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June 2023
Vol. 22, No. 9

Featured Stories

Jamie Shadowlight: No More Apologies—Embarking on a Life-and-Death Vision Quest

by Jon KanisMay 2023

Jamie Shadowlight. Photo by Dennis Andersen.

In September of 2013, Liz Abbott, the publisher of the San Diego Troubadour magazine, requested that I compose a profile on a local musician with the improbable appellation of Jamie Shadowlight. Intrigued by the infinite possibilities of her dualistic moniker, I duly set up an interview, and pondered: what sort of person is this Ms. Shadowlight? Upon introduction, she instantly and inexplicably felt like a long-lost Korean soul sister. I found her mischievous demeanor irresistible, coupled with an easy-on-the-eyes sensuality, and an eagerness to go beyond the outer boroughs of art and commerce: a sacred space devoid of governors, restrictions, fear, or limitations. Endlessly flirtatious without so much as a hint of vulgarity, she flouts the fashion sensibility of a Greek goddess, where her spirit and laughter flow as freely as the gossamer gowns she adores. I think of her as an intensely focused Piscean speck of mystical fairy dust. In short, Ms. Shadowlight is one class act.

Over the years I’ve watched Jamie work wonders through her classically trained violin sorcery. When she’s not sharing her expertise with students of all ages, she’s bravely sailing upon the uncharted seas of improvisational lunacy, seeking out co-conspirators to careen around the oblique boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle, time and again navigating the rushing currents of a musical, metaphysical Niagara Falls.

Although it feels like a mere blink of an eye, ten years is quite the distance between dispatches, and a whole lotta living has gone down in the past decade. Across the dozens of times our paths have intersected, we’ve collided and multiplied into some seriously happening musical bliss. We’ve played together in bars, cafes, and backyard parties—performed concerts and collaborated in the recording studio. Every time we share space together, I’m usually cracking up with laughter or in a state of wonder at how spectacular it is to jam together in this thing called Life.

Whenever I have the chance to spend time with Jamie Shadowlight it’s a gift that fills me with endless gratitude, and that has been true since our first meeting on 09.03.13. That truth has become even more profound after reading the following announcement on social media on 03.15.23:

Our beautiful bright light Jamie Shadowlight has just been diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer. There is a mass that…is blocking her kidney functions. She is going to incur major costs as she deals with this and is in need of support from the community at this time.

She has no idea how much this will cost, and it could add up pretty quickly, so please share this campaign and donate any amount you can!!!

The doc has pretty much said that she has about six months to live, but we are looking for ways to shrink the tumor, so it eases the pressure on her uterus and her kidney functions can resume.

Within hours of receiving this diagnosis, a GoFundMe campaign was launched and over $75,000 was raised in less than a week. The verbiage of the campaign was appended within a day, erasing any diagnosis that condemned Jamie to a six-month death sentence. Her intention is to lick this thing through the baptism of fire and the medical miracle of radical remission, turning this experience into a positive transformation. I believe that if anyone can do it, Jamie Shadowlight can.

On 04.18.23, Jamie posted the following message on Facebook: “Going off the grid for a few weeks to do the work. I am the master healer, and I am taking this space to practice. Magic is real and spirit is listening. Thank you, friends, for your amazing energy and prayers. It is manifesting a divine path where I am learning so much.”

Life is all about setting conscious intentions and sorting out the details of how to manifest those intentions into “reality.” On April 12th I had the privilege of sitting down with Jamie in the midst of her journey toward wellness. Her spirit is indomitable and her courage awe-inspiring. The following dialogue demonstrates where her head and heart are at, as she battles through this life-and-death challenge. Immediately following this Q&A is the original cover story from the October 2013 edition of the San Diego Troubadour.

For anyone who has the means and wishes to help with the expenses incurred by Jamie’s illness, you are encouraged to visit her page titled Jamie Shadowlight’s Urgent Medical Fight.


Photo by Pacifico ‘pj’ Ortiz Luis.

How are you at the moment?
Other than the kidney thing, I’m doing great.

Other than the kidney thing…look at all the wine that’s sitting over here.
Oh yeah, would you like a bottle?

Please take one on your way out. I was gifted this whole box of wine, but I don’t drink wine anymore.

If I remember correctly, you’ve never been much of a partier.
Well, sometimes. I wouldn’t party, but I would have a late night and jam.

You’ve never struck me as being much of a hedonist.
Not a hedonist, I’m a bohemian.

What’s the difference?
A bohemian is…they enjoy life. A hedonist is a little more extreme. A bohemian is just an artist and enjoys the flow of life—the arts, the pleasures of life. It’s not like “drinking to get drunk, dude!” It’s a pleasure, like under the stars drinking wine with friends, staying up all night and singing flamenco songs: those kinds of things.

To me, the most enjoyable moments in life have always been bacchanalian celebrations.
Me, too.

I have a tendency to take that to extremes sometimes. Which at the moment strikes me as high irony, because from my point of view you seem to have lived a life of so much balance. So why is your physical vehicle presenting you with so many imbalances? I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that for the last few weeks.

Well, we’re being poisoned.

You mean by the food, water, or air?
Women—the feminine products are very poisonous.

You mean with tampons and such?
Yes, from what I understand. Some people look at it and say, “Oh, you gotta fix your mind and your emotions and all that.” I’m constantly self-examining and letting things go, cutting things away so I can just be love in every presence. And I think I’ve achieved that, but there are physical things. But the why doesn’t matter. What I feel is that I am on a divine path, and everything is happening so that I can grow. You know, I have a beautiful life. This month has been the most beautiful month of my life—it’s been so, so beautiful.

