Humans Being: A Band About Being Human

If you’re in tune with the Whitman music scene, you’ve probably heard of the student band Humans Being, a group composed of Mark Glasionov ’12; seniors Jonas Myers on bass guitar, Eli Smith on rhythm guitar, Robby Seager on cajon and drumset and Bo Sagal on mandolin; and sophomores Jessica Shatkin on flute and Maya Abramson on violin, with all members contributing to the vocals.

Humans Being band members, left to right: Jonas Myers, Jessica Shatkin, Maya Abramson, Mark Glasionov, Eli Smith,  Robby Seager, and Bo Sagal (not pictured). Photos by Allie Felt.

Myers discussed the origin of the band and its name.

“[Humans Being] was a name that I had thought of a while ago when Robby and I were still in [the band] Dabbles in Bloom,” he said. “We knew that a change would be imminent [since some members of the band were graduating]. Dark times.”

After playing music over the summer with Seager, Sagal and Smith, a band began to take shape, a band originally called Witch Doctor.

But one day, Myers had a realization.

“ … It just occurred to me that I had always wanted to be in a band called Humans Being, and that I had also always wanted to be in the band that we had formed, because it was way fun,” said Myers.

“Yeah, well, we’re all humans—being,” he said, when pressed about any deeper meaning behind the name.

“I like to think of it like … this [human] entity has created this being. Apostrophe, ‘S,’” Smith said.

“I think of it as a way of life in that everyone is valuable and has something to contribute, like we’re all part of a big human tribe. For us, that’s being in this band and playing music,” said Seager.

“A lot of the time, we say, ‘We are Humans Being, and so are you.’ It’s a little hokey,” said Abramson with a laugh.

While the band plays mostly Beatles covers at gigs, they are working on writing original music.

“It’s a lot easier to create a huge set list and have really long gigs if we learn charts for covers and just jam on them. It’s also fun,” said Shatkin.

She cited a wealth of creative energy in the band as a powerful force behind writing original songs.

“Usually they’re more complicated and defined and arranged,” she said of the band’s original music. The band has about six or seven original songs in their repertoire, with more in the works.

Humans Being has played several shows in Walla Walla, at various bars, restaurants and wineries, averaging one gig per weekend throughout the semester.

In addition to local shows, the band also described plans to go on tour over the next spring break.

“We have an ‘infinity tour’ planned,” Myers said, half-jokingly. “We don’t know where we’re going but it’ll be in the shape of an infinity.” As of now, the band plans to visit cities such as Portland, Seattle and Boise.

Abramson cited playing with the band as a way she likes to shake off the Whitman bubble.

“At Whitman … you get wrapped up in your Whitman ways. For me, this is a really good release for that,” she said.

“Be the humans that you are, world,” said Myers as a parting statement.

Interested listeners can find Humans Being on their Facebook page to find out more about upcoming shows and whatever else the band has to offer.




Filed under: A&E A&E Highlight Front Page Slideshow

Responses


Student Dec 4, 2012 19:21 PM

While I love Humans Being and think their work is fantastic, I’m pretty disappointed that they chose to play Indian for this photoshoot. Facepaint, paper headdress, an axe for a tomahawk. I find it especially surprising after all the Halloween controversy.


Robby Dec 4, 2012 23:20 PM

Student,
I appreciate you honestly vocalizing your opinion. I have the following comments and questions:
1) In what way is face-paint “Indian” or Native American for that matter? Body art has been around for thousands of years in many cultures.
2) The axe was just lying around so we grabbed it as a prop. Call it what you want, but why would a foxcrotched farmer be wielding a tomahawk?
3) I’m the only one in this photo you could really accuse of “playing Indian.” Please don’t generalize and attack the entire band for my personal decision.
4) That “headdress” is handmade with real feathers, leather, and love. I love feathers, and I love that poncho that my sister gave me.
5) Imitation is often said to be the greatest form of flattery. Is it wrong for me to dress in a style similar to people I admire?
6) I’m not familiar with this controversy of which you speak.
7) I’m dressing how I feel like dressing because I am who I am. I do not consider my outfit a costume.

I will gladly discuss this further with anyone who still feels uncomfortable with any aspect of this photoshoot. You can contact me via peoplesearch.

