Saffron Ensemble - Will You
By Samir Shukla
Ours is a rapidly shrinking world. Cultures, ethnicity, foods, travel, and myriad languages are intermingling as never before in human history. This, of course, also has an effect on the most universal language of all, music.
The recording Will You is a subtle exploration of Hindustani music with a touch of jazz performed by multiple-genre musicians. The Iranian-American vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi sings and speaks works of 13th-century Sufi mystic and poet Rumi while the Saffron Ensemble, sitar player Shujaat Khan, saxophonist Tim Ries, pianist Kevin Hays, and tabla player Dibyarka Chatterjee, envelope her voice in surreal sounds. Together, they have created new musical backdrops for the poet’s words.
She sings the words in a manner that connects with listeners, even those who don’t know Persian. I wonder if she had spoken the words of each song in English prior to the ensuing track, sort of a prelude, the words would relate more to a non-native speaker, elevated further by the music. But I understand that much is lost in translation, so maybe just imagining what the words mean, and she does a wonderful job emoting them, along with the superb music, the meaning just seeps into the psyche.
The friendship and camaraderie of this singer and musicians are clear in the natural aura of the recordings where many voices walk together.
Rumi is among the most influential Sufi poets, his works now translated across the globe. The Saffron Ensemble and Goudarzi have made a sublime and hypnotic recording that will inspire listeners to find the poet’s work and read it.
I know I’m among those looking to further read his works. In a sense, I have a readymade soundtrack in this recording.
Chandrika Tandon - Shivoham
By Samir Shukla
Shivoham – The Quest
(Soul Chants Music)
Chandrika Tandon is a seeker of the deeper meaning of existence and commonality of human connections. Music informs her journey. She is an accomplished business woman, but seeks something more as a vocalist and composer.
Shivoham – The Quest is her fourth recording and a continuation of her journey of seeking. The three-disc set begins with an overture and consists of three movements – “Yearning," “Searching," and “Connecting." The essence of this recording is her serene voice draped over spiritual music. Tandon grew up in Chennai, but it's her world travels that affect her multi-hued music. This collection is ambitious to say the least. She chants timeless Sanskrit slokas and spiritual hymns stitched with numerous musical genres, including traditional Indian classical music, Irish reels, western classical and jazz intermingled with English lyrics.
It's a blend of Indian and Western music with a decidedly Indian backdrop. Recorded at multiple studios in four countries over a period of over two years, including the legendary Abbey Road studio in London, she worked with Indian musicians, the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the Soweto Gospel Choir, London Voices, Kings singers and western soloists. It takes adventurous ears to appreciate the Sanskrit slokas intermingling with western choral singers. Gregorian chants, South African gospel singers, Indian ragas, and English folk music are all at home here.
The English lyrics are quite simple, but that's the point, as the words enhance, not clash with slokas, mantras, and gospel music. It's essentially a spiritual recording, where the music can be haunting, meditative, and exotic.
Multiple listening sessions are required for the experience to fully sink in, as some cuts initially seem a bit incongruent, but they subtly merge in an eclectic manner. An array of musicians, including Indian and Western percussionists, guitarists, accordion, flute, sitar, and several other instruments contribute to the sound. There are many pieces that create a meditative trance. Tandon composed and produced Shivoham – The Quest describing her own journey which she sees as “a universal journey; of seeking the light, yearning for it; searching for it and finding moments of connection to it."
She writes in the liner notes, “We spend a lifetime searching for love, peace, happiness, success – yet the light we sometimes so relentlessly seek, is right inside of us. It has always been – a part of the universal journey that is as old as time itself. Shivoham – The Quest is a musical journey of my own journey."
The culmination of reflecting, writing, composing, and experimenting, including during workshops in her house and during recording sessions, results in a lovely piece of work.
Listen to the record here: