Nine years ago, I supported Bhakti Without Borders, an initiative that contributed to one of my favorite non-profits.
Twice, I visited Food for Life Vrindavan, a school that provides schooling, food, and transportation to poor girls in India. Knowing the mission and scope of the organization, I talked to my yoga students about the project and even led classes set to the beautiful compilation, expertly produced by Madi Das and Dave Stringer.
I wasn't surprised that Madi Das' labor love was so successful. Bhakti Without Borders, tapped into a dozen female bhaktas from around the world chanting different sacred Sanskrit mantras or prayers. The musical, spiritual, and humanitarian endeavor rightly won a “Best New Age Album” Grammy® nomination.
On August 25, the two-time Grammy®-nominated team is releasing Mantra Americana II. The second collection expands on the fusion they crafted for the original Mantra Americana. The new release features Tulsi Bloom, who contributed to Bhakti Without Borders, and a host of top-notch recording artists including legendary dobro and pedal steel player, Greg Leisz, and jazz pianist and accordion player, Michael Forman. The lyrical vocals are complemented by a rich blend of banjo, tabla, trumpet, electric guitar, and harmonium to deliver the Nashville meets Namasté vibes.
As I mention in my book, “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram,” sacred music can be in any language or genre. While I love traditional Indian music, newcomers may be more comfortable with what they know. That’s why as part of my Chant and Be Happy signature workshops* I include English mantras and melodies and instrumentation common for the Western ear.
Mantra Americana II delivers. As Madi Das says, “It’s Sanskrit with Soul. We’re taking Indian ragas and putting an American spin on it. It’s a very special brand of Kirtan music that evokes spirituality and traditions but at the same time, has an authentic musicality to the [Western] people singing it.”
Madi Das says the chant tradition has always been innovative, and the Mantra Americana team embraced new ideas to create a new wave of kirtan revolution by incorporating a bit of World, Country, Bluegrass, and Jazz.
To share the music widely, the band set up a crowdfunding campaign. Beyond the final cuts, contributors will get a peek into the creation process, from access to final mixes, exclusive photos and videos, and periodic updates throughout the release. Plus, the band is offering perks from virtual meet and greets to listening parties and music lessons to bring fans on this musical journey in exchange for the satisfaction of helping make this mantra music album a success.
* Join me for Chant and Be Happy, Saturday, August 26 at Serasana in Belterra/Austin. Or register by August 23 for the virtual session on the same day.