Ram Vakalanka and his sitar at the Tongass Community Center Saturday night (Photo by Madelyn Beck)

Ram Vakalanka and his sitar at the Tongass Community Center Saturday night (Photo by Madelyn Beck)

Ketchikan recently hosted yoga instructor, philosopher, Sanskrit teacher and sitar artist, Ram Vakalanka. He was invited by local yoga instructor Carol Naranjo to teach about the Eastern philosophy behind many spiritual activities that are derived from that side of the world. In addition to hosting a few workshops, he gave a concert during an Indian-themed dinner.

Coming into the North Tongass Community Center, yellow Christmas lights hung in the rafters, tables with colorful glass candle holders were lined the long left wall, with a low platform on the right. The platform was Vakalanka’s stage. It had no chairs, only some blankets and instruments. Though this set the scene well, it was the smell of curry and rice that really changed the atmosphere. That was, before the rhythmic chanting and sitar playing.

This was no ordinary concert. And Ram Vakalanka is no ordinary musician. He finds everything, from the food to the music, to mean something far more than just sustenance or entertainment.

“First thing that comes to our mind is entertainment. People think music is for entertainment, but music can have a very beneficial impact on our nervous system in terms of calming our nervous system, soothing our nerves, calming the mind down so the body can heal itself, the mind can heal itself. The musical tones are very powerful frequencies. They are known as Swara in Sanskrit. So if I were to put it like a mathematical equation, intention plus vibration equals healing. That’s the purpose of this healing music concert that I’m doing in Ketchikan.”

Vakalanka says he writes his own music, based on other forms of classical Indian tunes.  He says people have told him that the music helps with ailments from upset stomachs to unhappy ferns.

“Many people have written to me that even their houseplants have benefitted by my music…  And people have written to me saying that my music has cured them of blood pressure, Irritable bowel syndrome and things like that, so that has become the passion in my life, to help people understand the healing effects of the music and help them heal.”

Outside of playing his sitar, Vakalanka is a traveling history and philosophy teacher, and has led workshops around the world. Examples of what he teaches include yoga theory and practice, Sanskrit writing and beliefs, and balancing chakras. Originally from India, Vakalanka has since moved to Toronto, Canada, but travels often with his sitar in tow.

If you missed the concert or want to learn more about Vakalanka’s teachings, you can still watch his YouTube videos or visit his website here