About Kathleen Dunbar

Hello. This is Kathleen, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about my artistic interpretation of life as I express it in my music. You may notice that many of my songs are about angels and devils, birth, life, death, about creation and crumbling destruction. These are stories about us as we face the circumstances we humans get ourselves into and the choices that we ultimately make—some of them funky, some of them ending in the dark, others rising into the light of morning. Touching, humorous, spellbinding storytelling—my songwriting brings you into the irony, the tragedy, and the possibilities of life. It’s about people and the life that happens to us. My experiences have lead me to believe that universal truths apply to everyone because emotionally we share the same need to be loved. I feel we are simultaneously angels and devils, alive and dying, creating and destroying. We want to be loved, understood and accepted—and sometimes we go into crazy gyrations and odd pathways in that very human search. The stories in these songs speak to our hidden desires, our shadow side, our untarnishible gold, our poison and our medicine. When we deny our beauty, our joy, our creativity, our rage and sorrow—we become: Consumed. Addicted. Enthralled. Entranced. And then…by the hand of grace and the sweet mystery of our souls we may also Resurrect ourselves, Transform, Love and Blossom again. As far as the angels and the devils, there are different times in our lives when we are both. The wisdom is not to be one or the other. They are just energies we learn (or not!) to use. The wisdom is knowing when to be one or the other. Sometimes you have to stand fast and use the muscles in your arms that are made to hold the boundary. Sometimes you have to take yourself away from the situation as your absence will make the poison stop. And sometimes you have to remember that you are fundamentally and unequivocally loveable, that people do love you, and that you need to love them back. And take them and be taken into their arms. Quite a potent story cocktail, this being human. When we are confronted with authentic prosperity, the thing that we’d like to do but don’t, what we wish for but won’t let ourselves receive, we allow ourselves to be eaten up by the dark of our own shadow, bumbling and unconscious and afraid, lost in the Underworld. I try to hold on I turn around and I find it’s all gone There’s angels and devils won’t leave me alone Makin bets on which road I follow back home And the medicine—to love ourselves, including our shadow, as well as our light.

Using The Words Shaman and Shamanism

Using the Words Shaman and Shamanism
By Kathleen Dunbar

What do we name ourselves as practitioners of archetypal and energetic healing? I use the words shaman and shamanism to refer to myself and my healing practice. These are ancient words for an even older practice that spans virtually all the epochs of human existence. I want to be sensitive to the culture that offers these specific words. I want to be true to the universality of healing practices and use a word that is woven into the web of life. I’ve given a lot of thought to my personal decision, and thought I would share my perspective.

The specific forms of healing I have chosen to learn draw from healing practices that are archetypal rather than tribe-specific. I believe that healing and medicine arise both from human experience, and from culturally specific practices (which are also human, of course, but integrally woven into a specific peoples’ lives and stories). Culturally specific practices need to be honored and used only where gifted by a healer from that culture.

After a great deal of thought I have chosen to continue to use the word shaman as a descriptor. I have had transpersonal experiences since I was a young child that have lead me specifically to be called to this path and fulfill this calling, and which I honor by engaging in them. On a gut level this word has always resonated with me. Indeed, it is this word that called me to dive in and set upon this path a long time ago in a bookstore where I found Joan Halifax’s book Shamanic Voices calling out to me from the shelf.

The word shaman comes from the Tungus-speaking peoples of Siberia. This word began to come into common parlance in the western world in the 1960s when Mircea Iliade and other anthropologists described their observations of the Tungus people’s spiritual and healing practices. There began to be an interest in the western world for healing methods that were based upon ancient—and inherently human—practices that intertwine the human psyche, archetypes, stewardship of the planet, and “non-ordinary” states of consciousness. Personally, it feels to me that a magical door opened in Siberia to a world wracked by two wars that had engulfed the planet and that was hungering for raised consciousness.

I feel that a shaman or medicine person is one who continues to practice ways to be able to recognize and move the ego aside in order to access transpersonal states for the
benefit of healing. In these states the shaman offers him or herself up to Spirit to be guided in healing practices for a particular client and for community. I believe that the healing a client wants and is ready for is available to them, often on a not-so-conscious level, but one that their spirit is prepared for. I am the midwife that helps that birth-into-new-being take place, but ultimately they are the one doing the work, and having to continue to do the work once they go home.

I don’t know why this oddball gift was given to me! But it was, and I honor Spirit and my own higher being by using it to the best of my ability. Recently someone asked why I use the word shaman and practice shamanism if I am not an indigenous person. I want to honor the cultural practices of peoples by not claiming them and using them. I also want to honor what has been given to my spirit and heart and hands to do.