Love, Peace, Rhythm, Harmony,
Rob


Another Student Dec 6, 2012 11:47 AM

Hi Robby,
While I understand that you weren’t trying to offend anyone with what you’re wearing, cultural appropriation is real and pretty hurtful and offensive. I think the best thing to do in this situation is not to defend your decision but just apologize and move on. Everyone makes mistakes and by apologizing and educating yourself and others, you’re doing the best possible thing. You can learn more about exactly why this is offensive by googling “Native American cultural appropriation” or I’d be happy to email you some links.
Good luck to you and your band and may you continue to make lovely music.


Jonas Dec 6, 2012 14:33 PM

Robby, I stand by you and agree with and support everything you said. “Another Student,” I do not believe Robby should apologize. Does he not have a right to defend his decisions? There was no conscious decision on anyone’s part to “play Indian” for this photo shoot. Our only plan was simply to dress how we felt. Notice that we all interpreted that in different ways. If in the process some of us ended up emulating styles of dress that are associated with minority cultures, then that is simply coincidental. Feathers are wonderful, beautiful, even mystical objects–should wearing them immediately signal cultural appropriation? No, no it should not. Besides, signification is a two-person dance. There is the person expressing meaning and there is the person experiencing it–each has the power to instill a sign with a certain significance. Frankly, it is not productive to be hypersensitive to anything that might be deemed inappropriate simply because a certain meaning can be found there. I refuse to allow people who actually are guilty of real cultural appropriation, which I believe necessarily includes a measure of intended disrespect, ruin feathers and dress-up for the rest of us. It’s important to pick our battles–let’s take on bigots and narrow-minded individuals, not those, like Robby, who choose as their chief concerns love, inclusion, and respect.


Yet another student Dec 6, 2012 15:30 PM

In all seriousness our campus is the most politically correct place ever… sometimes to annoying, unnecessary extremes. Case and point: “student’s” comment.


Eli Dec 6, 2012 21:04 PM

As a member of Humans Being, I too would like to address “Student” and “Another Student” his/her complaint.

First, I’d like to innumerate the many cultures we are appropriating in these pictures:

Robby’s poncho is not a Native American garment. In fact, the poncho was created and worn by cultures in Argentina and Chile. Mark’s maracas are also of Latin American origin.

Next are the musical pipes that Robby is holding. These are not at all associated with Native American culture. This instrument is known as a khane, and is traditional to Laos and Thailand.

Next is the ax, which I consider to more of a contemporary American symbol than anything else, since contemporary Americans have always chopped down trees with far greater frequency than did Native Americans.

Addressing the facepaint, 99% of which was done my me…though I am flattered that you consider my artwork to be somehow reminiscent of the very beautiful Native American art traditions that you “Students” are no doubt intimately familiar with,
i have to say that I don’t consider my own art to be significantly influenced by Native American work–– limiting the facepaint job to a comparison with Native Americans is like claiming that getting a tattoo is an appropriation of Native American culture, just because that culture happened to participate in that practice. However, you’d be ignoring the countless other cultures that participated in a tradition of tattooing, just as you are ignoring the traditions of body art found in many cultures -> http://www.visualphotos.com/photo/1×4416395/.jpg
This link is to the picture that gave me inspiration right before I painted the faces of my band mates. This lovely and paint adorned woman is from a tribe indigenous to Australia actually.

Perhaps the only symbols that “Students” might make a claim to be strong symbols of Native American culture would be Robby’s headdress, and the arrows on my shirt.

While feather headdresses were indeed donned by Native Americans during ceremonies and sometimes during times of war, headdresses were and are a part of many Latin American, South American, and African cultures.

As far as the arrows on my shirt go, if “Students” insists on associating these with Native American culture, then perhaps, utilizing the ax as an American symbol, I am attempting to visually communicate the past ongoing fight between Native Americans and the people who forcefully removed them from this great land.

I hope you have read this far Students, because this is my conclusion. I see an fundamental flaw in your arguement. It is you who is incorrectly performing the cultural appropriation, by applying your incomplete and vague knowledge of Native American culture, and placing this web of generalization around us, making it seem like we are the ones generalizing here. However, it is you who are disrespecting the amalgamation of creativity that makes up the unique culture of the band Humans Being. You have also disrespected Native American culture, by incorrectly associating that culture with the many unrelated symbols in the photograph.

Students, I believe that you have done nothing more that communicate how little you know about the Native American culture. I think it is YOU who should take responsibility for your own ignorance, rather than feebly attempt to make me and the HB crew seem ignorant. Being “PC” is not so simple, you actually have to do research to know what you’re talking about…

all of the information regarding the historical origins of the various symbols I have mentioned are easily accessible with a few google searches. Maybe next time you make accusations, you will have taken the title “Student” to heart first.

