One Whisper of the Beloved

What inspired you to begin the Beloved Festival project?

There are really two major stories that contributed most.

In 2001, I went to India for the Maha Kumbah Mela. Over 70,000,000 people traveled from all over the country to be together for this event. I had heard the word pilgrimage before, but I had never really experienced its power until then. I felt sad that I didn’t really see an opportunity for westerners to experience the potency of pilgrimage and I think Beloved can be like a pilgrimage destination for the 21st century western Yogi.

From about 2004-8, I was organizing Kirtans and devotional music concerts in yoga studios and community centers and all-night dance parties in warehouses and clubs. There was a small part of the community that would attend both of these events, but for the most part I found I was among the youngest at the kirtans and among the oldest at the dance parties. I knew that on the dancefloor at both events, the goal was the same, achieving ecstatic states through sacred music. I also knew that the ideas and values being shared at the back of the dance floor were the same at each kind of event. In 2008, I began to try to have the two communities come together and the results were incredible, multigenerational events where people were sharing ideas and inspiration and being exposed to new music that was transforming them.

How have your initial intentions evolved as you continue the expansion and refinement of this unique event?

It’s been amazing to watch electronic dance music emerge from the underground into popular culture over the past several years. When Beloved began, I think most underground electronic really had the experience of the dancer at its core… and I really believe that much of the movement was centered around creating a ceremonial experience. I’m not sure this is the case anymore. As a result, I’ve learned to really think about the culture and values of the performers that I’m putting on stage.

In the beginning, the notion of the festival becoming a successful business was completely not in mind. In fact it was a detestable idea. As the event grows up, I’ve become very excited that the event is becoming an economic engine for my community.

What will a first time festival attendee find at Beloved that is unique to your festival and will create a lasting impression?

One of the things I’m really excited about is its multigenerational nature and the reality that we get different generations of people that have been working on creating a new culture in different ways and in different areas talking about what they want to see in the world and how it is that they want to go about it.  Having multiple generations of change agents all together in the same place feeling completely free and open to be together and to learn is a beautiful experience

Beloved Festival boasts a great musical spread and an all inclusive approach in the workshop lineup.  Can you speak to the intent behind the sounds and teachings that participants will receive?

Thanks!  We are certainly trying to make sure that we are talking about the sacred music piece and giving people an opportunity to expose that in the workshops.  We’re providing multiple dimensions of movement oriented workshops and getting to the piece with changing our relationship with the planet through permaculture realm.  Looking at cultivating authentic communication in the connection and communication workshops.  We are doing the best we can to provide as much information as we can to touch on all of the different aspects in what it means for us to build in the world a new culture.

I can’t help but reflect the reality that the most important education that we are doing is here in the pre and post event time period.  Where we are working, living together, playing together, supporting each other while we are working hard.  In a lot of ways it seems like this is some of the deepest most powerful work in teaching ourselves how to live this way together.

So you are saying that the unity you all hold together grounds the energy for people to live and express in that way through the festival as well?

Exactly!  That’s one of the reasons why I’m really excited about this Thursday Day being open is because at first I was really anxious about needing to have all of the building done so that when the door opens people don’t still see us working.  Now that I have been able to relax into it over the last couple of years I have realized what an awesome opportunity to demonstrate that what it looks like for us be able to support each other while working hard, but to be able to work together with ease and grace and joy.  So that’s another part of the education is to show people what it looks like to work together in harmony.

Beloved Festival from bluedot productions on Vimeo.

We hear from people all over the festival world and visionary movement about the fountain of love, gratitude, and harmonic collaboration that pours outward during their festival experience at Beloved.  What are the core principals that Beloved holds that allows people to tap so deeply into their Love energy?

Thanks so much, the scale is one of the magickal things about being here.  About 2000 people is about living together for a weekend the size of a village.  It’s enough people to feel epic, like we are not alone anymore.  There are so many people that want to live in a world that I want to live in.  But its a small enough number of people that when we are here together for the weekend we can all make eye contact with each other.  I also think it’s the perfect balance between doing the real deep work, being in ceremony, engaging in authentic practices and being a real celebration.  We can actually feel connected, it doesn’t feel anonymous.  That’s one of the core missions of the festival is to confront the loneliness that we all feel.  Both the loneliness and the false isolation that our culture instills in us.  We often spend so much energy making a big deal of the things that seem to separate us. The beliefs that we are separate from each other, separate from the earth, that we are separate from source.  So we are going to encounter that loneliness by the core idea of the festival that SEPARATION IS JUST AN ILLUSION, and that we actually are deeply connected to each other, the planet, to source.  But then it also encounters the loneliness by saying that you are not the only person that wants to live in the world that you seek, so it is like a reunion for the people that want to build a new culture.  The goal of the event to give all participants a prolonged taste of this unity.

