By Robin Ervolina
I’m in middle school and pink and green are my favorite colors. My best friend and I collect trolls, and the top charting songs are Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” and the Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town.”
One day my best friend arrives for school dressed head to toe in black. Her clothes are torn and mended with safety pins. There are even safety pins in her ears. Black eye liner frames an intense, don’t you fuck with me stare, and her hair has gone from Valley to Warhol overnight. “What happened?” I asked. “The Sex Pistols” she replies as she disappears down the hall.
I’ll never forget that moment because it was my first brush with Music as an all-powerful force of change. Music does not exist merely for our entertainment (though it’s perfectly acceptable to rely on it as such); music transforms. Music is ageless and timeless, mystical and ancient, spiritual and necessary. Those who take up the charge to harness and release this power bear great responsibility, and I’m constantly grateful they yield that harmonic sword. Today I was fortunate enough to meet one of those people, Meka of the Orlando, Florida metal band Meka Nism.
Meka Nism will be opening the main stage this Saturday the 22nd at the WJRR Earthday Birthday celebration at the Central Florida Fairgrounds. What started as a quick ten-minute getting-to-know-you piece turned into one of the most beautiful conversations about happiness, the unifying nature of music, and Meka Nism’s role as a catalyst for healing and change.
I’m so excited to talk to you as part of the Earthday Birthday lineup. You were voted Orlando’s number one metal band in 2016. So clearly you guys are a big deal in Orlando. On a personal note, I’m extremely intrigued. Every Orlando person I know said “You have to talk to Meka Nism. Don’t miss Meka Nism.”
Let’s dig into your history. Can we talk a little bit on the background of Meka Nism?
I’ve been performing in Orlando, and actually nationally and internationally, for a while. I lived in Japan for a few years and I played 250 shows there. When I got back, that’s when I got this particular project together. Even though it was Meka Nism before Japan, it wasn’t quite this incarnation until after Japan. I met Bobby the guitar player, maybe at the end of 2010 and we really got the ball rolling probably in 2011. Obviously evolutions always happen, and we’ve had a lot of really interesting and cool musicians come in and out of the band, but we’re in the most exciting place yet, constantly evolving and enjoying the journey that music is. What’s really exciting is the community that’s formed around us. We call it the Tribe; that’s for real because we really are made up of more than the musicians in the band. It’s the whole community around us, and it’s really alive and exciting, [with] passionate people that inspire us to constantly do what we do. They don’t mind that we are a little eccentric and extremely creative, and our approach to music and performance and making it mean something, and have passion and life and spirit to it.
I was reading through the descriptions on your Facebook page and I think you hooked me before ever listening to your music with your description of “pure, unadulterated, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners metal.”
That I get, and I love. Then I saw “Epic Shaman Rock.” Can you elaborate on that as you also listed yourself as the vocal artist and shaman. Is it pronounced Shah-man or Shay-man? Or is that like potato/ patata?
I call it shah-man because that’s the way I grew up pronouncing it, but shay-man is also the way people pronounce it. It’s just an anthropological word. That word itself is just a generic term to describe any timeless, culture-less spiritual healer throughout this dimension and the next. It’s people who are charged with a spiritual sense of the world and making that come to life, and not just the materialistic physical world — which is beautiful in its own right, but it’s not complete without the spiritual passion that is the flame inside of us all. I think that we need to connect to that a little bit more in modern world and really have a sense of something more enormous and powerful that’s inside of ourselves, not just outside ourselves. I think that there’s limitless potential and beauty and passion to tap into inside of each person, that I think that sometimes we are unaware of in our extremely advanced technological world. I think that needs to be balanced a little bit with being aware that we ourselves are the power and beauty of this planet as well. Nature is where to find a lot of the advanced knowledge that we’re seeking, not just the beautiful fantastic computers and technology. They enhance it, but it’s nothing without our spirit inside, like our presence, or who we really are, charging it all. Otherwise it’s just an empty computer screen. Then we’re not connected. Connection is so important for people, and I love Facebook for connecting people, but when people can feel each other across not just the room, but across the world, and it’s not just the words that we’re saying but the energy behind them, I think that’s really significant. Music is the ultimate vehicle for connecting people and really waking up the beautiful potential inside of ourselves and each other.
Do you feel charged with bringing that message to people who have been so mind-numbingly disconnected thanks to social media and the proliferation of opinions and anger? Do you feel sort of charged with reminding people there is somebody behind that screen, behind that story, behind that opinion?
