On Sacred Ground by Chinmaya Dunster
British-born Chinmaya (formerly Stephen) Dunster is a master of the Indian lute known as the sarod. Known for mixing Indian classical raga with the Celtic styles of his native land, he does it again on his stunning new release, Yoga: On Sacred Ground. Keeping the Celtic vibe while going full speed ahead into the Indian mystic, he has created seven breathtaking tracks that are each linked to one of the body’s seven chakras. Each listener will have to decide whether or not this music is suitable for deep meditation or yoga practice, but the album will definitely soothe the soul.
Chakras: Sanskrit for wheel or disk, signifies one of seven basic energy centers in the body
The album opens with deep meditative chanting that segues into some cheery melodies, gradually getting deeper into a state of trance as the tracks progress up the spine, chakra by chakra. The third chakra-track: “Breathing-Prana,” adds tablas, tamboura, and sitar underneath the engaging, courtly melody of the sarod. Each instrument is well tempered, creating a fusion of classical Indian flavor with Western music tonality, a Western lead floating over the inscrutable textures of the East.
The fourth chakra/track, “On Sacred Ground,” gets, well, sexy; it’s easy to see why he wanted to name the album after it. The spine tingling sound of the tamboura sets the boundaries for a slyly soloing sitar that crosses freely into Western jazz harmonics, suggesting a melody about to break through. The physical and the spiritual unite fully on this track, and the result is spine-tingling.
The arrival of the final track, creating the mental third eye-opening chakra of a thousand-petalled lotus, finds the more traditional Indian musical syntax taking center stage in a deeply ethereal way. The sitar and tablas engage in a playful game of call-and-response, indicating that for Chinmaya Dunster, the joys of Indian-Celtic fusion are far too important to be taken seriously. To prove his point, the album ends with an old woman cackle. Nothing could be more apropos for an album in which the sacred is rendered as it should be — with a playful, merry spirit.