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Regional Interests

Ruby Mountain’s Spiritual Pop Unlocks Our Inner Magic

For decades, pop music has peddled the idea that we need the adoration of romantic partners—or the envy of peers and rivals—to feel valid, seen and whole. But, slowly, in the mainstream and the underground, a new narrative about self-healing and fulfilling our own emotional needs is starting to emerge.

Ariana Grande sings about it in “just like magic,” a track off her latest album Positions, about manifesting her dreams by writing in her journal. And on her viral song “I Am,” Yung Baby Tate raps affirmations about being healthy, wealthy, protected and well respected, concluding, “I do what I wanna do / and I’m who I wanna be.” On TikTok, witchy Gen Z girls repeat Yung Baby Tate’s hook as if casting a spell.

Here in Oakland, an artist of a different breed named Ruby Mountain uses pop music as a way to call forth her vision of self-fulfillment and self-confidence. She calls her philosophy “femmifesting,” a nod to the link in many cultures between femininity and creation. “Femmifesting” basically means that as humans (regardless of gender) we wield the power of discernment—to reject cultural norms and beliefs that don’t work for us, to follow our intuitions towards pleasure and fulfillment and to intentionally shape the lives we want to lead and communities we want to inhabit.

For Ruby Mountain, that’s a form of magic in itself.

“I’m really excited to share with people what I’ve found that works in my life around knowing that I have this sovereign power that can create my world,” she says. “It really stems from being able to witness things come to fruition in my life through accepting the cosmic flow.”

While “cosmic flow” might sound a bit New Age-y to those not embedded in spiritual circles, she’s referring to a concept as ancient as the idea of yin—the slow, soft and receptive energy described in Chinese philosophy. American culture might be all about hustling and grinding (in lieu of living wages and healthcare), but practitioners of meditation and mindfulness have long emphasized the need for rest and stillness in order to be able to hear our inner guidance about what we truly want and need.

Ruby Mountain arrived at this accepting place after an unexpected tragedy—her mother’s death in 2019. “I already knew we don’t control things, but experiencing my mom pass and all the sadness and grief—but also beauty and clearing that came with it—really opened me up to accepting what I already knew about how the cosmos works,” she says.

Family has always been important to Ruby Mountain’s connection to music. She got her start in music singing traditional Afghan songs and playing the harmonium with her father and extended family. Since then, after training in Mills College’s renowned electronic music program and working with Women’s Audio Mission, her sound has evolved into moody, down-tempo electronic pop that showcases her rich alto and soulful singing style.

Ruby Mountain has released a series of singles and music videos over the past several months that speak to that belief in attracting her heart’s desires. The music video “Seeker” shows her singing alone into a fire, sensually grazing her skin on the bark of 100-year-old redwoods and letting the ocean waves lap at her thighs. The lyrics give voice to her desire for a healthy partnership, and she calls on nature goddesses to be her allies.

“I really saw putting out this call for healthy love, and all the goddesses in all the elements were sprinkling their magic around,” Ruby Mountain says. “[Whispering], ‘Hey, so, who’s gonna be the one to come say what’s up to Ruby?’”

Nature is an important theme in her work, not just as a conceptual element, but as a way to connect to herself and express from a centered place. “Sunrise,” a love song from her 2019 EP Waves, came to her at dawn on the beach in Maui. “I’ll come up with melodies when I’m outside—I love listening to the birds,” she says.

Ruby Mountain shares about her spiritual practices with her listeners regularly in full moon livestreams she’s been doing since the pandemic began. (Drawing from her extensive experience as a live sound engineer, she created a D.I.Y. streaming set-up.) At the most recent full moon gathering last week, she played her harmonium to relax viewers into a sound meditation, and guided them with affirmations like “I surrender to me, I’m in a sacred flow like the river.”

She also revealed at the event that soon she’ll relocate to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams of working in the entertainment industry and collaborating on creative projects.

Already, she’s attracting artists and listeners who find themselves on a similar path. “As I’m sharing [my spirituality], I’m connecting with other artists who also understand this role we have in creating a better world and how we’re doing it with music, with visuals,” she says. “We’re providing other outlets for people to see that aren’t just being created by corporate America.”

Ruby Mountain’s next single, “Moonlight,” comes out on May 26, which coincides with the next full moon and a total lunar eclipse visible from the West Coast. Follow her work here. 

Copyright 2021 KQED