Only The Good Die Young

- January 30, 2012

Shanti Ananda – A Life Worth Celebrating

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother…” The Hollies

Since the day he passed away, I’ve been trying to put into words my feelings for Shanti Ananda. Every time that I tried to write something, I felt that anything that I came up with simply did not do him justice. And then Alex DeVore wrote a very emotional piece about him, and I just lost it. I felt that words had abandoned me, and that I couldn’t write anything better than Alex already had.

So, after a lot of thought and conversations on the subject, I decided to show how the music community here in Santa Fe expressed what I’ve been having so much trouble with.

Before I get into that, let me share this Shanti story. I had not known him as long as most of the folks here in town. We only got to be friendly over the last few years when I became active in the Santa Fe music scene. Every time that Shanti saw me at the Cowgirl, I was “working," doing stage, or sound or lights for a band, taking pictures for this website, interviewing the musicians, volunteering for an event, occasionally joining the band on-stage, etc. I always walked passed him carrying gear, or in a hurry to fix something. Anyway, one night when I wasn’t working, my wife and I decided to go to the Cowgirl to see a band – I forget which one, not important. But it was the first time in a great while that I went there to relax and socialize, not work. And since I wasn’t working that night, I stopped to chat with Shanti when I got there, and reached for my wallet to pay the cover. He pushed my hand back into my pocket, gave me one of his dazzling smiles, hugged me like a brother, and said: “You don’t pay to come in here.”

I almost cried. He then greeted my wife with elegance, sincere warmth and gentleness as only he could do it.

If this is how he treated his new acquaintances, I am so jealous of the rest of you who knew him for so many years -- and how he must have made you feel when you were around him. Me – I felt like I could walk on water that night. This was a man that could make a major impact on your day with just a smile and a few words.

Others have eulogized him better – I’m just trying to help those who didn’t know him to see what I saw.

He was truly a special person, and my life is richer for having met him. Shanti meant something to this town and the musicians that are a part of it. Everything that folks wrote about him on-line constantly blew me away. I got a glimpse of just how many people here he touched and how much impact he had on them. All kinds of people, not just musicians, artists and the rest of the bohemians in town. Everyone who knew him. I am so sorry that I was not able to attend his memorial – I know that there were people there I needed to meet and share with.

So I was glad to be a part of the celebration at the Cowgirl on Saturday, January 21. The cream of Santa Fe musicians got together to pay tribute to the man, and help raise money for his wonderful family. Johny Broomdust, Zia Cross and many others put in a lot of effort, and gave up their time to put together this event to honor our fallen comrade.

A partial listing of the bands and musicians that I saw at the show – either performing or just paying their respects included: Boris McCutcheon, Abo & Rootsisdem, Mr. Kali and The Boomroots Collective, Felecia Ford & Broomdust Caravan, Michèle Leidig, Kate Mann, Felix Y Los Gatos, Alan Bateman and Al-Stosch'ORama, Chango, Tom Trusnovic (back for a visit all the way from Austin), 27 Devils Joking, Pulpit 4, Josh Martin, Josh English and more. Sorry If I forgot anyone, but there were so many people there to give it up for Shanti, that it might have been easier to list everyone who wasn't there.

There was a silent auction, Shanti t-shirts for sale (thanks Obi Tom Knobby)…it was a great event and went by way too quickly. A quick note of thanks to the Cowgirl staff who did their part to make this a wonderful day.

As if that wasn’t enough, Johny, Zia and the folks at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid are going to do a second benefit show for Shanti’s family on February 4 at 4 pm until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Already scheduled to appear at that show are: Abo, Al-Stosch'ORama, Felecia Ford & the Broomdust Caravan, The Boomroots Collective, Bone Orchard, Desert Southwest Blues Band, 27 Devils Joking, Pulpit 4, Family Coal with cousin Joe West, Jazz Explosion and I’m sure many, many more.

Shanti made an impression on everyone who came in contact with him. His positive vibes and peaceful nature were infectious – we need more people like him not only in Santa Fe, but all over the world as well. I know it would be a better place.

And I know when my time here is done, Shanti will be waiting for me wherever I end up with another hug – and everything will be ok.

Meet the New Year, same as the old year: Although the signs for improvement are on the horizon, what really changed in your life over the first few weeks of 2012?

Next time: Valentine, Oh Valentine.

All photos © Coad Miller