Ariana Delawari is an Afghan American filmmaker, musician, and activist. Delawari recorded her debut album Lion of Panjshir in Kabul working with Afghan elder Ustads and her American bandmates. She finished the album with filmmaker David Lynch producing a track and releasing the album on his label. Delawari directed an award-winning documentary feature film about the making of this album, her family story, and her documentation of Afghanistan since 9/11. The film is called We Came Home, and will be released soon digitally. Delawari recently released a double album called Entelechy I & II, and an accompanying surreal docu-musical short film by the same name (Entelechy) which she wrote and directed. One version of the new album, Entelechy I, is an experimental pop journey produced by electronic producer and DJ Butchy Fuego, and the other version, Entelechy II, is a stripped down acoustic version of the same songs featuring Afghan tabla virtuoso Salar Nader. Delawari is also an activist. She gave a TEDx talk and performance at the inaugural TEDx Kabul, and also started a peace campaign in Afghanistan called Inspire Peace
is In Wild Air
A Trip to Mexico
Last year my dear sis Diana Garcia (an amazing Mexican graffiti artist and actress) took me on the most magical road trip through Mexico. We started in her hometown of Monterrey and drove to Sotano de Las Golondrinas (cave of the swallows) in Huehuetlan where around two million parrots and swallows return home every evening to their cave. We had to hike down to this lookout point in the fog, and the sound of the bird's wings as they zoomed down into the cave was so specific and beautiful. Then we arrived in Xilitla, one of the most magical places I've ever been. The British surreal artist and poet Edward James created this sculpture garden in a rainforest. There are large hands, snakes, portals, stairways, moss, waterfalls, just pure magic everywhere and it's so green. Edward James seems like he was pretty cool. He inherited his father's fortune and used it to support surrealist artists like Salvador Dali. He was a big financial supporter of Dali. His sculpture garden called Las Posas in Xilitla is magical. We stayed at an inn castle kind of place that used to be his art studio. Then we headed to another magical place called Tepoztlan, just an hour out of Mexico City. We hiked to a pyramid and there were all of these Coatis awaiting us. I was chilling with and petting baby coati, which is like a dream come true. We ended in Mexico, City and I didn't want to leave.
I was 21 when I met Dr. Jane Goodall. My sister Yasmine had written an email to her friends about being Afghan and a New Yorker during 9/11. The email reached hundreds of thousands of people within in a few days, including Jane, who then reached out to Yasmine to invite her to be on Charlie Rose. I was in film school at the time and I get a call from my sister saying that Jane wants me to speak at her institute about being Afghan American. A few days later I was on a plane to Washington state where I camped with Jane and her team at their Roots and Shoots meeting. There were a bunch of student environmentalists. I spoke about my heritage around a campfire and the students cried. I remember thinking "All I did was tell a story. This must be my calling". On that trip, I knew that I was supposed to go to Afghanistan. Jane was 23 when she first traveled to Africa, it seemed like a message somehow. I got on a plane a year later and my life changed forever. Jane has stayed in my life as a friend and mentor. I have since had the great honor of visiting Ngamba Island, her Chimpanzee sanctuary in Uganda, as well as JGI Kenya. A representative at JGI Kenya took me camping for a night on an animal reservation in Masai Mara. Those experiences were life-changing. She is a true hero and earth protector, and I don't take our connection for granted.
Afghanistan is my favorite place on earth, the seat of my soul. The resilience of Kabul, its chaos and energetic tenacity in the face of suicide bombings and every proxy war interest, is something to deeply respect. The city was still in ruins when I first started traveling to Kabul in 2002. It has since changed so much. One of my favorite changes is seeing all of the roses and trees. There is so much greenery in Kabul now, and a beautiful young generation of changemakers who have come of age to rebuild their nation. Bamyan is my absolute favorite place in Afghanistan. The ancient remains of Buddhist statues carved into mountains, tranquil valleys, smiling kind eyes of the Hazaras who live there, and the majestic blue waters of Band-e-Amir set in beautiful warm rock is literally the most divine thing I have ever seen on earth. I also love Balkh. On my last trip I stood in the center of the ruins of Rumi's old home and visited the grave of Rabia Balkhi, Afghanistan's Juliet whose forbidden love with a servant led to their death and her poems written in blood on the walls. Panjshir is the place of my father's ancestors. I love driving up to Panjshir and splashing my face with the water from the raging river. I come alive in these places. Our beautiful nomadic people, the Kuchis, are my favorite people on earth. Kuchi women are so strong. I could go on, Afghanistan in my heart forever.
Bathhouses, Gardens, Teahouses
I have a true love for bathhouses, gardens, and teahouses. Pretty much all I ever want to do is hang in one or all of the above at once if I am not working on art. I have very little interest in places like bars because I barely drink and I don't smoke. I can feel the vibration of people longing for things outside of themselves: proving, comparing, and just overall thirst. But in bathhouses, gardens, and teahouses people are usually more content. I feel more inspired and creative when the vibe is clear and there is space for newness to come through.
My happy place was this one night in Istanbul. I was there for a film festival and on my way to a music festival in Somalia. I took a taxi to Cagaloglu, the oldest hammam in Istanbul, and I was literally the last person there. It was almost 10pm and I was bathing in moonlight that was shining down through the stars cut into the domed ceiling. It felt like a spiritual experience. I want to live in a home that's like a temple with a bathhouse in it, maybe by the sea or in a forest or in a jungle, with a man that I love, and raise a family that way. And make art all day. That is my dream life. Islamic architecture is a major component of the dream. I am Afghan, so those buildings ignite my DNA.
I started my Transcendental Meditation practice exactly ten years ago. I was collaborating on music with David Lynch, and his wife Emily had been telling me that I should start meditating. I wasn't really taking her seriously, to be honest, I was like "Huh, ok maybe". Then one night I was at their house and David started talking to me about meditation. He went on for at least an hour, telling me many stories about Maharishi, his connection with Maharishi, and how I must learn to meditate. Two days later Maharishi left this dimension and I knew it was a sign to start meditating. I learned, and within a few months, I already saw a huge difference in my life. I noticed it in my relationships, there was much less conflict. I felt lighter and lighter, so much calmer each day. At some point, I noticed myself laughing at so many things every day, and marvelling at the tiniest things. I have kept my practice for ten years now, but I am not like David who I believe has only missed one meditation in over 30 years. I did have a year when I was travelling a lot and I stopped meditating. It was horrible. I found myself yelling at an old man in the airport and knew it was an all-time low that was the result of me not meditating. I got back to it right away and remain pretty consistent. Transcendental Meditation has been one of the biggest gifts of my life.
Far Fun Pe Min Kan Wan
One time I was housesitting for my friends, and developed really severe asthmatic symptoms from their old cat. I had never had asthma before in my life, but I knew the cat dander had triggered it in my lungs. I was meditating one day and fell asleep. In my dream, I saw a big happy golden retriever that was panting in my face. The owner said, "His name is Farfun". I woke up and googled the word "Farfun" while still in a trance. The very first thing that came up in my google search was a Chinese Herb called Far Fun Pe Min Kan Wan. I look at what this herb does and find that it treats various types of allergies and asthma symptoms. It even specifies that it treats allergies from pet dander. I ordered the herbs and my asthma went away. That is definitely one of the wildest things that has ever happened to me, though things like this happen to me kind of often to be honest… meditation definitely increases these kinds of occurrences. So do plant medicines. And chanting. And prayer. And just simply saying "yes" to life and asking for an adventure.