An Unforgettable Night With “Bat for Lashes”

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Earlier this month, I went to see one of my favorite musicians, Natasha Khan (aka “Bat for Lashes”) perform live at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia.  It was definitely one of the most unforgettable musical experiences I’ve ever had.

I wanted to attend the concert with some of my friends, but everyone I called that day were either busy or out of town, so I decided to go by myself.  While I would have liked it if someone came along with me, I think going alone made the experience that much better.  It gave me some personal time to privately connect with the music and escape with it.  It’s hard to describe or even categorize the music of “Bat for Lashes” because of how unique they are, but if I were to draw comparisons, I would say they’re like a cross between the “Cocteau Twins,” “Bjork,” and “Claire Voyant.”  It was amazing to see Natasha Khan’s energy on stage; you can tell how passioante she is about performing and singing.  She has an incredibly beautiful voice and unlike most mainstream singers, she doesn’t manipulate or alter her voice.  The way she sounds on the album recordings is exactly how she sounds live.

There are a lot of magical themes in Natasha’s music and it’s something I appreciate enormously.  I think a fantasy element is essential to us, and yet it seems that humanity runs away from it.  I’ve noticed, especially in the academic setting, that people tend to take on a more “logical” and “rational” approach to things, which is fine, but whenever a spiritual perspective is suggested, it seems there’s often a negative reaction to it, as if spirituality is something reserved only for places of worship.  I get a strong spiritual vibe from Natasha’s music, but I think there’s a unique fantasy element that is intertwined with it.

When we “grow up,” we detach ourselves from fairy tales because we learn that they’re not “real” — “real” in the sense that we cannot see a unicorn or actually fly out of our windows.  In the midst of this reasoning, I believe we miss out on the point of these stories, particularly the beauty and gift of the human imagination.  I believe everyone has an inner life that serves a significant purpose in the way we look at the world, interact with others, and manifest our own creativity.  Our ability to imagine things, to me, is not so much about seeing than it is about believing.  Sure, there’s escape and fantasy, but there’s something else there that connects with us deeply, something that evokes the importance of transcendence.   We’re surrounded by superficiality all the time and yet I believe a lot of us remain confused about what is “real” and what is “unreal.”  True Love versus the material world — both things are perceived as unreal to us, but in different contexts.  We think True Love cannot exist because it’s just too good to be true, but mostly because of the superficiality that surrounds us.  It doesn’t make True Love false, it simply reveals that True Love is something to be discovered amidst the illusions of the world.

Natasha Khan sings about things that many of us don’t believe in anymore.  She calls us to return to our childood, to revisit forgotten fairy tales, and to learn there is purpose in believing.  I let my imagination take flight after the concert was over as I walked towards my car in the parking lot.  I was reminded of the Angels that sit upon my shoulders and guard me.  I imagined them and reflected on how much we ignore the unseen reality.  I was reminded that we have friends in the unseen world; friends who never want us to see us frown or feel alone.

I also have to say that it meant a lot to see a fellow Pakistani on stage (Natasha Khan’s father is Pakistani) and seeing so many people who appreciate her music.  I read in an interview that she received a lot of racial slurs when she was younger and it’s really repulsive when I see the same remarks being made about her on some of the YouTube comments.  On the bright side, it’s nice to see people taking a stand for her and showing their support.  I’m sure that, for the most part, she’s breaking a lot of stereotypes.