Nevertheless, I am happy that you find our music enjoyable, and I hope that you keep listening in the future, because you are valuable members of the tribe of Humans who happen to be.

Ever your obedient servant,
OD Elyah


A Bear / Billy Harbour Dec 6, 2012 22:44 PM

Rusty plexiglass tomahawks this season’s hard-sought authentic Old World handicraft

Surprised ‘Student’ runs amok, ironically believes ponchos and tomahawks are of identical cultural origin

Whitman College’s Texas Sharpshooter deems Memorial clocktower “too phallic,” insists school’s initials are meant to invoke British bathrooms

‘Another Student’ pithily counsels Philistinic student body on how racist they probably are, Googling

EXTRA EXTRA: Pio commenter writes ‘run amok,’ abusing Malaysian loan phrase in vile act of cultural appropriation


A human being Dec 6, 2012 22:56 PM

Knowing Robby over the years, I immediately knew the accusation of “play[ing] Indian” is utterly and patently false; cultural appropriation was the farthest thing from his mind when assembling his attire for the photo shoot. His intent was not to make a mockery of or show disrespect by donning an outfit that may (or may not) be interpreted as Native American-like. He enumerates his reasons for doing so above, and I undoubtedly believe him. We need to look deeper than the outward appearance and not jump to hasty conclusions. I do realize appearing in a manner and context that begs political inspection is one thing, but is this individual truly portraying a racially offensive ensemble? If he is, then I cannot think of an appropriate or acceptable situation where any one can wear clothing made popular by a culture or ethnicity not of their own (regardless if that was or was not his intent) to express one’s self (and do we even know his affiliation to the ethnicity in question?). We must delve beneath the apparel and search for true meaning (if it exists). (This gives rise to the question of must our actions always require meaning?) Let me assure “Student” Robby does not bear any ill-will or negativity in his portrayal to any person or group of people. He actually does embody the words mentioned above: love, inclusion, and respect. The topic begets a bigger, messier question of what is permissible as acceptable self-representation, even if it can be remotely construed as racially insensitive. I like to think we live in a country full of different cultures and traditions, and more importantly, one where we learn and benefit from the diversity around us. It would be refreshing if we reached a point where we could honor one another in whichever way suits us without the fear of appearing inconsiderate, or even racist, when we are in fact striving to be the opposite (as I believe is the case here). It is quite a quandary. Still, regardless of whatever sentiments we harbor, I think it would be wise to carefully examine and educate one’s self before accusing another of an intent they did not desire, especially publicly.


So many bears Dec 6, 2012 23:42 PM

To play Devil’s advocate: I don’t think people pointing the finger of appropriation (not to point any fingers) would argue that it is linked to intent, only that the end result is detrimental in its perpetuation of stereotypes.

Rabidly identifying and free-associating a smattering of “non-white objects” to a specific cultural target, in this case, “Indians,” seems to be a painfully ironic and classic example of confirmation/sharpshooter bias as well as an advocacy of the same sort of dichotomous racial stereotyping I would expect ‘Student’ and ‘Another Student’ would be first to decry. Not to point any fingers.


Bears Dec 7, 2012 14:01 PM

Have any of you guys met a Native American? I forgot to capitalize that but my phone changed it out of respect.


A fourth student Dec 7, 2012 14:45 PM

Eli:
Is it really so necessary to attack Student and Another Student for simply pointing out the potential implications of your and your bandmates’ attire in this photo? All charges of cultural appropriation/political correctness aside, it seems to me rather shortsighted to accuse others who may take issue with your views of spinning “a web of generalization” when they may instead be seeking to espouse alternative perspectives. Yes, as others before me have noted, I do think that there’s something to be said of the complexity of political correctness and the presumptions that often undergird it, but I also believe (as a person of color, especially) that our representations or assessments of particular cultures often carry more meaning than we realize (and may accordingly offend others unintentionally). It certainly doesn’t seem as though you consciously meant to stir up such sentiments, so what harm is done by simply offering an apology and an explanation in response, versus a prolonged diatribe about the origins of your accessories or make-up?
Respectfully yours,
A fellow Whittie.


Student 5 Dec 7, 2012 16:00 PM

Claiming that something “is offensive” is not the same as actually feeling offended. As far as I observe, no one here has expressed that they are offended.


