Please tell us a little background on the inspiration and creation of your Grammy-Nominated album, DEVA:
This album is very close to my heart — they all are (we’ve made 23!), but this one especially because it features the Seven Chakra Gayatri Mantra, also known as the long form. I grew up with the Gayatri Mantra in its short form and as a child I was taught to chant it every night at bedtime.
Later in my life when I rediscovered the mantras, they came back to me in a conscious way — not as something that I was doing because my parents told me to. Through my exploration I realized there was a long version of the Gayatri Mantra which activates all the seven chakras. Secretly — because I’m not a composer — I was hoping that one day I would be able to create the melody for the mantra. Usually, Miten, Manose or other musician friends compose the melodies for the mantras for me.
When we started to prepare the recording of DEVA, Joby Baker, our producer, encouraged me to compose the melody. I was going to give up, as I had no experience in it at all, so I didn’t trust myself. But Joby wouldn’t take no for an answer. Eventually, with his help, providing me with a basic rhythm and a key that suited my vocal range, a melody came through me and it felt so natural — like it’s THE melody this beloved Seven Chakra Gayatri mantra was meant to have.
The first album I recorded was The Essence in 1998 which featured two versions of the Gayatri Mantra, bookending the album. I love the synchronicity of me creating an album 20 years later that also features the Gayatri Mantra in two versions, both unique in their own way. And since it is the Gayatri Mantra you can never have enough anyway so we decided to put both of them on the album. Only afterwards we realized that this was like on The Essence.
How did you choose your collaborations on this album, including Nepali bansuri maestro Manose, Canadian producer, multi-instrumentalist and Grammy nominee Joby Baker, and special guest Anoushka Shankar?
…and most importantly Miten, my beloved and musical guide for most of my life. We literally do everything together in life, but in this album Miten took a back seat, overseeing and advising us as the recording progressed, and joining me on vocals for the Gayatri. Without his vision and guidance, it would have been a different album. Joby has produced many albums for us over the last five years and we love his musical ingenuity, inspiration and taste. For example, he focuses on instruments and sounds that “move air,” meaning hardly any digitalized or synthesized sounds, mostly all-natural instrumentation. This makes the music feel very organic — a perfect support for the mantras.
Manose has been travelling, playing and recording with us for the last 15 years but only in the last few years he started composing. He has a knack to compose melodies for me that feel “tailor-made,” like Sarva Mangala for example. He is such an accomplished musician and a great companion to what Miten and I share — hard to imagine we would ever make an album without him.
And I’m very honored to have Anoushka Shankar playing sitar on two of the tracks on DEVA. Another dream come true!
What else would you like to share with listeners about this work and its recent Grammy nomination?
It feels a little bit absurd or amusing to receive worldly recognition for prayer, but on the other hand, it is a wonderful sign of the times that devotional music is now included in the music industry — though I have no wish to be part of it.
And the nomination can only be a good thing because it means that more people are exposed to the healing power of the mantras and will benefit from their presence in their lives. In that way, I am so grateful that it is the album with the powerful Gayatri Mantra that has been nominated. My prayer is that it continues to uplift, heal and enlighten all who are blessed to receive its gift.
Photos by Rishi @ HappyLiving Media.