Canadian born recording artist Yoko Dharma started writing at the young age of 13 and stepped onto stage singing her own material from that day on. From disco bands to African dance troupes, Buddhist mantras to touring with her own original world/R&B music and opening for Jan Arden, Yoko has a captivating musical and performance background.
In 2007 Yoko co-produced and recorded her first album “Yoko ~ Treasury of Jewels,” a world fusion album of Tibetan and Sanskrit mantras which received amazing reviews and was chosen as “editor’s pick” by Peters on CD baby. “Her voice is a bit like Madonna’s, that is to say, she is fully capable of pure enchantment. Yoko’s entrancing voice is a pure pleasure to listen to.” -Peters at CD Baby.
Yoko is presently recording her debut R&B album “Freedom Reign” with L.A. producer Marty Rifkin. The culturally diverse world music influences drawn on to make “Freedom Reign” album, stem from Yoko’s passionate love of world music and unique world instruments, which are all a part of Yoko’s intriguing sound. Yoko has an intention to bring people together from all over the world through powerful music. Her motivation to break through cultural barriers using music as the conduit for positive global change, peace and oneness is a call to action and transformation of one’s mind, which is given to the listener by Yoko’s conscious lyrics throughout the album. Steeped in the basic human qualities of love, compassion and awareness, Yoko draws from the deep rooted wisdom that Tibetan Buddhism has given her in her life and reflects this in her song writing. We asked Yoko to allow us into her process and inspirations:
What were some of your main artistic challenges when you started out and how have they changed?
I used to struggle with what I thought the world wanted to hear and what I truly wanted to sing about deep in my heart. This has really changed for me over the years and my song writing has grown into a more honest and authentic expression, which comes out from the deepest inside place of my heart. It tells about what I really want to express to the world, without worry of judgment or feeling shy about it. My whole motivation has changed, I feel this deep need to bring out integral music inspired by Buddhist philosophy and interpreted from my own personal experiences that I have had relating to this.
In my earlier years It’s like there was this divide, on the one hand I loved singing R&B, hip hop, world and pop music and yet it always felt like there was something missing, like it left me still feeling shallow inside. On the other hand, when I would sing at home in my meditation practices the deeply moving, beautiful Tibetan Buddhist melodies of my lineage practices, I felt this profound depth, meaning and fulfillment. I knew that I needed to bring this essence out into the world and somehow into mainstream music.
What musical influences do you have and which artists would you say have had an impact on the development of your own musical style?
I’ve been influenced by many amazing artists in my life. Starting when I was 6 when I first heard Whitney Houston sing, I knew at that moment that I was going to be a singer! I had no doubt that I could sing like her……lol! Which might sound kind of funny coming from a 6 year old, but her voice left this impact in my being and somehow I knew that I had this strength and power within me and I knew that I would give these gifts to the world through my voice one day. I can’t explain it really, I just knew! I would say that Whitney Houston, Bob Marley and Tracy Chapman were my youngest musical influences. Then Sade became a MAJOR part of my musical journey and a little later on Lauryn Hill had a large impact on my early song writing with her deep original voice, soulful vocal style and phenomenal lyric writing. After that, India Arie, Alicia Keys and finally Adele have all left powerful lasting influences on me. They have played a part in the emergence of my own vocal style that I grew into over the years. I also have a deep love for a diverse range of traditional world music, especially Tibetan, Indian, African and Middle Eastern music. These have all left imprints in my vocal style and in the overall sound of my music.
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
I love that music can be used to deliver powerful messages with the ability to touch people on a very internal level. I love moving people deeply when I am performing live. There is nothing quite like it and it’s hard to describe the feeling it gives me when I know that the music I’m giving is moving someone deeply. I also passionately love creating in the studio! I’m a bit of a composer I guess, because I’m extremely inspired when I’m creating new music in the studio. I feel like I would be super happy just doing that all the time! The whole creation process from the moment a song is born into the last stages of production is this journey of expression from inside to outside. When I hear the music inside my head and heart and then bring it out into the world in a physical form, it feels like I’m giving birth to the deepest resonance within my being and I get to share this with the whole world. It’s such a magical experience watching each song come to life from a small seed in my heart, growing into something that has a life of its own, that starts to be a part of other people’s lives. This feeds my inspiration big time!
