Jan 12, 2023
Chillin' with Fred Westra
You know that music that plays in yoga studios and on meditation apps, how soothing and relaxing it is? Sometimes it doesn’t even sound like a real person could be playing it because it’s so intricate, so ethereal. But, a real person does play those sweet meditative sounds you zone out on, and thank the stars for the internet because without it, I never would have stumbled across this beautifully artistic gem of a musician, who does just that. He is, without a doubt, sent from another planet to ease the minds of all who are stressed out with day-to-day life and need some gentle vibrations to relax and return us to center.
That’s exactly what Fred Westra and his music do. I should know, because I’ve been listening to his music for a few years now when practicing yoga and meditation, and the effects on mind and body have been nothing short of healing. I won’t lie and pretend I don’t visit his YouTube channel from time to time just to watch him play an instrument with which I’m unfamiliar, and that is just as relaxing as listening to what he produces.
Fred is a composer of some of the most calming, creative musical vibes your sweet little ears have ever heard, and that’s an editorial guarantee. Perhaps the only thing better than listening to his music is watching him play these multi-cultural instruments with such tender care and emotion you just can’t help but be moved at your core over what you’re hearing and seeing.
He lives in Beverwijk (near Amsterdam) in the Netherlands with his wife, Erika (a former yoga teacher), and is a composer, musician of many different instruments, studio technician, and producer. He’s also a man of deep humility and outward kindness, who positively affects everyone who crosses his path. He’s well known in many yoga circles for the music he produces and is a very popular go-to for teachers when searching for music to accompany their classes.
I reached out to Westra on a whim, and he ever so kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to kick it in conversation with me, so settle in all you stressed-out beings; I've got your solution to stress right here.
MaM: Fred, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. You and your music have accompanied me on more meditative journeys than I can count, so this truly is an honor. Tell us what all you play.
FW: I play lots of instruments a little bit and I'm specialized in playing the guitar, though I think of myself as a total musician, more composer than musician.
MaM: When did your creative talents began to emerge?
FW: When I was five years old, I heard the music of Ennio Morricone from the movie “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and I remember the sound of the violins and [the] opera voice made a huge impression on me. [To] this day, Morricone is still a great inspiration to me. When I was eight, my parents bought me a guitar. I was always very interested in music, but I did not know what to do with the guitar because I wanted to be a drummer.
When I was 10, my neighbor friend [taught] me how to play blues on the guitar, and [I remember how] fantastic [it was] to learn to play! After that, I learned to play tunes from The Shadows (a pre-Beatles era English instrumental rock group) by ear. My taste evolved to Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, and all other famous rock guitarists. I just wanted to be the greatest guitarist alive!
MaM: When did you know you wanted to pursue music?
FW: I wanted to pursue music when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and (Swedish guitarist) Yngwie Malmsteen. These guys where so incredible! They inspired me to practice 10-12 hours a day.
MaM: That’s true devotion to honing your craft, man. Very respectable. I understand you used to be in a metal band, Xhausted. Tell us about your time with them and how that took off.
FW: In the early 90s, I was very inspired by metal bands like Machine Head and Pantera, so we started the metal band Xhausted. I never had a record deal, so I bought lots of recording equipment to get [one]. We recorded a demo and got [a] deal in Japan! By that time, my son was born, and he cried a lot ... a [whole] lot! My wife and I could barely handle [that] situation, so I quit Xhausted. [And] here's where my dream ended. I think it was a good thing to quit, because I am not the type to go on tour with a band. I love being at home.
MaM: Oh, I very much relate to that! I’m an absolute homebody and much prefer to be in my own environment. What made you move towards meditative music?
FW: In the early 2000s, my wife asked me to compose some yoga music for her. I was always interested in yoga and meditation music because I loved the positive vibe of [it] … just like nowadays I love the positive vibe of the music of Snatam Kaur (an American singer/songwriter/author who makes Indian devotional music). It makes me feel so peaceful inside.
When I was recording metal music, [which is] technically very demanding, I always got a headache. Really. [laughter] It was hard working to play fast, technically, and precise. When I was recording yoga music, I felt very calm. Instead of making music with my head (to impress people creating complicated guitar parts), I was creating music with my heart. About six years ago, I said goodbye to the metal music. I sold most of my electric guitars and all my amps and pedals. I just wanted to focus on yoga music. My wife and daughter say I have ADHD, so creating calming music is almost a must for me. It keeps me grounded.
MaM: I’m so glad you said that. That is exactly what your music does for me: grounds me. I don’t just listen for yoga or meditation; I also listen when I’m writing sometimes. Allows me to be more mindful and deliberate in my work. Would you tell us what you are currently involved in doing?
FW: At this moment, nothing special … just creating new music for all yoga music lovers, and massage and Reiki therapists.
MaM: What’s your relationship with/to music and to the art of meditation through your music?
FW: Meditation is always a struggle for me. Can you imagine having ADHD and finding time to meditate? A few times a week, I'll meditate but find it hard to incorporate it into my daily life. Hopefully my music can inspire people to meditate more than I do.
MaM: As someone who does not deal with ADHD, I cannot imagine. I just have an anxious brain that never shuts down, and I often find meditation difficult—unless there is soothing music to help me focus. That’s what your stuff does for me, so I’m certain it is doing that for others. Are there any current or upcoming albums?
FW: There are always new albums on [the] way! I upload music to digital music stores under three different names: Zentral Ztation, Fred Westra, and The Samata Society.
Zentral Ztation is massage and Reiki music.
(Click images below to listen.)
My newest release under Zentral Ztation is "State of Calmness."
The Samata Society is a project I started to collaborate with other musicians, but I don't record with other musicians anymore. The music is more Eastern-oriented and [is] slightly more experimental.
The curators of Spotify put together a playlist of Samata Society tunes. [It's all the essential Samata Society tracks in one playlist.]
Music released under Fred Westra is yoga and meditation music.
My most recent albums under [my name] are "Chakra Flute" and "Earth Frequency."
MaM: If there’s a message in your music, what do you intend it to be?
FW: If there's a message in my music, it would be acceptance. Every emotion needs to be felt and seen. When I listen to Bach's “Air”, I feel so much emotion. I also think it's unbelievable that someone can create such beautiful music. I hope one day someone thinks the same of my music. Bach's “Air” and Morricone's “Once Upon a Time in the West” are the templates of my music. If you hear one of my songs in minor, you actually hear Bach or Morricone.
Mam: What’s next for Fred Westra?
FW: Good question! I am 57 now and [have worked] for 40 years in (night) shifts. I hope that my music will [be well received] so I can make a living of it and don't have to work in the steel factory, though I also love this job. Luckily my music is doing very good, and I feel so grateful!
MaM: Where can people find you and your music?
And there you have it, my friends. If you're in the market for some creatively soothing tones to wash away your stress and leave you feeling completely rejuvenated amidst the chaos, I urge you to explore Fred's music under all his artist names. He is absolutely worth it, and your body and mind will thank you.
*images courtesy of Fred Westra
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