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Follow Your (Coconut) Bliss

Is it selling out if your sponsors are organic, free-trade, and vegan?

Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda

When Van Morrison said, “Music is spiritual. The music business is not,” he was pointing to the conflict reflected in the very term “music industry.” It’s a schism that presents every spiritually oriented musician with a real conundrum: how to survive in a business that Hunter S. Thompson called “a cruel and shallow money trench.”

Sounds True recording artists Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda (jayalakshmiandananda.com) are rising to that challenge with grace and ingenuity. By partnering with high-integrity, all-natural food companies that are sponsoring their tours, the two vocalists and multi-instrumentalists in this Oregon-based kirtan team have found a way to support themselves while promoting the health of body, mind, and spirit.

Before and after Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda’s shows, concertgoers can browse display tables where various products from the tour’s sponsors are being sampled and sold: nondairy coconut-milk ice cream from Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, superfood-enhanced nut butters from JEM Raw Organics, spicy potables from Blue Lotus Chai, and an assortment of edibles from Medicinal Foods—cacao elixir, raw chocolate bars, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, and an array of health-boosting tonics and fungi. As Ananda laughingly notes, these concerts can be “quite ecstatic because everyone’s charged up on superfoods and Coconut Bliss!” The same items are available at the Altar of Love Weekends of music, dance, yoga, meditation, mantra chanting, and ceremony that Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda frequently hold on their tours.

Lakshmi feels that as proponents of kirtan, yoga, and healthy eating, she and Ananda are part of a larger movement toward a holistic way of life. “The awareness is just spreading and building,” she says. “In so many of the communities we go to [on tour], we see that wave happening.”

“The food has to meet the shift in consciousness,” Ananda chimes in. He adds that in keeping with this principle, he and Lakshmi are careful to ally with businesses whose products are organic, fair-trade, and vegan.

Eugene, Oregon’s, Coconut Bliss was the first business to back Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. In 2011, Lakshmi approached the company with the idea of sponsoring her as a musician. “I was actually their first employee and worked there for years, so I know inside and out just how high are their standards and integrity,” she explains.

Last spring, after more than three years of partnership with Coconut Bliss, Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda decided to add a bassist, tabla player, and sitar/guitar player to their lineup. In the interest of covering the cost of these musicians, they began to reach out to more potential sponsors: first Tim and Jen Moore of the Bend, Oregon-based JEM Raw Organics and then Barbara and Stephan Cameron of Eugene, Oregon’s, Blue Lotus Chai, as well as their friend Sky Kubby of Hawaii’s Medicinal Foods.

By matching the funds collected at events where Coconut Bliss is served by donation, Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda often work with Coconut Bliss to raise funds for charity and nonprofit organizations such as Y.O.G.A. for Youth, Organic Consumer’s Association, The Amma Foundation, Ananda Seva Eugene, Food for Life Vrindavan, Greenpeace, and various groups working for the non-GMO movement in Oregon, Washington, and California. Blue Lotus Chai recently began participating in those events as well, giving to charity the difference between the company’s costs and retail prices.

Lakshmi, who sang in the world fusion/electronica band Lost at Last in the 1990s and early 2000s, contrasts her and Ananda’s partnership-based business model with “the old paradigm, where one product or company is just self-promoting, and has that feeling of competition with other products. I feel like now, there’s enough room for everybody—especially people who are truly dedicated to the art of alchemy to create unique and innovative products. I feel like [our partnership with these food companies] is a way to help awaken and uplift consciousness on the planet.”