What are the songs on your new album “Freedom Reign” inspired by?
Many of the songs on my new album are inspired by a strong undeniable calling from the world, that’s screaming for us to come together in unity to create a better, more sustainable way of being for our world and all the beings who live in it. In these times of great challenges and planetary change that we are facing right now, I feel so strongly more than ever, that the world could use more of this kind of music right now. We either keep on going how we have been going, or we step into our courage and grow into new ways of being that will benefit our children, the planet and all the future generations.
Is there a motivation behind the new album? (Freedom Reign)
Yes, my motivation behind my new album “Freedom Reign” is to empower everyone who listens to the album to move into greater awareness, love and real compassion. I have a motivation of bringing people great healing and positive transformation through the power of music and through the soul stirring lyrics that are on the album.
My mission is to bring deeply meaningful music into the hands of the youth of today and into the mainstream in a massive way. Music that encourages us to use our innate positive human qualities of love, wisdom and compassion to heal ourselves and the world we live in.
This album is like a love song, for the whole world….
Why have you chosen to record your new album in L. A.?
I decided to record my new album in L. A. for a couple reasons. The most prominent reason is that I wanted to work with Marty Rifkin. Marty has recorded with such notable artists as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Jewel, Dwight Yoakam, Smokey Robinson, Weird Al Yankovic & Elton John, to name a few and the list goes on. I had a special opportunity to work with him for this album and I’m loving how the songs are turning out! He is an amazing person to work with and he inspires me so much. He loves what he does with a passion and this really shows up in his work. Marty is just a pure genius when it comes to making incredible music! I feel very fortunate to be able to work with him on “Freedom Reign” album.
L.A. also has an amazing and diverse range of world class musicians to draw from for finding the right instruments and players for this album. We have already had some amazing artists come and record on the album, including Paul Livingstone who is one of the few American disciples of the legendary Pt. Ravi Shankar and who has played on two Grammy Award winning records. We’ve had Bob Malone come and record, who has toured with Rock legend John Fogerty and who’s music has been heard on NCSI New Orleans, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight, and The Rachel Ray Show. Bob has also appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman and The View with John Fogerty. These are just a couple of the musicians we have playing on my new album. There is more about the musicians on my Kickstarter project page if you would like to know more.
Could you tell me about your Kickstarter campaign and how it is related to the completion of your new album?
Sure! The reason why we are running this crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter right now is to raise the rest of the funding that we need, so we can finish recording “Freedom Reign” album. We still need to record 6 more songs for the album, get the graphic design done and the first run of CDs made. There are also travel and accommodation costs while we are recording in L.A. that we need help with. That’s why we launched this Kickstarter campaign, so that we can finish the album and get it out into the world and into people’s hands. The campaign gives anyone who likes the music we are making, the opportunity to become an essential part in creating this album by becoming a backer for our project. We have many different amazing reward packages made up for our project backers that you get to choose from, including the new album when it is complete!
If you would like to learn more about backing YOKO DHARMA’S album project or you would like to hear some of her new songs that will be on “Freedom Reign” album, you can find out more by checking out her project page at the link below.
“My mission is to bring deeply meaningful music to the mainstream in a massive way. Music that encourages us to use our innate positive human qualities of love, wisdom and compassion to heal ourselves and the world we live in. I think that music can be a conduit for healing and transformation of the mind.”
“I feel that when we are truly living our life’s purpose, that unique calling that each and every one knows is deep inside of their being, it powerfully impacts so many other people that we hadn’t even thought about. It’s like a flower blooming on its own, more beautiful than you could have ever imagined! We are all connected and our own choices have a strong effect on others around us and the world at large. There is a lot more going on than just our own story. When you start to think more about others, that’s when the magic happens! That’s when real happiness and power start to emerge. In serving others, our life becomes deeply meaningful and we begin to feel profoundly fulfilled.
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying, do it anyways!
“I’m passionate about creating intentional music; it’s my offering to the world”