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Various Artists: Putumayo Presents: Yoga [Digipak]

Track List

>Ghungate Ke - The Lucknow Project
>Om Hari Om/Sharanam Ganesha (Refuge) - Sean Johnson/The Wild Lotus Band
>Purnamadah - Shantala
>Bolo Ram - Wah!
>Cerulean - Ben Leinbach/Geoffrey Gordon
>Devaki - Dasi Karnamrita
>Bangles - Niraj Chag
>Bosque Eterno de los Niños [Children's Eternal Rainforest], El - Amounsulu
>Moods of Kirtan (Siksastakam) - Gaura Vani/As Kindred Spirits
>O Rama - Susheela Raman
>Hanuman Baba [Dub Farm Remix] - Krishna Das (remix)
>Sira - Ablaye Cissoko
>Offering Chant - Lama Gyurme/Jean-Philippe Rykiel
>Bliss - Yogini

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

Yoga is Putumayo's first CD release featuring songs selected to accompany yoga practice and serve as a relaxing soundtrack for daily life. Rooted in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions, the practice of yoga has evolved over the past 5,000 years. Adopted by millions of people around the world, yoga provides a vehicle for greater health and spiritual awareness. Music has long had a close relationship with yoga, particularly in the Bhakti tradition, which incorporates musical chants into its practice.

"I don't practice yoga. But through my work with clients in my parallel career, I have become very familiar with the aesthetic of this ancient practice. To criminally oversimplify, it's a holistic mind/body/soul kinda thing.

Like many activities, the practice of yoga can be enhanced (or facilitated, or complemented) by the addition of music. To that end, the friendly folks at Putumayo are here to help. The label's newest release bears the straightforward title Putumayo Presents Yoga. This title differs from the label's last few releases (dealing with R&B, world-jazz and Indian music) in that it's, shall we say, purpose-driven.

There's a fairly narrow path to navigate in choosing music to pair with the practice of yoga. There are certainly some things you don't want: heavy beats, insistent tempos, wild variance in arrangements, distracting lyrics. Let's face it: yoga ain't jazzercise. With that and much more in mind, this fourteen-track collection serves up some music that is in a way designed to be the aural equivalent of wallpaper: there to enhance a mood, not to create one.

The disc is largely successful in this endeavor. Helpfully, all of the tracks featuring vocals find the singers performing in languages other than English. So unless you're polylinguistic, the voices (for the most part) won't distract practitioners from their poses. The lion's share of the disc features lovely, soothing female voices and new-agey instrumentation.

There are exceptions. A track titled "Offering Chant" by Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel features a guttural male chant throughout. My own opinion is that the track is perhaps better suited for devotional use than anything else; it is a bit distracting. In fact that's true for many (but not all) of the tracks here that include male vocals. Luckily the disc leans in favor of the female voice.

Because Putumayo Presents Yoga is not designed as an active listening experience, I won't get into specific criticism of the tracks as music. But I will point out that most are quite effective at providing the backdrop for thoughtful, relaxing activity.

Or, non-activity. I lay down on my strategically-located (read: office) futon to absorb this CD, and I can testify that it neither unduly invaded my thoughts, nor grated upon me in any way. Nor did it bore me. Putumayo Presents Yoga provided a backdrop for a semiwaking hour of relaxation. Now, my doctor says I need thirty minutes of cardio a day or I'm gonna have a stroke or heart attack, and my rest/nap regimen doesn't count toward that, but there's rarely anything wrong with a little mind-clearing non-contemplation time. And this disc is a lovely accompaniment to said non-activity.

As always with Putumayo releases, this set is presented in an aesthetically pleasing digipack with attached booklet. In addition to brief but interesting artist bios, the booklet provides mini-essays on both yoga and its connection to music. Never ones to leave anything to chance, Putumayo includes a glossary in case listeners wonder what exactly a chakra, raga or vinyasa is." -Musoscribe

"This recently released CD by Putumayo offers a collection of beautiful and soothing melodies tooted in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions.

Sean Johnson, founder of Wild Lotus Yoga Studio in New Orleans, collaborated with Putumayo on this project.

The Cd includes 14 melodies to accompany your yoga, relaxation or meditation practice as the melodies were hand picked to give a calming and uplifting experience. It also includes liner notes in English, Spanish and French and a glossary of yoga terms.

The explanation of each melody is clear and gives a deeper senses of the chant. For instance "Bolo Ram" featured by Wah! reads... "The mantra is bleieved to bring bliss and liberation to all who chant it."

Yoga features renowned musicians from around the world. British-born, South Indian artist Susheela Raman duets with Kenyan singer Ayub Ogada on the harmonious "O Rama." Krishna Das, who is the best-known US performer of traditional Indian kirtan-style music, demonstrates call-and-response chanting on "Hanuman Baba (Dub Farm Remix)." Costa Rican group Amounsulu create a serene atmosphere by blending sitars and glass bottles on the song "El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (Children's Eternal Rainforest)." On "Bolo Ram" celebrated western devotional musician Wah! sings a tranquil verse that is believed to bring bliss to all who chant it. Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band are known for their beautiful, melodic chanting as displayed on "Om Hari Om/Sharanam Ganesha (Refuge)."" -Yogasanga

Album Notes

Liner Note Author: Sean Johnson.

Illustrator: Nicola Heindl.

Photographers: Youri Lenquette; George Long; Rameshwar Das; Jai Uttal; Rasa Acharya; Estefani Garcia; Eldad Danieli; Alejandra Quesada; Aleah Stanbridge; Ajay Chag; Radhanatha Das Jakupko; Lee Everett; Peter Simon.

Yoga may have been born in India and developed over the past 5,000 years, as Sean Johnson's liner notes to this album attest, but it is best known in the West as a variant of exercise taught and practiced by suburbanites who have never bathed in the Ganges. Putumayo World Music, a label that exists to address the taste for light exotica among such music listeners, has created an appropriate soundtrack to yoga exercise on this various-artists compilation, containing many performers who, like Johnson, are actually Westerners with Eastern training. Based in New Orleans, Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band (which consists of Alvin Young and Gwendolyn Colman) present a typical selection in the second track, "Om Hari Om/Sharanam Ganesha (Refuge)," which finds Johnson singing in a voice that might be James Taylor or John Denver, if he weren't singing in Hindi. Some of the tracks are more overtly Indian, notably the instrumental "Cerulean" by Ben Leinbach and Geoffrey Gordon, on which Gordon plays tabla and Jai Uttal dotar. But usually the music is a hybrid of Indian elements with laid-back Western folk-rock, which should make it highly palatable to its intended audience. ~ William Ruhlmann


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