The opening notes of Magic and Grace set the tone for an experience that is both meditative and expansive with Jeff Andrews’ hammer dulcimer dancing with Adrienne Woods’ cello. The magic continues throughout Philippo Franchini’s compositions on the gifted musician’s newest album.

Magic and Grace reveals the artist’s exploration of Nada Yoga – the practice of the transformational power of sound healing. He has studied with noted pioneers in the field Sylvia Nakkach, Jonathan Goldman and Dr. John Beaulieu (author of Music and Sound in the Healing Arts). Franchini combines this with the deep effects of years of meditation and Yoga practice and the synergistic combination of knowledge and experience to share his alchemical creations with magic and grace.

The healing power of the music is in the subtleties. Proponents of Nada Yoga emphasize the importance of the perfect fifth, the musical interval that harmonizes the right and left lobes of the brain. The sustained tones also incorporated here are scientifically shown to increase oxygen exchange and the subtle percussion and layered instrumentals have a profound effect on calming the nervous system.

Each of the eight tracks melds into the next for a soothing sonic soundscape closing with a gorgeous “Repose.” While largely instrumental, the gorgeous vocal stylings of yogi and musician Donna De Lory grace “Shakti Blue” and “Reverie.” This album is thus a perfect accompaniment to Yoga practice, housecleaning, meditation and an overall soundtrack to life. In “Kama’s Spell,” the opening rhythmic guitar harmonizing with the percussion and cello is particularly hypnotic.

Franchini’s musical alchemy is also seen in projects such as Blues Divine and his collaborations with David Newman and Franchini makes a soulful appearance in the “Stay Strong” project. He will be offering workshops in Musical Alchemy while on tour worldwide, including appearances at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree. magicandgracemusic.com

–– Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko, RN

If the nonprofit group of activists Off The Mat, Into The World® hasn’t inspired you to move more in the name of seva, then this compilation might do the trick. Sounds of Seva features a selection of artists known for their tuned-in sounds, and this expertly produced collection flows like a classical vinyasa class. Although the music itself is far from classical, as it utilizes modern renditions with electronic beats and synthesized vocals, it has its roots settled nicely in devotional mantras.

Donna De Lory’s voice infuses the first track with an upbeat wake-up remix of Hey Ma Durga. Soul-soothing bass lines carry you forward from one track to the next with contributions by Suzanne Sterling, Desert Dwellers, Rara Avis, Shaman’s Dream, Alex Theory, Manose, Brenda McMorrow and Ben Leinbach. The energy reaches its zenith with an energetic remix of Krishna Love by MC Yogi. With every peak asana comes relief and recognition of the process – this is also true with these songs, which slowly return the listener to your center. The compilation mirrors Yoga sequencing and concludes with a sweet savasana lullaby by Shaman’s Dream: flowing water sounds and gentle notes to sing out all your stress.

Who knew that seva could sound so good? It sounds even better knowing that a portion of the proceeds benefit Off The Mat, Into The World® to support their mission “to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change through the power of Yoga.” This collection curated by Shaman’s Dream and YogiTunes cofounder Craig Kohland is a sonic compliment for the practice of the conscious yogi who knows that every dollar spent is a vote for the kind of world in which we wish to live.

–– Reviewed by Michael Blahut, who recently returned from Fiji as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He is currently a student at the Shiatsu Massage School of California, and a friendly face behind the desk at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement.

This is fun audio collage art. Sweet beats with a cohesive, melodic sensibility. Smooth grooves in no hurry to get anywhere. In between the trance rhythms is where the seasoning is found. The sounds, instrumentation and voices of the East are swimming in a thick soup of western grooves. The spices are added with the art of several good producers. But it’s better just to feel it. Or as Hunter S. Thompson would say, “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”

Like most albums of this genre, it’s much like a DJ set that runs a straight line, never straying from the one groove. A mass transit to the no mind – not to be confused with the know mind – straight through the escape hatch to oblivion. A modern and musical take on mother’s little helper, minus the chemical side effects or the jones for more.

Desert Phase was inspired by the time Seb Taylor and Natasha Chamberlain spent in some of the world’s deserts. Desert Phase Remixes is thirteen tracks from the Desert Phase album, each remixed by different “remixers”/producers representing a dizzying array of sub-genres from dubstep, breaks, glitch hop, techno and drum’n’bass.

