Rising Appalachia

February 2017: Resistance Movements In Music: On The Ground At Standing Rock And Beyond With Chloe Smith & Lyla June

We Are Water w Chloe (& Lyla June?) copy

With the fierceness and grace befitting a revolutionary empress, Chloe Smith stands firmly with her sisters in resistance, and in solidarity with the movement. Her band Rising Appalachia have long made their voices heard on many matters of social justice, lioness sistren fronting the squad, their siren songs supremely effective in raising the collective awareness, be it about eco-consciousness or human rights. One half of the dynamic sibling duo is the eloquent and affable Ms. Smith. Growing up with sister Leah Song in Atlanta, GA, the pair are daughters to a musical mother and sculptor/painter father. They migrated through halcyon days making tunes by busking and gigging their way through New Orleans, before departing their beloved Crescent City and decamping to the progressive enclave of Asheville, NC.

Chloe became confidently aware during adolescence that her heart and mind were attuned to some critical causes. Over the past decade, she has stepped into the spotlight impassioned by her activism, it’s been a fuel to propel her career as a recording/touring artist. Focusing on alternative touring practices, as well as Prison Yoga Project, and Slow Music Movement,  Smith and her cohorts in Rising Appalachia have walked the activist walk from jumpstreet. An anti-establishment vein has always run rampant through folk music’s cultural circuitry. Smith, Song and company are at the forefront of the resistance, and are leaders of this new school of progressive action in the music scene. Keep reading…

Source: Resistance Movements In Music: On The Ground At Standing Rock And Beyond With Chloe Smith & Lyla June

November 2016 ~ We continue in motion…


We continue in motion… returning to the rest of the world after 3 days that stood timeless in a land that wakes and breathes in prayer. It will take some time to put into words the beauty and rawness that we witnessed at Standing Rock, North Dakota over the days called Thanksgiving… supporting a living indigenous movement. The communing we shared in, the songs, the chill in the air, the spirit, the military, the fire. I CAN say for now that it is not what the media is telling us. It is a peaceful and prayerful place, one of deep reverence and big big work. To create community against the status-quo and contra to big business is not only absolutely mandatory to our survival as a species, but is also sacred sacrifice. We need new models… and new leaders… and new ways to pray. Thankyou for strengthening the ancient ways and creating the pathway for new ones to emerge. Thankyou for the Standing Rock Syllabus. Thankyou to the International Youth Council and to the song catchers that we rallied with… Thankyou for the invitation.

– Leah Song

#istandwithstandingrock #nodapl #wearewater #resiliencytour#risingappalachia #standingrocksyllabus

📸: Josué Rivas Fotographer

Rising Appalachia Coastline Clean Up Action Day, South Beach State Park, Oregon ~ August 2016.

Today Rising Appalachia joined forces with Clean Oceans International, the Organ State Parks Department, and around 20 volunteers to spend a morning together cleaning up a small bit of South Beach in New Port Oregon. It was foggy and cool as we took shovels, buckets and sifting screens out to the shore line. Ryan Parker, a beach ranger for the Oregon Central Coast District, led us to several areas were debris is deposited by the tide.

   At first it looked to be relatively clean, but as we began sifting the sand we found that there were small pits of plastic everywhere, mostly in pieces smaller than a dime. There were thousands of “nerdles”, which are small round bitts of plastic that are about the size of fish eggs. It was amazing how much plastic was in every square foot of sand. Plastic water bottles and cigarette butts are the two most common forms of pollution found on the shore line. They are washed from river and sewers to the ocean, where they hitch hike on currents to be break to small pieces and deposited on beaches all over the world. We learned so much a bout the cycle of plastic, and have so much more to learn about the issue and how we can live more aware of our impact.

    25 of us spent the morning out there and only made a small dent in the tiny zone where we were working. The people who showed up were so caring and the energy of the group was so hopeful even though the issue seemed so insurmountable. We were tiny drop in the bucket, working on small beach in a big wide world. A world that is now full of plastic particles. Amazing that one person at a time, one plastic bottle or wrapper or rubber ducky at a time, we have filled the ocean with plastic. I makes sense then that one person at a time, one small place at a time we can also clean that waste.

