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Yoga, music 'prayerformance' happening Sunday

Sufey and Swain are swaying in the spring wind this weekend in Prince George. Sufey Chen is one of Canada's great yoga prodigies, with a globetrotting instructing career in the spiritual sport. She is also a well-trained musician and singer.
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Sufey and Swain are swaying in the spring wind this weekend in Prince George.

Sufey Chen is one of Canada's great yoga prodigies, with a globetrotting instructing career in the spiritual sport. She is also a well-trained musician and singer.

Oliver Swain is a luminary name in the Canadian folk music industry with projects under his belt like The Bills, The Duhks, Outlaw Social, The Red Stick Ramblers and the Leonard Cohen tribute act Tower Of Song, as well as being a soloist. He has a list of trophies and award nominations almost as long as his album credits.

Swain is also a keen student of the yoga ways.

With the balance of their complementary strengths, Sufey and Swain were a natural collaboration duo, once they met one another. They began touring in 2016, took a break to pursue their respective career passions, but reconvened this spring for a dozen dates on a tour of B.C.

They are in Prince George on Sunday night for a house concert.

Of course, in actuality, their shows are much more than a mere concert. They call this the Kirtan Tour in honour of that ancient Sanskrit word and its connection to spiritual performing arts focused on music and narration.

"Music, sung with the pure utter devotion of a bhakti yogi, is the quickest way to realizing our ultimate oneness: the connected joy that lives within each and every one of us," said Chen.

"The mantras that we chant tune us into each other, as we invoke the power of all who have chanted before us. These vibrations cleanse us, purify us, and bring us into deep ecstatic bliss. It's the best kind of soul medicine that exists."

Chen and Swain are calling this set of shows "prayerformances" because of the flow between the music and the spirituality. If you know either one of them, though, you know it's not a thick, heavy experience. They are fun-loving, sparkly personalities in pursuit of joy and the effect of meditative laughter.

"And the audience will be invited to take part with us, sing with us, to mix the traditional elements of the kirtan with our instruments and our space," said Chen. "We're not just trying to connect with the audience, we want the audience to connect with themselves and reconnect with the world. We're taking people inward in order to have a better experience with the outward universe. That's the beautiful thing about yoga: when you heal yourself you become this beacon of love that pours out to everyone you meet. That's the beauty of this practice. It's singing and gentle intuitive movement, and it is open to everyone, no experience required."

It is a form, in an unexpected way, of folk music.

"One thing I find so interesting about folk music - it might be an unusual thing to be attracted to about it - is how radical and expressive it is, and experimental," said Swain during his TEDx talk and performance in his hometown of Victoria, a few years back.

For Chen, Prince George is the hometown. She is based in other parts of the world, currently.

Most recently she's been spending her most time in the Philadelphia area. This last day on the Kirtan Tour has her giddy with anticipation of friends and family in the audience.

To be in attendance at the event, send an email expressing interest to smile@sufey.org. The music begins at 6 p.m. and the night also has a healthy dose of socializing built into it. Admission is by donation (minimum numbers are in the $20-$30 range).