When I say house music, you say ____________?
I’m willing to bet that “civic consciousness” wasn’t even top three on your list.
Three young Chicagoans founded Manifest, an art collective and community organization, to change that. Natives to the city Joe Brandt, Seamus Doheny (aka Zooey Glass), and Braeden Lord organize events that seek to change the typical experience of EDM and house fans in Chicago by marrying their love of electronic music with Transcendental Meditation.
Yes, you read that right.
I sat down at a North Side café with Seamus and Joe where between the intermittent trundling of the L train, I got an opportunity to learn about Manifest and its guiding principles.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a spiritual movement brought over to the western world from India in the 1960s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — known for being the personal guru to the Beatles. The practice died down in the eighties and nineties until filmmaker David Lynch started the David Lynch Foundation to facilitates certified TM teaching to less privileged communities.
Practitioners are quick to point out that it’s not a religion, but rather a mental technique with real health benefits. The American Heart Association published a study recently showing TM highly effective at reducing high blood pressure, risk of stroke, and mortality rates by 50% for people who have been meditating for five years or more.
Aside from gaining popularity thanks to endorsements by the likes of Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, and Russell Brand, TM has also been heralded as a beacon of serenity in programs for at-risk urban students, soldiers suffering from PTSD, and grieving families who have lost relatives to gun violence.
Transcendental Meditation is where the notion of civic consciousness so key to the Manifest show experience is directly derived from and further applied to events to create the unified feel, in tune with all living things.
“For every event we pair with a charity that the performer and Manifest feels embodies one of the unifying ideas, to improve life in Chicago,” Seamus explains. “The diversity of crowd attendance creates a platform for discussion across different communities.”
Forging a more thoughtful concert-going experience strengthens the music scene and its surrounding community.
“We’ve all been to events where, for whatever reason, the vibe was just right. The group of people you were with, the production, the space — everything was a cohesive whole,” Joe says. “A moment in time where everything is unified. So we’re trying to make that unity permeate the way we go about things, but also have people identify with it at our events as well as taking it with them back into their daily lives.”
At a Manifest show, there is usually an accompanying art installation, whether it is a film, an artist showcase, or simply a thought-provoking phrase. You’ll always find fresh flowers on the DJ booth — an homage to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
It was not until a few days later that I would have the opportunity to see the concept manifest itself in real time, at a performance by Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra at the Old Town School of Folk Music, powered by Manifest. It was a seated venue. There was considerably more focused attention on the performance itself, being at the center of the evening. The event benefitted Girls Rock! Chicago.
Teachings of the TM technique have the potential to create a positive impact on the modern house music culture which, like many art communities, plays host to concerns about sobriety and equal representation of sub-communities.
“There is a potential for this music to go in a hedonistic escapist route,” Seamus explains. “If you go and have a transcendental experience listening to house music, the hope is that the unity and community that you felt there is something you’ll carry into your everyday life.”
“This project is about making everyone welcome,” he continues. “No one should have to worry about coming out to a show and wondering if the scene will embrace them. Meditation is the sustainable way to continue tapping into that feeling associated with psychedelics without frying your brain.”
Manifest is an LLC, and hopes to eventually have non-profit status. In a very transcendental way, the founders say that they see no rush to get to a point, but rather let things happen organically by focusing all energies on becoming a better production.
Manifest looks forward to occupying a physical space soon. For now, you can find them on their Facebook page, celebrating their recent event featuring Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra.