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Calling the Spirits, by Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band. Wild Lotus Productions; seanjohnsonkirtan.com
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, studio owner and kirtan singer Sean Johnson left his hometown to go
on tour with his band. In between performances, the group set to work on writing new material that blended Big Easy
jazz with Sanskrit chants. The resulting studio album represents the band’s emotional grieving for its city and
hopefulness for its renaissance.
In this acoustically based album, Johnson, with his brother and guitarist Matt Johnson, percussionist Gwendolyn Colman,
and jazz bassist Alvin Young, aims to capture the spirit of the devastated city. Tenor sax and guitar fuse beautifully
with the Indian harmonium and tamboura, Middle Eastern dumbek and udu, and Latin castanets. Many of the tracks are
improvised recordings, giving each song a life of its own.
This organic energy is evident throughout the album, especially with “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” in which the
opening guitar riff precedes a soulful saxophone accompanying the mantra for happiness and freedom to all. The funky
rhythms and vocals in “Om Shakti,” exuding the power of the divine feminine, are paired with a rapped chant of the
“Durga Chalisa,” a Hindu prayer honoring Durga, the lion-riding warrior goddess.
Calling the Spirits delivers the spicy sounds of the bayou with devotion. For that reason, the album is a joy to
listen to whether you’re a yogi, a jazz connoisseur, or anyone who appreciates wildly creative music.