White Swan Records
I fell in love with kirtan late in my practice. It was within the expansive studio of the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, not long after Hurricane Katrina. Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band were touring to raise funds to rebuild their hometown when then they sang, played, chanted, and raised the proverbial roof. For me, the combination of an earthy, jazz-influenced sound, rhythms from New Orleans, and devotion to both music and mantra demonstrated by Sean Johnson, drummer and vocalist Gwendolyn Colman, and bassist and guitarist Alvin Young, was—and remains—transcendent.
The title track “Unity” begins with a famous line from Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there.” The chant segues into the peace prayer, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” mixed with invocations in Sanskrit and English, with a rhythm that begs us to dance, or at least sing along. This is one of many timely prayers for peace found on Unity. Beginning with the band’s groovy version of the traditional opening to Ganesh (“Ganesha’s Belly Dance”) continuing with tracks like the multi-lingual “Peace Song,” then closing with the band’s English-language gospel-tinged festival favorite “I’ll Fly Away.”
This is a Sunday-morning gospel-tinged soundtrack for the revival of this century. Merging mantra, frame drum, and world music melodies and rhythms, this is a must-have for your kirtan library.
Reviewed by Felicia Tomasko
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.