“Approaching music from beyond the perspective of an entertainer, but rather as a healer, my intention is always to help move the energy in this space. How can I support this audience, these fellow humans, to shake off their funk and remember what it means to be free and fully expressed; what it means to love and be loved; what it means to be more authentically human?” – Poranguí
As a live musician, world soul artist and one-man orchestra, Poranguí weaves ancestral songs and indigenous rhythms from around the globe. Born in São José dos Campos, Brazil to two artists—a Brazilian mother and a Chicano father—Poranguí grew up in the cultures of Brazil, Mexico, and the Southwestern U.S., steeped from birth in a richness of musical, healing, and ceremonial traditions.
Poranguí creates his performances from scratch using looping technology, and his live grooves range from meditative to dance celebrations, moving the body, lifting the spirit, and transcending the divide between performer and audience. Each musical offering emerges live in the moment, and no set ever replicates the last.
In his parallel practice as a therapeutic bodyworker, Poranguí draws on his academic background in neuroscience, his family legacy in the healing arts, and his training as a licensed massage therapist. His “Myorhythmic Release” technique combines the healing properties of sound, movement, and breath, supporting clients from all backgrounds and health conditions in finding freedom from the limitations and suffering of old patterns and trauma.
As a musician proficient in world percussion, guitar, voice, and numerous indigenous instruments including didgeridoo and pre-Columbian flutes, Poranguí has been featured on albums ranging from Latin jazz to Brazilian batucada, and his musical compositions have been used in independent theatrical and film productions.
Last year gave rise to several single releases, remixes, and collaborations, and Poranguí anticipates deeper engagement this year through Music is Medicine (his new educational community platform), retreats, recording time, and refined listening amidst the current changes in the music industry and the world. The work continues to unfold, and Face the Current had a front row seat for an engaging dialogue with Poranguí about his crafts, his intentions, and his clarified plans for the future.
Sasha Frate: What led to your creative and purposeful approach to music? Your music is about transformation and healing and isn’t solely about entertainment.
Poranguí: When I was eight, I sat in the dark of my first Temascal (Sweat Lodge) with my mother and watched the warm glow of the stones speak to me as an elder sang a healing song. The anxiety and fear I had felt from the darkness left my body and I began to sense the presence of other unseen beings singing around me. I reached down for the earth beneath me as the hot steam poured over my back. As I opened my eyes, I began to see the sound of the pulsing drum and the voices transform into vibrating colors, and it resonated through my body.
Years later, as an undergraduate at Duke University, I was DJing fraternity parties to help pay my way through school on scholarship. These were some of the most challenging gigs—I witnessed my peers getting wasted as I spun popular hip-hop hits. I experienced how music was being used as mere content or background noise, and it felt like something was deeply missing. I also began to see how the selection of music and lyrics could induce different states in people, especially when they were under the influence.
After my second year, I sold all those records and began a chartered organization at Duke to produce non-alcoholic dance events mixing live and electronic music. It was the beginning of my journey to learn how to create more meaningful and, ultimately, transformational experiences for people through music and dance. Parallel to this, I switched my area of study at Duke from pre-med to a self-designed major titled: “Healing Through Music and Dance: Psychological & Cultural Perspectives” and I began bridging my research with life outside of school. I discovered in this time that many of us yearn to feel a meaningful connection to self and other when given the opportunity. When intention and attention are given to how music is presented and created, something else becomes possible—a portal can open and suddenly the listener can be transported.
Since that time, I have viscerally understood that sound (and its counterpart: movement) are fundamental to our wellbeing as humans. Our ancestors knew this, and we can find evidence of music and dance used for healing in every culture around the world since long before recorded history. When masterfully woven with intention and care, the vibrational properties of music can help loosen and liberate parts of our bodies (physical, emotional, energetic) that modern medicine still struggles to address.
Unfortunately, like many things, a great deal of the music in our world today has fallen victim to capitalism. Hence much of the “popular” music is made with the intention to sell, distract, numb, and even promote violence and division. This is also largely happening subliminally.
