If you happen upon Ryan Holiday setting up gear at the front of a yoga studio, please, don’t call him a DJ. While Holiday might be using beats, loops, and rhythms to bring an invigorating dynamism to yoga classes across the country, his music as Zen That Beat is interactive, original, and fluid in a way someone simply spinning records would never be able to achieve.
Holiday, an international performer based out of the US and Germany, has released over eighteen albums, written scores for movies and TV, and produced his own musical. Yet it took the combination of a personal low and a random request from a friend to point him to his new path. “I was in a desperate state of mind,” relates Holiday. “After a failed marriage, another failed album, and a failed tour I was gasping for air.” It turns out an old friend named Cheryl had also just come of an unhappy marriage, and was finding solace in her passion for teaching yoga. She asked Holiday to write some music for her classes, and Holiday reluctantly agreed.
After a career releasing record through multiple independent record labels (including one run by GoGo’s and Blondie producer and former Sire Records co-owner Richard Gottehrer), placing music in myriad films, performing with Grammy winning jazz pianist Fred Hersch, and even being awarded a grant for a musical he’d written and produced Holiday was burned out on the process. Although he’d agreed to help his friend out Holiday didn’t really think much of it.
Then, as he started writing, his mind slowly changed. “I enjoyed the process because it wasn’t about me. Coming from a frame of mind where MY ideas, MY art, and MY music was most important in life, I loved writing for someone else's needs.” says Holiday. Relaxing into the challenge, the music was soon ready. Cheryl and her students loved the music, and for the first time in years Holiday felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in his work.
Going forward, Holiday plans to create larger, more immersive yoga and music hybrid events, from studio tours and guest residencies to music and meditation retreats and massive festivals. Yet regardless of the magnitude of the events he’s involved in, it’s the personal connections Holiday experiences that drive him. “I am a conduit. If I do my job right I hope the students and teachers have a transcendent experience in their practice” says Holiday. “I love what I do. I spent so many years trying to fit in, and the yoga community has welcomed me with open arms. I have found peace.”
If you happen upon Ryan Holiday setting up gear at a yoga studio, please, don’t call him a DJ.