Ten Million Moons
By Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits
Mantralogy & Equal Vision Records Inc. (2009) 68:11 minutes
www.gauravani.com / www.equalvision.com / www.mantralogy.com
Review by Kate Russell
Trying to make traditional forms of music more appealing to the mainstream is certainly a challenging prospect, especially when dealing with a form as ancient and obscure (at least to most western ears) as Kirtan – devotional chants set to music that originate from 15th Century India. A balance must then be sought between retaining the integrity of the original genre whilst at the same time adding enough variation to make it more accessible to a wider audience. A tough task – but ‘monk turned punk’ Kirtan-adept, Guara Vani has attempted it with his new album ‘Ten Million Moons’ through Mantralogy records.
This album could as well be called, ‘Ten Million Moods’ for its richly varied and eclectic content – throughout the duration of the CD, the listener is pulled from devotion to wonder to excitement to reflection and around again. Even some of the individual tracks have different moods within them – the combination of eastern and western musical styles making these changes even more alluring.
Slower and more reflective songs on the album include Mira’s Song (Mharo Pranam) – a tender, haunting melody sung over sparse accompaniment and harmony and perfect for yoga or meditation, Moods of Kirtan (Siksastakam) gives a slower, more transcendent feel with sitar playing moody narration to mellow strings and voices, Where was I last night? (Nami Danam Chi Manzi) is a classic call and response track and Worship the Golden Lord (Bhaja Gauranga) is a pensive worship track. In ‘Thunder and Lightning’ (Radha Krishna Pran) ambient sounds intersperse with a range of moods, creating a track that is both reflective and celebratory.
If you are looking for something more upbeat and high energy, you’ll find a few tracks like this too. Whipping up excitement at the beginning of the album, ‘My Body is a Temple’ (Krishna Murari) introduces the listener to chanting via an intoxicating beat, and a much more contemporary ‘Stop and Talk’ (Hey Natha) hits the listener with a fusion of rap, eastern melody and spoken mantra – a track of many conversations and a wonderfully unexpected change of direction. Another musical surprise on the album, ‘Sleeping Soul’ combines gospel choir melodies with Kirtan – a delicious and rousing mix that one wouldn’t expect to work, but somehow does, and very well! In ‘The Pirate Song’ (Dina Dayal), the Maha Mantra is sung to different intensities by male, female and choral voices. The steady rapid clapping and excited bursts of flute pull the excitement one level higher in this track.
I expected the album’s title track, ‘Ten Million Moons’ (Nitai Pada Kamala) to be more rousing somehow, instead, it is a slowly building track of steadily growing choral response. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this track – the lack of musical variation coupled with the unfamiliar words made it a more challenging listen for this Kirtan newbie. The most traditional feeling track on the album, this is maybe one for the real Krishna-core devotees. Still one track out of eleven isn’t bad – and perhaps acts more as the marker of traditional Kirtan against which the rest of the tracks can be contrasted. On the other hand, ‘Surrender’ is reminiscent of ’90s indie, mellow guitar chords and English language vocals making it a stand out track, and feeling perhaps like the biggest diversion from traditional Kirtan on the whole album.
Will Gaura Vani and Mantralogy records succeed in their mission to make sacred music more relevant to the mainstream? I think at the very least, this album is a good start towards making it so. Refreshing and surprising, ‘Ten Million Moons’ provides a variety of music to suit both the Krishna-core and world music lovers alike.
Kate Russell is a singer/songwriter and busker from Vancouver, up until recently performing under the stage name Jadis Gloom (www.myspace.com/jadisgloom). Currently she is taking some time out from her solo music projects to write, listen to other styles of music and gain inspiration from other artists and their own creative journeys. Believing that to look into someone’s art is also to look inside their soul, she enjoys the intimate opportunities for understanding others in new ways that being a music critic provides.