mantra is not music!
Is this the beginning of a mantra revolution?
Making an album like I did was a risk. People are used to listening to mantra set to a Western harmonic system, sung whilst remaining fully entrenched in an English or American articulation system – ie pronounced completely incorrectly.
Badly pronounced Sanskrit sung to Western harmonies can be evocative, it opens the heart and it makes you feel something. We all want to FEEL something other than the onslaught of news and ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ that we see in our daily feeds.
I am grateful to ‘mantra music’. It opens up new worlds for people and offers a taste of the divine.
It gives people the chance to experience chord progressions that point to the mystery whilst jumbling the order of English vowels and consonants to give the impression that they are singing in a different language. It helps people to bypass the mind and sink into the heart.
AND, mantra is NOT music!
Mantra is the most subtle of spiritual practices. This means it’s really really subtle!!! This means we need to put some grunt work in before its full power is revealed.
Like anything, a deep and thorough grounding in the structure of a system is essential in order to expand into the far corners of its vortex. If we want to be a musician we need to practice for years in order to master the technique that allows us to let go into an improvisational bliss.
If we want to shatter the illusion of the identity through the medium of mantra, we have to embody the articulation points of the language, we have to let go and let go again into the resonance of the vowels, we have to experience ‘chandas’, ‘ṛṣi’ and ‘devatā’ and we have to take a thorough investigation of ‘svara’, ‘dhātu’ and ‘pratyaya’. We have to commit to staying fully conscious to the articulation and we need to be shown how to listen with every fibre of our being.
The album I have made was a risk. I don’t believe there is a westerner who has made anything quite like it. There is no hiding in it. I don’t have a trained or natural singing voice. I was mute in front of most adults as a child and struggled with a stammer in my early adult years.
But after spending years living as a hermit studying, practicing and meditating, bashing my head against walls, and finding masters of the language to interrogate, I embodied the structure and was able to realise that the greatest effort was to make no effort at all.
I could finally drop into WHAT WAS THERE ALL ALONG! Right there beneath my very finger tips, the same mantra I had been chanting for years revealed themselves to be the pulsating force of life itself.
They didn’t need a song or changing in any way, and they didn’t need spicing up or tweaking with my creative input. They needed a grounded structure and a profound letting go.
These sounds were discovered in deep stillness; the precise resonances of the vowels and consonants bring us into a remembrance of who we are. If we don’t hit precisely the right resonance, we don’t get taken there. It’s as simple as that.
As a new listener my hope is that you may be touched by something in the album, that without understanding the mechanics and precision, and without perhaps being able to embody or hear the sounds fully, that in accompaniment to the booklet of personal stories and teachings, it may open your world to a previously unseen potency of mantra.
There is a chance that the dedication and stillness required to engage with this level of subtlety will be too much. That swiping over to Deva Premal will give us the easy and immediate mood change that we are after.
But, just perhaps, there is the chance that this could be the beginning of mantra revolution.
Kirtan was new to the west 20 years ago. Putting the work into embodying the structure of mantra, to then let go entirely into that structure is new to the west right now.
Singing KRISHANA from the depths of our heart over and over to western chord progressions is one thing.
Sitting quietly by ourself sounding ‘kṛṣṇaḥ’, just once, is another thing. Feeling the full impact of the gutteral ‘k’ reverberate through our system, bringing our tongue up to point to the roof of the mouth to sound ṛṣṇ (there is no ‘i’ in the word kṛṣṇa), feeling its resonance in the third eye, as we then exhale the visarga ‘ḥ’ from our belly, bringing the ‘tantra’ into ‘kṛṣṇaḥ’ as we bring him into conscious form: so meditation and āsana merge, an electrifying dance of creation playing out within our mouth.
It won’t be for everyone. But I believe I’m leading a way.
Whose coming with me?!!