The British-born Chinmaya (formerly Stephen) Dunster is a master of the Indian lute known as the sarod and is renowned for mixing Indian classical raga with the Celtic styles of his native land. For his stunning Yoga: On Sacred Ground, Dunster keeps the Celtic flavor while going full force into the Indian mystic, creating seven tracks that are linked to one of the body‚s seven charkas. Whether or not this music is suitable for deep meditation or yoga practice is something each listener must decide for him or herself, but no doubt the album will soothe the ear and soul in many hard-to-reach places. The tracks differ from one another just enough so that the music is also great for simply listening to, playing for friends, or, best of all, discovering beautiful outdoor vistas via the miracle of the iPod.
The album opens with deep meditative chanting that segues into some cheery sarod 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 enticing, 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, „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 a laugh˜a high, feminine old woman cackle. Nothing could be more right for an album in which the sacred is rendered as it should be˜with a playful, merry spirit.