March April issue of Awareness Magazine : Vinit Allen, Designing  a World That Works

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Awareness Magazine
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Music Reviews

by Michael Diamond

 

Michael Brant DeMaria
GAIA
www.ontos.org

According to Michael Brant DeMaria, the songs on this CD are his “tone poems and sound prayers offered in the spirit of waking up and acting for the good of our children’s children, during this time of ecological crisis and transition” as well as honoring our common heritage as dwellers on this precious planet.

Just as we are all connected, so are the songs on the CD as they trace the awakening of Gaia through time. And what better way to express our unity than by incorporating instruments and musical styles from around the world including aboriginal Australia, Africa, and the Far East.

Our connection to the Earth has always been revered in Native American culture throughout the ages, so it is appropriate that Native American flutes, which are one of Michael’s primary instruments, are featured prominently in the music. Other flutes include the Chinese xiao and Japanese shakuhachi, along with piano, synthesizers, global percussion, and Michael’s own voice.

There is a peacefulness that pervades throughout and helps achieve the goal of assisting one to feel the unity of Gaia. Listening to the music with eyes closed, absorbing all the various cultural influences blending together, I did indeed begin to feel a sense of being part of something greater.

This is a wonderful album, diverse yet unitive, and expansive in its vision. The awareness this album seeks to foster is most timely as we strive to re-balance our connections with each other and the planet we co-exist with.

 

Lis Addison
The Grace of the Green Leaf
www.lisaddison.com

Lis Addison, award-winning composer, vocalist, and dancer, has created a stunning follow-up to her previous CD “The Song Of The Tree,” which I also enjoyed very much. She is a pioneer in combining innovative forms of music and movement that incorporate ancient wis-dom and promote healing.

As she describes it, “the overall intention of this project is to create a trancey musical bed that unlocks the mind and allows my vocal healing tones to work their vibratory magic.”

Based on a new “family” of tones she calls “Body Chants,” the idea is “to help focus healing sound vibration on various body parts, to cleanse and recalibrate them and to help us really experience their wisdom.” The Body Chants assist the listener to tune in meditatively to their body. Although listening is only part of it — the intention is to encourage you to get up and sing and dance along.

Movement comes naturally, as the grooves sink into your soul you will find it’s hard to sit still. The music blends Lis’ incredible voice with drums, and a contemporary electronic music focus, which is not surprising seeing that she holds a Master’s degree in electronic music from Mills College.

Other than some drum loops and hand drums, Lis composed and performed all this trance-formative music herself, and like her previous CD, this one was also expertly mixed and mastered by Christopher K at 7 Generations Studio. And as with all her CD’s, a portion of sales goes to tree-planting projects worldwide.

 

Wolfsheart
The Call of the Canyons
www.wolfsheart.eu

“The Call of the Canyons” by Wolfsheart, is perfectly named, as it conjures for the listener, the color and tone of ancient red rock walls and the spirit of those who dwelled in these sacred places and called it their home. This collection of twelve songs has been “inspired by the canyons, the natural landscapes, the people and the soaring birds of the Southwest.

It is a reflection of ancient indian ruins, monuments, petroglyphs and the teachings of Native American people of various tribes.” Titles like “Saguaro Sunset,” “Monument Valley Shadows,” Sunrise At Four Corners,” and “Kokopelli Dreams,” further hint at the influence.

Interestingly, Wolfsheart, who plays Native American flute, Native drums, and sings, currently lives in Vienna, Austria. However, his immersion in this musical genre and culture is deep. He is also the force behind the 2010 Native American Music Award-winning band, Big City Indians.

In addition he performed at the 2010 Zion Canyon Flute Festival in Utah, and he hosts a radio show called “Native Indian Music Channel” on woodroot -radio.eu and rockradio.de.

The music on the album is a wonderful blend of ancient and modern as wood flutes and earthy drums blend with synthesizers and occasional electronic percussion. The keyboard string section gives a cinematic air and sense of drama and majesty for the flute to glide on like a hawk drifting on updrafts above the canyon.

While some songs are propelled by earthy rhythms, others are soulfully meditative. All in all, a deeply felt tribute to a sacred space.

In this issue, I’m pleased to review not one, but two new CD’s produced by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, an icon of acoustic new age music:

 

Shambhu
Sacred Love: Feel the Journey
www.ShambhuMusic.com

While there are many musicians in this genre hunched over computers recording in home studios (myself included), there are very few who have taken the music-making process to the heights that Shambhu has on his “Sacred Love” CD. Sparing no expense to work with some of the top people in the music industry, Shambhu set out from California for the bucolic splendor of Vermont to record at the studio of Windham Hill Records founder and Grammy winner Will Ackerman.

To say that the supporting musicians are an all-star cast would be an understatement, and includes bassist Tony Levin, who plays with Peter Gabriel, Eugene Friesen on cello, and a host of other top-notch musicians who tour with the likes of Santana, Pat Metheny, Ravi Shankar, Yanni, and more.

But at the center of this luminous universe is acoustic guitarist and composer Shambhu. In his own words, “My compositions reflect a diversity of musical influences from across the globe, from contemplative to Indian-jazz fusion to contemporary instrumental.” All radiating a “heartfelt feeling throughout.” This is simply some of the finest music of this type that I have ever heard.

One of the outstanding features of this project is that it is actually a multi-media experience. Shambhu thoughtfully filmed the entire recording process, and in the beautiful accompanying booklet, entitled “A Guide To The Journey,” as well as on his website are links for the videos on YouTube, which I found absolutely fascinating. “Sacred Love” is a journey well worth taking.

 

Heidi Anne Breyer
Another Place and Time...
www.heidibreyer.com

Music and art are often inextricably linked — one can evoke the other. Such is the case in the latest release by Heidi Anne Breyer, in which some of her musical compositions, or “paintings in sound,” were inspired by the artwork of American/Russian realist painter Alexander Volkov. Examples of his beautiful and serene art can be seen in the CD’s booklet. According to Heidi, “each piece was written with the idea of stopping to appreciate the very moment we are experiencing.”

The music has been described as “a collection of original piano-centered, neo-classical instrumental pieces of a very contemplative nature.” Heidi’s graceful and melodic piano playing, which has been called “achingly beautiful,” is indeed the heart of this album.

Haunting and evocative as it is in its own right, it is tastefully supported by a host of talented and highly-skilled musicians and producers. Not the least of which is the stellar production team of Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, and Grammy-winning engineer Corin Nelsen.

Recorded at Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios, the album includes a palette of his famed musical collaborators adding their colors on English horn, violin, cello, guitar, trumpet, flugelhorn, and subtle vocals.

Of the two vocal compositions, the lyrics to “And Winter Came” provide a poetic window into the feel of this album:

And winter came,
In silence blessed,
The earth with snow at dawn,
And all the fears
Were laid to rest a while,
And all the tears were gone.

Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and music journalist in the San Francisco Bay area with over 30 years of experience writing for nationally-published magazines and more recently worldwide on the internet. He currently has five CD’s including two with new age music pioneer Steven Halpern. For additional reviews of CD’s, DVD’s, and more, visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com/blog