CD review by Ian Dearden
Dave Stringer is a Los Angeles-based composer and musician whose passion is the modern Yoga movement, in particular, seeking to merge neuroscience, yoga philosophy and music into a participatory theatrical experience.
He has released 12 albums to date of Kirtan music, so it is useful to firstly set out a little background.
Dave credits India, and his consequent exposure to the philosophy and theology of yoga, as the impetus for a journey that has been both excruciating and ecstatic.
As a musician, that lead him to his involvement with kirtan music, which he describes as “an ecstasy-inducing, call-and-response form of mantra chanting that is currently undergoing a worldwide renaissance.”
The purpose or intention of kirtan is, as he describes it, consciousness transformative, the singing of mantras which is designed to create “an ecstatic state of awareness that is beyond mind.”
Japa was recorded at Dave Stringer’s house in Los Angeles with a large ensemble of singers and musicians, and features various string instruments, violin, viola, cello, bass, guitars, keyboards, brass, flutes, western and Indian percussion and a range of other instruments.
With the exception of one traditional piece, ‘Hey Shiva Shankara’, the songs on this album are all written by Dave, but fall squarely in the traditions of the 15th century Indian Bhakti movement, which revolves around writing and performing ecstatic love poems to the divine.
The songs are all in Sanskrit, the mother tongue of all Indo-European languages, and primarily feature the use of call and response, which Dave points out in the liner notes, is a feature of bluegrass, gospel and jazz, and are designed to promote encounters with bliss!!
And so to the songs themselves.
The recording process has served the songs well, crisply recorded, mixed in widescreen, emphasising the size of the ensemble and the full sweep of the vocal and instrumental contributions.
Clearly drawing on jazz, rock and folk influences, as well as the obvious Indian musical connection, each track features lead or featured vocalists, including, I notice, Toni Childs, as well as Dave himself, and a large and enthusiastic choir.
The titles are all, I assume, in Sanskrit – ‘Ganapati Om’; ‘Jay Ambe’; ‘Hey Shive Shankara’; ‘Devakinandana Gopala’; ‘Shri Jam Jay Ram’; and ‘Shanti Om’.
All songs are in relaxed heartbeat tempos, feature light and shade, both vocally and instrumentally, and range between 6 and 9 minutes in length.
In other words, each of these songs is a journey into the divine, whether or not you use them in your yoga practice, or utilise them as a tool to drift off into a blissful state of sheer relaxation and joyfulness!!
You can find out much much more at www.davestringer.com, including details of his extensive discography, and his voyage of discovery that led him to this gorgeous music-making.