Reviews 09-27-2005  

Music Reviews 

 

Mai

by Eri Sugai

Visit Pacific Moon Records

The human voice is capable of so much more than speech.  When used by a well trained vocalist, it can become a compliment to well written music. Or it can become as a musical instrument itself, a focal point for the music written. 

Examples of this are familiar to those who know Enya, who's voice accompanies some beautiful Celtic music, or Maire Brennan, another Celtic Vocalist and Lisa Gerrard, of Dead Can Dance.  

We also have surpassed the need for the words to be understood.  While Enya and Maire Brennan sing in the language of the Celts or Gallic, Lisa Gerrard's vocals are reminiscent of Aramaic.

Pacific Moon Records presents us with the vocals of Eri Sugai on the CD "Mai".  We are immediately taken to the gardens of Japan, and her voice is the focal point, the harmony and the musical instrument by which we are transported.  The music is a combination of Japanese folk and is blended with western harmonies derived from church music.  Eri Sugai was strongly affected by church music early in her career, and it gives an almost spiritual tone to her vocalizations.  This can best be realized in her track "Konjaku Monogatari".  Though definitely Japanese in flavor, it has the serenity of a spiritual moment in a stained glass lit church.

Eri Sugai has strong vocals which are best experienced in her tracks "Honen Bushi", "Mai" and "A Song of Birth", she shows how well the voice can be incorporated as a musical instrument and is able to stand on its own when well developed and experienced.  I am reminded on some tracks of the style of music most associated with Japanese Animation, pop, but never main stream.   We have no need to understand the lyrics, the feeling is in the music, not in the words.

Her harmonies are excellent.  The music is well chosen to show off her vocal abilities. Recording quality is well done, and Pacific Moon Recordings shows again the fine quality of material they have previously offered continues with this release.  Again, the CD contains their signature incense sticks, which I think just adds to the quality of all their releases.

Eri Sugai deserves a place as a premier vocalist, in the same caliber as Enya or Maire Brennan.  She stands on her own with her particular style and "Mai" is a wonderful introduction to her and her particular style of music.

Reviewed by MA Foster

 

Dewa Che: Universal Healing Power of Tibetan Mantras

by Dechen Shak-Dagsay

Visit New Earth Records

Dechen Shak-Dagsay is a native of  Tibet who has lived in a Tibetan community in Switzerland since childhood.  Her father is a Lama and the focus of her family has been to preserve the Tibetan way of life.  Her personal interests are in the traditional music and folk dance of her Tibetan home. 

Her first appearances to the public include a “Maxi Single CD” in Europe in 1989, with Swiss Musician Roger Dupont called “Bodhicitta” dedicated to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, a track on German producers Oliver Shanti’s album “Tai Chi” which sold over 300,000 copies, and then the recording of the same track “Chenresi, Flame of Peace and Compassion” for the Ryuishi Sakamoto’s film “Little Buddha”.

Her debut album is “Dewa Che” – a collection of healing Tibetan mantras.  The title means “The Great Peace”.  Ms. Shak-Dagsay focuses on inner peace and tranquility in her music, and this CD is the achievement of both, as well as being an excellent example of this classic Tibetan form of chant.  These are “shortened forms” of the traditional mantras which can be very long as they are “the blessings of all enlightened beings”. 

The music is a provided by various flutes played by Peter Hienrich, sitar/koto/tanpura by Klaus Falshlunger, bass/tanpura/monochord/singing bowls/harmoniums and arrangements by Acama.   Klaus Falshlunger is known for his sitar work in Europe, and Austrian composer Acama is well known for his relaxation music and his work with Tibetan Temple Bells.

The accompanying booklet goes into much detail about the Tibetan Mantras and how to benefit from their healing effects.  There are a total of eleven tracks on the CD, for a total playing time of 72:21.  This is an excellent quality studio recording.

The mantras themselves are passed down from Buddha, and offer protection from negative energies.   While the titles of the tracks are in Tibetan, the booklet does give a “subtitle” for each piece.  Each mantra is described for its use, such as “Men-Lha – The Medicine-Buddha Mantra” which the Tibetan Lamas use to “help improve the patient’s condition”, or “Drip-Sel – The Colored Rain Shower Mantra” which is “recommended to regain clarity of vision and a state in which our actions can be reasonable and wise.”  The booklet is a key element to understanding the mantras and contains much information for using them to their best advantage. 

Ms. Shak-Dagsay’s voice is light, rich, floating and comfortable for the western ear.  The music truly accompanies the vocals here, never overpowering them.   I never found the CD to be droning as some of these CDs can get with repetition.  Rather, I found this to be relaxing and spiritually contemplative.  Her vocals are very enjoyable, almost soothing to the ear as well as the spirit.   At times she harmonizes with herself, again presenting soft harmonies, never intrusive.  The music almost disappears behind her voice, yet comes to the front to fill the spaces between the phrasing.  But all of it can be moved to the background while working, so it is never invasive.    I found personally that the combination of music and mantra promoted a very gentle feeling of comfort and peace. 

Overall I found this CD to be a wonderful introduction to Tibetan Mantras, delightful, insightful and a piece of interesting and historical culture.  The art form is expertly preserved for us by Dechen Shak-Dagsay and if you are interested in cultural art, Tibetan chant and mantras, you will find this an excellent addition to your collection.

Reviewed by MA Foster

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