Breath of the Heart
In world of peace, tranquility, and perfect breathing, he is a superstar. Krishna Das, the yoga practitioner and maestro of kirtan, or yogic chant, has seen his humble star rise over the years -- he gave Madonna pointers for her role as a yoga instructor in her film The Next Best Thing, and his chant sessions-cum-concert appearances sell out yoga centers across the country. Breath of the Heart brings the hirsute Bhakti yoga guru and former record label exec together with another hairy honcho, pioneering hip-hop pioneer Rick Rubin (which explains the presence of Beastie Boy Mike D among the chanters). Hot off his session with Pakistan's rising qawwali star Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rubin is on a transcendental roll. Like that dry, bare-bones approach of Khan's eponymous debut -- no synths, kit drums, or strings to speak of -- which allowed the raw power of Khan's devotional vocals shine through, Breath of the Heart is a powerful yet no-frills experience. Das, a New York native whose previous albums combined his strong baritone chant with Indian and Appalachian elements -- as well as a memorable duet with Sting on One Track Heart -- is in fine form. Belting our texts and prayers familiar to some yoga practitioners and others hailing from deeper in the Vedic canon, Das has a brawny, shaggy voice whose gentle authority has moved scores of listeners to deepen their practice. Handclaps, harmonium, tablas, and the occasional guitar lead the music on a uniquely American journey that begins with the sounds of the Subcontinent and reaches across the Rockies to the folksy strains of mountain music and California country rock. Used as a meditation aid or merely a relaxation tool, these homely sounds can transform your listening room into a sacred space and make the morning commute a whole new kind of trip.