twins find resolution through ritual onstage

“This has long been a dream of mine,” rock star Alanis Morissette announced to a theater full of fans. Her dream? To sit side-by-side with twin brother Wade Imre Morissette, who is himself a recording artist and renowned kirtan (Sanskrit call-and-response) singer as well as a talented yoga teacher, and share the spotlight through joined voices.

This particular stage was in Boise, Idaho, a stop on multi-platinum, multi-award winning Alanis’ Flavors of Entanglement tour in support of her latest release. The opening act for the rest of Alanis’ tour, Alexi Murdoch, wasn’t available for the Boise date, so Wade, joined by LA-based guitarist Josh Brill and Vancouver-based tabla player Stefan Cihelka, took the stage to warm up the crowd. They created sacred space for rousing renditions of Wade’s versions of “Om Namah Shivaya,” “Jaya Sita Rama,” and “Jai Hanumana.”

Alanis & Wade Morisette

Alanis and her band also joined Wade on stage for “Jai Hanumana.” As Alanis described the experience, “For me, it was an incredible way to sit with Wade, both of us empowered and sharing gifts as a team that he and I have had and used since we were kids.” Throughout her fifteen-year career, Alanis has been a solo artist, but as she said, “To be with someone, just to share the stage like that, it’s ultimately not to be a background singer, but to be of service. With my brother, come on, that’s the best. Both of us sitting on stage sharing and loving what we do was really beautiful.”

The collaboration came now, after Wade had put in his stage time leading more than 500 kirtan events and building his own chops learning to hold the space and deliver tunes to transform a room. He has also recorded and released three albums of Sanskrit chants with catchy tunes along with songs that intersperse English and Sanskrit for poignant and powerful messages. His latest, Maha Moha: The Great Delusion, was produced by master artist and producer David Nichtern and released on Nutone Music.

The two of them sharing the stage was a moment of resolution in their relationship. Wade says, “At 34, we’re like, what a trippy fifteen years since leaving home.” After all, it can be a bit daunting to have a twin whose debut album (Jagged Little Pill) was – and still is – one of the highest-selling albums of all time. There’s a danger of being overshadowed, and it’s a practice for anyone to hold their own.
Compound that with the fact that the two of them are constantly on the road, and Wade is married and has young children in Vancouver while Alanis keeps a home in LA. “We text incessantly,” according to Wade. They spend time together when they can, especially since Alanis has always been grounded about staying in touch with family. And, as twins, there’s an additional connection. Entering the world only twelve minutes apart has set up points of contrast and comparison as well as a spark of closeness that they’ve maintained throughout their lives, even amidst their crazy whirlwind.

“I’d be lying,” Alanis said, “If I said that I didn’t have some sense of guilt for my dear friends and family and what I’ve imagined they’ve had to endure being a family member of mine. It can be a pain to be related in any way to someone who’s in the public eye. But there was this culminative moment of being on stage where I forgave myself and sharing the spotlight with Wade was very symbolic for me. We’re both on a really exciting path and it is converging.”

What was the response to an Alanis Morissette concert opening with three Sanskrit devotional songs, particularly in Idaho? The most telling form of feedback may have been the waiting fans who shouted an enthusiastic “Namaste,” as Wade dashed out to the tour bus after the show. “Okay, so maybe three people got it,” Wade laughed.

There may have been more. One of Wade’s musical gifts is his ability to infuse the sacred resonance of an ancient language with expressive and lyrical modern melodies. So even for those people who have never heard Sanskrit chanting before, and may never listen to it again, there’s something familiar, something jazzy, dancey, something that people are able to sway to or bob their heads to. Yet this setting was like jumping into the fire for Wade. First, it wasn’t literally singing to the choir in a yoga studio, with devotees who already know the words. Wade said, “How do I reach out and connect with the crowd with it not being a call-and-response?”