That’s so beautiful to hear… The location looks to be pretty spectacular as well.

It really is beautiful here.  I believe that this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  This Oregon coastal forest is spectacular and it’s crazy to be here in August where its the perfect temperature and its not raining, this is about the one month of the year that its not raining.  The place is up on the top ridge of the beautiful Ulsi River Valley and there is just one road in.  It feels like we have created our own little paradise where we are completely free and completely alone.  We are here in the beautiful forest but when the wind is right we can get a whiff of the sea.

What changes would you like to see expressed in the festival world that Beloved has catalyzed?  What do you hope to inspire amongst other cocreators of major festival events?

The music industry in general, and the concert industry in particular, is infested with a dark spirit of deception and manipulation. I work hard to be honest and open with all participants and with everyone that I interact with to produce the event. I’d really like to more people behave this way. I see a lot of laxness among festivals in their commitment to a deeper ecological ethic. Calling an event green does not make it so.

Could you please touch on what do you all hold in the way that you are approaching the musical acts that you bring in?

The term sacred music is really funny especially when it’s used in a way that understands that its redundant.  I know that all music is really sacred, but I know that the piece of music that is really sacred is that it points to that place where everything is connected and I think thats when we really get moved by music is when we can have that experience of unity.  Its a really common experience even in the broader culture.  People will have an experience, they will be at a concert and the will forget that they believe that they are separate from each other and that’s so often why people will go see live music together.  Most people don’t identify that thats whats happening for them.  Its so exciting to be able to create the possibility for that experience but then to specifically have music that the producers know that this is what they are speaking to.  Then to have all of these individual expressions of unity that are supposedly different and to put them all together, its like the ultimate expression of unity.

It’s easy for people to understand that kirtan or cualli is sacred music.  I believe that one of the most potent ceremonial musics ever is electronic dance music.  Over the last decade it’s been crazy to watch electronic dance music to come out of the underground.  I do believe that a lot of electronic dance music is coming from an overtly less ceremonial context, but I think 10-15 years ago, that was what everyone was after when they were interested in electronic dance music.  I’m really excited to be able to present electronic dance music in the context of all of these traditional sacred musics and really acknowledge that it is an important sacred music of our time.

Any thoughts on the intentionally disharmonious, aggressive energy that some of the electronic music holds these days?

I spent about a decade of my life completely immersed in an extremely dark and scary electronic dance music that was overtly about healing, it was overtly about using the confrontation with the shadow to create a cathartic experience.  I have to say that I have a very different experience of the dark aggressive electronic dance music that is being created now as opposed to the psychedelic trance music that I was experiencing a decade ago.  I believe it is possible to use a dark aggressive music for healing but I agree that its not what I am seeing right now.

Could you talk about some of the magick that happens when all of the people are there, they are feeling comfortable, not feeling alone and the juice that happens when they come together to create and freely express themselves in the work and magick that happens all of these people come together?

So much of the terrifying disease that comes in our culture comes from the idea that its not OK for men to be vulnerable, especially with each other.  The sight of men embracing and weeping is totally common, men holding hands gazing deeply into each others eyes, being vulnerable and weeping together.

Thank you for that!  Shedding our programming and embracing our truth is such an essential part of regaining our unity.

How do you see this event as having a transformative shift on people – helping them to bring out positive changes into the world at large?

Three of the biggest changes that I’d really like to cultivate in myself and on the planet are honesty, accountability and openness. My sense is that being committed to these values throughout the production of the Beloved Festival event and in all of my communication with patrons strengthens these elements within myself and others. Beloved is helping to inspire a deeper honesty and lasting sense of unity among the greater community.

Elliot, we are deeply grateful for you sharing the depth of yourself and this festival!  Especially for holding a safe container for expression and helping people to access the raw strength in vulnerability and transparency.  I agree that truth is one of the core positions that will help us to realize the divine essence that is within all of us and will help us unite further with our own connection to our own divine selves.

Interview by Dylan Elmgreen  |  Edited & Curated by Josh Davis