Absolutely. We definitely as musicians have that role anyway, as any artist does. But I think when you set the intention to keep that alive in yourself so you are available to remind and wake up others to their own healing powers, their own beauty, their own life, their own potential, so that they’re not just in a dark fog all the time, I think absolutely. I think that’s what the zombie apocalypse is, is that people aren’t even aware of their own existence past the sadness of the emptiness and the drama of online, when online is actually something that connects people all the time and becomes more and more of the universal language. It can really add a lot of peace and beauty and love between people all over the world and beyond. I think we’re not quite using it to its full advantage yet there, but I think it’s just because people do need art and music.
I studied spirituality, and in my last study it was different shamans around the world. I always wanted to do my master’s degree in studying female shamans around the world and how they use expression to heal themselves and others and to heal the world. They actually go to places that have had suffering, and it releases the sadness or the trapped energy in the place, like war-torn places in the world that had horrible battles, and it actually releases that spirit to be healed and cleansed in the world. I’ve always admired the fact that art heals the world. We kind of need it; I think we need that more than antidepressant prescription drugs. I think what a lot of people need is to find a way to express themselves, and if they can’t express themselves, the people that do have that ability need to express something for the world, because we are all connected, we are all interwoven in a spiritual web. I’m a Cancer, and I emote. I feel like I’m one of the emoters for the world. Early on I realized it was really important for me to do what I do even though it’s challenging, it’s a challenging industry. But it’s because you do see those emotional reactions. You do see that you are speaking not only for yourself but for humanity in different aspects. I have an eccentric voice which means I’m saying things for people who might not have been able to speak up before, and then they find a connection to something that’s unique. It’s not just the mainstream media rock, which kind of white washes out a little bit of the uniqueness of what needs to be said sometimes. I’m not saying things that are extremely so out there that they’re not comprehensible; I’m just saying things that are a little bit — I’m trying to find the authenticity as much as possible.
I think we sometimes become jaded to what music is, because we have these universal themes. In country music is there’s always got to be a dog, a truck, and a heartbreak.
I think rock and metal also can fall prey to the same few universal themes, of these very safe places. However, in talking to local bands as of late, I have seen a theme of unity and a message of bringing peace. It gives me hope because I feel like we are in a dark age right now and we know after a Dark Age comes the Renaissance.
Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense because the bands that I like are all saying something different, and they have something that’s a little bit more universal but grander, like they are more timeless. They are more aware of something bigger than just the anger, and insulting women or men in their lyrics. I know of the female voices in metal, there’s something new that I’m trying to offer. I love female-fronted metal. I love male-fronted metal. I mean, I love music. I love people who genuinely express themselves. I do think that there’s an under representation of powerful women in heavier genres, and I think that it’s nice to help the fellow female power represent a loud, powerful, feminine voice. I’m acting out of something that’s very much true to who I am. It’s not necessarily my sexuality, though I have sexuality; it’s not necessarily my victimhood, though we’ve all struggled. It’s something like empowerment, and when you empower women, you empower men. When you empower men, you empower women. It’s something that we work together, and I feel like I help contribute to the underrepresented voice in heavier genres, of a very powerful female spirit that is multi-dimensional. I’m excited to contribute to that as well.
People are a little shocked by that sometimes I think, because I do very heavy metal stuff, but I also do very gentle moments, and extremely crazy operatic moments. I’m not afraid of being theatrical or empowering. I’ve experienced in shamanic research that sometimes when people sing, it’s like directly from Great Spirit. The female shamans in Japan are called kamikuchi, which means “mouth of God.” Female shamans in Japan speak directly from Spirit. They heal by opening their mouth and talking, and it’s not from a blocked censored place of ego, which protects us but sometimes blocks us from expressing authenticity and truth. Especially in Japan, where they’re always very aware of choosing their words, and it’s almost like a scripted conversation because there’s so much politeness, there’s so much social structure to keep people safe in understanding each other in a very comprehensible package. Somebody like a kamikuchi, a mouth of god, a female shaman of Japan being able to just open her mouth and speak truth to someone, I think that the healing art is exactly what I respect and love about the world. A lot of people think that speaking truth means being mean to each other or saying something that is offensive or rude or tearing each other down. I see speaking truth as building each other up and actually becoming aware that we are more ethically powerful in creating our life and creating this world the way we would truly desire it. That desire, I believe, in people is not limited to materialistic gain; I believe people are beautiful. People are naturally peaceful. People are naturally wanting to connect and accept others, and to feel accepted and to give love and to receive love. I think if we spoke that truth more and more it would enhance the beautiful advancements that we’re working on right now in this highly technological age in which the technology is connecting people more.
