Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In review--Taking it to the Yogic Mat

Laurie Madison, Maasa Craig & Doug Cox
Maitri (yogic chants)
Independent release (Canada)

Yoga chants, sung in Sanskrit have risen in popularity during recent years with the yoga craze in North America. I have heard kirtan chants or mantras sung in Hebrew, YofiYah’s Kabbalah Kirtan (Sounds True), authentic Indian devotional chants and an array of new age recordings. Fusing slide guitar and music genres of the West with yoga mantras though is new to my ears. A musical ensemble under the guise of Maitri, have done just that, created a mix of chants from the Subcontinent with bluegrass tinged harmonies (vande gurunham), slide guitar and other western instruments.

Mantra recordings provide music for a yogic practice or for musical meditation (singing the chants). The press notes that accompany the CD, mention Nelson (British Columbia) musician and yoga instructor Laurie Madison came up with an idea of combining Indian mantras with Western music, “A means of making yogic chant more accessible to the western ear.” And the musicians do take this concept further than Deva Premal who was among the first Westerners to westernize Indian mantras by adding synthesizer and acoustic guitar. The harmonies of Madison and her musical partner Maasa Craig recall bluegrass harmonies at time and with Doug Cox providing slide guitar, dobro, and banjo, these chants have the potential to reach more ears.  Saraswati with its gorgeous Indian vocals will satisfy the more traditional yogi.

So I had to try out the recording with my own yoga practice. I found that the chants energized and relaxed me, while providing some lovely beats. The harmonies of the women and vocalist Cassius Kahn lent themselves to a meditative space. The opener Shri Ram (a popular mantra) with the tabla beats, silky slide guitar and hearty vocals can entice even the laziest yogi to roll out the mat and get to it. Throat -singing and classical Indian vocals compliments of Ganesh Anandan and Kahn appear on Siva Mahyna.

I guess with this warming yogic recording, I have no excuse but to take it to the mat.