Saturday, May 17, 2008

In Review--Taj Mahal Malian Excursion

Toumani Diabate in concert (wikipedia)

Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate

Hannibal Records

Released at the tail end of the last century, Kulanjan has already become a classic in my book. Bluesman Taj Mahal had been exploring his griot heritage--could feel it in his genes. The renowned musician teamed up with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, Malian vocalists Kassemady Diabate and Ramatou Diakite and other Malian musicians. The end result takes us to the crossroads where American (U.S.) blues and West African blues intersect. While it is not the only recording out there that marries these traditions, it is my personal favorite among the West African-American blues recordings.

Kulanjan provides one fantastic track after another, with no weak ones in the bunch. It opens with Queen Bee, a duet sung with Taj Mahal and Ramatou Diakite. Taj's gruff vocals gravitate around Ramatou's sweeter one. The following track, Tunkaranke features Kassemady singing soaring griot melodies over Toumani's gorgeous kora.

Ol' Georgie Buck with its silly rhymes and kora-guitar groove is my favorite on the recording. It sticks around all day long. The entire recording will give fans of Malian music a run for their money with plenty of balafon, soaring vocals, kora, and blues guitar. It's obvious these musicians were a match made in musical heaven. Revisit this classic if you already have it in your collection. And if you don't, you might wish to go out and buy the CD. As far as I know, it is still available.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Review--Voice of a Sanskrit Goddess

The Meditation Music of
Deva Premal
Into Silence

Sounds True

German classically trained vocalist Deva Premal has been gifted with one of the most beautiful, healing and soothing voices out there. Along with her partner, Miten and the who is who of Kirtan chant composers, Deva has entranced thousands of listeners, most of them devoted followers, with her perfectly calibrated vocals. Not only that she also contributes her training in various energy healing modalities.

Into Silence features some of her favorite work from CDs released during the decade of 1997 to 2007. She sings simple to pronounce Sanskrit chants (mainly) with Buddhist chants brought into the mix, such as Om Mani Padme Hum (Love is Space). She delivers each chant with reverence and grace.

This CD arrived to me on an incredibly stressful day--everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and not just for me. Fortunately, I kept this music on in the background while I attempted to solve problems and go about my business. To be honest, I don't think I could have stayed calm and centered without the help of this music, even after ingesting Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy!

The next day, I sang along with Deva and I found that singing the chants, not only helped me to breathe better (I am a vocalist), but assisted me with staying calm and centered. I found myself in a much better mood too. I was able to find peace and let go after listening to this CD a few times.

For those of you not already familiar with Deva Premal's work, might want to start with this recording. The booklet includes the words to the chants and interpretations. Whether you choose to sing along or just let the music permeate your home, you will be better off for it. I am guessing you will feel calm and centered. And we could all use a little peace at the moment.