CD review by Tony Smith
When you pick up an older album and go trawling through musician biographies, your discoveries might not always be pleasant.
In the case of Akasa (Akasha), it was sad to be reminded that a member of the quartet died tragically young in 2003, four years after this self-named CD appeared.
Melanie Shanahan wrote three of the six tracks on this album of beautiful harmonious a cappella songs 30 minutes in length.
The other three superb voices belong to Diana Clark, Vicki King and Andrea Watson.
Knowing that Melanie Shanahan is no longer with us makes the lyrics of these songs seem extra poignant.
It is difficult not to interpret the songs as a tribute.
In retrospect, they express a yearning but also an encouragement to anyone feeling troubled.
Melodious voices like these combined in such perfect harmony would lift the spirits even if the words were meaningless chants.
The lyrics to these songs however, carry uplifting messages.
Shanahan’s ethereal ‘Trust’, written in first person, expresses the need to abandon yourself ‘taken by the wind … sea … ground … your touch’.
Andrea Watson’s ‘Walking Song’ is very much about the hope you feel when walking together beneath the stars, the sharing of a load making it seem lighter.
Shanahan’s ‘Walk With Me’ asks for support: ‘Walk with me, hold my hand … give me courage … show me love.
Diana Clark’s ‘It’s Love I See’ is a song of praise and thanks to love ‘for the things you do for me’, where love could be in the abstract or a specific loving person.
Clark’s ‘Yahwe’ addresses grandmothers and the debts we have to them and to all our ancestors: ‘Her sighs call for a home’ and call us to a spiritual home
Shanahan’s ‘Turn Back the Time’ asks ‘if you could turn back the time, would you?’
Maybe it is easier to watch where your feet are walking and the tracks they make as it happens.
Whether by sophisticated arrangements or by an instinctive ability to work off each other, this quartet sings harmonies which famous a cappella groups such as Sweet Honey In the Rock would be proud to produce.
These wonderful voices are supported by various percussion including djembes, bass drum, agogo (cow bells) and sticks.
Akasa means ‘cavity of the heart/ ether, that which fills everything’.
In short, it is about being.
It is difficult to imagine any listener not being touched deeply by Akasa.