Artist Statement, Bio, & CV
If I give a name to the humming of your body,
Will it change your song?
My work utilizes immersive, multisensory, multidisciplinary experience as a means to blur the boundaries in relation to art as ritual and ritual as art. My work examines the relationship between the evolution and devolution of archetypal female figures and the identification with these chimerical forms. I also examine the intimacy and surrender that can be experienced in the state of acknowledged unknowing.
I work in a number of different media but primarily as a performance and sound installation artist; building sound-scapes that utilize narrative, musical performance, and layered textural resonance. The pieces contain installations (primarily audio and video) that are coupled with live performance that is capable of remaining in the space after the performance has finished; acting as the enduring reverberation of live action in dead space.
Specifically, in its invisible and physically non-dependent capabilities, sound characterizes the dynamic tension that our bodies convey as bearers of our personal histories (and the histories of our ancestors), while existing in the fragile and terrestrial present tense. In my work, the reckless vulnerability of that temporality is expressed in the dynamism and power of live performance coupled with remaining sound installations; the trance-like states that are elicited in the audience are critical to the work.
Humans continuously hunger for ritual that induces trance and, throughout time, these experiences have been appropriated into religious dogma. My work creates a context for that experience within a different paradigm.
In addition to this interdisciplinary work, I am the lead singer, keyboardist, and main composer for the musical group HuDost.
Moksha Sommer is a full-time artist who is active in Music Performance and Composition, 2D and 3D media, Interdisciplinary Intermedia Studies and Practices, Arts Production, Performance/New Genre Art, Feminist Art and Theory, and Social Activist Art. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BFA from Montreal’s Concordia University; both received with Great Distinction. She has received several grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and one from the Kentucky Women’s Foundation. In the last two years she has been collaborating with the New Dialect Dance Company and the visual artist Jana Harper on a larger interdisciplinary performance piece titled, ‘This Holding’. This piece has received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. Her work utilizes immersive, multi-sensory, multidisciplinary experience as a means to blur the boundaries in relation to art as ritual and ritual as art and the intimacy and surrender that can be experienced in the state of acknowledged unknowing. Her primary and ongoing musical project is ‘HuDost’.
The music of HuDost weaves a seamless tapestry of Folk, World, and Rock that renders tears and laughter in listeners, cultivating the nameless longing that abides somewhere in all our hearts and invoking total celebration. HuDost’s core musicians are Moksha Sommer, from Montréal, and Jemal Wade Hines from Kentucky. Having toured the U.S., Canada, and Europe constantly since April 2006, HuDost has grown and expanded, travelled rocky and glorious terrain and marveled at all they can learn and explore. Moksha and Jemal Wade in this time have grown as artists, as seekers, as a couple and as a family. Since 2015 they have also been highly engaged activists, doing advocacy work as KY Congressional District Representatives for ONE (a non-profit organization working to end extreme poverty and, specifically, the sexism of poverty).
HuDost has just released a new album, 'of Water + Mercy', that has received rave reviews and, as an independent release, reached #24 in the BILLBOARD SALES CHARTS for Folk/Americana. The album was made with Vance Powell who is a top-tier producer/mixer who’s worked with artists such as Jack White (White Stripes), Chris Stapleton, Pearl Jam, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Beyonce, Beck, Alicia Keys, Melissa Etheridge, Kings of Leon and a slew of others. Dan Haseltine from the GRAMMY Award-winning band Jars of Clay has been on board to help with production and all of the Jars of Clay members play on the album. On past albums HuDost has worked with GRAMMY Award-winning producer Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel) and GRAMMY Award-winning mixer Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Bill Laswell, Primus).
“We met Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay not through music but through our shared work in political advocacy acting on behalf of people living in extreme poverty,” says Moksha Sommer. “Through music and advocacy we have witnessed incredible and real change and know the astonishing power of collective voices on behalf of those who do not have the ability, and sometimes even the rights, to be heard. Songwriting with Dan was a wonderful process of the three of us contributing all that we could and being attached to nothing. I think the result is quite remarkable and reflects the very thing the song is about; rising together through shared vision and action.”
“Rise Together,” a powerful call to unity, marked the lead single from Of Water + Mercy (recorded at Nashville’s Gray Matters Studio) and instantly found support from Spotify being added to official playlists.
HuDost functions as a duo or as a band, including guest musicians of varying sensibilities and backgrounds, and often including dance in their shows. As a duo their instrumentation includes vocals, harmonium (Indian Pump-Organ), NORD Keys, guitars, Dulcinet, percussion, and a slew of sonic ambient effects. Their music is a rich, eclectic blending of pop and rock with traditional Sufi music, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian and Balkan folk music, Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, and folk. Their sound crosses all borders and barriers, taking the listener on a journey they will never forget.
