whereas melancholic music with lots of minor keys can make us weep and feel grief. To me, this is why musicians themselves hold so much power: music is such a direct and influential art. It can change one’s emotions and state of consciousness instantly.
In terms of altering the cellular structure and DNA encoding, this is one of the exciting innovative fields of sound healing research. Fabian Maman, the great sound healer and elder, has taken some exciting molecular images of cells responding to sound and music that shows it vitalizes our living tissue and even can destroy cancer cells over a prolonged period. DNA as well is quite energetic and is very responsive to frequency. There’s a whole field called ‘Wave Genetics’ being pioneered by Dr. Peter Garyaev in Russia that is exploring sound’s potential effects on DNA. We are truly entering into phenomenal territory here. Quantum physics has awoken us to the primacy of energy that is the root of matter itself and all energy is vibrating; is a frequency, producing sound. Thus, the sound has the potential of affecting things at the root and causal level, which offers a potential revolutionary paradigm for medicine.
EG: We’ve all heard the saying “intention is everything”, can you share what you believe to be the role of intention on the human body when it comes to listening to or engaging in chanting?
Darren Austin Hall: Intention to me is the willful and conscious use of the powers of the mind. Most of us are quite unconscious in our daily routine, daydreaming into the past and the future and rarely being centered in the present moment. When we become present and create our thoughts, directing them powerfully, we are working with intention. It enhances our experience immensely. When we are chanting, intention takes the use of the voice and sound practice to a whole other level. Instead of passively using the voice, we can direct it toward healing something in our life, even transmitting to another. Even simply vocal toning with the intention to self-love, for example, can open one to a powerful visionary experience.
Listening with intention is also powerful. Part of the work I share in my Source Resonance Sound Healing Training is active listening exercises to specific sacred and healing songs. Most people I believe listening to music quite passively, playing it in the background. But when one truly makes their primary activity the listening to a song or a piece of music, the full spectrum of the sounds can be experienced. This is especially powerful when listening to music that was created for healing or a sacred purpose. Listening to a song while in a meditative state can truly transform you.
EG: I have been intrigued by the subject of sound frequencies 432Hz and 528Hz. It is said that they match the sounds found in nature, in our bodies and the cosmos. Can you share with us your understanding of frequencies and their power to heal us? And is this why we need to be so careful with what sounds we expose our ears too?
Darren Austin Hall: I actually haven’t fully been convinced by the whole shift to 432hz from 440hz which has been standard tuning since the early 20th century. There are some very bold claims about 432hz which don’t add up scientifically. After doing my own research and experimentation, I feel it comes down more to preference than anything else. I try and stay away from discussions that attempt to assert something as the ‘magic pill’ as many attest 432hz is. I have been transformed by music my whole life, and music tuned to 440hz. I do believe we need to be more mindful about what sounds we expose ourselves to. Living in an urban center, for instance, one is surrounded by largely dissonant and chaotic sounds that can wreak havoc on the nervous system. And yet, in nature, the bubbling sounds of a flowing river, melodious bird-song, the thrust of wind through forest trees, calm the mind and nervous system, returning us to homeostasis and our natural healing state. Moreover, we should look at our musical choices as if choosing medicines. For example, if we are depressed and wish to be alleviated, try reggae and samba music, which is very uplifting. If one is grieving and wishes to go deeper into catharsis, choosing a sad classical piece like Barber’s Adagio for Strings can help initiate an emotional release. This empowers us to use music in a much more progressive and mindful way.
EG: On top of all your accomplishments in healing, you also DJ your events under the alias Dj Druid Cap. Tell us how you decided to extend your sound specialties into the world of djing?
Darren Austin Hall: Well, my sound healing journey truly began with my love for music itself. I simply love creating a journey of music for people to dance to, feel into and be transformed and inspired by. It’s a great joy for me to curate each event and share the songs that have offered so much for my own well-being over the years. Naturally, with the rise of ecstatic dance and my own training in Shaking Medicine, it made sense for me to start to Dj these transformative journeys, which began as my Shaking Medicine events and my Freedom Dance. Now things have evolved quite dramatically to ‘The Big Love’ which is a very epic ecstatic dance experience I help co-create.
EG: What advice might you give to an electronic artist around the importance of incorporating healing sound and ecstatic dance into their sets? Is electronic music a more natural conduit for sound healing and ecstatic dance, say over any other genre?
Darren Austin Hall: Interestingly, I’ve been talking to a lot of DJs and electronic artists lately about connecting to the ecstatic dance scene as many are growing tired of the alcohol and drug-laden experiences of playing at nightclubs and debaucherous festivals. An ecstatic dance gives DJs and artists a chance for a much more receptive artist to feel their music deeply and even be transformed by it. We often use Cacao or raw chocolate drinks in place of alcohol and drugs for people to enter into a natural high state that also encourages heart-openings. I do feel there’s a swelling desire in the general populace for these kinds of events. The Big Love ecstatic dance is now garnering hundreds of attendees. People want to go deeper and want to restore dance as a healing art of transformation, not simply something pleasurable alone, which also has its merit. Incorporating healing sound into DJ sets can be really tremendous as well. I often shamanically sing during my own sets and with other artists and it tends to take the energy into a whole new realm of epic beauty. People are really thirsty to be free, wild and ecstatic. And I think DJs and artists will find so much joy playing for such audiences, feeling much more connected with them and knowing they are not only supplying a good time but a potentially sacred and life-changing experience.
EG: Finally, ‘The Big Love Unity’ event that was just held this past August 3, in Toronto, saw you hosting an extraordinary healing gathering featuring internationally acclaimed DJ/producer, MOSE based in Guatemala but from the U.S. Talk to us about how this collaboration came about and what inspired you to have him be apart of this incredible event?
Darren Austin Hall: I consider MOSE quite a soul-brother at this point. I do feel he’s one of the most incredible electronic artists on the planet right now. He really does deep spiritual practice and his music is a direct expression of this. Having him in Toronto to play one of the best sets I’ve experienced in my life (and I’ve experienced a lot!) was just so incredible. I actually met MOSE a fews years ago in Guatemala where he’s mainly based. We shared our respective music and from a mutual place of admiration, he invited me to sing on some of his tracks. This was an awesome experience and I’m really proud of what we did. To hear my shamanic singing over his impeccable grooves is a great feeling. I really felt then the dream to bring him up to Toronto and share him with the community here so it was only a matter of time. And truly, The Big Love event he performed for garnered our highest turnout yet and the energy was off the hook. It was a smashing success and we can’t wait to bring him back. In the meantime, just check this man’s music out!
EG: Looking to the future, how do you see the field of sound healing progressing?
Darren Austin Hall: I think the sky’s the limit. Now that we’ve pierced into the quantum realm which offers a convergence point for science and mysticism, I truly think a golden age is on the horizon. Sound Healing is set to be one of the finest healing arts because frequency really touches the root of what everything is. This lively, vibrating and conscious energy that makes up our universe is truly a grand divine symphony and knowing that is what we are opening up a whole realm of possibilities. I have some powerful visions of sound temples appearing all over the world where sound healing can offer much to the masses. Moreover, I think more musicians are connecting to the sacred powers of their art which will also help shift so much. We can truly offer our songs and music as a way to tune the very fabric that makes up the world itself! These are incredible times to be alive.
Darren Austin Hall’s ‘Songs of Source’ is already available. Grab your copy here.