Lee Mirabai Harrington is a bit of a newcomer on the devotional music/chant scene, but her release, Beyond the Beyond, shows the musical depth and maturity of someone who has been producing albums for a long time. A lifelong spiritual seeker, Lee Mirabai has been studying yoga since her teens and has been on the Mantrayana (Vehicle of Mantra) path of Buddhism since 2002. Harrington has been creatively inspired by Mantra from a variety of traditions: Hindu, Sikh, Native American, Shamanistic, Taoist, Sufi and ancient Christian.
The album opens in a small and intimate way. “Om Mani Peme Hum Remix” begins with minimalist instrumentation, gently supporting a Tibetan monk’s pure voice. It feels as is if you’re experiencing a private concert. Eventually, the song expands in instrumentation and production, and Harrington’s and other voices step forward to join in the song. Finally the chant evolves a more uptempo double-time groove. This kind of grooving, celebratory vibe tinged with gospel strikes me as Harrington’s signature style.
“Om Namah Shivaya” is a refreshing flavor of rootsy, bluesy gospel–definitely not a style you hear often in devotional albums. Harrington’s vocals on this track range from a rich, deep alto (along the lines of Bonnie Raitt) up to unexpectedly high registers. There is an explosive joy coming through here.
In looking for a more introspective track, I was struck by “Govinda Hare (For Shyamdas).” This song has an Appalachian flavor to it. I’m not sure if an accordion or harmonium was used on this song, and I like that I don’t know! Harrington’s vocal arrangements are perfect here, interweaving and gently building and diversifying so that you never tire of the repeat.
Finally, who can resist a track called “Shiva Shakti (Lord of the Disco Dance)?” Oh yes, it’s exactly what you would expect: a bumping, groovy disco anthem celebrating divine female power! All female vocals on this tune, naturally.
Beyond the Beyond reminds you that Mantra can be communal and exhilarating as well as private and mysterious.