This year’s Grammy winners, Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman, have with Winds of Samsara delivered one of the finest albums released in our genre over the last few years. This Indian-South African collaboration, which began as a Facebook friendship, is a true international release. In this time of uncertainty and violence, a wind of change is just what we need.
The New Age music genre was created in the crossing point between cultures, as heard on albums such as Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation and other Joys (1965) and Paul Horn ‘s Inside the Taj Mahal (1968). So Ricky Kej, who’s from India, and Kellerman, a flutist from South Africa, are in good company.
Heaven is Here
The album starts slowly with the song Mahatma, which (of course) is named after Mahatma Gandhi. It uses about 3 minutes and 20 seconds to get going, but the conclusion is exquisite. There are other political and historical references here too; The songs Madiba and The Long Road are tributes to Nelson Mandela. Track two, New Earth Calling, is a great example of Kej and Kellerman’s style; a powerful flute melody, backed by synths, vocals and and various ethnic instruments. Over 120 musicians – from all five continents – are featurend on this album. Check out these pictures from the recording of the album (see more pictures here, scroll down):
A recurring question is; what is the difference between New Age music and world music? With such an international setting, couldn’t Winds of Samsara simply have been labeled as world? The answer is no. What makes the album into a New Age music release is the eclectic mix of cultural expressions. This is not an Indian album, and not a South African album either. The geographical musical culture from where the musical expressions are borrowed, are not in focus. They are not unimportant, but less prominent. World music is about authenticity, while New Age music is all about atmosphere.
As the album progresses, we get to hear one great song after another. Crystal Moon is an amazing track; It is impossible not to be influenced by its light and carefree vibe. It features a great steel string instrument, and the flute sounds especially divine. It is the best instrumental song on the album.
In this time of uncertainty and violence, a wind of change is just what we need.
Heaven is Here is another feel-good track with a pleasant hint of pop. The vocals are mixed to perfection, and the synths are state of the art. There are other great songs on this part of the album as well, such as Eyes of Wonder and Grace (which has a wonderful piano segment by Fiona Joy). I’m a bit more unsure of Remembrance (Greensleeves) – a track that somehow doesn’t fit with the rest of the songs – but it does no harm to the complete experience of the album. The ending, Chopin’s Nocturne, adds some nice classical colors to the presentation.
In conclusion: Winds of Samsara by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman is a worthy Grammy winner. It is so inspiring to see people from different cultures come together in the name of peace and friendship and create art. Let’s hope Kej and Kellerman will give us more albums like this.
If you haven’t listened to Winds of Samsara yet, you really should check it out. But be careful; it might blow you away…
Score: 98/100 – See how I rate music here