From New Zealand and Australia, Opiuo, Oblique Industries and Interpulse bring their skills to the tracks “23 Towers” and “Desert Child.” US-based producers Bluetech, EarthRise SoundSystem and Liquid Stranger take on cuts “Vijaya,” “Sundown” and “Dust Devil.” UK-based producers Tripswitch, Gaudi, Eat Static and 100th Monkey round out the track list with filtering, audio dissection and reconstruction of the original album.

What’s impressive is that these producers, scattered across three continents, somehow manage to stay cohesive and on the same page, like some kind of archetypal consciousness. Or as my grandmother might say, “They all sound the same.”

–– Reviewed by Daniel Overberger, an LA-based Yoga teacher, the author of Leaving Stress Behind and founder of alt-kirtan group, Dharma Gypsys. leavingstressbehind.com

SRI Kirtan is Sruti Ram (on harmonium and vocals) and Ishwari (on vocals and acoustic guitar), a duo based in Woodstock, New York They’ve united their talents and their decades of experience in chanting (everything from Sanskrit-based kirtan to chants of the Gregorian variety) and musical styles ranging from opera to folk, punk and electronica. It’s a powerful combination that creates a potent kirtan experience both in person and in recording. On their new album, Live Your Love, they’re joined by such master musicians as flautist Steve Gorn along with Curtis Bahn (dilruba and sitar) Charlie “Govind” Burnham (violin), Noah Hoffeld (cello) and Kyle Esposito (bass and electric guitar).

In Live Your Love, you are transported straight to the Ganga River in India. Their fluid, celebratory sound is heard in “Ganga Ma,” a track that supports an awakening of joy in your heart chakra. Whether you’re new to kirtan or a kirtan wallah yourself, you cannot help but move to the vibrations of the healing sounds on “Govinda”, which is a mega-mix of the “Maha Mantra.” This version even has a strong rap interlude that brings the hip-hop element to an already very modern take on classical bhajans.

The album’s title, and the title track, reflects the bhav or spiritual emotion inherent in the kirtan tradition. “Live Your Love” includes English phrases such as, “Flowers showered from heaven, the world drenched in bliss… overflowing with nectar, for this I wish.” These phrases are consistently and seamlessly woven throughout many songs.

Bottom line: don’t be surprised if, while listening to SRI Kirtan’s Live Your Love, you feel an explosive burst of energy and find yourself moving – make that skipping – through your day, blessed-out and blessed-out and chanting their catchy melodies.

–– Reviewed by Ashley Wynn, RYT, a kirtan wallah who teaches at Bhakti Yoga Shala: bhaktiyogashala.com.

Fortunately, I’ve had the honor of being in classes where Ena Vie shares her lyrical, heartfelt voice and collaborations with musical partner Howard Lipp. I’ve even been lucky enough to have her sing when I’ve taught. I’ve also seen her with a full band on a Friday night in the bar scene where her conscious take on the singer-songwriter genre shines a light amidst the pool tables and pints of beer. Her musical talent combines years of developing skillful singer-songwriter chops with an attitude of love and exploration. In her singer-songwriter infused album From Within, tunes like “Down that Road” combine a catchy melody with inviting lyrics that ask us to question what we’re seeking and how we’re finding it. She sings, “You’ve been down that road; you know where it ends; that’s not where you want to be and now it all depends on you to accept the lead…Take my hand and we’ll discover more.”

Ena Vie delivers on this promise. By taking her hand through selecting her tunes for your playlist, you’ll discover your own inner heart of devotion.

Her new album, Heart of Devotion, has gorgeous vocal layering of Ena Vie’s unique take on traditional Sanskrit chants, such as her lush rendition of the poetic Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu (may everyone everywhere be happy and free) in “Loka” and her lyrical invocation to the remover of obstacles in “Ganesha.” The repetition of shanti, the Sanskrit word for peace, is featured in “Od Yaro.”

This isn’t a kirtan album, per se, but it will appeal to lovers of the kirtan genre as well as those unfamiliar with the form who will be drawn in by Ena Vie’s expressive and melodic voice. Her delivery of the mantras reveals her years of musical and meditative and Yogic practice in the deep expressive love inherent in her music.

Join Ena Vie and her band (including Lipp) on February 26 at Bhakti Yoga Shala (bhaktiyogashala.com) for their album release party for Heart of Devotion. enavie.com.

–– Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko, RN