The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It?
Raja Records 2009
As a youngster growing up in Northeast Ohio, Raja (born Samuel Crumby) would escape the confines of his reality and head out to a nearby wooded area where he would have conversations with God to clear his head. This, and a myriad of other life experiences, led him to his true purpose, and that is to be a teacher and philosopher, using many vehicles, including public speaking and publishing, to get his message to the people.
Another vehicle Raja is using to spread his message is a two-CD set called The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It? Imagine Issac Hayes as a late night jazz disc jockey intoning philosophical directives for your life over a Ben Tankard soundtrack. You have a good idea of what The Art of Living sounds like.
Raja is not parsimonious with his project, as the CDs contain more than two hours of music and spoken word performances. Some of the tracks are poetic explanations of the essential points behind The Art of Living, delivered in Raja's warm and soothing but forthright voice. Others are original songs that illustrate Raja's main points. Some songs on The Art of Living are better than others; for my money the reggae-like “Anytime We Come Together” is the project’s magnum opus. A few songs pack a dizzying amount of lyrics into each stanza, turning them into recitative instead of arias.
Raja’s superb rhetorical skills deliver poetry, rap, philosophy, and song (by him and a group of polished vocalists called I AM U, including the late Malika Tabia and Raja's late spouse, Marcenia LeFleur), all of which articulate a new age spirituality that is distinctly Christian but not exclusively so. That is, people of other faiths will find his philosophical instruction just as relevant.
I don’t want to steal any of Raja’s thunder, but just to give you a sense of his point, at least as I interpret it:
We, the “Children of God,” must take charge of our own lives by shaking off the many earthly shackles that we have, in part, placed upon ourselves, and embrace The Light to find and embrace our true purpose. The Kingdom of God is within ourselves, so claiming our true purpose will put us in tune with the Kingdom and help us love ourselves which, in turn, will free us to love others. And isn’t love, after all, what we’re supposed to do? War and hate are antiquated and bestial; love of self and others is the true future of humankind.
That’s the Cliff Notes version. Be prepared to listen to the project more than once because there’s a lot to digest and I guarantee you won’t get all of it in the first listening. Better yet, CD 1 also contains two PDF files with the lyrics and background information on the project, so you can follow along.
Raja calls his work “Music for a New Earth” and has trademarked it as “New Paradigm Music.” Regardless of the name, The Art of Living strikes me as an ideal performance art presentation, complete with video images, creative lighting, live music and the narrative moving along in supertitles.
Three of Five Stars