Sri, by Shantala. Wolf Club Music; shantalamusic.com
Benjy and Heather Wertheimer make up the Portland, Oregon, duo Shantala—a traveling kirtan group that's joined forces with fellow kirtan artists Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, and Anusara founder John Friend to produce Sri. The result is an intoxicating mix of Eastern and Western instruments, harmonies, and chanting in Sanskrit and English.
The seven songs on Sri, a Sanskrit word that means "divine beauty of the universe," shed a fresh light on well-known chants by introducing new compositions. Shantala frontman Benjy—who has toured and recorded with artists such as Jai Uttal, Krishna Das, and Walter Becker of Steely Dan—contributes 25 years of training in classical Indian instruments. His artistry is evident throughout the recordings as he expertly plays the esraj, tabla, djembe, and harmonium. Heather, who has practiced yoga for 20 years and taught for 10, plays guitar and sings with many of the melodies that she composed.
A sense of playfulness, devotion, and authenticity shines through in each track. "Sri Ram Jaya Ram" is a creative mix of traditional Sanskrit chanting, a light-hearted percussion break, and haunting harmonies. Krishna Das lends his familiar voice to "Sri Ram Jaya Ram" and "Om Namo Bhagavate Invocation." His fans will also recognize a cover of his composition "Baba Hanuman." The English translations of "Holy Ma" and "Om Namo Bhagavate/Because the One I Love" make these songs accessible to a wide range of audiences and yogis. When those tracks shift from Sanskrit to English, even the shyest listener might just find themselves humming and chanting right along.
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