The very first notes of the opening track “Gayatri Mantra,” create a deeply sacred mood that also reveals some inkling of the variety of world music influences present in this album Niguma as a whole. Sound artist, vocalist, and musician Sangeeta Kaur’s second album Niguma demonstrates both her dedication to her practice as well as her background as a classically trained opera singer who studied at CSU Long Beach Music School and the Boston Conservatory of Music.
In addition to the practice of Kundalini Yoga, another of Sangeeta Kaur’s connections to the yoga tradition relates to the teachings of Lady Niguma, the namesake for this collection of eight eclectic mantra tracks. This historical figure is seen as one of the important female Buddhist teachers of the 10th or 11th century India. The resonance and beauty of Sangeeta’s voice combines powerful melodies in this cross-over album that includes tracks in English and Vietnamese, as well as traditional chants in Sanskrit along with Gurmukhi mantras familiar to those who take Kundalini Yoga classes. Throughout, the clarity of Sangeeta’s lyrical voice inspires a feeling of transcendence—transporting the listener to something beyond the ordinary.
“Gayatri Mantra” opens the album with hypnotic instrumentals that lead into Sangeeta’s clear uplifting vocals offering a pure and inspiring interpretation of this ancient mantra. While I could listen to just this track on repeat, the transition to “Adras Bhaee” offers the heartfelt prayer invoked in the songs English title, “A Prayer to Answer all Prayers.” Sangeeta’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World” combined with “Om Mani Padme Hum” showcases the range of her voice while the closing “Together — Heart Sutra” has a spiritual lullaby quality.
Niguma is a collaboration that combines Sangeeta’s voice and vision with composer and producer Nicholas Neidhardt. Sangeeta’s dream team of musicians and engineers include Mark Gorman, zither player Vân Ánh Võ, percussionist Cedric Leonardi, Ellis Hall, Fritz Heede, and Gerhard “Juice” Joost. They have created undeniable artistry in this series of multilingual mantras layered carefully with a variety of musical styles and masterful accompaniment.
Two of the songs on the album were honored in the 2016 Global Peace Song Awards. “Lascia Ch’io Pianga” won in the Opera/Classical music category while “Ardas Bhaee” won in the Music Video category. Even without these accolades, Niguma is a winner and a welcome addition to a sacred or world music collection.
For more information, visit Sangeeta Kaur Music online.