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Anyone who's ever heard Lama Surya Das sing might be surprised to find he's recorded an album of chants with progressive new age maestro Steven Halpern; the Lama has plenty of gusto, but carrying a tune isn't his strong point. Through the magic of electronics, however, Halpern tweaks his vocals, and the results are cooler than anyone would have imagined. The enlightened, Long Island-born Lama is a husky fellow with a brash New Yorker attitude, and the dichotomy of his poise can be startling. He can deliver peaceful Buddhist teachings like a football coach's pep talk, and you may indeed feel like a dove being carried down the field by a running back as you listen to his unique renditions of sacred prayers and chants. Yet these tracks convey a deep sense of serenity with their graceful swaying and powerful spirit, and Surya Das imbues them with an earnest awareness of the most common spiritual strivings. Halpern skillfully backs many of the chants with celestial Indian-style drones, rock and hip-hop drum programming, and funky, vibratory electronic bass played by Mark Van Wageningen. On the forceful "Obstacle Removing and Path-clearing Prayer," Halpern deposits a harmonized descant chant over the main "para gate" prayer. Occasionally, Surya Das exclaims a few lines in English - "Beyond, beyond the beyond. Awakening, right now" -- so you'll know what the chant is about, but the lyrics and translations are all printed in the liner notes too. With this endearing album -- which is the CD companion to the Lama's book Awakening the Buddhist Heart -- Halpern and Surya Das prove you can be enlightened and still dig the groove.
|Label:||Inner Peace Music|