Because every moment is magical: it feels destined and aligned by the moments I’ve been given. The short answer is the love of my community—the love that I’ve put out all these years is coming back to me tenfold. I keep growing by being true to myself. And I’m always challenging myself: “What is honest now for me?” I’m not afraid to change. I’m not attached to a hologram of myself from the past—my energy being is always constant. I think that as an artist it’s really important not to be attached to your past self, and you have to constantly gauge what is honest now. What is the honest note to play now? Not something I memorized, what does it actually feel like? Am I clear enough to hear it, and am I brave enough to express it? And living in that place has really developed for me. Also, being influenced by the Tibetan sandpainters, I knew my art early, and how everything is ephemeral.

You’re talking about the meditation of creating a mandala?
Yes, the mandalas. But during this journey—knowing that everything is ephemeral has really filled my life so I have lived every moment like it’s my last. I’ve lived my whole life like that, or at least since I was 18. I have a great love…I carry this mirror of activation of true Self.

Mirror of activation?
Of true Self.

You mean from a metaphysical standpoint?
Yes, a metaphysical standpoint. I am a blank. And oftentimes when I look into someone’s eyes, they feel good. And so that’s the magic, it’s as simple as that. They feel good because they know I am not projecting onto them, they know I am here, open to receive, and curious. But I also see their soul body: I don’t mean to do it, but these things are activated, you know?

It’s a set of intentions based on your consciousness.

Have you gone back and re-read our conversation from 2013?
Yeah! I’ve read it several times over the years—it’s great. It’s one of my favorite interviews that I’ve ever had.

Until last week I had not looked at it for a long time. Because when we talked about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it’s one of my favorite conversations to have with people when I first meet them. If, in the Heisenberg principle, the observer changes the outcome of the experiment or the experience, then I literally create you in my field and you literally create me in your field. And, therefore, with some people, you can bombard them with love and they’ll run screaming in the opposite direction because they can’t handle that vibration. And this is perhaps the reason why we stay away from toxic people who project negativity upon us, and the reason why we’re attracted to people who reinforce this kind of unconditional love. And that’s, no doubt, why you have so many people who love you so deeply and dearly: because of that very aspect of what you send out into the world. Like you said, it has come back to you tenfold, or much more than that.
It’s presence. It’s just simple presence. Having the ability to be present with people, and it’s not for everybody, you know? [laughter]

And it’s discernment, too. But I’ve always trusted life to put in front of me those who I am meant to interact with. The main thing is, as I go through this, I do not change. I approach it with all of the epic energy that I am. We’ve talked about the death experiences of other people in my life and the hardships and the loss. But I’m a creator of beautiful moments in the world—mystical, unexplainable, supernatural things are always happening around me. And it’s helping me to recognize who I am. We oscillate between many things as we enter the world, but I am a medicine woman, and I’m a healer. I don’t use this word lightly, but I am a shaman. I haven’t stepped into it fully, yet. I kind of play in the realms, but this has been the call—I see it as an initiation.

Wow, that’s heavy.
And I kept saying all last year when I was in Oaxaca, after I lost my parents, “I take the path of the healer.”

Photo by Pacifico ‘pj’ Ortiz Luis.

You mentioned Tibetan sandpaintings before. You know, I spent a month in Tibet in June of 2000. And that same year I also went to Peru to study the Mesa, which is a divination system that shamans have been practicing for hundreds of years—it’s about opening up dimensional portals. It’s a metaphysical phenomenon that occurs when a curandero performs an ayahuasca ceremony within a spiritual context, with the intention of healing a member of the tribe. Ever since I became obsessed with the Doors at the age of 14, the idea of the shaman has really been pervasive in my life.
It’s an important aspect and the doctor has taken the place of the shaman.

I find it amazing how you can maintain your center in the midst of all this.
Not maintain, I have found my center.

You had it before though…
But in a deeper way, and what I’m learning is this: what you are saying about the shaman, we are all our own healers.

And so first of all it’s taking responsibility for everything and every change. Another thing is: knowing that we are energy. I work in the esoteric, with water and sound. I’ve been working in cymatics [modal vibrational phenomena] for over a year, moving water with sound. Creating coherence in the water with sound. So, I know these things: that we are water, that we are cellular, and that sound can create coherence. The other thing is we are energy, and the mind is all-powerful. The Mind is outside of us. The Mind is everything. Our mind is connected to The Mind.

The Universal Mind?
[emphatically] Yeah. And it’s multi-dimensional. And what I realized during this time is: Spirit’s got me. Everything is in a Divine plan. Like I have had such growth in being through this experience. I’d rather have another year at this level of living than another 40 years not.

I get it. You mentioned Siddhartha earlier—one of the most profound experiences in this lifetime for me has been going to the Vipassana meditation retreat near Fresno and doing a couple of different ten-day mediation sits. Meditating for twelve hours a day, not speaking for ten days, not doing any reading, no media, nothing but having breakfast and lunch and meditating, learning the technique of Vipassana, quieting the mind and focusing on the breath and observing anicca: the doctrine of impermanence, that which is always changing. Dealing with the saṅkhāras of the mind that create the neuroses that have us acting out in such an unconscious way. And once you’ve observed these things at a deep level, you learn how to not reinforce them any longer and how to release them. The whole thing about Vipassana is there’s no grabbing and there’s no pushing away, there’s the Zen balance between the two—between craving and aversion. To me, that’s the living meditation. I don’t have to sit for an hour to experience that, every moment of every day becomes that, when I’m remembering to maintain that space.
Wow. That gets in the article. That’s important. [JK laughs] Please put that in. I need to read that in print.

