Jai Uttal

Photo of Jai Uttal by Jeffrey Newberry

Always leading with musical majesty and soul-stirring passionate vocal delivery, Jai Uttal returns with Roots, Rock, Rama! proving once again that he has the ability to go where no one else in the genre can, radically furthering the experience of kirtan in the modern era.

Jai Uttal’a new double album puts the ecstatic back in ecstatic chant. Conceptually and musically, it is the follow-up release that fans of his reggae and mantra mashup Queen Of Hearts album have been waiting for.

I’ll go on the record saying that the whole album is worth owning for the disc one jewel of a Shiva chant bizarrely titled “Primordial Swamp Beat.” Here you’ll find Jai singing “Om Namah Shivaya” at his most convincing with pure devotion. I recommend keeping this track on repeat.

Other disc one gems include the Krishna-inspired “H.A.R.I.” (listen here) which is as sweet a melody as I’ve ever heard in sacred chant as well as the closer of the Beatles’ “Help” which is infused with the Maha Mantra. It is incredibly creative and catchy and will no doubt get your body in motion.

Roots Rock Rama! Jai Uttal
Disc two switches to a more mellow and world music approach with heavy Brazilian influences that would even make Paul Simon envious. The collection climaxes with the finale of perhaps the most resonating track “Echo Of Mercy (Om Namo Narayanaya)” which is classic Jai Uttal: Profoundly moving and heart opening.

Of course the musicianship on the both discs is at the level of mastery the listener has rightfully come to expect from Jai. This album includes a reunion with members of the Pagan Love Orchestra (the Bhakti equivalent of the E Street Band!) as well as future ecstatic chant hall-of-famers Gaura Vani and the Mayapuris’ Visvambhar Sheth and bhakti rhythm section essentials Mark Gorman and Dave Allen. Longtime production collaborator Ben Leinbach continues to deliver the goods and prove once again to be the perfect companion on Jai’s recorded musical journey. Roots, Rock, Rama! also benefits from the excellent addition of guitar maestro Steve Postell. Angelic devi vocals are provided to perfection by Prajna Vieira, Tina Malia, and Sandy Cressman.

Watch the music video for “S.A.M.B.A (Shiva’s Adoration of Mata Bhavani’s Ambrosia). 

There’s no way to sit still as this music plays and it’s easy to see how the live concerts Jai will perform in celebration of this collection will go down as unforgettable.

Jai Uttal will be headlining Shakti Fest May 12-14 at Joshua Tree Retreat Center.

For more information about Jai Uttal and to find out where to buy the album, visit www.jaiuttal.com 

Shiva Baum is head of music programming at Bhakti Fest and Shakti Fest and former head of A&R at Triloka Records.