Here’s a live performance piece by “Bat for Lashes” that I’ve been hooked to!  Definitely check out 2:57 and onward — everything from Natasha Khan’s energy, vocals, the incredible drumming, and the synth work works in beautiful harmony:

A Mirror for You

Morning_Star
In her silent glow
the full moon shines
with her Creator’s beauty

She knows you wander down below
feeling so helpless
and wounded in the dark

Look how He made me, she says
so radiant and beautiful
serving as a mirror for you

The violet stars can feel your heart tremble
who taught you to be afraid of the dark, azizam?
bring your gaze here and dive into moonlight

Become my guest on this lonely night
and see the Creator’s work in you
look into yourself to see Him

Realize…

You,
like the moon,
luminous and beautiful

~Broken Mystic~

Delirium

+Master Doorkeeper b
The mystics invited me to their gathering
On the way, a strange man met me on the road
He stood before me, eclipsing the sun in his black robes
He said, “Come to the carnival instead”

I followed him like a ghost crossing into another world
Where everything is spoken through symbols and metaphor
I watched as we passed through the crowded fair
Of old and young lost in the recreation of ancient folklore

Wizards with their tarot cards, magicians in medieval costumes
Mimes trapped in their imaginary prisons
Fire breathers lighting up the sky in wonder
Appearing like dragons in the imagination of children

A sun-colored butterfly fluttered amidst the strange
I followed its flight to a stone-faced audience
Watching the puppet show of Crusaders and Saracens
Hypnotized by the centuries of cruelty and violence

My eyes sank in sorrow
Not realizing that the man I came with
Vanished into the unknown
Leaving only a compass around my neck

It pointed to a tall, thin man watching me with his gothic eyes
A crystal ball levitating in the palm of his hand
I looked inside and saw myself soaring through clouded skies
He veiled the image and invited me into the large tent behind him

“Come, step inside,” he said

Walking through, I listened to the magical bells
Echoing in peaceful jubilee
As a garden bloomed on the concert stage
With rose petals raining like dream-like fantasy

A young girl dressed as a princess
Whirling beneath the falling tulips
With a halo hovering over her head
And a precious smile painted on her lips

She reminds me of the ocean’s dance
When I was another child
Dreaming about portals in the sea
And escaping far, far away into self-exile

For a moment, it was all happiness and bliss
Like living in a floating sphere vibrant with color
Like beautiful words blown into the wind
Touching skin and heart softly like an Angel’s kiss

But how transitory that was
When the wild lights began to spiral
And I heard those crazy circus clowns
Laughing wickedly on their unicycles

Their laughter reminds me of hellfire
Roaring through those endless fields of mine
Burning every flower, slaughtering every dream
Leaving nothing left to grow, nothing left to find

They juggled their sharp and deadly blades
Grinning at the audience like cardboard cartoons
Each dagger spinning and slicing through the air
I can only hear violence and murder in their tune

As if they were putting on a sadistic show
Where I was the dummy flown to the highest cloud
Only to have my strings cut and fall below
Deep into the heart of the darkest abyss

I left the tent, not wanting to stay any longer
Yet it were gypsy strings that called me to another street
Beyond the ferris wheel where families gathered
Beyond the swan boats where Lovers drifted upon the lake

I saw the fiddle player sitting upon a stage
Next to a luminous unicorn glowing like a star in Heaven
A magician bowed her head as the marveled audience clapped
Her eyes searched through the sea of faces and met mine in unison

She smiled and said, “I need a volunteer”

As if it was instinct and meant to be
I rose my hand and made my way through the masses
She opened her hand, waiting for me
Like a savior offering eternal refuge and escape

Our fingers touched, our hands merged
I felt my heart tremble as a current rippled inside
She drew me silently up the steps
Like I was the seeker and she the guide

“This Way,” she whispered
While walking me to a double-sided door
Nothing behind it, nothing within
Just a frame of wood, nothing more

She wrapped a blindfold around my eyes
Mystified and blinded in darkness
She told me I could remove it soon
After I opened the door and walked inside

I took my careful steps, hoping for answers
And closed the door behind me
I finally removed the blindfold
Only to find myself in a hall of spiraling mirrors

I turned around and reached for the knob
But watched it unscrew and fall to the crimson floor
Pounding at the door, I heard nothing from the other side
The past sealed shut – no other way but forward

I walked to the center of the room
Watching infinite reflections follow myself
Gazing deep into my own eyes, I saw a storm gather
The joys, the pain, the misery, the light, the gloom

