Dance music artists joined with spiritual teachers at The Big Om, a unique sound healing party in December 2012. Robin Robinson went along to experience the harmony
Combining a focus on wellbeing and healing with electronic dance music may have seemed an ambitious idea at first. But as DJs, musicians, spiritual teachers and spoken word artists gathered at The Big Om to perform sound healing compositions together for the first time, the atmosphere among the crowd was palpably elevated and open-hearted.
At the sold-out event on 12 December 2012, revellers gathered in the vividly coloured Zu Studios arts venue in Lewes to celebrate what they saw as the beginning of a new era for humanity.
The Big Om was an alcohol- and drug-free event that culminated in a half-hour long collective chant of the sound ‘Om’, considered to be sacred in a number of belief systems and regarded by some as the primary sound of the universe. The event was broadcast live online, with people linking up globally to join in the chant.
The date of the event was specifically chosen in anticipation of the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar on 21 December 2012.
The Big Om was instigated by Barefoot Doctor, a sound healer and practitioner of Taoism, who said he spontaneously heard the Om sound – which he describes as “a background radiation wave” – as a child.
“I had a vision while living with the Hopis 30 years ago, to create a mass sound healing and electronic music event and to take it round the world,” said Barefoot Doctor. “It embodies my deepest desire to contribute something huge and healing to the world by creating a positive happening that reverberates far and wide.”
A massive fire pit outside the entrance crackled, warmly welcoming the audience as we walked in to the sound of an autoharp being played. Om symbols hung from the ceiling as kaleidoscopic lighting caught the eye and the rabbit warren-like spaces and cosy alcoves inspired heartfelt conversations.
A blessing from medicine woman Ju2 set the tone for the journey ahead. In the build-up to the ‘Om’ itself, performers included Katie Rose, a spiritual songstress who enchanted the crowd; DJ Golly, who mesmerised with a mantra dance, and author and F**k It retreats leader John C Parkin, who gave a punk-spiritual set of songs.
Jamie Catto made the air stand still with a spoken word intervention and the ‘laughter yogi’ Joe Hoare got everyone laughing and hugging, while hip-hop poet Sonny Green showed his freestyle skills and Hofer66 brought the sonic chi of Ibiza.
Between each act, Barefoot Doctor provided a shamanic narrative, gradually bringing everyone to a single focus: to send a healing sound wave out to all the world.
Then Basement Jaxx and their brilliant percussionist Ollie, master sound-toner Tim Wheater, Katie Rose and Barefoot Doctor took to the stage, and the ‘Om’ began.
Once Barefoot Doctor got the crowd ready, the incredible, pulsing, compelling Om-scape soundtrack, which he produced with Felix from Basement Jaxx, started up and the chanting began.
With microphones on the crowd, the sound was fed through a specially built processor to preclude feedback, add sub-bass and amplify the sound. The sound was powerful and otherworldly, lasting a full 36 minutes – 12 minutes for each 12 in the date 12/12/12.
There was then one minute’s silence before Basement Jaxx performed their DJ set and everyone celebrated on the dance floor.
Finally, Adam Freeland played a take-it-to-the-sky closing set with a whole new raft of music using Om sounds and healing frequencies and blew what was left of my mind. And all this without drugs or alcohol.
Speaking at the event, Felix Buxton from Basement Jaxx said they hoped to be part of similar events in the future: “The Big Om vibe, this whole sound healing scene, it’s the first time we’ve performed live with Barefoot Doctor and it’s been an incredible journey. It’s an alcohol-free zone which is being respected this evening, and it’s fantastic because everyone is just here, being their true selves, definitely more of the same for 2013.”
Proceeds from the event went to two charities: Nordoff Robbins national music therapy charity and a local charity, Alala, which supports orphaned children affected by natural disasters.
A larger Big Om event is being planned in London this year.