Vyas is a composer, musician and singer from India working in the world-fusion and devotional music genres. “Atma Bhakti” is music designed for prayer, meditation and devotional practices. The title of the CD loosely translates to ‘soul devotions to the supreme deity’. The music creates an ambience where the soul can open and evolve.

Manish plays the swar-mandal (harp), tanpura (a long-necked plucked string instrument), keyboards, gong, bells, and sings. His friend Milind Date plays bamboo flute. Jay Dave, Drishna Jani and Singdha Pious add background vocals.

There are three tracks on the CD. The first track “Atma” (29:06) features the ‘mangalam’ mantra. This word means “auspiciousness.” The mantra addresses Vishnu and is for the well-being of the world. It evokes happiness, peace, health, and prosperity for all.  The bamboo flute floats above a sustained bass drone with soft bells and inner string harmonies. The vocal chanting is minimal. The music conveys the feeling of boneless tranquility. 

The second track “Bhakti” (31:45) features the ‘Shivaya namaha om’ mantra. The mantra is for divine love, grace and truth, and reciting it is considered nectar for the soul. It is introduced with gongs and harp glissandos. Airy synth sounds convey the feeling of a gentle wind. Different instruments are gradually introduced into the texture. Manish’s solo voice alternates with a three-part chorus using western harmonic chords. The chanting subsides and returns to a plaintive melody played on the flute. The pace of instrumental melodies is slow and patient as it floats along. The tanpura, flute, and swar-mandal harp alternate throughout. Toward the end of the track there’s a section of more intense chanting with voices in unison.

The final track is “Vedic Chanting” (5:06). It demonstrates a more traditional kind of Hindu chanting style. The sounds of water, bells, and background street activity flow into a mantra. A gong gives way to harmonic instrumental riffs and more unison chanting to Shiva. This mantra is a prayer of thanks and invokes the deities for luck and protection.

This CD is a high quality demonstration of traditional instruments and chants of India merging with western tonalities and melodic construction. It is exceptional for the sense of space, peace, and tranquility that it creates for the listener. The music is wonderful for meditation, prayer, yoga, healing modalities like Reiki, and other worshipful and devotional activities. Recommended.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Manish Vyas
New Earth Records, 2015
Available in CD format [$13.19] and digital downloads [$16.99] at all the major internet music stores