  By making simple commitments (striving to always use reusable or biodegradable drinking vessels, striving to never throw trash on the ground) we can break that part of our link in the chain.
   Yet even if we as an individual were to never generate another piece of plastic waste, wouldn’t we still have a responsibility to work towards cleaning up the plastic we have already generated? That same plastic we threw away as children is still out there folks. Are we gonna wait for other generations to start to clean up after us, or make the effort to clean up just a small fraction of the plastic we have left in the world. Plastic that has found its way into the Ocean and is making many many marine animals die unnatural deaths.
   Sifting through the sand was kind of like being on a treasure hunt. Imagine if it was a normal activity for families and friends to bring screens and buckets to the beach and do a little sifting and clean up int the area where they were hanging out. Sifting for micro plastic is the new Sand Castle.
   Obviously there is no one simple solution… there are many. One is pushing local policy makers to reduce waste, like California’s ban on plastic grocery bags, or some EU countries that have banned plastic water bottles.
   The main thing is to care… to keep learning more, to be committed. Once you see you cannot un-see. Lets think 2 or 3 times before generating more plastic garbage. Lets pick up the trash we see on the ground before it gets washed in a rainstorm out to sea and is left there. We have trashed this place a little at a time. We can clean it up a little at a time just as effectively.
   That is my thought for the day. I look forward to continuing to explore this issue and partner with folks around the world to clean it up, one square foot at a time. It is never to late to make a difference where u are.
~ Biko Casini ~13908834_10157355881620473_567226741246906844_o

Reflections on Solitude, Devotion, and Gratitude :: a Winter Retreat – by Biko Casini

Good morning family and friends,

I have just emerged from a 30 day solo winter music retreat in a dome in the mountains around Asheville. During that time I was alone, was not driving, and had a friend drop off greens and vegetables once a week who was my only physical contact with the outside human world.
I want to re-engage, and in doing so, I would like to some how offer a little reflection of the lessons I learned in solitude with the understanding that I am still processing the experience myself and an in depth sharing may come about in other ways.

My intention going into the retreat was to offer devotion to Music in gratitude for the amazing year and with the desire to cultivate new musical seeds for the year to come.
Looking hard at my self I also saw that it was about feeling a need to go beyond my self perceived musical weaknesses and strive for some kind of greatness….as if it was a place I could get to. This was my ego striving to make up for a feeling of not being a good enough musician.
Among the most valuable lessons I learned during the retreat was that greatness and skill are not the same thing. Greatness is a collection of elements, existing in a context of responding to need. One can practice till the cows jump over the moon, building skill out the wazu….but it is the intention behind the effort….and the service rendered the community through that effort that makes the Art great.
I strived to clarify my intentions…and battled with the feeling that I was not doing the service I was capable of in life…battled with feeling worthless….It is a battle I think we all at some point I think. The challenge of realizing our innate value, and finding how the strength of what we ALREADY ARE feeds and strengthens the community of Life.

I turned 36 during this time… an age at which many are holding down partners and families… and i reflected on the freedom from such commitments that allowed me to commit to myself…It is a privilege to be in a place in life where others are not depending on you for their basic needs…. and I also recognized in me a desire to take on more in the way of supporting friends and family physically.

It was cold in the Mountains and with the necessity of harvesting wood from the forest, carrying in all my water from the outside spring tap, cooking, and cleaning up it was very difficult to practice the 12 hours a day I hoped to. On average I was able to practice 5 to 7 hours a day….which sounds good from the outside. From the inside though it felt like I was failing at what I had intended….. again…a universal struggle… is anything we do ever good enough?
Though our ego will tell us we are Successful, or we are failures…we are ALREADY more beautiful that we can ever understand! I worked hard to bring my free ranging mind back to center. In moments I was there.
People often say, Follow your Heart, or Love Yourself….The best advise ever yet so overused it can sound hollow without experience and feeling behind it. To myself I added to that advice; “Know What Your Heart is made of ” and ” Remember what U are Here for” ? It was when I would walk, and sit in the trees, with no buildings in sight that I would experience glimpses of that knowing and remembering. Those were the best moments of the retreat.
One major musical breakthrough I had during all that practice…realizing that practice was boring….but playing was fun! It again is about context…play for your self, play for life, play for others, play for the mountain, play for justice, peace, freedom…. the most powerful tool I have as a musician is my INTENTION. What am I playing to? What am I singing to? That is Groove that is under the music and gives it life and feeling. This helped me to engage in the music i was playing rather than it becoming mechanical. I am not saying that practicing something that is difficult for u is bad… the discomfort in our mind when it is growing new pathways is a good thing… it is just to be clear about that for which we are working.
Remembrances and Intentions… the Songs that were written, the crazy realizations about music and Universal Harmonics, Social Activism and Visionary Communities will have to wait for another time. I look forward to sharing them with u in real time.
I love U all. U were there with me inspiring me to continue(and distracting me) and in this journey of life I am soooo excited to have some NOT alone creative time!!
Untill that time…Keep honoring your gifts. Keep honoring your weaknesses, and may you find joy and purpose in the process.
Love Biko Casini12747905_10153887265400185_224525307498080411_o

