We’re in Echo Park sitting at a restaurant patio with musician Angelica-Marie Lopez, 28, known as Low Leaf. She’s distracted as we're facing Sunset Boulevard, watching cars and people go by. I ask about her music, which she describes as experimental, soul and freeform, but there's a greater message Lopez wants to share.
To Lopez, songs are energy capsules. They’re like little portals of light that can withstand the ever-changing variables of time. And this light has the power to transform people.
There is a spiritual war going on, she says, and sometimes it feels like Los Angeles is ground zero. We talk about it like a scene out of Sodom and Gomorrah, the ancient cities in the bible that God set to flames for living in sin.
“L.A. is a desert. Even though we have all this stuff, people are wandering lost,” says Lopez.
She feels that in our society, everybody wants to be glorified like a god with followers. Our social media feeds are filled with false prophets and endless narcissism. In the real world, spending $2 billion on a new NFL stadium in Inglewood is one of the least compassionate things our city can do.
“We’re just going to drink beer, and watch these football players go to war. How can we do that when there’s so much we need to fix?”
The stronger Lopez grows spiritually, the more she realizes the reason why she came to earth: to use her gift of music from God to spread compassion and the spirit of truth. Her new album, Palm Psalms: A Light to Resolve All Darkness, will be released this spring and is focused on spreading this message. It's inspired by the bible passage Psalm 57:8 which reads, "Wake up, my heart! Wake up, O lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song."
Just before the Palm Psalms' scheduled release, Low Leaf will play the Further Future festival in Nevada, April 29 to May 1, along with Nicolas Jaar, Four Tet, Daedelus, Caribou and more. It seems like the perfect setting for Lopez to perform in: an alternative festival all about engaging a conscious community with music, art, technology and discussion.
“People describe wounds and hurt as darkness, but it’s really shadows,” explains Lopez. “Darkness is a force that opposes you and sways your thoughts. Those are forces that are not of you. Even though some people choose to do ill, were all inherently good. There’s nothing rooted in you that’s impure.”
Lopez grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the child of Catholic Filipino parents. She understood why they chose the Catholic religion, but she started to realize that a priest is only a man, and his word is limited to the journey he has had. That was the beginning of Lopez’s quest to find her own form of spirituality.
“I would rather go around [the priest] and go directly to the source,” she says.
Later in life, the late-great jazz artist Alice Coltrane became someone she looked up to both musically and spiritually. Like Coltrane, Lopez plays both harp and piano. Coltrane grew up in the Christian church and later became a devotee of the Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba. In the mid-'70s, Coltrane was the founder and swamini of the Vedantic Center in Malibu.
Lopez read Coltrane’s book Divine Revelations, in which she documented her meditations and visits to the astral plane, a world populated with angels and spirits.
“I idolized Alice; there’s spirituality in her music," says Lopez. But Coltrane's religion was not hers, either. "I tried praying to Hindu gods, but felt empty."
At one point she even tried tarot cards, but felt she was working with a lower realm of spirits. Then one day, while meditating in her room, she grabbed a bible that a friend gave her and read it for the first time. She prayed to the highest God and found clarity.
How do you connect with the highest God? “Through your sincerity in your heart you’ll reach him,” she says.
Her most recent album, 2014's Akashaalay, was more about understanding her Filipino roots, and she went to the Philippines to record the album. The more she dug into her culture, the more she realized that there’s still a sense of colonization among its people. The very idea of being Filipino is a relatively recent social construct.
“I zoomed out as far as possible and started feeling connectedness to all cultures. I didn’t feel Filipino anymore,” she remembers. “I am a creation of the creator.”
In the spring of 2015, she began holding public group sound baths on every full moon. People meditate to the vibrations of sound and find inner peace and spiritual healing. Thirteen people came to the first sound bath event. The word spread and over 50 people came to the second session and the energy was crazy, she says. She saw some people building an altar; others were crying. She could feel where in their bodies they were having pain.
“When you open up a space to share wounds, everyone wants to share. I was opening up certain realms that people weren't ready for,” she says.
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She had a dream that told her to stop these sound baths, and now only holds private sessions at her home in Highland Park.
“I can't just go around healing people's wounds, but it showed me how powerful music is.”