Krishna Das ("KD") and Jai Uttal ("Jai") working together joyfully on one CD. Two star talents, and no star ego. Those who are fans of both artists will understand why this CD is a precious, essential work of art: please don't hesitate -- buy it!
Make no mistake; this is obviously KD's show. He sings all the lead vocals and is the guiding spirit behind the production. But anyone who knows Jai's work as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist knows the brilliant, innovative musicianship Jai brings to the party.
A remarkable quality of this CD is the variety of its musical textures. This would make a great gift for someone who has never had the pleasure of hearing sacred music interpreted by Western artists. It would be humanly impossible not to like at least some of this diverse but consistently beautiful music.
Another great quality of this CD is its originality. It is not quite like anything else I have heard from either KD or Jai. Yet there is nothing quirky or forced about it; it has the relaxed sincerity essential to a joyful experience of kirtan.
Finally, in this day of cheap CD packaging, KD generously gives us no less than 25 pages of fascinating liner notes, including a verse-by-verse translation of the sacred chants and funny, fascinating anecdotes concerning the songs themselves and KD's own experiences as a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba. (Neem Karoli Baba lived in India and was a guru to both KD and Jai; he passed away in 1973.)
Track 1 is a sunny chorus in celebration of Shiva. KD, Jai, and percussionist Geoffrey Gordon all sing together throughout the song, rather than following a call-and-response form. This is a friendly, unpretentious, cheerful introduction to the joys of kirtan.
Track 2 is slow and quiet, a poignant hymn to the Goddess.
Track 3 is a chant to the Divine mother in her manifestations as Kali and Durga. Each verse KD sings is echoed beautifully by Diana Rogers (she has an English name but sounds authentically Indian).
Track 4 is the "hare krishna" chant sung to a lovely, simple melody, which Jai picks out on the banjo, of all things. KD sings with sweet, brave, impassioned sincerity. He is backed up by something provocatively entitled the "Gospel Choir, First Church of Divine Spark (East Calcutta, Bengal)." The result is utterly engaging without being at all saccharine; like an old Appalachian lullaby sung from a creaking porch swing.
Track 5 is the Hanuman Chaleesa, a long series of verses in praise of Hanuman. Hanuman is the monkey god of Hindu mythology, a mischievous but immensely powerful servant of the more remote and imposing Ram, the male god of the Infinite. Hanuman is seen as a gateway to Ram, more accessible to us mere humans. Anyway, this track is a delight simply because KD unabashedly loves and venerates Hanuman, who is closely associated with Neem Karoli Baba. KD's love and joy are infectious whenever he sings to Hanuman, on this and other CD's. Also, the steady momentum of the rhythmic verses induces a relaxed, joyous mood, even if you don't follow the translation. Finally, I love the unexpected touch of deft wah-wah electric guitar in the background -- this is the kind of musical risk which, when it works, helps bridge the gap between East and West and, without cheapening it in any way, make Indian sacred music accessible to a modern audience.
Track 6 a relaxed, instrumental composition by Jai and studio whiz Jim Wilson. Jai on dotar engages in musical conversation with Charlie Burnham on violin. This track serves as an introduction to Track 7, a prayer to the Goddess for forgiveness. The truth is I find these two tracks a bit slow and uninspiring, but they are certainly solid musically.
Track 8 is wonderful! Think nothing new can be done with the "hare krishna" chant? Think again! Geoffrey Gordon plays a rousing snare drum and Charlie Burnham both accompanies and soars off on violin and mandolin. This daring approach gives the chant an absolutely unique musical flavor. Imagine a hearty band of Scottish warriors marching across the misty heath in search of -- well, enlightenment. Don't laugh: it works!
Track 9 is a prayer to Hanuman (see discussion of Track 5 above). The verses are both sung and spoken. KD is a big kid when it comes to Hanuman, and as I said above, his unselfconscious joy and devotion are infectious. But this track would be worth having just to hear guest musician Yang-Qin Zhao on something mysterious and wonderful called the butterfly harp. Jai also chimes in unexpectedly from time to time on finger cymbals, which has a startling effect that focuses awareness in an almost Zen-like manner. It is impossible to really describe the creative musical texture of this piece, which is reverential but lighthearted at the same time.
Track 10 is the "shri ram" chant. KD's voice glows with warmth, and Jai's beautiful, passionate voice in the small call-and-response chorus help make this version of "shri ram" ravishing. This is spiritual nectar indeed: intoxicating, no hangover, wow. Please KD and Jai -- please make another CD together soon!
Track 11 is yet another version the "hare krishna" chant. KD's voice is soft and yearning, while Diana Rogers again accompanies KD beautifully in the background. Dan Reiter plays cello, adding to the mellow sound.
I could write several more pages of uninformed praise, but I think Amazon imposes a word-count limit. In sum: if you like kirtan, you need this CD. If you've never heard kirtan and you're curious, please try this CD.
01. Hara Hara Mahaadeva
02. Devi Puja
03. Kali Durge
04. The Krishna Waltz
05. Hanuman Chaleesa
07. Prayer To The Goddess For Forgiveness
08. Hare (Mc) Krishna
09. Prayer To Hanuman
10. Shri Ram Jai Ram
MP3 files are available for a limited time only and are only provided for promotional use only. We support live music and we support by promoting the artists we love. If you'd like to see any file removed, please email us directly before alerting anyone else -- we'll gladly comply.