Grammy®-nominated Madi Das and Dave Stringer, the artist-producers behind Mantra Americana and Bhakti Without Borders, are excited to announce their new album Mantra Americana II.
Press release by Bonnie Burkert – magicianmedia.com
The latest music expands on the sound they crafted for the first album, which has been described as Sanskrit with Soul, Roots & Ragas, Nashville meets Namasté, and Country & Eastern. Mantra Americana combines modal melodies derived from Indian ragas with the chord structures and ecstatic harmonies of American Gospel and Bluegrass. The songs incorporate swinging Bhangra tabla grooves, harmonica with harmonium, and an Appalachian twang to encompass sacred devotional mantras.
Mantra Americana II features guest performances from music legends Greg Leisz, Dean Parks, and Mitchel Foreman on dobro, mandolin, pedal steel, accordion, piano, and Hammond organ. The lead vocals evoke an alternative version of Johnny Cash if he grew up in an ashram. The ringing harmonies of the backing vocal quartet (Tulsi Bloom, Allie Stringer, Justin Michael Williams, and Dave Stringer) recall the Laurel Canyon sound of the ‘70s. Tabla player Patrick Richey studied in India but was raised in Tennessee.
Mantra Americana II is made of borrowed and repurposed motifs, but it’s also a wholly original work of art. It’s a tree with Indian roots growing in American soil, bearing fragrant fruit that tastes familiar and exotic. Thoroughly modern and still grounded in tradition, it’s profoundly devotional and playfully irreverent.
The mantras contained in these songs are sung in Sanskrit, Bengali, and Hindi. These languages are unfamiliar to many American ears, but the meanings are already implicit in the sounds. No translation is necessary to be moved by their beauty. They speak of the agony of separation from the beloved and the bliss of reunion. Perhaps the proper understanding of the mantras can be found in the sense of unity, well-being, and timelessness that they elicit.
Madi Das (Melbourne, AUS) and Dave Stringer (Los Angeles) collaborated on the charity album Bhakti Without Borders in 2015. They reunited post-pandemic to record the debut Mantra Americana (2022), each earning a Grammy® nomination in the Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album category. Together they dug into their backgrounds to create songs that would progress the genre and make chant music more broadly accessible.
A veteran of Kirtan as a performer and producer and featured in the award-winning documentary Mantra: Sounds Into Silence, Dave Stringer will be touring in the U.S. and Australia to support Mantra Americana II.
For more information and music samples, visit mantraamericana.com.
More about Mantra Americana
Contemporary spiritual life in the West is currently undergoing a paradigm shift away from the certainties of faith and belief and toward practices investigating the ambiguities of experience. For the artists on this album, yoga, and music are paths of inquiry into the nature of love and consciousness. Singing, we move into a field beyond questions and answers, where the heart is free, and the mind is still.
The Christian cathedrals of Rome are built with old marble from the Pagan temples that the popes tore down. Swept away by new cultural forces and political realities, the stones were repurposed. The myths and metaphors were translated, transformed, and transmitted again. This is how art and culture build and remain relevant. A church is built upon the rock of every age that came before.
As Kirtan has evolved, it has absorbed and reflected many different musical influences with origins outside the Indian world. The Bhaktas used whatever instruments were at hand to express the music, drawing equally on drums brought from Persia by the conquering Moghuls, harmoniums from the British Empire, and folk instruments played in brothels.
Kirtan has always been a recombinant art and remains so in the modern day, easily absorbing the instruments of Western classical, jazz, and popular music. It’s not a dusty museum piece; it’s thriving art and practice, reinventing and renewing itself right now at yoga studios, on front porches, and in concert halls worldwide.
The primary musical feature of Kirtan is the use of call and response, a figure that also deeply informs Bluegrass, Gospel, and Jazz. Yoga points toward awareness of the essential oneness of things, so to align the individual-dissolving Eastern tradition of Kirtan with the individual-expressing Western traditions is no contradiction. They both arise from the same impulse toward expressing what is ecstatic and liberating, and transcendent within us all.