To all who champion us along the way

chloe montana


To all who champion us along the way :
poem by Chloe


I love the silent connection we make as travelers,
the caught eyes on unbridled streets
that beckon with hot cups
and welcoming store front window panes
that glisten like new ice as we pass through.
These people
with immeasurable open arms
that grin and tilt their door open every so gently
so that I may slide through and pass a moment of memory beneath
their lavender sheets
and tea pantries
and empty yoga room pillow stacks.
It can be too much,
the out pouring of kindness that stands to greet
at every alley and side street
I waltz upon,
eventually all leading to the inevitable moment of
that I am passing through
and this world is a large large place.
But I swear,
I wont forget your face
or your outstretched limbs when I needed it most
and even though we both will be flung far fetched into
the inconsistent horizon,
Ill carry your kindness the whole way

Thank you.

thank you for instilling in my bones that I
am not a stranger
and you
are doing me no favor
and this tiny wink of time is a blessing for us both.
that beneath the waves of unfamiliarity
is the possibility of a grander tribe
like us.
And although thank you will never be enough,
I know its all you
or I
would ever ask for.

Rising Appalachia and Winona LaDuke

I am sitting here with educator, American Indian activist, environmentalist, economist and general baddass Winona LaDuke of the Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) people and her powerful family and community, near Round Lake, MN. We are in her home in-between the White Earth Reservation and the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in northern Minnesota. I arrived yesterday, packed my bags from Appalachia to the Bemidji airport, and drove straight to the headwaters of the Mississippi. There I found a series of lakes and waterways sprawled all across this northern territory…swampy but distinctly BLUE (unlike any Mississippi I have ever seen down south!!). I made my prayers to that great river’s source lands…recognizing and feeling the girth of its vast reach and scope, and knowing how many lives, songs, sorrows, meals, ceremonies, journeys, and inspirations that this river has touched. I sat quietly at its banks…offering my gratitude in silence and soaking a tiny piece of leather in its waters to carry with me in remembrance-the “Mississippi song” having a whole new meaning now.
Then I drove on…heading to the LaDuke lands…getting ready to finally break bread with Winona, spending the next few days gathering together as allies to discuss the way that ART, EDUCATION, OUTREACH, AWARENESS, SPIRITUALITY,DIRECT ACTION, and COMMUNITY can truly make an impact on this wild spinning-top of a world that we are in. When I arrived I was put right on the bareback of Coco, the fierce little mare that lives at the White Earth Land Recovery farm. There I rode with Lorna near by, slowly getting a scope of the land and working off the travel time… Welcomed in with running children, a half finished cabin tucked deep over the lake lands, full of paintings and spirit and corn husks and the office where so much of Winona’s work comes from. An infinite work in progress as so much good work is! We are gathering this week as comrades in the greater vision of life- to do some planting at the Honor the Earth Office, some strategizing, some protecting, some learning of customs and culture, some story telling, some shit talking, and finally some performances and talk backs to build dialog around the SandPiper PIPELINE -stopping it from crossing into sacred headwater lands, rice fields, and the lake lads of Northern Minnesota.  Its a long conversation about original ways of movement, the deep need for alternatives, and the ways in which we can really bring awareness to the table, as “activists”- how to sustain, how to stay empowered, and how to carve out a voice for ourselves and our communities. Winona and her work have been a wellspring of story-telling, and a steadfast mover in re-writing this story… She continues to work on the frontlines of food justice, land rights,and indigenous empowerment. I look forward to this week of ally building- and two shows we will co-produce in Duluth and Madeline Island MN. It is a deep honor to be opening these doors for collaboration.
Miigwech – Thankyou in Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe)
Leah Song
Education is Empowerment. to learn more see these websites and articles:
-Honor the Earth http://www.honorearth.org/
-White Earth Land Recovery http://welrp.org/
Love Water Not Oil

Being southern : reflections on our Deep South Tour, May 2014.


We love our filthy dirty south. Its not a catch phrase or a joke or a random east coast west coast pride battle. The feeling came from an acceptance of home and ancestry and family despite the fact that we are on the road pretty much all the time. The feeling comes from the cicada night songs and (more…)

Introducing the Rising Appalachia Travel Blog


Dearly beloveds…

Years ago when I left the US at a ripe and wide-eyed age of 19 I opened my first email account ( I age myself, don’t I!). There I spent the bulk of 5 years writing ornate emails about the world I was encountering…sending descriptive details of sounds and tastes and experiences that I was beholding as I traversed a cross Latin America, deep into the heart of Hawaii, across India and beyond…becoming the worldly adult that I so much wanted to be.  I used these years as a way to educate myself, knowing that I would need to be  diligent and cultivated for that to be a success.I stepped into educational projects with the Zapatista Movement, taught English to youth in the zocola plaza, learned how to sail across the Caribbean, ground corn for traditional tortillas, studied yoga and meditation at the feet of the masters, worked with refugee communities, built urban gardens,  took salsa lessons, and sang the melodies of all the songs that I could find… (more…)