Will do. One of the things Liz asked of me is to do a written summary: “Can you please do an update of what Jamie’s been up to for the past ten years?” I didn’t say this, but I thought “That’s ridiculous! What has she been up to for the last ten years? And to somehow summarize it in a thousand words.”
I’ve been developing my soul. There.

Thanks, there it is in one line: “I’ve been developing my soul.” I mean, you’ve been involved in all these musical projects: you’ve made recordings, you’ve traveled, you’ve played so many shows over the years.
For ten years I’ve just been honoring my craft. I’ve always been very focused in life. I have two things that I do: 1) I live life and 2) I play music. I wish I remembered all of the shows I’ve played.

Photo by Dennis Andersen.

That’s why I am a chronicler of the tribe. As I complete my second book, the appendix is called the Travelogue Gig List. From 1975 to the present, it’s every gig that I have either performed as a musician, which is over a 1,000, or every gig I have seen as an audience member, which is over 2,000, including set lists. I took a lot of notes along the way. Of course, there’s been a bit of a hiccup over the past three years doing fewer gigs with everybody being driven insane by what’s been going on with the control mechanisms of the planet.
Not me. My whole theme has been don’t give up your life in fear of death. Remember to get up and take that breath, to really feel that joy of being alive now. And find something beautiful to observe.

You did a live post on Facebook two weeks ago where you played your violin and banged your medicine drum. You repeated that phrase about five times at the end. Please say that again…
Don’t give up your life in fear of death.

Uh huh.
Don’t give up your life in fear of death.

Uh huh.
[JS laughs] I love you, Jon. You’re so special. I love my friends—I just think I want to be with all of them. I love our town, and I love our people. That’s another thing that’s made this different: our people. They’re so respectful of each other. And they’re so respectful of my sovereignty. Well, I guess I’ve built it that way, but it’s been a lot of communication. I’m grateful to be in this space. And when my team of five people moved in, everything is being done with so much love. Meanwhile, the GoFundMe and all the donations—wow, it allows me to just focus on healing.

I found it incredible that after three or four days there was already $75,000 raised on your behalf.

That’s a testament of some incredible magnitude. Your perspective is so cosmic…
Oh, we’re mirrors—I know you get it, that’s why I love talking with you.

But it also feels like we’re mired in so much worldly muck.

Jamie at a recent performance at Winston’s. With Todo Mundo. Photo by Vanessa Cindy.

When these things happen it’s an opportunity. We can’t lose the opportunity to become unmired. We all go, but to be given these challenges and the opportunity to unmire yourself, even if for six months, is to have these moments where you’re unmired. You’re just here and that’s a blessing. I’m not going to miss experiencing that. I’m not worried about dying—I’m not worried about the pain to come or anything like that. I’m experiencing this Now for what it is: it’s an opportunity, it’s a growth, it’s a gift. And…we all die. It’s how do we live? And I’m staying the legend that I am. Whenever I would feel bogged down and find myself shuffling because I’m in pain, I couldn’t walk, I would go “no.” This is the power of the mind. I am Kwan Yin. I am the White Buffalo woman. I am the warrior. I grab the drum, and I beat the shit out of it for hours, and the pain would disappear, and I’d feel stronger. Because when I am in front of sound, I am a goddess, I am in my element. And I just keep going back into the sound and find myself. I’m not this weak patient. This is who I am. And I still tell myself that everyday, to hold myself even more in elegance and grace whenever I can. The only thing that takes it all away is pain. When you’re in extreme pain then you’re trying to get out of pain. It hasn’t happened often, and the trick of the mind is to not anticipate pain once you’ve felt it—to let it go. But mainly it’s a state of mind. I’m okay. It’s this lifting of the crown up when it’s being pulled down. And it changes everything.

I think the beating of the drum is another way of focusing the mind in order to make a vibrational shift.
And it creates blood circulation: moving.

It’s all part of changing and raising the vibration.
Yeah. And during this time I saw how powerful the crystal bowls are. Because anytime there was extreme pain my friend was playing crystal bowls and it immediately eased it. And all of these things I knew but didn’t fully understand, because during a point of crisis, people step up. It’s different from saying “Oh, I’m doing a gig, come hear me play.” It’s a point of crisis: your friend is in deep pain, and you step up and you’re playing with a purpose, right? It’s just been really profound, and the moments of music have been spectacular. Epic. I see you brought your guitar.

Yes, I am going to play you one song before I leave.
Yes, please. I got excited when I saw the guitar.

I haven’t written any songs lately because I’ve been focusing on “life” and “work.”
Life is the most important thing. We have our work. But also, it’s just such an opportunity to grow—it’s important to face death. And the more we’re aware of it, the more we can become our true selves and really live. And whenever it’s been brought into my field, it’s always been the most powerful.

Whenever what’s been brought into your field?

You know, the possibility of death or just the spirit of death. And we have it easy here, you know? It’s not like so many people have it around the world. But it’s really a privilege to experience this enhanced form of life. It’s inspiring. It’s like okay, I trust the power of my body. I’m willing to change. And I am a healer. We all are healers. And I realize during this time I’m a badass. [JK laughs}

And I have badass friends—that’s the other thing. The conversations are so interesting. It’s not typical. I have such amazing people in my life. To get to spend time with everyone, it takes this. We’re all busy and all of sudden everyone’s coming. You and I could talk forever.

This is true.
Because we have so much to talk about.

Art by Katya Mezhova.