I became lost in my own self
Not wanting the heart’s agony anymore
A desire to flee from this shell swept over me
A desire I never recognized before

I thought to myself and longed for escape:

I’d rather be a statue in the water fountain
Engraved with a smile on my face
Handing out roses to the lonely souls
Who just want to live in a beautiful place

I’d rather be a voice in your mind
Telling you that it’s going to be ok
As you drive home alone late at night
Dwelling on your sorrows and contemplating suicide

I’d rather be the ever-present spirit of Love
Holding you in arms, whispering comfort in your ears
As you weep over your broken heart
And wallow in unwanted fear

I’d rather be a guardian Angel
For an innocent prisoner sitting on death row
Adoring her paintings and releasing her from the shackles
Carrying her beautiful soul into the next life

I’d rather be a drop of rain
Kissing your cheek for comfort
Or a ray of light from the sun
Reminding your heart that it will shine again

I’d rather be the gentle breeze blowing through your hair
Accompanied by the magical tune of the santour
A sheet of wind wrapping around you
Carrying your imagination to a distant seashore

I’d rather be a vision of a better world
Rushing into the arms of artists and activists
Celebrating in tears of joy as each and every dream
Is made real and manifest

I’d rather feel nothing
No anger, no hate, no pain
No one to hurt, no one to blame
Nothing to take, nothing to gain

“I” would rather not exist

And suddenly, the hallway erupted in laughter
My eyes darted down both ends of the room
Before realizing it came from my reflection in the mirror
“Why do you laugh?” I ask

“Because you are the real lunatic,” he answered
Mysteriously, he stepped out of the reflection
Standing in front of me, he said: “Yet you remain a coward”
“For all you know how to do is merely speak of non-existence”

Without warning, like a being possessed
I broke the mirror with my fist
And with one swift motion
I slit my clone’s throat with a blade of glass

The blood splashed on the mirrors
The entire glass hallway shattered – Kshhh!!
The pieces flew into my skin
As the ground beneath me shook like an earthquake

I fell through the floor
And found myself tumbling through outer space
Debris floating around me as I plunged deeper
I became surrounded by stars, distant planets and nebulae

Comets, meteors, galaxies whirling in darkness
I spun like a pinwheel, spiraling in every direction
My arms extending, my fingers reaching
Reaching for something in desperation

Reaching for Love, hope, beauty
For happiness, joy, euphoria
For peace, balance, tranquility
For life, home – something, anything!

My skin turning pale
My body surrendering
My blood freezing to ice
My heart beginning to fail

A voice enters my mind – Look, over here!
I turn and see Simurgh – my old Friend
Soaring through the heavens like a shooting star
Oh, Simurgh, I thought you were dead

Carried by the solar winds
She swoops above me – bloodied from our past
Before I could smile, her talons dig into my chest
And violently tears me open

My screams suffocated by the cosmic void
Only tears and blood can trickle from my eyes
When murdered by the Friend of Love
Only the soul can fill the universe with my endless cries

Amidst the pain, I heard sound emerge in space
I saw Simurgh pulling stars with her flapping wings
Energy and light – They raced in my direction!
I heard music! – Like a symphony of strings!

Luminous orbs of plasma gathering like an ocean
And swirling like a solar typhoon
I heard them whistling through the dark
As they charged towards my open wound

I heard the orchestra’s crescendo
The chant of mystics resounding
The passion drums pounding
Duum! Duum! Duum!

I understood now
As the realization came to me
“Death before death”
The Way to eternity

O Giver of Love and Mercy!
You have cut me open
Pull Your storm
Into me

Flames shooting out of my eyes
And infinite rays of light beaming in every direction
As my heart swallowed Heaven’s fire
Every star filling me with divine resurrection

I have exploded into infinity
Sailing to that Love I cannot name
Expanding forever with the universe
Bidding farewell to yesterday’s “me”

And upon those memories of sorrow, I smile at you

I am Supernova
And you are Stargazer
Watch the multi-colored flame
Of my Being shine anew

~ Broken Mystic~

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