Highlight performances include Bonnaroo, Resident band at FloydFest, BhaktiFest, World Café Live, Blissfest, The ARK, Alex Grey’s CoSM, the Salvador Dali Museum, Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, headlining The Islands Folk Fest (Vancouver), WMNF’s Tropical Heat Wave Festival, The Levitt Pavilions, WoodSongs at the Kentucky Theater (on PBS), Nashville’s Bluebird Café, Music City Roots, Tim Robbins’ WTF?! Fest, The Montreal Folk Festival, The Stan Rogers Folk Festival, and many more.
Highlight collaborations and opening slots for other artists include Ani DiFranco, Philip Glass, Jon Anderson (YES), Joan Osborne, Snatam Kaur, Steve Kilbey (The Church), Ramy Essam, California Guitar Trio, Bell Orchestre, Neko Case, Jim Lauderdale, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Mercan Dede, and many more.
HuDost's music is a powerful expression of life's journey and discovery. In 2008, Moksha went through a painful process of brain surgery due to a tumor. The healing from this included re-learning language skills, losing and regaining proper sight, and experiencing seizures. This could have been staggering but instead served as learning that has fueled a potent desire to bring healing through sound. In 2013 their amazing son, Kaleb, was brought into the world. It is through music that the losses and gains, pains and triumphs, and excruciating beauty of life can be given a voice of empathy to the synonymous lives of all people. Both critics and fans have said time and time again that the music of HuDost is this very expression.
HuDost’s message comes from real experience, real emotion, and real concern for the world - from the birth of a child, to the healing of the body, to the healing of the planet, their words and music echo the human experience.
118 Orchard St, Morgantown, KY 42261
HuDost (Primary Project): www.hudost.com
Artist Website: www.mokshasommer.net
AREAS OF FOCUS
Music Performance and Composition; 2D and 3D media; Interdisciplinary Intermedia Studies and Practices; Arts Production; Performance/New Genre Art; Feminist Art and Theory; Social Activist Art
Vermont College of Fine Arts- Montpelier, VT
MFA: Completed February, 2017
Concentration in Interdisciplinary and Intermedia Performance Art
Concordia University- Montreal, QC
BFA in Studio Arts: Completed May, 2006
Concentration in Sculpture (large scale installation, video work, and multimedia performance) and Chamber Music for Voice
Degree Conferred With Great Distinction
Final Graduation GPA In Program: 4.06
Dawson College- Montreal, QC
Collegiate degree in Creative Arts: Completed May, 2001
HuDost – 2006 - Present
Composer, lyricist, songwriter, instrumentalist, vocalist and primary performer for all HuDost releases and performances.
Creator of all video and sculptural installations used for HuDost performances.
Visual Artist for HuDost releases.
Responsible for performance production, management, web design, and bookings.
ONE (Non-Profit Organization)- 2015- Present- Congressional District Representative (for KY-2); Working to end extreme poverty.
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS AND PERFORMANCES
Note: Highlight Performances Include Bonnaroo, FloydFest, BhaktiFest, World Café Live, Blissfest, Alex Grey’s CoSM, the Salvador Dali Museum, Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, The Montreal Folk Festival, The Stan Rogers Folk Festival, The Islands Folk Festival (Vancouver), The Levitt Pavilions, WoodSongs at the Kentucky Theater (on PBS), Nashville’s Bluebird Café, Music City Roots, Tim Robbins’ WTF?! Fest, and many more. Additional dates are detailed below.
Highlight Collaborations/ Openings for other artists include Ani DiFranco, Philip Glass, Jon Anderson, Joan Osborne, Snatam Kaur, Steve Kilbey and Marty Wilson-Piper (Australian Hall of Fame band ‘The Church’), California Guitar Trio, Bell Orchestre, Neko Case, Jim Lauderdale, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Mercan Dede, Ramy Essam, Coleman Barks (primary Rumi translator), and many more. On past albums HuDost has worked with Grammy Winner Malcolm Burn (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel) and Grammy Winner Oz Fritz (Tom Waits, Bill Laswell, Primus).
