Isn’t it fascinating how we all, without any prior knowledge, understand that chants can be powerful – and perhaps even life-changing? It is not something we have to learn; We only need to be reminded of it. One such potent reminder is Shunia’s self-titled album. Music duo Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson worked with Tony Award-winning producer Jamshied Sharifi to create this one-of-a-kind collection of mantra melodies and energetic vocals. It is a profoundly hopeful and brilliant album, released at a time when we need it the most.
Lisa Reagan has been recording since she was 16. The untimely passing of her sister triggered feelings that led to a creative outpouring that resulted in her first album of original songs. Altogether, Lisa has released seven albums of her own music (most recent: “If Thoughts Could Tell” (2018). Lisa’s theatrical and classical training led her to performances at The Kennedy Center, The Arena Stage, and becoming a resident artist of the Washington National Opera. She has shared the stage with great artists, such as Placido Domingo and Renee Fleming.
Suzanne Jackson has spent 25 years on stage as a resident artist with the Washington National Opera. As a teacher of yoga and voice, Suzanne helps people find their soul voice and personal destiny through music, movement, and meditation. She teaches her method of conscious singing entitled YogaSing™ to artists around the country. She has also released an inspirational children’s book, “Penny the Piano”.
The first Shunia album, “Ascend”, was released to great acclaim in 2018.
Sa Re Sa Sa
The album opener is called “Sa Re Sa Sa”. It is a magnificent performance of the classical mantra. God, “Sa”, is in everything, washing away all pain and self-doubt. I love the upbeat and joyous melody and how well “Sa Re Sa Sa” flows, making the listener feel connected to the Infinite Totality. The first time I heard it, I could not go on; I just had to hear it one more time. “Sa Re Sa Sa” sets the tone for the whole album. But don’t take my word for it – check it out yourself:
After the “Sa Re Sa Sa” fireworks, “Breeze at Dawn” gives time to think and reflect. It is a soft-spoken and quiet song, telling us that: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell / Don’t go back to sleep / You must ask for what you want / Don’t go back to sleep.” It is one of those songs that will teach you more than a stack of self-help books, if you only take the time to listen with your heart.
Now it is time for the Latin prayer: “Alleluia”. I love its mystique and fantastic arrangement with a touch of pop. The song has that sound that made Eric Lévi’s music project Era into such a hit 25 years ago. The song is 7 minutes long, but I really can’t tell where that time went; “Alleluia” is magnificent!
“Akal” was the first single from “Shunia”. It is meant as a gift from the band to the world in a time of despair and disbelief. ““Akal” is a calling to grieve for those we have lost, to mourn them, to lift them up, and to help them on their journey to eternity,” says Shunia. “In a time where we all feel isolated, we hope “Akal” brings us together.” The “Akal” video is fantastic:
Har Hare Hari Wahe Guru
“Har Hare Hari Wahe Guru” is the mantra for creativity. It is a fast and colorful song with a playful vibe. It is one of those songs that feels all wrong listening to while sitting. You need to move while listening, and it gets the creative juices flowing for sure.
Next out is “Ang Sang Wahe Guru”. Its feeling of oneness and harmony leaves the listener feeling happy and relaxed before the highly meditative “Ong Namo” connects us with a higher consciousness. You don’t need to know the lyrics to understand what it is all about. Past, present, and future become one while listening.
“Sa Ta Na Ma” concludes the album. The eight-and-a-half-minute-long song is like an EP within the album. It rounds off “Shunia”, focusing on identity and truth. The complex yet delicate arrangement is beautiful beyond words.
In conclusion: “Shunia” is a genuine treasure chest of chants and brilliantly composed mantra melodies! It is a timeless release that will sound just as good 10 years from now – but it is in the age of Covid19 listeners will find it especially rewarding, much thanks to its hopeful and optimistic nature. It couldn’t have been released at a better time. I also like its international approach and how it seamlessly includes elements from different cultures. That is more important now than ever.
Lisa Reagan and Suzanne Jackson’s Shunia is for sure a group to follow in the years to come. Their self-titled album is, in short, a one-of-a-kind release that takes the mantra chants genre to incredible new heights. Highly recommended!
For more information and music samples, visit shuniasound.com