Medicine woman, midwife of the spirit, healer—these could be names I use (and sometimes I do call myself a Medicine Auntie) but I prefer the word shaman. I have my particular offerings in that regard, which are specific. It would be weird to me for a doctor not to want to call him or herself a doctor. I feel it appropriate to name myself as something and own that, while understanding my specialties and limitations (ie., when to refer to others with different specialities).

I thank the Tungus people for this word shaman, and no, I have not personally asked them if I could use this word that is probably pretty sacred to them. I want to continually understand my blinders regarding privilege. And, in a way that I can’t really put into words, that is the word that Spirit wants me to use.

I shared my thoughts with one of my dear shaman mentors, Jon Rasmussen, or Shaman Jon. The comment he added to my thoughts was really helpful for me, and clearly put into words what I have been feeling. I will include it here. Jon says,

“There is a word or set of words in every language to describe shaman, just as there is a word in every language for Soul, spirit, God, etc.  And at the same time, since humanity is now such a global village, it makes sense to use a single word, and I feel there is no better choice at this point than shaman.  Even my Q’ero teachers (who in Quechua would call themselves paqo for men, and laika for women) refer to themselves now with the word ‘shaman’ because of its accepted universality. I still have a note with Don Francisco’s phone number which he gave me where he wrote, ‘Francisco, Chaman Qeror.’ The people of Tungus can be proud that we consider the word in their language to represent that role across the globe.”

So it is in the spirit of universality, and with respect to the Tungus people, and to our huge global village, that I dedicate my practice as a shaman.

If you’d like to learn more about my healing practice, you can click this link: kathleendunbar.net

Also, I have made an album of original trance-ambient-world music to journey to, called Medicine Songs, by my alter ego Blue Lilah. I’m so delighted that it’s been nominated for Best World Music album in the soon-to-be-announced Just Plain Folks Music Awards. You can check out the music at this link bluelilah.com

Blessings, Kathleen

Photos by Kathleen Dunbar
Portrait Photography by Tamarind Free Jones

My ambient-trance album Medicine Songs is NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD!

My ambient, trance, journey music project—my CD entitled Medicine Songs by my shaman-singer pseudonym Blue Lilah has been nominated in TWO categories for the upcoming Just Plain Folks Music Awards!   

Brian Whitney, CEO and Founder of Just Plain Folks, writes of the nomination, “It’s a big deal: 17K albums and 240K songs were entered for the current awards, which cover the expanse of time since the last awards in 2009.”

  • Nominated for Best World Music Album is Blue Lilah’s album Medicine Songs by Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. TO LISTEN TO THE MEDICINE SONGS ALBUM and BUY IT click: https://bluelilah.com/store
  • Nominated for Best World Music Song is the song Bleyso from Blue Lilah’s album Medicine Songs by Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. To LISTEN TO AND BUY BLEYSO click: Listen to Bleyso

Blue Lilah’s music is my offering to you to celebrate yourself in the dance that is the connection of all life. It is a gifting of my music, voice, energy, and sounds for your pleasure. It is my invitation to you, my listeners, to dive into a healing journey. Please use it in whatever forms “move” you!—Dance, meditation, journeying, relaxation, movement exploration, yoga, birthing, healing! Who is Blue Lilah? Imagine being taken on a journey in the dream language of a medicine woman, with luscious percussion, backwards guitar, a whale’s voice, a thunderstorm . . . and that’s just the first song!

Blue Lilah’s website is bluelilah.com

Photos by Tamarind Free Jones

YEAH! My latest all-original, americana-bluesy-rootsy CD “Liars, Cutthroats and Dames” IS HERE!

Hello Everybody! This is Kathleen Dunbar with BIG NEWS! As some of you may know or have heard—my latest americana-bluesy-rootsy CD Liars, Cutthroats and Dames has been in it’s final stages of completion: Well, I’m happy to announce to you that it is officially finished and I am RELEASING IT out into the world!

MY NEW CD IS HEREit is available for you all RIGHT NOW!

FREE DOWNLOAD:
I am so excited that I want to give you all an opportunity to sample it for free, so here we go with a FREE DOWNLOAD of the first track, Lilah, just for you. Here’s the link to get your free download:
             https://kathleendunbarmusic.com/get-a-free-download-here

HOW TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE CD:
You can listen to complete tracks of the entire album at this link on my Store page: https://www.kathleendunbarmusic.com/store  You can listen to all of the songs on the album three times for free before being prompted to purchase, or you can find me on Spotify for continued streaming. You can purchase the album via Itunes, Amazon, etc. simply by visiting the links on my website Store page. In addition to offering a digital download, you can also order a physical CD from CDBaby—again, right there on my Store page.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM: Of course, all the songs are originals written by me! With each song I take you on a different journey. This new album departs from my previous two Americana CDs—I dive deeper and delve further into the dark and the light side of the human psyche, and I’ll make you feel, think, and sometimes laugh out loud!