2020- National Endowment for the Arts Grant
2020- Canada Council For the Arts- Artists Abroad Grant
2017- Canada Council For the Arts- Artists Abroad Grant
2016- The Kentucky Foundation for Women- Artist Enrichment Grant
2015- Canada Council for the Arts- Travel Grants to Artists
Lowe Mills ARTS- Huntsville, AL- September, 2017
Levitt AMP Berea Music Series- Berea, KY- September, 2017
Levitt AMP Utica Music Series- Utica, NY- August, 2017
Levitt AMP Music Series- St. Johnsbury, VT- August, 2017
Pentangle Arts- Woodstock, VT- August, 2017
Stan Rogers Folk Festival- Chester, NS, Canada- July, 2017
Festival Folk de Montreal- Montreal, QC, Canada- June, 2017
The Woody Guthrie Center- Guthrie Green- Tulsa, OK- April, 2017
The South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center- Cutler Bay, FL- April, 2017
String Break Music Festival- Brooksville, FL- April, 2017
Ahimsa Music Festival- Windham, NY- November 5-6, 2016
69th Annual Original Ozark Folk Festival- October 14-15, 2016
The ARK- Ann Arbor, MI- August 14, 2016
Blissfest- Harbor Springs, MI- July 8-10, 2016
ONCE Ballroom- Somerville, MA- June 25, 2016
Nomades- Cycles des Saisons- Stoneham-Et-Tewkesbury, QC, CA- June 18, 2016
FLOW, Loyola Chapel, Concordia University- Montreal, QC- June 17, 2016
CoSM (collaborating with visual artist Alex Grey)- Wappingers Falls, NY- June 12, 2016
Omega Institute- Rhinebeck, NY- June 11, 2016
The Whitney Center for the Arts- Pittsfield, MA- June 10, 2016
Eddie Owen Presents at Red Clay Theater- Duluth, GA- May 22, 2016
Scruffy City Hall- Knoxville, TN- May 21, 2016
Blood:Water- Nashville, TN- May 13, 2016
Music City Roots- Franklin, TN- May 11, 2016
Stringbreak Music Fest- Brooksville, FL- April 9, 2016
WMNF 88.5FM Live Music Showcase- Tampa, FL- April 8, 2016
Thomas Center for the Arts- Gainesville, FL- March 31, 2016
Folk Alliance International- Kansas City, MO- February 18-20, 2016
Healium Center- Atlanta, GA- November 19, 2015
Michigan Festival of Sacred Music- Kalamazoo, MI- November 7, 2015
Islands Folk Festival- Duncan, BC- July 25-26, 2015
Blissfest- Harbor Springs, MI- July 11-12, 2015
Pinnacle Mountain Art Center- Frelighsburg, QC- July 3, 2015
FLOW, Loyola Chapel, Concordia University- Montreal, QC- June 26, 2015
Pur Ete- Cycles Des Saisons- Quebec, QC- June 20, 2015
Gaia-Danse Quebec- Quebec, QC- June 19, 2015
Pentangle Arts Council- Woodstock, VT- June 14, 2015
Omega Institute- Rhinebeck, NY- June 13, 2015
Kripalu Center- Stockbridge, MA- June 10, 2015
Thomas Center for the Arts- Gainesville, FL- April 19, 2015
The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival- New Orleans, LA- March 14, 2015
Plantation Galleries- Mobile, AL- March 12, 2015
Chantlanta- Atlanta, GA- March 10, 2015
Irvinton Town Hall Theater w/ Philip Glass- Irvington, NY- October 23, 2014
The Whitney Center for the Arts- Pittsfield, MA – October 11, 2014
FloydFest- Floyd, VA- July 24-26, 2014
Mason District Amphitheater- Annandale, Va- July 18, 2014
Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts- State College, PA- July 12, 2014
BhaktiFest Mid-West- Madison, WI- June 21, 2014
World Café Live at the Queen w/ Ani Difranco- Wilmington, DE- April 25, 2014
Loyola Chapel- FLOW- Concordia University- Montreal, QC- March 28, 2014
Tennessee Shines on WDVX- Knoxville, TN- October 14, 2013
The Bluebird Café- Nashville, TN- October 6, 2013
NECAT Studios- Nashville, TN- September 29, 2013
The Eastern Townships Film Festival- Lac Brome, QC- August 15, 2013
The Live Music Showcase on WMNF- Tampa, FL- April 19, 2013
Music City Roots- Nashville, TN- April 10, 2013
2012 HIGHLIGHTS –
CoSM- in collaboration with visual artist Alex Grey- Wappingers Falls, NY- November 4, 2012
Scruffy City Roots- Knoxville, TN- September 30, 2012 (this performance was aired on NBC, PBS, and NPR)
The Bluebird Café- Nashville, TN- September 16, 2012
The Levitt Pavilion- Westport, CT- August 23, 2012
Levitt Pavilion Steelstacks- Bethlehem, PA- August 19, 2012
WXPN- Philadelphia, PA- August 17, 2012
Musikfest- Bethlehem, PA- August 10, 2012
The Islands Folk Festival- Duncan, British Columbia, Canada- July 21 & 22, 2012 (HuDost headlined this renowned festival)
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival- Manchester, TN- July 7, 2012
Tennessee Shines on WDVX- live broadcast performance with Joan Osborne- Knoxville, TN- April 12, 2012
Music City Roots- Nashville, TN- April 11, 2012 (This was aired live on PBS, NPR, and NBC)
Anaheim Convention Center- Ananheim, CA- January 20 & 21, 2012
2011 HIGHLIGHTS –
Northampton Center for the Arts- Northampton, MA- October 9, 2011
Thomas Center for the Arts- Gainesville, FL- September 15, 2011
Academy of Music Theatre- Northampton, MA- June 1, 2011