Eli Dec 7, 2012 18:43 PM

Dear “A Fourth Student”:

I really do appreciate your perspective. Again however, I have to disagree with you, I think you’re amplifying the emotionality of my own statement to make it seem less legitimate, and simultaneous amplifying the “objectivity” of the statements of “student” and “another student” which I don’t believe to be present.

You say “pointing out the potential implications”, when I interpret the statements of those students to have been much more aggressive and accusatory. I felt that it was necessary for me to make an aggressive defense of my band and its constituents so that they have faith that they’ve done nothing wrong.

I’m realizing now 4th student, that I will disagree with you completely from here on out. You say that I have been short sighted or, lacking in foresight or in extent of intellectual outlook. Personally I feel that my response was much more driven by an intellectual outlook than was either of the Student’s comments, which were made with a complete lack of reference to fact. We were accused of “playing Indian”! If student wanted to accuse us of cultural appropriation, he/she needed to be much more specific about the many cultures we were proudly appropriating.

Can you see the generalization they have made? In the words of “So Many Bears”, the students are “Rabidly identifying and free-associating a smattering of ‘non-white objects’ to a specific cultural target, in this case, ‘Indians’”. That’s why I outlined the historical origins of the objects in the pictures, because it was these objects that subliminally induced the alarm of ‘stereotype’, causing these students to free associate those objects with a stereotype developed within their own minds! But don’t you see? They are performing the act of perpetuating the stereotype!

You mentioned that perhaps my band mates and I were not consciously attempting to “stir up such sentiments”. Do you mean that we were unconsciously doing so? If you are making accusations as to our unconscious intentions, then I would tell you that you are either mind-reading by assuming that we are all unconsiously aware of our own guilt.

However, observe the particular structure of this conversation. Notice that every person who has made accusations has remained anonymous, while Robby, Jonas and I have named ourselves in our defense. We have proudly associated our identities with our arguments, while the “students” have removed any specific identification from their accusations. Why would they do this?

I would argue that your own anonymity is a sign of your unconscious guilt in making statements that you know, whether consciously or unconsciously, to be flawed. You’ve protected yourself from us, we will not know who you are.

But if all you students were right, you would want to state your identity so that you could receive an unconscious affirmation from your own internet win every you time passed us flawed and erring individuals, knowing that we know who you are and that we know you were right….but you’re no-name like everyone else.

4th student, you ask, “what harm is done”. ALL THE HARM IS DONE IN APOLOGIZING, because by apologizing we would be affirming the bullshit stereotypes which are being perpetuated by our accusators.

The crux of my arguement is this. If what the students have said is true, then it would also be a cultural appropriation for me to play the blues, because the blues is musical tradition developed by African Americans. Because I am white, no matter how I played the blues I would not be representing the tradition ‘correctly’ because my skin is not and the skin of my ancestors was not a darker shade of brown.

Well I love the blues, and I’m going to play it, regardless of who played it first. It has nothing to do with my skin, just like an image of people dressing as they want to has nothing to do with anything but those people, unless there is blatant evidence to the contrary.

I’m not going to affirm the guilt you think I should feel.
I’m not going to apologize to a bunch of anonymous posters who think that they are sociologists and the defenders of culture.

4th student, if you, or anyone, were to approach me and say “I saw the pictures of your band, and I was bothered by what I felt was an inaccurate and offensive representation of the culture of my ancestral heritage”, of course I would offer an apology. But no one has done that.

You are right though student. Sometimes it’s best to simply roll over and apologize, especially when you’re facing forces with (currently) unconquerable power. I’ve learned that the hard way at this school believe me.

However, this is not one of those times. I am not facing an unconquerable power. Only a faceless, nameless group of internet users who are trying to speak for much larger groups than the scope of their knowledge and experience should allow.

4th, if you really want to discuss this with me, you should stop me on campus and introduce yourself. In that situation, I’d be happy to talk with you more amiably. Unfortunately, aggressive defense is necessary when facing an apparently aggressive anonymous attack.

…but don’t take my word for it. In the words of Commander Taggart:
“never give up, never surrender”

‘In this, as in all else,–
Y’r Obd’t s’v’t.’
OD Elyah


A Woman of Color Dec 7, 2012 19:10 PM

This is racist and I am offended. Understand your white privilege please.


student Dec 7, 2012 19:11 PM

I am Indian and I AM offended

Is that better/ more clear?


Jonas Dec 7, 2012 21:14 PM

I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments. This is a fascinating discussion.