That’s the thing, the nature of the mind being what it is, I could come up with excuses…it’s like coming up with an excuse to dance with you. Conversation is like…it’s such a pleasure to flow and move with you that I could come up with questions all day because it allows me to get to dance with you that much longer.
[enthusiastically] Yay! That’s the most beautiful way to put it. It’s been really great being so open with this space, nothing to lose, nothing to gain. So, I was working with this obsidian knife that a friend gave me, and he said this is for your malachite. And the malachite is to heal loss and grief. Basically, what I was doing was calling back all the pieces of my soul that I’ve left out there back to myself, because I need it now. And I was working with it for a day and a half and then my friend walked in and all of a sudden, I dropped it and it shattered. And so, I grabbed the pieces and thought “This is for the desert.” I didn’t know that I was going to go to the desert. And then suddenly I’m in the desert, and the message came to bring the obsidian. I held the two pieces in my hand while my friend gonged for like half an hour. And I just went deep into the shadow work: “Show me what I don’t see about myself and what I need to let go of, the things that are unnecessary within my field that I’m carrying.” And I was given all these memories. And I cleansed it with water, and I put [the broken pieces of the obsidian] into the fire and I did the next two pieces, which was a different shadow. And I started to get impatient, but I needed to stay with it. I was worried that it was taking too long. I also learned during this time that I don’t need apologies.

People have become so accustomed to apologizing for their very existence every time they do something they think is offensive or some illusionary transgression. It happens to people all the time, and it becomes a way of life for people—apologizing for their very existence.
I’ve told the group no more apologies.

They’re like “sorry.” It’s that strict, but it takes energy. But I do it, too. I’m like I’m sorry it’s taking so long—no, just stay. And I did put in the obsidian and then I started bleeding, and I had to take the cloth full of blood, I was in so much pain I couldn’t go take it out to the trash, so I burned it in the fire, which was actually very profound.

Totally. It’s the most transmutable aspect of the elements, I think, is fire.
[softly] You’re such a shaman, too. That’s why we get each other. That’s been one of the beautiful things about this time, having to be so transparent and vulnerable, sharing everything with my close friends. Everything. But I get through it really quick, every single thing that needs to be done. I’m like, if it needs to be done, just do it. I’m a good general. I think I might have been Genghis Khan in a past life—somewhere between Kwan Yin and Genghis Khan. My friends tell me ”You’re more like Genghis Khan.” [laughs] But I’m a balls-out kind of gal. That’s why I’m an artist—you get it as much as I do—in the past ten years I’ve just been becoming.


It’s been a joy seeing you again.

 As always.
And I wish we had more time because I know we can go really deep. Not to be dramatic, but I’m fighting for my life here. Not fighting, that’s the wrong word. I picked that term up from somebody else. But every moment matters, and I have to do the work. But part of the work is being around people…what I realize is…what you said was very profound about not pushing, not pulling. Part of me wants to just be like “Nobody gets in, I just focus.” But that’s not really who I am. A lot of who I am is this. So, it’s important that I maintain that joy in life of these [moments]…and my heart always tells me when to let people in, and when to let people through, and it’s always been exactly what I needed at the moment. So, I surrender to the guidance and the flow of life. I am growing into, for lack of better words, the best version of myself—and staying there. Really, the most high, epic, legendary version of myself that I can imagine. And to stay there and to be that. Genghis Khan wouldn’t go die in a hospital. Go light a fire and die under the stars. Not that I’m thinking of death at all. But I’ve thought of how I wanted to leave this planet and it definitely wasn’t hooked up to a machine in a hospital. Even during the Covid it was the same thing: don’t forget you’re alive now. Don’t let these thoughts, these projections (like you said about the movies) people watch these b-movies and then go and act them out. Look at the world around you and live within it. Don’t tele-transport too much. Call your energy back, call your energy back into your life and to your life force. And fully embody it here.

Photo by Dennis Andersen.

And when you do that, everything is simple. All the franticness of the decisions and everything else disappears, and all you’re left with is…the right thing will come. You don’t have to figure anything out. I will know, and I will act, and then I will continue with that guidance.

Well, again I’m here to support that vision, and I’m here to mirror for you. And I will, as I type these words up, use it as my own living meditation. And you and I will perpetuate this for others through sharing it on the Internet and putting these ideas out there, helping to solidify these intentions. We’re going to beam a better movie into people’s minds by the very nature of our consciousness shared, and multiplied through the two of us, we will put it out there to the world, so that it helps to transform everyone’s consciousness.
This thing has launched a thousand ships into the light.

That’s beautiful.
I’m so grateful. Not just for myself, but to experience this and to show a way. Someone called me a way shower the other day. That’s a lot of responsibility; I just do my thing. But it’s just turning out that way. All the gatherings are just filled with joy and it’s interesting to experience it while I’m alive. I’m going to say goodbye for now.

Thank you so much Jamie. I’m turning off the recorder. Any last words, for the moment?
It’s not over yet, motherfuckers! There ain’t no last words here in this session. [JK claps approval] Over and out. [laughs heartily] Nano, nano.

Hey, that’s what you said last time…


Jamie Shadowlight: In Search of Intelligent Life

by Jon Kanis (reprinted from October 2013, San Diego Troubadour)

Look at the numbers, that’s all I ask
Who’s at the head of every class?
Do you really think they’re smarter than you are?
They just work their asses off
Their parents make them do it!

—“Korean Parents” by Randy Newman

Jamie Shadowlight is one sly, perceptive creature: seductively graceful, and talented beyond the ken of the usual article. With a glint of mischief, and by means of introduction, she wishes to make two things sarcastically clear: “I just want to say upfront that I am not in any relation to the leadership of North Korea…and there’s one other thing you have to know about me. I don’t have cable—but I do watch Star Trek.”

