Teatime with Amani Friend of the Desert Dwellers [Interview]
Under the makeshift awning, past the vending booths sat the Press Lounge; home to Ron Jon’s traveling tea station. Amani Friend of the Desert Dwellers joined Sensible Reason post-interview for some organic conversation and tea. Friend has been apart of the down-tempo duo, the Desert Dwellers, since the late 1990’s. Besides Desert Dwellers, he also is responsible for Liquid Bloom, the crossroads between ceremonial song, visual projection and a vessel for growth.
Friend is heavily influenced by his roots in the Southwest. The desert has been a catalyst to his journey as a spiritual and musical being, as evidenced by his involvement in the full moon gathering scene in the early ’90s, to the Desert Dwellers, to his current home in New Mexico.
While the desert is a big part of who Friend is, British Columbia is a close second, as well as his land in Costa Rica. “Vancouver is where all of my relatives live and I have dual citizenship, so I could always move up there… [my land] in Costa Rica is a cacao farm and tree reforestation project,” he tells us over a cup of exotic tea.
The land in Costa Rica that Friend talks about is part of a permaculture farm that is around eight years old on the south side of San Jose. It is a space owned by an ex-pat activist who created a business plan to save a family farm that was under threat of destruction by a palm oil company. After buying the farm, Joshua Peacekeeper started two more projects right next door, and shares were sold to help with the reforestation and permaculture principals. All of the shareholders have a place on the farm — even the Ticos who help with the different restoration projects get a share.
Turmeric and cacao will be the main crops, but because of the natural springs above the property, the fresh water provides opportunities for fish as well. Taking the teachings of permaculture, this land is starting to provide its own food and even acts as a classroom, allowing students interested in learning about sustainability and agriculture to come in and get credits for school. “It had all the elements that my wife and I were looking for which was food, community, water and remoteness, so we invested in that.”
“There are so many things to support; there’s the Cloud Forest in Guatemala that our friends are restoring – which the Enséñame project has all funds going to the support of that forest.” The original Enséñame track is about the medicine that Pacha Mama brings us, and it worked out that these series of remixes could benefit a rain forest that is home to so much mana and healing. The Cerro El Amay Primeval Cloud Forest is one of the last remaining primeval forests in the Americas and is in constant danger of deforestation and destruction. Friend did the mix as Liquid Bloom because Treavor was unavailable in December and he just wanted to bust it out to get the project and protection rolling.
At home in New Mexico, Friend and his wife still find time to practice the sustainable means of living that they believe in. “I have a garden where I was able to grow kale all throughout the winter in a winter box.” There are springs and mountains throughout the area he lives that provide not only a beautiful backdrop, but places to pick mushrooms and other edible plants. He believes in the importance of self-sufficiency in these uncertain times, and tries to live in a way that is as symbiotic as he can be with the environment.
“Our media doesn’t cover important things [alternative ways of living] and I’ve seen people totally change their lifestyle when they become aware of it; they become a part of a different story.” Through Friend’s Bodhisattva training he has learned the importance of giving back and education. He notes that this is a pivotal time to be sharing information on how to live more aligned with the natural world – the Earth we all belong to.
Continuing to sip tea and marvel at the collection of stones and crystals that Ron Jon has on the table, Friend tells us of the importance of recognizing the big picture, how everything is connected. “Monsanto… all of these things are making people sick. Then they sell drugs to make people ‘better.’ Money and greed are taking over every aspect of the human race. If they can trademark water they would,” he laughs. But Friend holds out hope as both a realist, an optimist and a voice through his presence as a musical figure.
Amani Friend leaves us off with a hopeful story as it is getting later in the day and closer to the Desert Dwellers set time: “I went to Panama recently and I was walking up this bay near the party and there was this little coral reef. All the plastic debris would collect in this reef and as I walked around I noticed there is nearly two feet of plastic bottles on the beach. I realized that in certain places the whole earth is like that. The beaches are collecting these bottles; and everyone is just kind of used to it. It’s sad the younger kids have grown up with this – that this is normal. I remember going and walking on the beach and not seeing any plastic bottles as a kid.
This is the thing though; we’re creating our stories, and we can change them to however we want them to be. We’re choosing to engage in what we want to engage with. Especially with what we buy and what we consume. That, in turn, changes what the corporations create because they see there is a market for more eco-friendly solutions. For example: you see stores like Aldi and Target switching to organic now. That’s amazing. That’s progress.”