St Paul’s University Auditorium-Ottawa, Ontario, Canada- May 29, 2011
WMNF Tropical Heatwave Festival- Tampa, FL- May 14, 2011
Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival- Silk Hope, NC- April 23, 2011
Narrows Center for the Arts (with the California Guitar Trio)- Fall River, MA- March 4, 2011
2010 HIGHLIGHTS –
Hawaii NPR- Wailuku, HI- December 8, 2010
City of Hope Hospital- Los Angeles, CA- November 2, 2010
Silco Theatre- Silver City, NM- October 22, 2010
Tour des Arts- Frelighsburg, Quebec, Canada- July 11, 2010
Woodsongs Radio Hour- Lexington, KY- June 14, 2010
WMNF Center Stage- Tampa, FL- May 13, 2010
Florida Music Festival- Orlando, FL- April 24, 2010
International Folk Alliance- Memphis, TN- February 18-21, 2010
Center for Southern Folklore- Memphis, TN- February 19, 2010
2009 HIGHLIGHTS –
WTF!!? Festival- The Actors Gang- Culver City, CA- November 28, 2009 (This festival included Jackson Browne, Tenacious D, Sarah Silverman, Tom Morello and Ben Gibbard)
Omega Institute- Rhinebeck, NY- August 22, 2009
Word x Word Festival- Pittsfield, MA- August 19, 2009
Floydfest- Floyd, VA- July 24-26, 2009
Levitt Shell- Memphis, TN- June 14, 2009
Levitt Pavilion- Arlington, KY- June 11, 2009
Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center- Tarpon Springs, FL- May 16, 2009
Kripalu Institute- live performance with Alex Grey- Lenox, MA-February 7, 2009
ADDITIONAL EARLIER HIGHLIGHTS –
Eckhart College, FL- October 30, 2008
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts- Philadelphia, PA- September 28, 2007
European Tour- Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Holland- August, 2006
The Salvador Dali Museum- St. Petersburg, FL- December, 2004
2015- Sufi Kirtan: Sufi Kirtan delves into the depth of the human heart and how phenomenally accessible it is through music. Zikr is the Sufi term identifying a practice of chanting and singing; it literally means remembrance of breath, sound, love, consciousness, and of people, places, and situations needing one's awareness. This album was up for a Grammy and was ranked in the top 10 Consicuous albums of 2015.
2015- The Word Is…: This album is a collaboration with Steve Kilbey (lead singer & bassist of The Church) for an experimental album. The record also features Jon Anderson of YES as a collaborator and performer.
2013- 4th Way Folk: Album of songs. Sommer is the composer of all the works and is the primary performer. (Audio Publication)
2012 - Good Morning Quantum Police: Collection of live performance improvisational work done in collaboration with artist E.J. Gold. (Audio Publication)
2011 - Live at North Avenue: Live performance. (Audio Publication)
2010 - Waking the Skeleton Key: Album of songs. Sommer is the composer of all the works and is the primary performer. (Audio Publication)
2009 – CBC Outfront Program: This creative tapestry of Sommer’s music, interviews with surgeons, and storytelling, weaves the story of having non-physical seizures, the diagnosis of a brain tumor, the creation of the Trapeze album, and brain surgery. It was aired on CBC and NPR. Sommer co-produced it with Carma Jolly.
2009 - Trapeze: Album of songs. Sommer is the composer of all the works and is the primary performer. (Audio Publication)
2008 - Royal Mountain EP: Album of songs. Sommer is the composer of all the original works and is the primary performer. Also included on this EP are Turkish and Persian pieces learned through Sommer’s research from the Whole Foods Artist’s Travel/Study Grant. (Audio Publication)
2007 - Archive Anomalies: Collection of experimental pieces, live performance, traditional Eastern European pieces and Appalachian folk songs. Sommer is the composer of all the original works and is the primary performer. (Audio Publication)
2006 - Seedling: Album of songs. Sommer is the composer of all the works and is the primary performer. (Audio Publication)
2005 - In an Eastern Rose Garden: Album of traditional and original compositions in the Sufi musical tradition of Hazrat Inayat Khan and the Rafai Marufi schools. (Audio Publication)
RESIDENCIES AND TEACHING
Guest Artist Teacher at Watkins Art Institute, Nashville, TN- February, 2018
Guest Artist Teacher at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN- March, 2017
Guest Artist Teacher at Watkins Art Institute, Nashville, TN- May and November 2016
The Dome Theatre and Performing Arts Center, Loveland, CO – July, 2012
The Zenith Camp, Campra, Switzerland – Summers of 2004 and 2006
The Abode Camp, New Lebanon, NY – Summers of 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011
ADAM Art Center and Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico – February – April, 2002