Amidst all this noise, I knew early on in my journey as a sound carrier and storyteller that I must dedicate my work to creating more beauty in the world, first by listening and then by getting out of the way while asking how I can contribute grace to the moment and enrich life with my offering. Sometimes the answer is simply silence and other times it is a symphony of sound. Either way, the guiding intention provides a possibility that those touched by the sound can experience a lasting positive change, instead of simply having more content to be consumed. To this end,
all my live performances are improvised in dialogue with the audience, the energy in a given space, and the unseen. The audience informs and co-creates the music in the moment with me. What I do can be entertaining, yet the depth of what I truly offer is transformational for those willing to dive deeper with me.
SF: You’ve said, “I’ve come to understand there’s a song within us all. And if we can learn to truly listen, to get out of the way, out of our minds, egos, and judgments, then anything is possible.” What do you see as our greatest barrier to listening and getting out of the mind, ego, and judgments, and what are some of your favorite ways to access and experience this?
Poranguí: I find that our greatest barrier comes down to presence. By this I mean our ability to be fully in the present moment—the eternal “now”. Most of us spend our days hijacked by the mind’s thoughts of the future and memories of the past. We get so “in our heads” with all the doing that we completely miss the power and gift of being in the now. Our heart only lives in the now, and it is perhaps our best bridge back to the now. Beat by beat it resonates life through every cell, inviting us to be present to the dance of now.
Our technology doesn’t help the situation either. Everything around us in the modern human world wants to take our attention and distract us from what is truly important, and it often convinces us to buy something we don’t need. Cultivating our ability to be more present may be one of the most important things we can do in this life. There are many paths up this mountain, but a couple of my favorites are meditation and music. Mindfulness practices like Vipassana meditation are relatively simple to get into no matter one’s ideological background. It has helped me cultivate presence through silence and stillness, whereas music has brought presence through sound and movement. For me, playing in these two ends of the spectrum offers a vast gradient of rich experiences to aid in becoming a better human and steward of our Mother Earth. I find that the depth of expression in my music and presence with each note is far more potent when I have spent time listening to the silence between the notes.
SF: You have some unique elements in your performance, including a one-of-a-kind looping rig and solo multi-instrumentalism. How did you develop these aspects of your performance and why did you choose to showcase them?
Poranguí: For years I directed a ten-piece Afro-Brazilian band and struggled with how to get such a large ensemble touring on the road. My solo project was born out of necessity when I was asked to play a series of twenty-one shows for four hours each day by myself. I decided it was time to learn how to loop so I could save my voice and create an ensemble of compelling sound by myself, similar to that of the large band. The early days were tough as my rig was purely analog and I had to set up sixteen microphones, a mixer, and countless pedals to capture the thirty-plus instruments I played.
With constant refinement and determination to make my massive setup more manageable for touring without sacrificing the diversity of instruments and quality of sound, I developed a custom-built looping rig using Lemur, Ableton, and the help of a programmer. I machined the frame in aluminum and got my entire setup of gear and instruments down to four cases each (barely avoiding overweight and oversize airline restrictions!). Beyond the practical, several principles served as my guiding light in all of this, beginning with a desire to have the technology be as invisible as possible.
I never wanted to look like I was checking email on stage with a computer screen like many of my DJ/producer peers. I also wanted to have all my tools at my fingertips so I could essentially paint with sound and improvise, moving in any direction while keeping an intimate connection to the music and the audience. Finally, I wanted to truly bridge the worlds of ancient and modern by creating everything in the moment from organic instruments rather than using stems or samples. Each song I create is improvisational and completely from scratch for (and with) those who are present, seen, and unseen. For me, there is something sacred in this process where anything can happen. There is a risk involved that pushes me to let go and surrender to the Spirit of music. The greater my ability to get out of the way and simply serve the music, the more powerful and palpable the prayer of the performance.
SF: Your “Myorhythmic Release” technique combines the healing properties of sound, movement, and breath. How have you supported clients from all backgrounds and health conditions through this technique, and can you explain how it works?
