This CD presents musical versions of Sanskrit mantras – but in no way is this a typical or ordinary album! Gopika is a well-known singer who has appeared on many other albums. Nadaka is a singer and instrumentalist. The most unusual component is his hybrid guitar/synthesizer and the strangely delightful sounds he’s able to produce with it.

The album is intensely focused and purpose-driven. The topical focus is Surya, the Sun. The purpose of the music is a focus on light, energy, and vibrational healing. It is an uplifting and highly intense musical offering. Each song’s subtitle indicates the track’s purpose. The mantras chosen for inclusion represent a collection of Sun prayers. Track 4 “Navagraha” is a chant that honors all of the planets.

Nadaka and Gopika sing some of the mantras in unison. Sometimes Gopika is a soloist. On Track 4 “Navagraha” they sing in harmony. The melodies are vaguely like traditional Hindu mantra song-chants, but lean toward Western melodic styling. The guitar-synth accompaniment transforms the ambience of the music into something quite different. It’s much more laid-back, calm and relaxing. The drumming is gentle and light rather than loudly commanding. The drummers, Ganesha Basavaraj and R. Rajkumar, display a great deal of restraint and control. The rhythmic elements are an elegant contribution to the overall texture. There’s some wonderful guitar-playing throughout the CD. Track 2 “Arogya Mantra” and Track 5 “Suryaashtakam” feature very fine demonstrations of Nadaka’s skill. 

8 tracks
1. Suryaya Swaha (Prelude and Hymn to the Sun)
2. Arogya Mantra (A Quest for Integral Health)
3. Gayatri Mantra (Seeking the Light of Knowledge)
4. Navagraha (Nine Planets)
5. Suryashtakam (Eight Verses to the Sun)
6. Dakshinam (The Offering)
7. Surya Namaskar (Salutation to the Sun)
8. Chidakash (Inner Sky)

Nadaka and Gopika have created a musical sound on this CD that makes Sanskrit mantras and Hindu ragas very accessible to Western listeners. Purely Hindu-styled recordings can often seem noisy and frantic to the Western ear. This musical team has upscaled the rhythmic elements, and added highly sophisticated guitar-synth accompaniment. The vocals are likewise soothing and beautifully sung. Gopika retains the vocal inflections and ornamentation usually found in mantra-singing, but uses them in careful moderation. The melodies showcase her exquisite phrasing and breath-control. There’s a careful balance of vocal material interspersed with lengthy instrumental interludes, as is provided in the long overture to Track 6 “Dakshinam.” The melody to this mantra-raga is familiar and much performed, but the accompaniment, slow tempo, and instrumental mix take the song to a whole new level.

This is one of the most unusual and lovely mantra albums I’ve ever heard. The performers have transformed traditional material into something original and incredibly beautiful. This album is perfect for meditation and yoga practice, and suitable for alternative healing practitioners with sophisticated musical tastes. Absolutely exquisite!

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artists: Nadaka and Gopika
Raga Mantra, 2013
8 tracks, 52 minutes
$17.47 CD, $7.92 download