There is a way; the melody drew the crowd in from Wade’s first chords of his first offering on stage with “Om Namah Shivaya.” In choosing songs to play to Alanis’ fans, he picked ones from his repertoire with catchy melodies, progressions and major chords. And rather than launch into tales of mythology between chants, Wade chose to elaborate the more accessible symbology of freedom and prayer, to explain that these were the qualities evoked in the songs.

The few puzzled looks and occasional walk outs were balanced by the head bobbing, swaying, and positive murmurs, which flowed even without the audience understanding the words. After all, there’s a universality that exists in music, no matter the language of the lyrics, it’s a vibration. It’s something artists face playing outside their home country to a crowd that doesn’t speak their language. “Playing internationally, a lot of people don’t know what we’re singing. With Sanskrit, I assume they don’t always know what you are singing. But I think they know on a deeper level that universality of music,” Alanis comm

 …………………..Twin Influences……………………

 

Alanis & Wade Morisette In Concert

Alanis said of her brother’s style of music, “I feel like if I were to be so audacious to say what we have in common, we have many things in common and many things that are different, but one of the things is this feistiness for personal truth rather than inauthenticity. For me it drives my life and I notice that fire in Wade and it comes out in his music. When I listen to it, I feel at home.” She listens to it when she does yoga, or during any type of work out. “I listen to Wade’s music all the time. It’s so rare for me to feel the duality of life in some people’s music. I’ll hear people who are plumbing the depths of the soul in the dark night of the soul moments and I’ll hear people who are exuberant and people with more lighthearted music, but I rarely hear an artist period, regardless of genre, that can bridge all the different colors of being human. I love doing it myself, so when I hear it in another artist, let alone my twin brother, I’m thrilled.”

Alanis’ own brand of self-expression has influenced Wade. He said, “Alanis’ music has always inspired me because she’s so raw and honest. She’s in the moment with the darkness intertwined and melodies that uplift my heart.” In his own artistry, he’s had to negotiate the different sets of emotions, and his sister’s influence has acted as a guide. According to Wade, “Sanskrit to me has always been more a yoga practice, a meditation. I still had those emotions of rawness and fear and the dark quality. Alanis’ music has inspired me to be more transparent in both light and dark.”
The two have both been to India, all of the symbology of which has been a significant influence in both of their lives, from Alanis’ hit “Thank U,” to Wade even striking up a career as a kirtan wallah. Wade’s travels in India to practice yoga led him to mantra. As he relayed the story, “When I started to sing mantra music there wasn’t any intention of actually doing an album or anything. The first three to five years of me chanting was done in a dark room in India as meditation because it just healed me.” As time went by, “Organically, it was, okay, how can I bring this over to the world and find purpose with this music and at the same time have it as my practice and my anchor. Having mantra with melodies I was just so happy that I could keep my music sensibilities within my yoga practice.”

Along with music, the two share a passion for yoga practice, and have explored different styles and teachers. Wade has committed himself to the lifestyle to the point where he now trains teachers, at YYoga in Canada. According to Alanis, “Having been a brief student of many different teachers, Wade ended up becoming for me my favorite teacher based on how integrated he is, how holistic he is. He approaches his classes with compassion and levity. Wade is teaching what he is aspiring to live.”

After being on stage, both alone as well as together, Wade said of the experience, “As I watch Alanis perform, it strikes me, this is ritual, she is dervish-whirling; she is chanting, lyrical chants about the emotional world and daily life experience. This whole thing is ritual for her, she’s practicing her yoga by performing; it’s beautiful, actually.”

Through the ritual, whether it is personal or on stage, the music emerges. And as Alanis said about her own songs, “Music for me always clarifies things, if I’m at odds with something or if I’m confused or lost or whatever, writing a song will clarify it for me.” Wade concurred, “For me, it’s the same, except I’m chanting.”

Wade: wadeimremorissette.com
Alanis: alanismorissette.com

 

 

 

 

 

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