Poranguí: This approach to bodywork was born out of years of study and practice under the guidance of my grandmother who was a gifted Sobadora from Mexico and many incredible teachers from the lineages of Ida Rolf, Structural Integration, Traeger, and Chinese Traditional Medicine.
Similar to my relationship and approach with music, I have found that profound transformational healing can take place through the combination of creating an impeccable container of a safe sacred space, listening deeply, and getting out of the way. Fundamentally, we are all bodies of water with the capacity to resonate in both harmonious (healthy) and dissonant (unhealthy) ways. Our modern lives are often full of external and internal forces that result in greater dissonance and traumas. By bringing my full presence to listen to what another’s body is needing to support their own inherent ability to heal and self-organize, I’m able to communicate somatically and encourage transformational results.
The first fundamental part of this technique is tracking the quality of the breath and aligning my breath to theirs. This allows me to embody a level of sensitivity and empathy as I work, wherein I rarely have to speak as the body communicates everything. Our body holds memories of traumas even if our mind has long forgotten. The next level of the technique is tapping into the Myofascial system of the body which is essentially the inner-web. This tissue is what holds everything in place innervating our muscular, skeletal, and lymphatic systems. Once I start working with this web, I am able to support things releasing in distant parts of the body without physically touching them. Lastly, I layer different forms of vibration into the body using my hands, instruments, and a vibro-acoustic table which supports rapid unwinding and trauma release.
Much like creating music, this modality of bodywork is a dialogue expressing the inexpressible through the soma of our bodies with the essential ingredient being presence. Most of us have never experienced this kind of (non-sexual) pure presence from another, and often that alone is incredibly healing.
SF: What are some of the techniques, tools, instruments, etc. that you incorporate into your music to bridge ancestral with modern?
Poranguí: Every instrument I work with has a story and a soul. They each carry DNA from diverse traditions which I do my best to honor when weaving together songs.
One example is the Dan-moi—the Vietnamese Jaw Harp—which I first received when I was eighteen. I spent a semester teaching English at a UN experimental school in Hanoi and I was gifted a brass version of the instrument from a teacher. I later discovered it was made from a sixty-millimeter bullet casing. It turns out the traditional material of bamboo was replaced with brass as there was an excess of brass shells following the Vietnam War. To this day I am deeply moved by the resilience exemplified in this instrument and a people who found a way to create beauty out of such a tool of destruction.
When I play it, I invoke this resilience into the music bringing with it the sonic timbre of a primordial synthesizer while using my mouth to emulate a modern vocoder. I might build an entire song around this single instrument and allow its ancestry to speak through my own.
SF: In what ways has growing up immersed in the cultures of Brazil, Mexico, and the Southwestern U.S. influenced your music, practices, and traditions?
Poranguí: Truly, in every way imaginable. If I had to narrow it down,
the pearl of growing up in multiple cultures was receiving the gift of seeing and appreciating the world through diverse lenses. Each cultural lens and cosmology offers its own unique perspective on a common human experience in life. Rather than seeing differences between worldviews with prejudice or disdain, I found that I appreciate that all are somehow equally valid. I find comfort in the paradox and love the messiness of the human experience.
Being steeped in different cultures also enables me to see the strengths and shortcomings of culture itself and better examine how capitalism and globalization continue to colonize our thinking and perceptions of identity. These deeper questions of identity and power also inform my ethos around music as a form of activism. I believe it’s imperative to make music that honors our collective ancestry and celebrates its diversity while inviting us to live in right relation to ourselves, one another, and the Earth.
SF: You do a lot of projects and collaborations with your partner, Ashley, including facilitating transformational retreats. Can you share some of the highlights of working in relationship and collaboration, and perhaps one of the challenges you’ve faced together along the way?
Poranguí: Being in a co-creatorship with my beloved, Ashley, continues to be one of the greatest gifts and greatest challenges of my life. Touring and working together puts us in some of the most beautiful and stressful situations all around the world. We get to be mirrors for one another and help the other see the blind spots that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It’s been ten years now, and we both enjoy that it’s still a work in progress. She often says, “Life would be boring if we didn’t always have new problems to solve together and grand adventures to journey on.”