Some stereotypes, no matter how politically incorrect (or self-effacing), exist in the world for a reason. But with this pablum of propaganda that passes for news and entertainment in our current cultural climate, does anyone really need cable television anyway? Certainly anyone with half a brain already knows that there are far more substantive forms of entertainment going down in San Diego and if there is anyone worth following in our currently exceptional music scene of the moment it is virtuoso violinist Jamie Shadowlight.

Over the course of the last decade Shadowlight has made a reputation as one of the most talented and eclectic musicians to call San Diego home. A self-described “independent freelancer,” she makes her living performing and teaching music. When she’s not on stage or in the classroom she spends the remainder of her professional time building websites and refining her skills as a graphic designer, where her flair for the visual rival the sparks that fly from her electric violin.

Korean parents for sale
You say you’re not all that you want to be
You say you got a bad environment
Your work at school’s not going well.

Korean parents for sale
You say you need a little discipline
Someone to whip you into shape
They’ll be strict but they’ll be fair.

Shadowlight is South Korean by birth and spent the first two years of her life in Seoul being cared for by her grandparents after her mother and father immigrated to Chicago, Illinois. After joining her parents in the windy city she soon had a baby brother to keep her company, and by the age of five was indoctrinated into the world of classical music by her mother, a gosu (drummer) in the Korean Pansori tradition. “I started playing the violin when I was five, around the time my brother was born, and I played piano when I was eight.

“My earliest conscious memory is of the cold. I guess that’s part of being in Chicago—and the lights. But musically I don’t have very many memories except the hours of listening to my mother. My mom was a percussion player and a dancer. In Korea, a lot of the drums are held by the women. It’s a beautiful art and my mom did that before she met my dad, and she had a great discipline. She was my discipline when I was a child. A kid may wake up singing naturally, but no kid naturally plays the violin [laughs]. It is an instrument that takes many years to learn. So, my mom was a discipline for me, she made me work really hard.

“My mom did that, she gave me my start in music. And my dad loves opera, so we grew up with a lot of classical music and opera, with not much else.”

Oh, learn to play the violin
Oh, to turn your homework in right on time
What a load off your back that will be…

Within a year of picking up the violin, Shadowlight’s family moved to Torrance, California, where she became conversant in sight-reading and displayed an exceptional aptitude for the violin, earning many honors throughout her time at school (including the Grand Prize for the L.A./Korean Times Concerto Competition and the Gold Medal for her trio in the Bach Festival). “I didn’t start out wanting to be a musician,” she says. “I mean, I played music all my life, I’ve been classically trained: Bach, and all that stuff.

At Winston’s with the Western Collective, 2017.

“When I was a child, it was very structured, and there was so much pressure. But it had no self-expression, no side of the artistry to it. It was stressful and I didn’t enjoy it, it didn’t show me any part of my soul. When I work with kids today, a lot of it is preserving the love of music, sharing the love of music, the expression of it and realizing this is a tool in your life to help express balance: it’s a joy. When I was a kid, it was a competition tool. It was a thing to gain achievement, to get into colleges, which I never went to. At 18, I became a street musician. It just happened. I follow the path in front of me, and when those forks in the road come, I try to make the hard decisions. And it’s led me here.

“It’s led me to many nights of beautiful music, effortlessly. I mean, not effortless because, of course, you have to do a lot of work to make it happen, but…when things are right, they’re right. And as difficult as it is to bring people together, whenever we have done it, it has been natural.”

Within a month of graduating high school, Shadowlight busted loose from a lifetime of familial and academic structure for a season of bohemian adventure. “I was a Deadhead, because the guys that I was living with at the time were Deadheads. It was based out of Oregon, San Francisco. It wasn’t for a long period of time. It was my Jack Kerouac On the Road experience. It’s what every child has to do to burst out of the confines of perceived education and the system.” A film called Tie-Died, a documentary about the sub-culture of Grateful Dead fans, managed to capture Shadowlight during this period, improvising in a Portland parking lot while a bearded man explains how the elder Dead fans are imploring young people “not to abuse their body or their soul, to try to do good and get along with people. As you can see, we seem to do it pretty well.”

“I was playing in Oregon with this singer I had met,” she says. “And it was just a totally different experience: the joy, the sharing. It was just so mystical. I actually only went into one Dead show because we could listen from the parking lot. We were so broke back then, and the Dead were commercially expensive, but it was still that experience of meeting those kinds of people, being under the stars, watching the moonrise, and playing outdoors with music being a part of life. You wake up, and there was no money involved, it was just to play. That started me on the path of another kind of music. And then, when I came to San Diego, I met a lot of jazz musicians. I don’t consider myself a jazz musician; I’m a contemporary violinist. But I play with jazz musicians and I improvise. I’m very reluctant about categories because once you define yourself, you limit yourself, and you don’t get a chance to really fulfill your destiny. Because who knows what you may become?

“You just try to serve the moment, serve what’s on the plate next, and give it all you’ve got. Sometimes you fall on your face [laughs] and sometimes you fly. But you get up and you do it again, or you raise your arms up in victory and do it again…”

If Shadowlight has a home away from home it would appear to be Dizzy’s, the premier listening room in San Diego for jazz and Latin-oriented music. Over the last few years, Shadowlight has produced several unique programs, including an adaptation of West Side Story as a harmonic love story between the violin and trumpet (featuring the horn of Gilbert Castellanos) and Jazz Meets Stars Wars (where Shadowlight plays Princess Leia to Castellanos’ Luke Skywalker). Other programs with an electric jazz fushion bent have featured the music of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Santana, and Jeff Beck, with many of Shadowlight’s arrangements borrowing heavily from the vibe of Beck’s Blow by Blow period.

