RAJ AGAINST THE MACHINE
Three-day music and arts festival to bring a joyful noise to Simi Valley
There isn’t much that Rickie Byars Beckwith hasn’t experienced. The music and arts director for the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City has traveled the world and shared stages with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Will.I.Am, John Legend and Chaka Khan. She’s authored a book, raised children, composed and recorded gobs of inspirational music and then performed it for luminaries such as President Barack Obama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama —and that’s only in this dimension. But Dr. Byars Beckwith still has room for firsts, and come this weekend she’ll be able to add “three-day cultural festival” to her list of accomplishments.
Rhythm and Joy (RAJ) Festival, Byar Beckwith’s foray into event production, will peacefully take over the Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Simi Valley Oct. 6-8, with a fairly stunning array of offerings. The music and arts festival — a sort of mashup of Burning Man and a New Age Coachella, but in a much better location — will offer three stages of eclectic musical entertainment featuring Chaka Khan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Common, Roy Ayers and a collection of lesser-known artists from world music, kirtan, R&B, jazz and hip-hop genres as well as inspirational public speakers Don Miguel Ruiz, the Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith (Byars Beckwith’s husband) and others.
In addition to the sounds of music and words of wisdom, some of the ways attendees will be able to nourish the body and soul during the event include massage, reiki, parades, drum circles, guided meditation, yoga, capoeira, qi gong, vegan, vegetarian and raw food dining and cruelty-free, sustainable and fair trade shopping. No detail has been left to chance and the needs of everyone from the smallest child to the eldest grandmother have been planned for with environments, entertainment and activities designed specifically for them as well as tent camping, RV camping and even “glamping” for those who prefer not to sacrifice creature comforts. And everything from the solar showers to the biodiesel-fueled generators is eco-friendly.
“What I’m selling is the experience of communities coming together to witness the beauty in each other,” Byars Beckwith told VCReporter. Our power, our art, our food, our dance, our parades, our rhythm and our joy. We’re creating a space for magic to happen.”
Organizers are producing an experiential environment far removed from the day-to-day trials of modern life, where humans can connect with one another, try new things and generally enjoy the goodness of life in a gorgeous outdoor setting together. “This is colorful in more ways than one,” says Byars Beckwith. “We have a lot of different kinds of people, styles of music, kinds of dance and entertaining and mystical opportunities. Healers, spoken word, parades — we’ve loaded everything I could think of. ”
The vision for RAJ began taking shape in the rooms of spiritual and self-help conferences where Byars Beckwith is the unofficial first lady of the New Thought spiritual movement. Having enjoyed fetes like Lightning in a Bottle and Shakti Fest, her desire to blend the best of inspirational speaking and conscious entertainment into one “whole” event birthed RAJ: a sustainable village setting with an age-of-Aquarius zeitgeist and a killer soundtrack — an incubator for people to be the change they wish to see in the world while eating clean food and shakin’ their booties.
“You see transformational festivals happening where people celebrate life together, where they are just better after all of it, and those festivals are on the rise because we’re changing America with [them],” she said.
And while every moment is packed with some sort of experiential opportunity, Byars Beckwith promises there will be room for surprise and spontaneity, or “fresh moments” as she says, which will include high-profile musical artists who are expected to show up and join in, though they are not officially on the massive bill.
Byars Beckwith would like residents of Simi Valley and surrounding areas to come to RAJ and “really enjoy a wonderful experience. People are coming from around the world to this beautiful place that you call home.”
Despite the stress inherent in designing and executing an event of such scale, Byars Beckwith has not lost her sense of humor. Discussing the joyful noise that will transmit loud and clear this weekend from Simi Valley, a city not exactly known for its open-mindedness, she couldn’t help but laugh a little at the irony. “Mayberry R.F.D. and Barney Fife never heard of no Chaka Khan!”
RAJ 13, Oct. 4-6 at Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Simi Valley. For the complete musical lineup, camping information and tickets, visit www.rajfestival.com.