She's been called a "yoga rock star." But Her Wahness! -- that's how she signs her email -- says she prefers to think of herself onstage as "a gentle rock persona."
Wah! -- her legal name is Wah! Devi (she won't reveal her birth name) -- brings her band to Port Washington for a Sunday evening concert, preceded by a yoga class in the Landmark on Main Street gym. A superstar among yoga devotees, Wah! has been practicing the mental and physical discipline since she was 17. (She's now 50.) She got her name from a yoga teacher. In Hindu, wah translates roughly as wow! Hence, the exclamation point is more than punctuation. It's part of her name.
"What we put out is very upbeat and positive. If you come to our concert with a heavy heart, we hope you leave with a lighter one," she says.
SHE'S GOT RHYTHM As a performing arts major at Oberlin College's Conservatory of Music, Wah! studied everything from opera to classical Indian and African folk. (She originally was to attend college in Ghana, but a coup changed her plans.) Between terms at Oberlin, she joined an ashram in Brooklyn with a group devoted to yoga and a vegetarian lifestyle. There she met Amma, the yoga guru who coined the name Wah! The student-turned-star describes her mentor as "a modern Mother Teresa" who greets everyone she meets with a hug. The practice is known on amma.org as "embracing the world."
MAMA WAH! The single mother of two teenagers, Wah! is now based in Los Angeles, where she manages her own record label, Wah! Music. Fans have called her musical style "upbeat meditative." She has become so popular in the yoga world that she tours the United States and Europe. Her trio, playing with her at Landmark's Jeanne Rimsky Theater, includes Nat Osborn on keyboards and harmonium and Mike Haziza playing beat-box percussion. Besides vocals, Wah! plays bass. Although beatbox doesn't sound meditative, Wah! says, "You need a lot of enthusiasm to counter what's going on in the world today. The music has to be contagious and uplifting."
Still, you'll find simple mantras and devotional chants in her songs. "We seek to open the ability to receive joy," she says.
AND YOGA, TOO Besides the concert, Wah! often incorporates a yoga class with her tour stops. "Yoga teachers are my DJs, really. They play my tracks during class. They are my network," she says. Port Washington's Yoga Life sold so many tickets to Sunday's yoga class that it was moved from its modest studio. Yoga enthusiasts can expect breathing, postures and healing techniques. And probably a hug or two.
WHAT Wah! in concert, preceded by a yoga class led by her
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jeanne Rimsky Theater, Landmark on Main Street, 232 Main St.; yoga and chanting, 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Landmark on Main Street gymnasium
INFO Concert: $20 to $25, landmarkonmain street.org, 516-767-6444. Yoga class: $35, $25 for concert ticket holders, yogalifepw.com, 516-767-9642