The latest bio about Manish Vyas says he has taken spiritual music to a new level. This very well could be a true statement as evidenced by his new recording, ATMA BHAKTI, a very spiritual, meditative, relaxing and interesting album from India. Vyas bridges the gap between the old and new in India, keeping some of the traditions but adding contemporary ideas and sounds too. For example, Vyas is a singer as well as a musician, and this album has two half-hour pieces on it, both with the music written by Vyas. “Atma” is based on the “mangalam” mantra and “Bhakti” on the “shivaya namaha om” mantra, so there is some of the traditional. But it would be a mistake to think of this as a “chant” album for several reasons. There are more instrumental passages throughout the music than vocal ones (it is NOT one long chant), and the vocal parts are often sung more than chanted (although there is a bit of chant here and there, and a lot of group chanting on the third piece on the CD, the five-minute “Vedic Chanting”). In addition, Vyas plays two traditional instruments from India, the swar-mandal (a harp) and the tanpura (a stringed instrument used for its drone qualities but looking somewhat like a sitar), but he does not play the more common sitar and tabla (drum), although he adds a variety of Buddhist bells to the mix. And moving into the modern world he also plays keyboards on the recording (mostly softly in the background to add effects and depth and dimension to the music). So you see that it is quite a blend of sounds and styles.
But throughout the recording, even though the music is interesting to listen to, the music also remains spiritual and focused. In fact the album cover says it is “healing sounds of prayer,” or, perhaps it should have said that it is perfect music to serve as healing sounds and as a backdrop for prayer (of whatever kind you choose because the Sanskrit singing does not really get in the way of other religious moods you might be in).
So give this world-tinged recording a try if you want to get in a spiritual, peaceful mood. It is good for listening or to put on during spiritual explorations.