Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

The Bhakti Brothers

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Bhakti seems to have become a commonly used term by now.


Paul Liberatore: Hip-hop artist's yogic message


<!--subtitle--><!--byline-->Paul Liberatore

<!--date-->Posted: 01/16/2009 12:04:52 AM PST



Nicholas Giacomini, aka MC Yogi, grew up in agricultural West Marin, but he saw himself as more of an urban rapper and "wannabe breakdancer" than a country boy stacking hay in his family's feed barn. The 29-year-old scion of a prominent Point Reyes family, he emulated rap music superstars such as the Beastie Boys and Run DMC and had visions of becoming a graffiti artist, kind of a Marin County Keith Haring.

"I used to get into trouble when I was younger," he confessed the other day. "We would drive down to the city with our spray cans and go paint in the tunnels and on trains. I got caught a couple of times."

After his parents divorced, Nicholas ended up living at the Hanna Boys Center, a home for troubled kids in Sonoma County.

"It's a great facility," he told me. "It provided me with a lot of structure and discipline. The people there are amazing. It helped me out a lot. I turned my life around there."

As he talked about those "turbulent teenage years," he was sitting in the conference room of Ursa Minor Arts and Media, an 8,000-square-foot multimedia

production company in San Rafael where he recorded his acclaimed new CD, "MC Yogi: Elephant Power," a blend of spiritual Indian music and "conscious hip-hop" on White Swan Records.

LA Yoga magazine calls MC Yogi "the next big thing in sacred chant, a rap artist with profound social awareness." And I wrote in here magazine last week that "Elephant Power" has "crashed through sound barriers in the meditative yoga world" like a hip-hop pachyderm.

Ursa Minor, where recording began last March, was co-founded by Giacomini's childhood friend, 32-year-old Robin Livingston, a multi-instrumentalist musician who engineered and co-produced the album. He and Nick call themselves the Bhakti Brothers.

"When I traveled to India, I was given the experience of seeing the world as it really is, as opposed to seeing it from within the Marin bubble," Livingston said. "I've tried to put consciousness into the music I create as much as possible. I feel I've been given a calling to give the gift of music to the world."

This all came about "on a whim," Nick says, when he joined his father, Chris Giacomini, owner of Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station, at a yoga and meditation intensive with a spiritual teacher from India.

"Then things really started happening for me," he said, brightening at the memory. "The first time I practiced I felt like I'd come home. I thought, 'This is what I've been looking for my whole life.' I went full force into yoga."

He met his wife, Amanda, at a yoga teacher training program in San Francisco. After a trip to India, they opened Yoga Toes, a studio in the back of Toby's, a general store that carries feed, tack, hay, tourist items, organic food products and work by local artists.

In early 2000, Nick, who had been quietly rapping and writing music since high school, joined a collective of graffiti artists, breakdancers and DJs out to send a positive message to young people.

"We were creating an alternative youth scene for kids who wanted to enjoy conscious hip-hop without drugs or alcohol or violence," he explained. "That's when I started coming up with this yoga-inspired material, using hip-hop as a vehicle to tell these ancient stories that come from the wisdom traditions of India and impart the message of oneness and consciousness in a dynamic way that's educational, but also entertaining."

Nick's grandfather, the late Toby Giacomini, who started Toby's Feed Barn in 1942, used to say, "If you're good to people, then they're good to you, and that pays off in the long run."

That was certainly the case when it came time for Nick to make the MC Yogi album.

"All the money for the recording came from the community of West Marin," he said. "I had people on the street literally come up and hand me a hundred dollars. Steve Costa and Kate Levinson from Point Reyes Books put on a benefit at Toby's with an Indian buffet and a live performance. We raised something like $13,000."

Costa calls Nick "one of the great young cultural forces in West Marin."

The Grammy-nominated musician Jai Uttal donated his time and talent, playing on the songs "Ganesh is Fresh" and "Krishna Love." The world music pioneer Bhagavan Das and the devotional chanter Krishna Das also made guest appearances.

In addition to "Elephant Power," the MC Yogi crew released a "Vote for Hope" CD for the Barack Obama campaign.

And Giacomini says he's already written the next two MC Yogi albums.

"It just kind of happened that the two things I love - yoga and hip-hop - came together," he said. "It's like the universe is guiding me."


"MC Yogi Elephant Power," White Swan Records, is available at www.mcyogi.com. or iTunes for $13.98.

Paul Liberatore can be reached at liberatore@marinij.com.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...