Artist Profile: Mateus Asato

Mateus Asato is a 25 year old Brazilian guitarist. He’s actually fairly well known in guitar circles, but I first heard of him a few weeks ago.

Interestingly he built up his following through social media, not album sales — something will be see more of I suppose. He now regularly gets 400,000+ views on his instagram videos and his fanbase is expanding.

His playing is a rare blend of technique and incredible musicality. He has a great ear for melody and phrase as well, and unlike almost everyone else with his sort of chops, he never really seems to overplay.

Up until now, Jeff Beck was probably the only instrumental guitarist I ever enjoyed listening to, well now there’s another — Mateus Asato is something special.

Have a listen to some of short videos. Listen for shades of Hendrix, Mark Knopler and what some are calling neo-soul:

The Creatures of Benjasiri Park

My field recording adventures came to naught in Bangkok. Tried a few parks but the wind was always up and the birds always drowned out by the screams of wailing children.

I didn’t came back empty-handed though. Not even close! I stumbled upon some unsettling footage while in Benjasiri Park…

There I was, quietly feeding the turtles when, suddenly, this thing rose to the surface. Hideous it was, yet I couldn’t look away. It was like a slimy, flesh drain pipe with this horrific gaping mouth. I fought the urge to flee in order to capture this footage. Whether these creatures are some type of fish or more likely the arms of some underwater hydra — I’ll never know because I’m not going back. An unsolvable mystery!

So without further ado, please enjoy my latest release, ‘The Creatures of Benjasiri Park”

Black Holes and Revelations

Black Holes and Revelations was an album released in 2006 by the UK stadium rockers, Muse.

To celebrate the ‘News of the week’ with the first photo of a black hole being released, a quick spin of the album’s best song seems like a good idea:

The incredible photograph of the black hole, taken from 54,000,000 light years away required teams in 8 separate locations to collaborate for more than 8 years.

There’s a lot to marvel at with this achievement, I can’t begin to imagine the technical complexity of putting this together. I can’t even get a good shot of a bird in a tree.

Scientists believe the photograph will lead to more discoveries about the universe and its origins. Also delighted to see the global interest in this story — it even made the front page of the South China Morning Post here in Hong Kong.

Umm…but did anyone see the resemblance to the ‘Eye of Sauron…*gulp*:

Ashtanga Yoga: What to expect in Lesson 1

I was impressed with their catchphrase “Practice…all is coming” so I went ahead and signed up for a class to find out more. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try Ashtanga yoga here’s a few thoughts from a beginner.

The centre I went to in Bangkok runs two sessions a day at 7am and 6pm. I went to the 6pm class yesterday. About 18 students were there with a single instructor.

The room was a humid 35 degrees but the windows were open so it was comfortable enough.

All the students went into their individual practice from the start with the teacher walking around assisting. There seems an emphasis on self-practice more than traditional teaching in this particular Mysore class.

I was taught the first two sequences, think they are the sun salutations:

I have done a little yoga before and thought I recognised most of the movements but of course I was doing them wrong. The instructor offered corrections that were immediately helpful. A nice reminder that in today’s world of YouTube learning that sometimes a real live teacher is a real advantage. Who knew you were meant to look up and back at your navel when in downward facing dog – not me.

That was all I did — I just kept going through those sequences again and again with teacher offering pointers every cycle of two. It was more than enough. I made it to 80 minutes before tapping out.

As I lay in a heap at the end the teacher kindly commented that I was about 0.5% through the entire sequence…good to know. There is a lot to learn, just look at the immediate sequences:

Or perhaps this, the eye-opening advanced A sequence:

what on earth is going on here….

There’s something about this style of yoga that seems to draw serious commitment. Without exception, the other members of the class all looked like expert yoga teachers to me and the two I spoke to, come most days for the two-hour session.

Astanga yoga combines strength, power and flexibility within a tightly controlled sequence. The instructor told me that it requires and builds more strength than other styles and you can see how hard it gets.

Oh and no drinking water during the class. I politely asked if I could leave during the class to have a little sip of water after sweating for an hour. The answer? A surprisingly stern, “no”. Right, ok then. There’s some reason for this, relating to water in the stomach negatively impacting on the practice. I felt that dying of thirst was also having a negative impact on my practice but it didn’t seem to bother anyone else there. Perhaps you get used to it. That’s not the only rule either, there’s lots of them and practice is highly structured. A quick look online reveals that not everyone is a fan of this style and there’s more than a few vocal critics, but I guess that’s the same with most things.

At the end of the class I felt great, certainly enough to look into classes in Hong Kong. I even bought the t-shirt — but that’s another post!

As a final note, I could be wrong on a lot of this so corrections gratefully received.

Pain x Resistance= Suffering

I first saw this idea of ‘Pain x resistance = suffering’ in the work the Shinzen Young. I’ve written a few posts about Shinzen before as his approach to meditation is what I use at the moment.

This equation is based on ‘Nirodha’, one of The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism which is translated as ‘pain exists, suffering is optional’. I know that because I just looked it up.

Given that every single one of us will experience (probably) more and more physical and emotional pain as we age (ahhh!), the possibility of potentially suffering less seems worth exploring.

But how? How can practise finding equanimity in difficult and painful situations?

Get a brutal Thai traditional massage, that’s how!

I just got relentlessly hammered by an elderly Thai lady with not quite enough English to fully understand my cries for help.

Nah, it wasn’t that bad but I will have some bruising tomorrow. Just like the bruising I have on my calves already – it’s been a tough two days really.

Situations like this are perfect for testing out the pain/resistance/suffering equation and I’ve found myself actively testing this out in the past few days. It’s not just academic either.

You can breathe into discomfort and see fairly immediate results. The pain doesn’t really change, but its quality does. Psychologically it becomes more manageable as the fear around the pain kind of dissolves as the body relaxes. You really have to dial in your breathing but it does work.

Couldn’t find a picture with this equation so had to draw this picture on the iPad with my finger – not easy!

Practice…all is coming

The hotel I’m staying at the moment has the headquarters for Ashtanga Yoga in Bangkok on the 8th floor. I’m sitting here wondering whether I should do the class at 6pm. They seem pretty serious though and the classes last for 2 and a half hours so I’m kind of undecided. I think about 15-20 mins of yoga would be more suitable for the likes of me.

The white board outside, probably from the last class looks pretty intense:

What first caught my eye though was the phrase on their logo: Practice….all is coming.

This may well be a common catchphrase in yoga but I’d never heard before. Wish I had though as it’s super catchy and summarises most of what I know about mastery.

It speaks to the ongoing nature of getting better at anything.

It tells us where to focus – the practice. Knowing where to put our focus allows us to relax into the struggle of honing our craft.

The fact that ‘all’ is ever changing and always out of reach matters not, this motto focuses on the process and that’s why I like it.

There’s a whole lot of science out there about the ‘how’ of deliberate practice but first…we roll up our sleeves and begin.

Jagger on the Mend…

Mick Jagger tweeted that he’s feeling ‘much better’ after having heart surgery a couple of days ago:

Thank you everyone for all your messages of support, I’m feeling much better now and on the mend – and also a huge thank you to all the hospital staff for doing a superb job.

Brilliant news. Perhaps he should have sent out a few lyrics from ‘Dear Doctor’ instead:

Oh mama, I’m crying, tears of relief
And my pulse is now under control…

Here’s to the ongoing health and musical vitality of the Stones — The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band in the World…