Perhaps the most compelling thing about Sheela Bringi’s Incantations is how the Indian-American artist crosses all sorts of melodic lines and never sacrifices the spiritual integrity of the recording. The disc is prayerful and stylish in its mingling of ancient Indian music, devotional chants, jazz, and even blues traditions.
“My music is about accessing a place of mystery and divinity,” explains Bringi.
Incantations certainly holds the enigmatic close to the chest as it moves through everything from Sanskrit mantras to Atlanta soul. Bringi, who provides vocals along with an infinite array of instruments, is the force at the middle with a compelling personality and an unquestionably otherworldly connection to these pieces.
Her presence is immediate with the album’s opener. The title track is a call to calm the mind. Bringi’s harp and harmonium join with her reflective vocals to transport the listener to place of oneness. Micah Sheiner provides percussion on a delicate plane, but it’s really the press of the harmonium that gives the piece its perpetual warmth.
There’s something universal about Bringi’s very presence. She’s performed in concert halls and universities, but she’s also led kirtans in yoga studios. The music of Incantations perhaps casts an even wider net, whether through the cosmopolitan mantra found on “The Three-Eyed One” or the classical Indian folk of “Peacock.”
There’s also the boiling “Buffalo-Demon Slayer,” with drubbing percussion and a grand horn arrangement from producer Clinton Patterson. Once more Bringi’s vocals and harmonium blend together delightfully, creating a duet of sorts that sails through the swift-moving track.
And let’s not forget “Raja Ram,” the album’s closing number. The piece pays allegiance to Rama, the hero of The Ramayana, and receives a percussive blast from Leonice Shinneman. Bringi plays harmonium and bansuri, adding more voices to her extensive repertoire.
Incantations is a beautiful release. It naturally blends styles without estranging listeners of any genre, creating a unifying and transcendent experience that really does access “a place of mystery and divinity.”
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