Spiritual musician Majnun found sense of community in Bellingham


The two worlds of Dave Ander met recently when family members from afar gathered with local people who adored Ander to grieve his death at the age of 80.

Ander, known to many by his Sufi name Majnun, was well-known and much-loved in music and spiritual circles ever since he moved to Bellingham in the late 1990s.

During his time here he became a mentor to many young adults, in contrast to his acknowledged shortcomings as a father. And while Majnun struggled with what he called his "profound anguish" about life, he would emerge from his funks as, in the words of friend Jan Peters, "this really delightful, elfish, humorous, beautiful guy."

Local friends were surprised to learn from two of Majnun's daughters details of his life that he didn't readily share with others, including his earlier interests and his stint in the Army. His daughters, in turn, learned that their father had found a welcoming place in which to live his later years.

"It's difficult to lose him, but in some ways we are very grateful to the community that he found," said Alyssa Ander Brownlee, a daughter who lives in Vancouver, Wash. "He was able to nurture young people. I know that he regretted that he couldn't do that for his children."

Majnun died New Year's Day after falling asleep in a sauna.

Raised in the Midwest, he developed a love of music early in life. He reached a professional peak in the early '60s when he became the guitarist for the Chad Mitchell Trio, performing nationwide with the folk music group.

While in Bellingham, Majnun accompanied dance and music students on guitar, played at weddings, funerals and other events, and performed with such bands as the Naked Hearts.

"He was a consummate rhythm guitarist," said Peters, a Naked Hearts member who lived in Bellingham and now lives in California. "He played superb melody as well."

Majnun also sang and played guitar for people in dementia care facilities, and accompanied a dance class for people with Parkinson's disease.

"He felt very strongly about bringing joy or some light into people's lives," said Pam Kuntz, whose dance students practiced and performed to his accompaniment.

A spiritual searcher, Majnun, his wife and their children once lived on a Subud commune in Virginia. Subud is a spiritual movement that arose in Indonesia and has groups in dozens of countries. He explored other spiritual beliefs, too, and was active in the Northwest Sufi community.

"He was someone who cared for all living things," Kuntz said. "It sounds like a trendy statement, but he genuinely did."

Majnun served with the U.S. Army in Korea, where weapons fire left him deaf in one ear. He studied horticulture, worked at a nursery in Hawaii and learned to make beautiful wood furniture.

"He was immensely talented," said Roseanna Ander, another daughter, who lives in Chicago. "Whatever he started, he could do really well."

Majnun sometimes talked to local friends about his melancholy, but without offering many details or examples. The two daughters said their father's problems were evident even when they were children. The family's finances suffered because he didn't stay with jobs, and he lacked the inner focus to be a steady father figure.

"We were never mad at him," said Alyssa Ander Brownlee. "We always understood he was doing the best that he could."

Kuntz, the dancer teacher, said Majnun was heartbroken about his relations with his family, but kept his anguish personal, not public.

"He didn't drag this darkness through the world," she said.


A memorial service for Dave Ander, widely known as Majnun, will start at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, at The Majestic, 1027 N. Forest St. A musical tribute will follow at 6 p.m. featuring the Naked Hearts and many of Ander's musician friends.

Reach Dean Kahn at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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