This album frames Hindu mantras and prayer-chants in a unique blend of east-west style accompaniments. The music is often anchored by chord progressions that provide a greater sense of familiarity to the western listener. Uttal and Leinbach invent a new musical genre that mixes Hindu lyric raga chanting with elements of Euro-American folk music and singing styles.

Some of the more unusual features include a winsome harmonica solos and the use of an accordion, a unique application of those instruments in an eastern musical idiom. There are long instrumental introductions and instrumental solo passages interspersed with sections of vocal chanting. The songs range from four to seventeen minutes in length; the longer songs move through complex developmental sections. The effects of sustained “pedal” notes are emphasized through improvisational lines from other instruments.

Uttal, Leinbach, and the other talented musicians that contributed to this album produce a highly idiosyncratic east-west blend. But the music retains its sense of devotion and spirituality in this strange and sometimes even gimmicky mix.

The songs are:
Prayer to the Buddha Maitreya
Gopala Lullaby
Bija Mantras Watering the Seeds
Prayer to Shakyamuni Buddha

Overall, the album is a laid-back spiritual soundtrack. The rhythmic-hypnotic effect achieved in the songs is quite attractive. The way the songs spin out and develop sounds and textures through the album reveals a great deal of eager creativity. It is recommended for creating a mystical head-space that is suitable for rituals, some healing modalities, and meditations for those listeners who are drawn to Hindu mantras sung with mostly mellow east-west fusion music.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach
SoundsTrue 2006
59:45 min. $13.99 CD

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