I'm so very excited for this project to come into the world. Ambika first asked me to produce this album about five years ago, and it's been one of those projects that has spanned a lot of time, life and change for both of us. Through all these years, it has been a very rewarding thread of creativity and joy for me, and I'm very happy to have played such a role in bringing it into the world. The recording itself is a full length album that features all female singers, and is comprised of melodies that Ambika has been singing for the past 10-20 years. The spirit of the album is deeply rooted in the practice of call-and-response chanting and is a lovely offering to Ambika's teacher, Siddhi Ma.
It was a real treat for me to get back in the Producer's (and Engineer's) chair after many years of not working in the music industry, and on a project that is very close to my heart. Many people in the yoga community don't know me as a Producer or Audio Engineer, but that was my professional life before owning and running Brooklyn Yoga School, and how I made my living for the first ten or so years of my life in NYC. So coming back to that work for this project (after many years away from it) was a very full circle moment for me.
Ambika is a longtime devotee of Maharaj-ji, and one of the cornerstones of the Brooklyn chanting community, but what many people don't know about her is that she is also a very talented musician, and grew up singing in bands in NYC. Her humility and respect for this practice is massive, and so much of my work producing the album was simply shining a light on her vision and talents. We spent many hours exploring how best to bring her practice into this recording, and how best to craft the music and melodies that she has carried for so many years. The result of those many discussions was an ambitious undertaking, which is part of why this project took so long to bring to fruition. But it felt important, especially as Ambika's first album, to let these recordings come to life in the right atmosphere.
Sonically, this meant that Mother's Calling was to be a melding of two worlds: the soundscapes of India, combined with the western sensibility of Ambika's roots in rock n roll (not to mention 20+ years of singing with Krishna Das). Each track is interwoven with samples and sounds from northern India, most all of which were recorded by Ambika herself in the Kainchi temple of Neem Karoli Baba. The results transport the listener into another time and space that is somewhere between here and there -- a surprisingly natural mashup of an American singer who has felt right at home in an Indian tradition of call-and-response chanting for over 20 years.
The other big theme for the project was the Mother, and connection to the feminine. While Ambika has chanted for many years with both men and women, for this particular recording, it felt appropriate to feature all female singers as a way to more deeply invoke to the feminine. Each chant features a duet between Ambika and a different guest vocalist: Manorama, Anjula Prasad, Janaki Kagel and myself. These duets are supported by an all-women's response choir as well, which is an homage to the many female devotees in the temples of India who only come out to sing and dance late in the evenings, after their day of work is through.
You don't realize the rarity of the sound of an all-female choir until you hear it, and when you do, it strikes an ancient chord. For centuries women have come together to sing -- to call in the newly born, to grieve the dying, and to celebrate the many stages of life. Here on this album, their voices come together to call out to the Mother, and in return, She calls right back to them.
To support this beautiful tapestry of voices, we wanted to create a rich bed of instrumentation that also pulled from both eastern and western traditions. The result was a melange of dholak, kartals, bass, cello, harmonium, flute, violin, guitar and much more. The final product is a true blending of east and west, old and new. So many great musicians brought this to life: Terrence Pompey, Mark Gorman, Sundar Das Ruben, Lee Welch, Jansen Bennett, Noah Hoffeld, Genevieve Walker, Nina Rao, Devadas, and Ashana Sophia. Our primary recordings were all engineered by the phenomenal Kevin Reilly at his studio, Schrödinger's Box, where the two of us also mixed the final record together in the Fall of 2017.
The final product is something that I am very proud of, and is infused with so much of my own care and energy. I hope it will reach many kirtan and yoga practitioners out there, and bring about many of the benefits that this chatning practice offers.
You can learn more about Ambika and her various live chanting events and workshops via her website. I also encourage you to support this project by PRE-ORDERING the physical or digital album via her website starting February 9th!
Join us on March 30th, 2018 for the Album Release Party at Brooklyn Yoga School with many of the vocalists and musicians from the album there in person.