I think with the vastly different cultural constructs that we deal with — the different ways people deal with their pain and anger — I think it’s interesting that we do have a reaction to music in common. How a person reacts to pain and suffering is different among the cultural spectrum, but in the end we all respond to music. That is our unifying thing, and if so then great care and responsibility goes to creating it and delivering it.
I think that it’s a sacred space for a emotion. I don’t think we have a lot of community naturally set up into our current society structure. I think we have to create it, and I think songs create it. I think that I can listen to a song and share an emotional experience with someone, whether feeling happy or sad, or I just understand whatever moment is there and that they are allowing someone else to get into. That’s a sacred space, and you’re actually creating a safe place for people to express that with you. I see people cry at my shows. I’ll never forget this acoustic show outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I was opening — I don’t know why I open for metal bands on an acoustic guitar because I wouldn’t consider death metal acoustic. That’s why I had to start Meka Nism as a whole metal band, because of the intensity that I put forth, even as a solo performer. I remember seeing his older country gentleman, I would never think that I would relate to, crying after my show and thanking me for writing the song that I wrote because it’s the first time he’s felt like he expressed inside of himself what he needed to express, after years and years, because of my songs. I’ve had different experiences like that where people actually told me that the song and the music and the connection to it saved their life. Obviously there’s nothing else I need to be doing in my life. Nothing is more valuable than and that, even if it’s just one person.
Yes, I’m ready to cry right now. You feel like if you’ve done that at all for anyone, you’ve helped in any aspect in your life, if you’re doing something that’s helping people at all, then you need to keep doing that, and you need to do it to the absolute best and most authentic way possible, and keep doing it. I will never stop doing this because I’ve seen that, and I know that this is my shamanhood in a way. And everyone has theirs. I know doctors and health practitioners are a very obvious way, but people can do that in any job. They can be there, connected to their shamanhood, and connect to people and bring that authenticity through in anything that they’re doing. Truely in following their heart and creating the life that they feel is the most authentic life for themselves, that offers, almost, permission to others to do the same. It’s almost encouragement when you know that you’re connected to something that you’re doing that’s absolutely what you should be doing, and it’s having the most positive effect that you can think of. You may not be able to be Greenpeace and save all the whales, but if you know you can connect to one other person through a song, then do that and do it with all your heart and it will remind everybody else around here: whatever they do with all their heart, they can do the same thing and connect and help one other person feel something for the first time, or clear something that’s been blocked inside of them preventing them from being happy for years, or even save their life by feeling connected to that. Then you have to do that, and it’s available every day in every job and every aspect of life, but it really comes from just every individual person connecting to something that they love and feeling that in whatever they do. I’m excited to be a musician for that reason because I’ve seen it work.
If anybody’s wondering how all of these Earthday Birthday bands and genres and artistic forms fit together, it’s really all about this unity. I really think that there’s a change coming, and I really think that bands like yours are on the front lines of that; no matter how long or how little you’ve been together, you all seem to be charged with the same mission. I definitely cannot wait to see you.
We’re playing super early. We’re opening the main stage at 11:15, so be up bright and early and ready to rock.
We can do this. Coachella goes on for a month. We can be there bright and early with our coffee in hand ready to rock out Saturday!
Luckily I have a Meka Shamanism Coffee coming out, so I’m going to drink lots of coffee that morning.
Yum! We have to talk more about that when it comes out next month! I also want to talk more about your music and your stage performances and your incredible vocals. So much to learn, so little time today. Anything else we can plug before I have to say goodbye?
We’re going to Germany to record a new album in the fall and we launched a Go Fund Me page for that about a week ago. Also, you have to come by our merch tent. We have really weird creative merch that you probably haven’t seen before. I make blessing dolls. They’re like voodoo dolls but they’re blessing intention shaman dolls. We have prayer candles that we’re making right now, obviously beautiful t-shirts, and bracelets, and we’re working on some more jewelry and stuff. Bobby wants to come up with his Voodoo Juice because we don’t have the coffee and yet, so he’s got Shamanaide that he’s making.
That’s a plan, Meka! I’m looking forward to the show, and the merch, and future chats! Thanks for hanging out with Shockwave this morning. I hate hanging up but I’ll see you in a few days.
Thanks, Robin! I’m excited. Have an amazing day!
My BFF is now a librarian. She wears browns and tans and whatever colors we wear when we have found that colors are a lesser expression of self. Growing into this world is hard, and thank the universe for giving us music to guide and comfort us. Don’t miss Meka Nism this weekend; if Meka’s phone presence is any indication, being in her actual presence promises to be a healing and beautiful thing.