ZIRAN MUSE: LOW LEAF
It feels like a lifetime ago when we hung out with Low Leaf at her home in Pasadena. It was a different time, one where social distance wasn't in our vocabulary and we had an open and more expansive view of the world. Things have changed but the spirit of that day - light, warmth, and optimism - still remains. Honestly, Low Leaf represents the good in humanity, the depth with which we can travel, and the infinite possibilities of consciousness.
More than just a home, her space is bursting with instruments, crystals, paintings, plants, fruit and warmth. We take off our shoes and begin to voyage into this labyrinth of creative abundance. She offers us tea straight away and prepares it as we bask in the beauty of her space.
Tray: Is the Philippines a spiritual place?
Low Leaf: Depends on where in the Philippines, in Manila it is some other shit compared to the provinces… the colonization is so deep that it’s really painful, it’s really hard to go there. When I go to the Philippines I can talk to the plants and just connect. A lot of things happen out there that don't happen here.
Tray: Was anything passed down from your family to you in the form of creation, and healing? Especially with you making music?
Low Leaf: The biggest thing is gathering around the table to share a meal. We always make it a point to break bread together and eat together. If it’s someone's birthday or someone graduated we celebrate over a meal. No excuses.
The intention feels really good to do that with family.
Tray: Speaking on intention, what’s your new album going to be like?
Low Leaf: My new album is called Grown. Not too long ago, I realized I had created this aesthetic unconsciously with my music and visual art with the way I projected myself. I didn’t have a way to express all these other sides of my being that are a bit more raw and unspoken. I think I gave off a “holier than thou” persona but when you meet me in person I would not quite be that, but I didn’t know how to express that through art.
It’s a lot of my inner child saying things as they are. I’m rapping on it. I’ve never made a project where I’m doing that. There’s hooks and it’s something that I feel - I’m just following form for the first time. All my other projects have been left field in different ways. With what I’m doing now, I’m more intrigued by things that are catchy like WHY are these things catchy? I’m approaching it differently. I only want to put sounds in there if they need to be in there, because I know what it’s like to build hella textures and stuff. With this less is more, it’s very stripped down.
Tray: That’s cool because with growth you can pick and choose your layers.
Low Leaf: I’ve been producing for a long ass time and I know how to make my own sound, so I know what it’s like to throw paint on the wall and do abstract shit. I’m really intrigued going about the canvas in a different way.
I feel like before with music, I’d say if that’s what it is, then that’s what it is. There’s a time and place for that. Now I want to say something and be very exact with what I’m saying. With maturing comes restraint. So I could do a bunch of runs, but what am I really saying? Now I’m more defined, clear, straight forward, and focused.
Kelly: I feel the same with design. When I first started Ziran I would make hundreds of different designs, but it would be random and spontaneous. As I’ve grown, it’s become a more conscious and specific grouping for collections, instead of a throw up of ideas. It showed me what I could refine and pull from.
Low Leaf: I feel that’s the perfect word: more refined, more intentional and clear, and more direct. You choose exactly what it is. Which is interesting because when you say a throw up of shit, a lot of times with music, it’s what you don’t put in there that gives the things that are there their space. So, it’s like a similar thing.
Kelly: Kind of like tattoos, the negative space is just as important as the ink on your skin. As we get older, I think we learn how to work with that negative or empty space.
Low Leaf: Yeah, working with that negative. As we do shadow work and know how to process those aspects in life we refine our inner lives. That allows it to come out in the art and creativity.
It’s like as I keep growing, I keep getting doper and doper. Life is starting to get really good. YUM!
Tray: You get more into yourself. The older you get, the more refined you get. You just do the things, the shadow work, and release the things that need to be put out and you figure out which way it makes sense to release and do those things.
In between a quick clothing change, we maneuver into her studio, a room exploding with paintings and instruments. The paintings look like archaic scripture that's been written upon over and over, but carries a natural flow and ease. Low Leaf sat down at her harp and began to strum.
Low Leaf: My mom always wanted to play, but she didn’t get to. So she asked if I wanted to play and I said, “NO!” and she asked if I was sure, then took me to a harp store and I was immediately like, “NEVERMIND! I wanna play!” That’s where I got my first harp, which is at my parents house now.
I took lessons with a harp teacher from third to fifth grade. My harp teacher retired so I stopped playing and forgot everything. In 2009, I was already making beats and songs and I thought to sample my harp. I thought, “Wait a second, I should play the harp! And sing!” So i just started doing it.
As the music slowly left the room, we found ourselves walking around the house to a bountiful garden full of pomegranates. Pomegranates represent fertility and abundance in China and in many other cultures. Just by looking at them you feel something whole, and eating them you feel the softness the fruit gives you.
This feeling is something that resonated with us throughout the entire visit. Whole, full, soft, and intentional.
While walking beside her we entered her chakra garden, where she has chakra tuning tubes hanging from trees. As she balanced our chakras we got into a space of talking family and music before we departed.
Low Leaf: Music is what I grabbed onto. I’m an artist, so I never fit in with my parents. It was kind of a struggle growing up, because my parents wanted me to choose a different path, but ever since I was little I just had this feeling that I had something special.
As we said our goodbyes, we felt close. We had aligned with others who were understanding, compassionate, and ready for innerstanding. We love you Low Leaf. Socially distant, emotionally close.
We created a space together to embrace the flow - to allow each other to speak their truth and learn something new.
This is what Ziran embraces. A way to be natural, spontaneous, and free. Thank you all for joining us on this journey.
Words: Kelly & Tray
Photography: Cathryn Rose @weaveroflight
Muse: Low Leaf @LowLeaf
Los Angeles, October 2019.