“I’ve been playing with a band called Jazzmikan Trio+. It’s Mikan Zlatkovich, who’s an amazing jazz pianist. He’s like Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jimal who’s really, really good. I’ve been in his project for about a year now. And I’ve been in many orchestras; the most recent one was called Marshall Hawkins Seahawk Mojo Orchestra. We played at the Joan Kroc Theater; it’s a jazz orchestra, with amazing people floating through it: Evan Christopher, Harold Mason, Richie Cole, Daniel Jackson, Sal Marquez, Gilbert Castellanos. I was concertmaster for that show, as well as soloist, which was a huge honor for me.”

In addition to performing live, Shadowlight has also spent a fair amount of time in the recording studio. She released her first CD Music from a Love Shared in 2004 and is in the process of recording a new CD entitled Songs of the Seeker. She has also recorded with scores of other locals including Joe Marillo, Paul Kamanski, Chris Carpenter, Chuck Perrin, Mahaba, and Larry Mitchell.

At Dizzy’s (Duncan Moore in the background), 2008. Photo by Dennis Andersen.

Shadowlight: “From the infinite amount of choices that can fulfill every moment, some of them are hard to make. A lot of times it’s what’s in front of you—what’s naturally put in front of you is what we take. I think, overall, what it comes down to is just having a beautiful life. Doing the little things; all those things that are just going to be dust in the wind: gone and forgotten. You just try and contribute something. There’s so much in the mind to achieve and so many ideas to bring through and every idea takes a certain amount of time to do correctly. The amount of work that it takes to fulfill a concept is enormous. Even a single song, you know? As long as you fill your moments with something, you just make your choices. And those choices mean that other choices don’t get made: they don’t receive attention. And they’re hard choices to make. In the end I just can’t hold on to anything. At the end of my days I hope to leave behind a living legacy, even though to me that whole concept is futile. Not in a bleak way, but in a cosmic way. As you get old enough, you start to understand the impermanence of life. As a child, we don’t come out aware and part of everything. We come out very within our own heads. And part of the education, part of growing and becoming an aware human being, is stepping outside of your own head. The arts help you do that because you’re stepping into songs and poetry and music and films that help you get outside of your own head. And the more you get outside of your own head, the more the view from above is a more ‘real picture.’ As artists we hope to contribute to that, by sharing our experiences; if somebody steps into your experience, it takes them outside of their own head. So, the whole concept and awareness of impermanence will ultimately feed your choices.”

The Search for Intelligent Life on this Planet

Shadowlight: “I had this idea about a year ago to start an exploration called The Search for Intelligent Life on this Planet. It’s one of my dreams—it doesn’t have to do with music, but it would be like a YouTube, handheld-camera thing. We would look at something, like going into the supermarket, and you look at all the frozen foods with everything just left open: it’s freezing in there, with all of that energy being used, and is this intelligent? And you look at systems, and you look at anything [that generates] power, and you explore the effects of it on the environment, like packaging. You look at that and give some information on how many tons get thrown away: what’s the use of this? And then you ask yourself is this intelligent? And if the answer is “no,” then you go searching for an intelligent answer and you scour the world. I really, really want to do something like that, but I don’t have the budget right now. I have to make a living. But I’m hoping to start that in the next year or so. Even locally, and it would be an inclusive thing where all around the world people can also start asking these questions, and doing the research, and uploading videos.

“It’s a multi-media project. For example, when you look up the word intelligence: it’s the ability to grow and change, to take in information. That’s the main definition; that you have the common ability to look at things and grow, change. There’s no script. It’s such a big concept that I don’t know where to start. But I like to begin with what’s directly in front of me: look at all this packaging and the amount of oil it takes to create all of this stuff. And hopefully, it will just take me into some dialog, with some solutions, and give me hope.

“I believe that a lot of people do things unconsciously and they don’t understand the impact. They do what’s ‘easiest,’ and consume whatever the people in charge put in front of you. Like what you buy at the supermarket; it’s just coming into light what we’ve been eating. And the marketing and the packaging and all the lies about what you’re putting into your body and the chemicals. But when you go to the grocery store you have to have an alternate choice, you can’t make that choice if it’s not available? I hope we can uncover some intelligence and hopefully bring to light some solutions.

“It’s a fairly new idea, and I’m doing so much other stuff. But it feels like something that my heart wants to initiate. I might not even be the one, I may just start it and step back and hopefully people will contribute. I know it’s a huge quest, but every time I come across something that’s so irrational I always think of this, you know? [laughs] It’s just a concept right now.

“But I do hope to create more music and keep contributing to this community. One of the ways I do that is through graphic arts. I’ve built websites for Charles McPherson, Peter Sprague, and Daniel Jackson. Hopefully I help them with their music by keeping people abreast of their activities, and that musically I’ve contributed something of beauty these past years.”

The greatest generation
Your parents aren’t the greatest generation
So sick of hearing about the greatest generation
That generation could be you
So let’s see what you can do
Korean parents and you.

Jamie tames the dragon. Photo by Sean Selfridge.

Jamie tames the dragon. Photo by Sean Selfridge.

Shadowlight: “Hopefully, if you’re doing things right, you keep growing and keep understanding and keep getting better at what you love, getting better at your craft. Becoming more true to your heart and your soul. Getting rid of all the excess, of conditioning—of what we’ve all gone through living here. Some years there’s a marked growth when you look back at the rings of your life, and often those years of extreme spiritual and personal growth are accompanied by hardship. It is part of the gift. And if you can walk away from it and gain that perspective, you get that gift.

“Popularity and success—there are connotations of those words and they’re different for everybody. One person’s success is another person’s failure.