Please come and join me on this musical journey! I’d love to hear your opinions and comments! Please let me know what you think and feel about my new CD Liars, Cutthroats and Dames by dropping me a line at:  kathleen@kathleendunbarmusic.com  I send out a monthly newsletter with fun stories, tidbits and gossip about the songs and the amazing musicians on this CD. I also let you know about upcoming shows. To sign up for my newsletter, just use that same band email at kathhleen@kathleendunbarmusic.com

And hey, if you’d like, I’m available to do a house concert at your house if you live in the SF Bay Area! These are fun, warm, intimate, unforgettable gatherings.

BIG THANKS AND LOVE TO THE AWESOME MUSICIANS:
I want to thank the incredible musicians who helped me bring my original songs to life!

That’s me, Kathleen Dunbar/Songwriting and Vocals. And my incredible band which is called The Better Devils, is: Gawain Mathews/guitars, electric bass, banjo, mandola, keyboards, accordion, percussion, backing vocals. KyleCaprista/drums. Dan Feiszli/standup bass. Nicholas Daniel Wlodarszyk/trombone. Eric Levy/piano on Baby Put Your Red Shoes On. Rich Armstrong/trumpet. Bryan S. Dyer/backing vocals. MJ Lee./violin. Joseph Feusi/backing vocals. Big thanks and love to Joseph Feusi, Raz Kennedy and the incredible multitalented Gawain Mathews who is my producer, arranger, mixer and angel in general!

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD:
Please feel free to forward this to anyone who you feel would like to accompany me on this musical journey. Thank you in advance for your support, my dears!

Love, Kathleen

Photos by Joseph Feusi

The Battle

The Battle

Here is a free verse style poem I wrote when I was sixteen years old. Here also is a photo of me, teenage Kathleen in my favorite forest green fedora hat.

At the bottom of this article you will also see a photo of the poem printed in the first literary journal ever created in my high school. I couldn’t believe there had never been a literary journal, so I created one! I called the journal Methinks. The cover illustration of the first edition portrayed a cartoon man with a large nose sitting on a stone with his chin on his fist—my version of Rodin’s The Thinker.

I made myself the Editor and I gave my friends the jobs of Secretary, Treasurer, and “Staff.” I figured those positions would look good on our resumes when we graduated and went off to college or began looking for jobs. I solicited poems from all my friends—many of us were the weird literary types, and this journal was a way for us to shine.

I was told by the principal’s office that I needed to supply money for the paper and the mimeograph ink. For those of you not in the know, the mimeograph is an ancient technology which rendered damp pages of copy laboriously turned by hand from a drum. The fresh pages needed to be handled carefully or the ink would smudge, a lavender variety of ink redolent of a chemical perfume known to school kids in the seventies. I promptly organized a bake sale on the town square which paid for two editions of ink and paper.

My favorite high school English teacher was Mr. Toth. As an adult, I’d searched in vain for him for many years, but back east Robert Toth is a common name—there were 40 Robert Toths in the phone book in Ohio alone, and I wasn’t sure he even lived there anymore. In more recent years I looked him up on the computer, but he wasn’t a person who put himself on Facebook or had a web page. His whereabouts remained a mystery to me.

Out of the blue, one day a few years ago Mr. Toth found me on the internet! He’d been cleaning out boxes and found some papers I’d given him as a teen. He decided to search me out. He googled Kathleen Dunbar and was lead to my music website. He knew he’d found me. He emailed me and we were soon speaking on the phone.

How strange to be asked to call him by his first name, Robert. He told me that when he was in bookstores, he’d look around to see if there was a poetry book by me—he was sure that I would become a famous poet! How very, very moving it was to hear how this man had held dear my gifts for all these years!

It was a delight to be speaking with him at last! I had always wanted to thank him for the worlds he’d opened up to me, and now I did. One was a world of literature. He knew enough about writing to help me on my path as a budding writer. Another was a world of human relationship in which a sane adult encouraged a creative young person, and importantly, as all great teachers do, in this process and without making a big deal about it (which my teen self wouldn’t have liked) he helped me to value my vision and myself. In our phone conversation I told him about the very toxic and dysfunctional home I gladly left every morning to lose myself in classes at high school. (High school was no picnic either, but it was better to be in the DMZ than the active combat zone). He was totally surprised to hear my home life had been difficult as I’d never told anyone that at the time.

