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East-West Fusion

Kirtan master and multi-instrumentalist Jai Uttal blends the sacred and secular in his latest musical creation, "Mondo Rama".

By Derk Richardson

The true source of Mondo Rama's brilliant dialectical synthesis of myriad musical and metaphysical elements can be found not on hard-drives, however, but in hard times. While making the record, Uttal went through traumatic upheavals in his personal life. "I was dealing with a lot of emotional issues," he said, "and there's a lot of angst on this album, even in the happier songs. I was surprised when it was done that it has a quality of joy and celebration to it as well. While we were making it, I was feeling the quality of death, but now I really feel the quality of rebirth in the music. It's great to be so surprised by the end results of the work." Having recently incorporated yoga practice into his daily routine, Uttal senses an overall "move toward connectedness" in his life, and that may be the most defining characteristic of Mondo Rama. The devotional elements still play a huge role, as does brainy musical eclecticism. But by unleashing more of his personal feelings than on any previous recording, Uttal has made his warmest, most human album to date. "It's what my life is about," he said, "being really human and knowing that humanness is not contrary to the spiritual life."

Contributing Editor Derk Richardson writes about popular culture for Yoga Journal, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Gate (

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