Shakti Sutra is the new album by the Indian-American multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sheela Bringi. While her previous album, Incantations, attracted the attention of the world music community with its charming combination of Indian mantras and kirtan with jazz and global music elements, Shakti Sutra features arrangements that make it attractive to the yoga and kirtan market.
What’s unique about Sheela Bringi’s usic is the use of the 36-string harp, a western instrument rarely used in Indian classical music. Bringi adds Indian bansuri (bamboo flute) and harmonium, along with electronic beats and soundscapes, creating a mesmerizing mix.
Monk Party has just released Silence Flooded Trance. Made up of father and son duo, Pragunya and Nelson Myers-Daly their influences include the kirtan devotional music scene, ancient Indian mantras, Moroccan and Middle Eastern music plus a wide range of world and spiritual music genres. The melodies of Sri Chinmoy, their meditation teacher, which Monk Party play, aim to uplift and inspire the audience. Sri Chinmoy once said that “music will play a most important role in bringing about world oneness.”
The music on the album is mesmerizing, rhythmical, and mantric. The group uses a number of instruments darbuka, riq, frame drums, bodhran, cajón, pennywhistle, nylon guitar, gongs, bansuri flute and Vocals. Pragunya has become an expert at the oud and it is heard in many of the songs. Nelson has been playing on world music instruments since he was four. “I was never pushed into to playing music but rather I learned music like a language by always being around it and being absorbed in it,” he says. “Pragunya had a wide variety of types of music he played and listened to which has really helped color my approach to creating art.”
They have performed in North America and Australasia and collaborated with Krishna Das. Monk Party (and yes they are monks, practicing daily meditation to keep themselves in a creative flow) has emerged as one of the best outfits of their genre around, their tight nit sounds and love of music are obvious in their latest offering. Silence Flooded Trance follows on from their acclaimed debut CD Daily My Promise.
Bosse Skoglund and Zilverzurf – Mantra Sessions (Diesel Music C-52, 2016)
This cross-cultural recording couldn’t get more interesting. Two Swedish musicians, a drummer and a bassist, performing meditational Indian music fused with jazz, blues, African and Jamaican influences. A fascinating world music jam.
The album includes two discs. The original version features distant mantra chants and trance-like rhythms intertwined with jazz-rock fusion stylings. This is the organic part of the Mantra Sessions featuring electro-acoustic performances by Bosse Skoglund and Zilverzurf and their guests.
Disc 2 is the Dub Version. Here, electronic effects transform the original versions into seductive Jamaican-influenced dance club pieces.
Bosse Skoglund recorded drums, bass, mantras and overdubs at his home studio in Ekerö, Sweden. Additional sessions were recorded by Zilverzurf at Casa Carma in Portugal. The mantras performed by Yatra Children were recorded at Yatra Arts Foundation in Kuilapalayam, India, by Johan Zachrisson.
Mantra Sessions delivers a set of hypnotic performances rooted in various traditions of the globe.
Let me say at the outset you not only want Manish Vyas’s Atma Bhakti Healing Sound of Prayer you need it. Composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer Manish Vyas from Gujarat, India is the artist behind such recordings as Healing Ragas, Shivoham, Sattva, Prasad and Prem Joshua and Manish Vyas: Water Down the Ganges with the German fusion musician Prem Joshua. He has collaborated with Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur, Ramdass and Maneesh de Moor. While that all might seem like a mouthful, it’s very clear from the opening strains of Atma Bhakti, you aren’t going anywhere in a hurry.
The serene, soul soothing song found on Atma Bhakti is elegant, quietly comforting and will surely blunt the edges of a chaotic day and maybe, just maybe, allow you to find your happy space and ignore that jerk in the neighborhood with the leaf blower.
Finding inspiration in the environs of an ancient temple, Mr. Vyas summons up an air of a restful, mindful space by way of vocals, chant, the swar-mandal (a harp from India), tanpura (a plucked, stringed instrument from India), keyboards, bells and gong.
Joined by Milind Date on bamboo flute, Atma Bhakti overflows with serenity, but not a Kenny G type of serenity, but rather revolves around a profound sense of consciousness through the use of chant, enhanced by Mr. Vyas’s vocals and additional vocals by Jay Dave, Krishna Jani and Singdha Pious.
Composing and arranging the music of Atma Bhakti, Mr. Vyas has conjured up that ancient temple through a set of three extended tracks that simply allow the listener to fall into that meditative space.
Mr. Vyas points out succinctly, “There is a very meditative atmosphere in the music.” Adding, “The material I select to sing is always on a higher plane going to a higher dimension. That has always been my preference, to work on music that lifts you from the level of the mind and takes you higher.”
Mr. Vyas indeed succeeds as listeners are transported by way of the quiet, almost spare, opening track “Atma,”riding the lines of his own vocals, keyboards, flute and the occasional use of bells.
The sound of a gong opens the track “Bhakti” or “mantra ‘shivaya namaha om.’” As instrumentation fills out the track, “Bhakti” deepens the lure with vocals, swar-mandal and tanpura.
Closing out the CD with “Vedic Chanting,” with an opening of street sounds, Atma Bhakti entrances the listener with a potent form of Vedic chant long used by priests in India and considered one of the oldest forms of oral tradition, so much so that Vedic chant has been proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Atma Bhakti’s beauty and depth is one of those rare musical journeys that gently remind us of the healing power of music and voice, nudging our mind into a mindfulness we often ignore. My advice is to settle in and slip on the headphones and take this journey.