What Spirituality Sounds Like: An Interview with Rae Chardonnay, BGIO Music Curator

PHOTO: RJ EL

PHOTO: RJ EL

Rae Chardonnay is fiercely attuned to the energy of a crowd — logically so, as a sound curator and DJ. She acknowledges the energetic, spiritual nature of sound and of music — how music can alter our mood, emotions and interpretations. I was eager to have Ms. Chardonnay curate our mix for Issue 003: Spirituality; and was able to learn more about how her creative practice as it relates to spirituality. If you’re in Chicago, catch her spinning at our next Sol: Stay Woke yoga and music pop-up at The Promontory. And follow her on Instagram to stay updated on all of her creative projects @raechardonnay.

LA: How does your craft as a DJ relate to your spirituality (to yourself as a spiritual being, and to spiritual energy around us)?

RC: I believe that music and sound can be a very spiritual experience. When I'm selecting music during a set I am very conscious of the energy put out from the songs I choose. Music can evoke lots of different emotions for many different folks, so when I DJ I make my best attempts to set an atmosphere that is healthy for the spirit and fulfilling for those who are listening.

LA: What song, or artist, gives you a feeling or sensation of otherworldliness? Or being transported somewhere new and outside of what we typically experience as humans?

RC: Often when I listen to Shafiq Husayn I have that feeling. Also, Alice Coltrane and certain house or house-inspired music can really put me in a place outside of my being. There are also a few other indie artists making some tunes that may distance me from this realm. Wu-Tang definitely gives me a sensation of otherworldliness.

LA: What are your self-care tools and wellness practices?

RC: I like to make sure I get a good laugh in at least one time a day, preferably more. It's one of the most healing things for me at the moment along with cooking meals using fresh ingredients. I also enjoy doing my own hair. Maybe it's therapeutic. I drink lots of tea, pray and meditate from time to time.

LA: When and why did you fall in love with music?

RC: I fell in love with music because my memory of music as a child was usually associated with a good time. It was always in the background of my life. I regularly made up raps as a child and my mother sang. She also played a lot of music and so did my cousins that were around. The moment I fell in love with music was when I learned that it had meaning. My mother taught me to really listen to music, especially the lyrics. I think I had a natural understanding and reaction to the sound of it.

LA: What are some of your favorite songs that you included in this mix and why (how do they relate to the theme)?

RC: I had to start with Nina Simone - Feeling Good. The song lyrics resonate so much with the elements that feed me spiritually and Nina, as a musician, is always a top pick for me. J Rocc - Chasing the Sun is one of my favorites in terms of sounds that shift the energies around me when I'm listening. I use it for meditation sometimes. Shafiq Husayn - Cheeba ft. Bilal is such an explorative sound that reaches a few different components of my being.