Full disclosure: it’s difficult for me to be neutral about devotional musicians Deva Premal and Miten. I had always enjoyed their music, but they were so open and gracious when I interviewed them for our February 2012 issue that I kind of fell in love with them.
That being said, there is a consistency in the kirtan genre that is pleasing but often predictable, and while there is a place for purists, some of kirtan’s most delightful musical moments emerge when it’s used in new ways. On Songs for the Sangha, Deva and Miten enhance the convention with nature sounds, a reggae-pop backup on some cuts and the refreshing jazz piano of Spencer Cozens. Deva’s clear soothing voice and Manose’s masterful flute are still there, but now Miten—who sings in live performances but usually stays in the background on recordings—steps forward on fully half the album, particularly shining on his adaptation of a Rumi poem in “Draw Near.”
Then there’s “Sarveshaam Mantra,” a musical detour reminiscent of the Muslim call to prayer. And percussion on “Brahma Gayatri Mantra” and “Guru Mantra” that brings to mind recordings by jazz great Pharaoh Sanders.
The word sangha means “spiritual family” or “spiritual community.” Songs for the Sangha is also a musical community—wide-ranging, diverse, harmonious and ultimately pleasing. (White Swan)
This article is a part of the Lifetime Learning issue of Whole Life Times.