Soon after our conversation I I received a thick envelope in the mail from Mr. Toth (I still can’t think of him as Robert) which contained the literary journal Methinks I’d created as well as some poems and reports. One of the poems I put in Methinks is the one below. The first person I’d showed the poem to, along with some other writing, was Mr. Toth, with a note that said, “I don’t know if you want to read these. They aren’t that interesting . . . but here they are.” He’d read this note aloud to me in our initial phone conversation, and chuckled. He told me when he read the poem all those years ago, that at first he found it hard to believe a sixteen year old in a small country town had written it. It crossed his mind that I’d stolen it from somewhere, but he knew me well and trusted that the work must be my own. He turned his astonishment into mentoring me as a writer. What I took from that mentoring was a belief and confidence in my own gifts, and a better ability to bear the difficulties at home and later to navigate the world of my adult life. Mr. Toth had believed in me. To be believed in is profound medicine, which continues to act as both vitalizing tonic and healing agent. Mr. Toth was one of those teachers whose support not only made life bearable, but worthwhile. There was a place, at last, for Kathleen.

I had begun at the age of three by making poems that rhymed. When I was fourteen I received a copy of Laurence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. That book set me upon the path of free verse. I still write poetry in free verse form, but I came full circle and returned to rhymes as my singer-songwriter self in the creation of my original songs: You can find my americana music at kathleendunbar.com and my ambient/world music in which I “create” a language at bluelilah.com

Many good hearted souls have helped me believe in my ability to write. This is the story of one of them. Thank you, Mr. Toth, for being part of a foundation of aliveness for me, for seeing my poetry as a doorway to a life of creation, and helping usher me through it.

Here, then, is young Kathleen’s poem.

The Battle

Arrows of white light flung
from afar from the bow of the might orb,
darted between the tender, green
leaves, and fell, broken shafts, upon
the forest floor. So quickly did those
piercèd arrows fly that one could
not perceive their movement, but
saw only the brilliance of their
fiery flight, whence the earth,
steaming before their furious flame,
bore them in her dark side, a wounded
warrior.
Roaming among those arrows,
I did not smell the rage of battle,
nor did I feel the sting of fiery arms.
The mist of combat was not choking,
but moist and wet, and soothed
the heat of battle that the barrage
of arrows brought.
I sat, and, amid this raging
battle, I slept.

© Kathleen Dunbar, age 16

Out West

when Mrs. Graham came out to California
bearing the maiden name I never knew
she looked out of the train window
into the flat stretches of Nebraska
and saw a man on a horse with a hat
“There‘s The Cowboy” she said to herself
and to me, years later,
“I was thrilled.”

© Kathleen Dunbar

Photos by Kathleen Dunbar

 

I am nominated in THREE categories for the Just Plain Folks Music Awards

I am excited and delighted to announce that I am nominated in THREE categories for the Just Plain Folks Music Awards, (exact date to be announced soon! I will be attending and can’t wait!)  It’s a big deal: 17K albums and 240K songs were entered for the current awards, which cover the expanse of time since their last awards in 2009.

  1. Nominated for Best World Music Album is my Blue Lilah album Medicine Songs by myself/Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. To hear it click: LISTEN TO THE MEDICINE SONGS ALBUM
  2. Nominated for Best World Music Song is my song Bleyso from my Blue Lilah album Medicine Songs by myself/Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. To hear the song click: LISTEN TO BLEYSO
  3. Nominated for Best Spoken Word Song from my Kathleen Dunbar americana-rootsy original album The Storm In Our Head is my track Snakecharmer. To hear it click: LISTEN TO SNAKECHARMER

To view the Just Plain Folks website: Just Plain Folks

Kathleen Dunbar’s original song Half of You Good begins Adriana Marchione’s film-in-progress “The Creative High”

The Creative HIgh

Here’s the link TO LISTEN TO an instrumental version MY ORIGINAL SONG “Half of You Good” (from my forthcoming album Liars, Cutthroats and Dames) opening Adriana Marchione’s film-in-progress The Creative High and watch Adriana Marchione’s coolio film in progress:
LINK: https://vimeo.com/171950766

Hey Folks,
Coolio filmmaker Adriana Marchione starts out her video of her film in progress on artists, their addiction and recovery with an instrumental version OF ONE OF MY NEW SONGS from my forthcoming album Liars, Cutthroats and Dames! So if you click on the link you can immediately hear my awesome producer and guitarist Gawain Mathews doing his amazing guitar rendition of my original song Half Of You Good. I’m also writing a novel, and this song explores the addiction of a gambler in the Old West. Pretty soon you can get to hear the complete version including me singing my lyrics as we only have to master all the tracks and then release it to the world!

THANK YOU ADRIANA for your important and very wonderful film project, and I am delighted each time I see more of it unfolding. I’m honored to have my music in your movie.

She’s also put my original music in her podcast! THANKS!

Adriana writes: “Our video of our film in progress – a sneak peek into our footage and the artists in recovery who have been brave enough to share their story. Extremely grateful for all the people who have contributed to make this video happen including musician Kathleen Dunbar, who generously offered her music to support the film project and The Creative High podcast. Visit Kathleen’s website at http://www.kathleendunbarmusic.com