“I’m so surprised whenever anyone finds you as you just quietly keep doing what you do. All the great moments and achievements are so quiet and personal: one-on-one, between five people, between ten people, between a teacher and a student. My idea of success is not being popular—success is something that comes from walking a true path. From making those decisions, those quiet decisions and giving every moment. My personal goal is to contribute something beautiful to the world.

“The music is just one way to express that. We have an instrument; we have a craft that helps us as artists to share something of that discovery. But there are many ways to do it. It can be in a hug, or a smile, or a conversation. I believe we’re here to help pull each other into consciousness. That to me has value; people who can help elevate consciousness and bring me into the moment, and help me be more aware.  To me, that’s the Holy Grail: to be more and more aware of the possibilities. It’s like what the world is looking at right now with the invention of the telescope. Man, these telescopes out in space, it’s so symbolic of our consciousness here as human beings. And that’s the same with the soul and the growth of the soul and exploration of the soul, it’s like the universe—poof!—it’s just endless, and I’m kind of a seeker of that in my life.

“There is no expiration date on dreams.”

A continuation of a conversation with Jamie Shadowlight:

So, how does music relate to your consciousness in terms of maintaining balance or expressing that infinite truth?
Well, it brings me into the moment, and it gives me a medium where I can share a vibration: a tone and a vibration. Sometimes you’re rocking out and it’s just to play. But the quest is to get that tone. The note is just a ripple on the top of the lake. What’s underneath that tone is a lifetime of experience and a meaning that you can only get by living the life and by making the choices you do.

I like playing with a lot of different people because it helps bring me into the moment and imagine new things. It helps me evolve. By listening to what you’re playing it makes me more than I am.

Do you mean by a method of harmony or something that’s contrapuntal or even atonal?
Just by becoming part of another music, you know? Whether it’s a Bob Dylan song or an original song, just by the act of playing together. And there’s so much joy in music, there’s so much of a community and happiness and awareness and sadness. It’s one of the great art forms, I just love it so much. I love playing.

Why else would you do it? It’s not a convenient thing to be an artist.

The hardships involved with setting up gigs, lugging your gear around. Just trying to get four other artists in the room together, all pulling the boat in the same direction is a miracle.
It is. Any act of harmony is a miracle…and yet, gatherings are so beautiful.

Well, community is essential, and music is everything to me. I really like the idea in Hinduism that all of vibratory creation is created out of the sound of “Aum” (or Om) in that cosmology. There’s bringing creation into being (A), there’s that state of becoming (U) and then there’s the dissolution (M) – all under the A-U-M. And I think that’s what music is in a sense, it’s this physics principle. Like the Heisenberg Principle, which purports that on the sub-atomic level what I choose to project upon you, that I literally create you in my field of perception. And you, in your field of perception literally create me in yours. And how we choose to project upon one another literally changes the molecular structure of one another.
I believe that, that’s why you try to put out that positive vibration and love. The world needs it. There is a saying: “It’s not the medium, it’s the expression.” It can come through in a poem, a story. If you have something to say, an artist can express it through music—a song, a solo, it can be anything. It can be a touch…

I still feel like such an amateur in music. Not amateur, but there’s so much study, there’s so much to learn, and understanding chord structures and harmonies and so many songs to learn. And I’m lucky if I remember my phone number [laughs] that’s why I have this [picks up cell phone]. You know, I’m spiritual, but I don’t have any religion.

I’m a cinephile—I love the cinema. But I think that the only reason to watch a film is so it can inform you in some positive fashion rather than offering you an escape from your life; because if you’re living your life in a mindful manner, you don’t need to escape. I understand that people make a lot of choices to do what they think they need to do in order to survive and then the tradeoff of working on something that they can’t stand for eight to ten hours is to “reward” themselves with an “escape.”
Have you seen The Weeping Camel?

You would love it, it’s a Tibetan film. It is one of the most beautiful stories, and it is about the healing power of music. It is about this tribe in Tibet, and they have these camels, the royal family of the princess, and the camel has a baby. One of the babies is traumatized, so she won’t feed this baby. They go on this quest, and they’re in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia, and they go into the city and bring back a healer. It’s just this beautiful trek through the heartland and they come back with the healer and the healer plays this music, and the camel cries and ends up feeding the baby. The whole journey is so beautiful.

Well, you understand the nature of chi and meridians and that sort of thing in acupuncture?
Yeah, my uncle does that.

So, animals, just like human beings, have their own pool of consciousness that they draw from. Anything that a human being has done I believe that we are all heir to. We can all become Buddha or Christ or Hitler—it’s just a matter of exercising your freewill consciously and selecting from the smorgasbord of potential choices wisely. Whatever you wish to manifest in your localized ego in this little slice of infinity. A camel has consciousness just like any other sentient being, and who’s to say it doesn’t have it’s own blocks and that there are ways of “magically” unblocking the chi so that those walls are broken down somehow, even by a violin being played.
It was some kind of Mongolian string instrument, and it just played this song and it was so beautiful. It’s such a simple, quiet movie. And visually striking—you would like it.

Have you heard a song by Randy Newman called “Korean Parents”?
No, but I believe it.

I’m going to play it for you before we say goodbye.
I’m going to learn it [laughs].

Kids today got problems like their parents never had
Neighborhoods are dangerous the public schools are bad
At home there are distractions so irresistible
The hours fly by no work gets done

Some Jewish kids still trying some white kids trying too
But millions of real American kids don’t have a clue
Right here on the lot we got the answer
A product guaranteed to satisfy.

Korean parents for sale
You say you need a little discipline
Someone to whip you into shape
They’ll be strict but they’ll be fair…

So, your mom was a disciplinarian…are your folks still alive?
Yes, they’re still together.

