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Sada Sat Kaur: Angels' Waltz

By Derk Richardson

Ajna Music; 4804 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Ste. 191, Valley Village, CA 91607; www.ajnamusic.com.

A 30-year veteran of classical kirtan (chanting) and a Kundalini yoga instructor in Los Angeles, Sada Sat Kaur incorporates live music and chanting meditation into her weekly teaching. On this, her debut recording, she sings traditional and original melodies in richly textured musical contexts, with the aim of evoking healing and peaceful, powerful spiritual states. In addition to printed "lyrics" and translations or interpretations--such as "Adi Shakti Namo Namo" ("I bow to the Primal Power"), "Guru Guru Wahe Guru Guru Ram Das Guru" ("Great beyond words is the ecstasy of experiencing God's wisdom. Great is the one who serves God"), and "Bhaja Man Mere Hari Ka Nam" ("O, my mind, meditate on God's name")--the CD's packaging includes photo illustrations of the sacred mudras (hand gestures) that Kaur suggests listeners use during the seven- and 11-minute meditations for which the chants are intended.

What sets Angels' Waltz apart from most music-for-meditation recordings are musical arrangements that include not only Kaur's attractive voice and pleasantly droning harmonium but also tabla, piano, and bass (played by producer Jeremy Toback); Indian banjo; Chamberlain (an arcane keyboard favored by Tom Waits); diaphanous backing vocals; and, most surprisingly, the country- and bluegrass-tinged banjo, pedal steel, Dobro, and lap steel guitar of Greg Leisz (the widely traveled sideman known for his work with Joni Mitchell, k.d. lang, and Bill Frisell).

So if your mind wanders from the mantras, rest assured that it can find an abode in the surrounding instrumental melodies and harmonies until the chant comes back into focus. In any case, whether or not you attune to "the Infinite that vibrates within us all," the effect is both soothing and musically satisfying.

Contributing Editor Derk Richardson writes about popular culture for Yoga Journal the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Web site SFGate (www.sfgate.com).


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