Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2019 issue.
I first met Dango Rose in a crowded coffee shop in Boulder on the Winter Solstice. He had just returned to Boulder from a work trip in Bali, where he had performed at an entrepreneurial convention known as “Unconventional Life.” Now that he was home, he was ready to turn his focus on his artist development agency, production house and conscious media platform: the Elephant Collective, and its newly launched Artist Empowerment Program.
Dango starts at the beginning, “since it’s all a part of the tapestry …” and I press record. He tells me a tale of a young artist, a vagabond. His story weaves back and forth all across this country and along the way he packs pieces of our nation’s musical history into his repertoire. He tells me of influences: Olympus Mons in Eugene, Oregon, living next door to “Mountain Girl” (Jerry Garcia’s ex-wife), Carl Cole (later Elephant Revival’s bus driver) and their trip to visit Carl’s teacher Daniel Quinn (author of “Ishmael,” which Dango notes influenced his life), the Batiste family down in New Orleans, Uncle Earl, Bela Fleck.
When Dango gets to his time with the Mammals and a weekend that he spends with Pete Seeger, I am transported to another time and place (such is the power of his storytelling). He tells me they went to visit Pete and his wife Toshi in their cabin and they end up “getting snowed in for three days and going over the Sing Out songbook of the most influential folk songs.” He tells me that at that time he had “just gotten back from Africa,” so he and Pete talked about “the root of the banjo. Toshi was making stew, the fire going.”
Dango has been practicing yoga for over 15 years, and when he first moved to the Rocky Mountain region he spent three weeks at the Shambhala Mountain Center learning to meditate. As he speaks, his love of yoga comes through; on old-time Appalachian music, he said it was “very similar to Indian Chanting or Kirtan, except it’s all led with fiddle and banjo. These melodies are not bluegrass music, these melodies circulate, and they just keep circulating, over and over again — same thing with some traditional Irish music, and when you get into them, it’s ‘Om.’”
After the holidays pass, we meet again. We will both turn 38 within the next month and there is a feeling of heaviness. Dango also shares that in the coming weeks each one of his former band mates would be performing separately at the Steamboat WinterWonderGrass Festival, an event that they had played together in the past.
Since we were both in somber moods, I ask Dango to accompany me to The Little Yoga Studio (Dango is fond of this studio since it is where he completed his yoga teacher training) for a yin yoga class that night. Later, as I lay on a mat in a full heart opening pose, I swear I can feel everything he is processing.
On Dango’s birthday I text him and hope that the WinterWonderGrass Festival is going well. Later that night he posts a picture on Facebook of him and several of his old band mates together for dinner.
Towards the end of this winter season, Dango and I meet up for our last coffee. He tells me the band recently sold their tour bus. We talk about the Dango Rose Project which had debuted at the Boulder International Film Festival recently, with plans to fully launch in the near future. Dango had also recently gotten the “Elephant Collective — Story Behind the Song” podcast up on iTunes.
That evening he invites me to the recording studio. I take a seat on a comfy couch after meeting all of the musicians and producer Evan Reeves. That night they will be playing one of Darryl Purpose’s new songs over and over as they lay down music to accompany his lyrics. Dango will be playing bass.
Watching Dango sitting on that stool with that guitar propped up on his knee and held against his chest, I’m seeing him. Fully. Stripped down to what is at the core of him. And it’s all music and heart. Not sadness (which Dango claims to have a propensity towards), but solitude.
A week later a bomb cyclone would hit Colorado, and I found myself curled up in a cozy leather armchair reading “Ishmael,” only for a week after that to be celebrating the Spring Equinox and a full moon, proving once and for all that seasons and weather are not permanent.
Dango messages me to tell me that the Elephant Collective will be launching a Songwriters Showcase later in April in Boulder and Denver, and that his first single, “A La Glory,” is scheduled for April 18th.
Now, summer has arrived. Here’s to new seasons Dango!
Photo by Molly McCormick Photography.