Where are they?
Up in L.A. My dad was more, not musical, but he loves opera, so we grew up with a lot of classical music and opera. There’s Korean folk music: Pansori, you know, the Korean blues? Beautiful instruments, usually like drums and flute, it’s the ultimate blues. Because Korea was occupied and enslaved, but my parents didn’t grow up with a lot of hate.

Well, that brings up…to me studying the blues in America; it’s like racism, slavery, oppression—racism is an irritant and the pearl that comes out of it is the music. We wouldn’t have Bessie Smith and we wouldn’t have Charlie Parker if not for those imbalances in society, so that’s a kind of irony, because without those things to provide a shadow to the light, that’s where you get the chiaroscuro aspect of the music. Pansori, the blues of Korea, I’m going to have to do some research because I know nothing about that.
There was a good movie about it too, where they actually blinded the kid. It’s a very difficult craft and in this movie—it won a lot of film festival awards. And it’s probably true, this young girl was brought up to be a Pansori player and so they took her eyes to really make her dedicated—that’s some really, really heavy shit man [laughs]. But again, whenever the spirit, like in Chile, all those great songs that came out of Chile—Victor Jara during [Augusto] Pinochet—Bob Dylan, all these songs that came out when the spirit and freedom is oppressed, then expression becomes necessary.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Yeah, oh I love that. I think the powers that be figured that out: what they do is they distract you. The trick to being a successful dictator or suppressor of action is to give ‘em just enough to be complacent. It’s only when things are really, really bad that people are moved. As long as people have enough.

America’s a beautiful example of that.
Yeah, George Carlin said it…[laughter]

…to have citizens who are educated just enough to keep the machines going and not enough to understand how badly they’re being screwed in the ass by a great big red, white and blue…
Yeah, well, we have that. I don’t wanna risk what I have now because of survival you know? It’s when it goes beyond that level. You would think that the world’s leaders would understand that.

We need to not be afraid of what is going to be taken away in the future, to see what’s really here. Like we said, it’s a balancing act every moment: being aware. I think we all have moments of clarity. Everyone in the world has moments of clarity. But, to maintain that is an ongoing process. Through all our human emotions and hormones and everything and all that. But it is just keeping that chi open and contributing.

Do you work for the NSA [National Security Agency]?

[laughs] I couldn’t be… in fact, if anything I am the antithesis of the NSA.
But you are recording…

I am indeed recording our conversation. I saw that post you put up on Facebook, in regards to those t-shirts on Café Press that has the insignia for the NSA with the motto: “The only part of the government that actually listens.” I read that the government wanted to shut down the artists who were responsible for satirizing the NSA. Isn’t that ridiculous? To me the idea behind even making music at this stage of the game is to create a counterpoint to the negative density. I believe what Bill Hicks said to be true: that you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand that an elite ruling class controls the resources of the government, the media, the legal system—that all the control mechanisms of society are for the privilege of a select few. And because of this, those who are trapped in the literal Matrix of things who are providing the labor to produce capital for the benefit of a very elite few—that system is completely out of balance. Eventually it will come into balance—but it can’t be fast enough for me. I want it to happen now. I want all of these systems to go away, they are not serving the greater good of humanity whatsoever.
It’s such a beast to fight and it’s so hard to change that only the death of those people involved will bring it about. And perhaps they’ll never die, ‘cause they’re like the nine-headed Hydra where they just pass it on and create another monster to administer that. That’s why a lot of us are choosing to unplug. I can’t say I’m off the grid because I’m on Facebook.

Do you think that ultimately some kind of paradigm shift can occur? When enough people shift and evolve in their consciousness?
Like what you said, it’s controlled by the few, and enough people can raise their voices, but those people have so much power and have already messed things up so much. I hope so.

Photo by ZeuqsaV.

Do you believe that it’s possible that a paradigm shift will occur in our lifetimes?
Hmm, in our lifetime? It’s like walking into a white room and somebody’s just spilled a whole lot of—they had a red paint party, you know? You couldn’t turn it pink…[laughs]…at best, you know? If you try to fix that, I don’t think it will happen in our lifetime, or the next. But hopefully the shift will start. It’s like those endangered animals in the ‘80s, there were numbers of whales and eagles were really going down and then people took action and banned a bunch of stuff and just last year you see the numbers going back up. And then you have the nuclear spill and all the whales are dying—blah, blah, blah—so I don’t know.

I don’t know if when you were out traveling with the Dead if you visited to any of these alternative states of consciousness.
Oh yeah.

You seem like you’re pretty cosmically awake.
See, that’s where the hope is cause when you look back at the shift in our own consciousness you know you can hope, it gives you hope for growth and evolution for the masses. And they [the government] try to suppress it by making it all illegal and whatnot—and really putting the fear factor on it.

I like to think that every time you take a breath, hopefully you’re putting out something that adds to the collective’s upliftment and unfolding rather than bring you down into density.
Beautifully put.

Luckily, we are capturing it all for the NSA.
I do not work for the Korean government. [laughs] I’m telling you right now.

You are such a devilish mixture—you have this benevolent surface…but I’ve been getting glimpses of what’s additionally underneath that.
Oh yes, I have a wicked sense of humor. I love playing practical jokes and I like to laugh. But part of the fun of having a creative mind is being able to really fuck with people [laughs].

[laughs] That’s about as fitting a conclusion as any.
I think so—but in a fun way, not in a mean way. Except for that one time… [laughs] Just kidding! You know, in the music world we’re always laughing and that’s part of the joy of it, I think. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

All right, I’m going to thank you officially.
Okay. Over and out.

And this has been a total pleasure.
Nano, nano.

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