One of the greatest strengths we share is our commitment to the mission of being in service to authentic expression, healing, and the Earth herself. United by this greater purpose, we can always set down whatever is personally aggravating us when we walk on stage. The offering of our love informs and infuses the music and often transmutes whatever isn’t serving this mission.
SF: Throughout your interdisciplinary career, you’ve also been recognized as a “Teaching Artist”, helping learners to explore their inherent and often untapped creativity and musicality, using the arts to build resiliency and community. What is something that you have learned from this experience as a teacher?
Poranguí: Through teaching, we find greater mastery that applies to all of life. Teaching is all about being generous. You have to give not only of your knowledge, but your presence and compassion. Teaching is another form of improvisation for me where I get to read the energy in the room of students and find the best way to translate what begins as a mental concept into a somatic embodiment. This is an incredible alchemy that requires me to be flexible and willing to take risks, often teaching something in a completely new way. As much as I love performing to incredible audiences around the world, nothing inspires me as much as witnessing a student having a breakthrough.
SF: What is your online community experience like and what do the classes entail?
Poranguí: The Music is Medicine community is a curated, ad-free space for inspiring positivity, building connection, learning from peers, and exploring the many facets of how music can heal and transform us. It is a living experiment and I see it continuing to grow to encompass other artists and facilitators inspired by these topics.
Within the free platform, there are paid tiers that include benefits such as online live-stream classes where I dive into topics that support members’ musicality and development. We’re finding that people are making meaningful connections with their peers, and it’s uniting the global community that we have had the privilege of connecting with over the years. It’s a new offering for us and we’re excited to see how it evolves and grows!
SF: How is your personal practice of Vipassana meditation impacting and/or being reflected in your music?
Poranguí: My Vipassana meditation practice has been invaluable in teaching me to listen from the absolute depths of presence. In stillness and silence, I find that my ability to hear more subtlety can expand. Cultivating my awareness to perceive the most subtle and sublime increases my capacity to express many fold. The bonus is that I naturally get more bandwidth to stay more connected to my heart and take action from loving-kindness as opposed to the default programs of ambition, greed, pride, and fame. The positive impact in not only my music but also my life is immeasurable.
SF: You describe your art as “that of holding space”. A beautiful and altruistic practice, do you believe this is something we can all learn to do more often for one another, or do you see it as something more like an “art” in which one may be more or less “talented” or “skilled”? Why would you describe this art as “sacred”?
Poranguí: I would have to say “both/and”. I believe learning to hold space is something any of us can do and really must do in order to cultivate becoming a better relative. When I say “better relative”, I don’t mean simply to our blood relations, but rather to all living things. Some may already have a natural propensity, but similar to training our ears to hear more nuanced sounds, there is a capacity to develop this muscle. Doing so supports anyone in becoming more present to the magic of life and ultimately helps them to live more fully. This is needed now more than ever with our technology and the inherent advertisers undermining our awareness.
SF: Can you share anything from your work that is unfolding in the coming year(s) that we can be on the lookout for?
Poranguí: There are a number of new musical works in progress including several collaborations that this past year has allowed me to dive into. I’m excited to share that there is one more edition of remixes (by Mose) from my live, self-titled album on the way, and I’ve begun a process of mixing and releasing singles from songs birthed during my monthly live Medicine Stream online concert. I’ve also begun an exciting partnership with a new healing center based in Austin, Texas called Kuya Institute for Transformational Medicine. Amani Friend (of Desert Dwellers and Liquid Bloom) and I are creating custom soundtracks for healing sessions that we’ll eventually be able to share with the public.
My partner, Ashley, and I will continue to offer Music is Medicine retreats for intimate groups to support individuals in awakening their voice and musicality. We’re also planning a special extended experience in Brazil to take a group to our roots and some of our teachers there. We can’t wait to share that magic. Lastly, I was also able to collaborate this past year in creating a retreat specifically for men that involves both music and “men’s work” examining and healing our relationship to self, the feminine, and the earth. We tested it out with a group of fellow musicians and look forward to sharing it with the greater community next year.