Shout-out to Billy for coming up with one of the most hilarious responses ever. Your wit and insight astound me.


Jonas Dec 8, 2012 3:43 AM

Clarification — when I posted that “I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments,” it was before Eli’s second post and the subsequent responses showed up. I am saddened that this thread has taken a turn toward the offensive. I thought it started out as a productive discussion, but has since devolved into attacks. Allow me to apologize, on behalf of my band, to anyone who has been offended. I would hope that important discourses like these would be founded on love and respect, but that may be idealistic. I am heartened that people are passionate enough to defend their beliefs–that is a cornerstone of the academic culture I like to believe we strive to achieve here at Whitman, and a sign of a critical-minded body of educated people. But I implore everyone in this thread (I am taking no sides here; I am addressing everyone) to keep it respectful. Let’s push ourselves and each other, productively, to make thoughtful contributions. But let’s pull up short of aggression. That will solve nothing. Please email me if you’d like to discuss this further, perhaps even in person. I always enjoy having my eyes opened and my views broadened, and the wonderful and myriad chorus of voices and opinions at Whitman College is a beautiful source for this.


Eli Dec 8, 2012 3:46 AM

To all students who have posted here. I’m sorry if you feel that I have made racist remarks. I do not feel that I have, and I think I have defended myself justly. I’m just trying to be me. I too get offended when people call me ignorant. I don’t think i’m ignorant, and neither do any of you. In this institution, I do not feel any more privileged than anyone. We all have access to the same academic and social opportunities.

if you disagree with anything I’ve said, and would like to express yourself to me directly, I am interested in talking to you. My email address is smithel@whitman.edu. If you want to remain anonymous outside of our meeting, I will happily keep your identity a secret.


Eli Dec 8, 2012 4:27 AM

Additionally, I’d like to clarify one of my sentences which was did not come across correctly. When I said that we are proudly appropriating many cultures, what I meant is, that to make a sweeping generalization about the picture by calling it “Indian”, is to ignore that the symbols in the photo have significance to many different cultures, not just for Native Americans. I used ‘proudly’ to mean that cultures outside of ‘white privilege’ have been influential in shaping our lives.


former student Dec 8, 2012 8:18 AM

ITT: Whitman students procrastinating studying for finals


Lydia Dec 8, 2012 21:40 PM

While calling it cultural appropriation might be a bit much, surely you can see how the combination of facepaint, a headdress, and something vaguely tomahawk like could be evocative of the bastardized image of Native Americans that saturates our media? I think those of us who are unsettled by this image aren’t seeing those symbols and thinking “those are accurate representative of Native American objects! How dare those white people wear them!” Rather we are concerned that the image evokes that generalized and generally negative idea of Native Amer. culture. Furthermore, I think that headdresses have become a red flag for cultural appropriation with their rise in hipster culture. I admit I’m not an expert, but the reason someone might take issue with the headdress and not the poncho is that the headdress is a religious object while the poncho is not. I don’t know about the significance of the pipes and so can’t speak to that.
Furthermore, was it really necessary to call the first commenters ignorant racists for questioning this photo shoot? I understand why you might feel attacked, but I don’t think its accurate to claim that their comment proves they know nothing about the subject. I would never have noticed the possible problems with this photo if not for reading a fair deal about it, including all of
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/
If you don’t see why a headdress might be of more concern than a poncho, she can explain it a hell of a lot better than I.


Humans Being Member Dec 10, 2012 13:32 PM

As a member of this band, I apologize if the photos offended anyone in any way. There were no intensions to make a cultural appropriation. Frankly, we were really excited to have a good time and take pictures as band for the first time. We wanted to show our effervescent personalities and our ability to have fun. During the 30 minutes that we spent taking these photos, there were no utterances of any racist ideas and I am personally sorry if it looks as though we meant to do this. Yes, we do all appear white, but that does not mean that we all come from the same background. Everyone at Whitman comes from a different culture, whether that be religious, ethnic, racial, national, or societal. I can assure you that all of my Humans Being friends are well rounded, talented, smart, friendly, fun, and are the last people I know that would ever make judgements on a culture that is not their own. I hope that those offended by this photo can think if they have ever done something that appeared differently than they intended. I know we are not the only ones.


Bill Clinton Dec 26, 2012 2:37 AM

I demand that you change your name to “white humans being”


What do you think?

Please allow a few days for your response to be published.

YOU

Use your facebook name
and profile image!


View our comment policy

Your email address will not be published.