Over the past decade or two, there has been a tremendous explosion in what has come to known as “world music.” Some of it encompasses a fusion of diverse cultural influences into an international musical melting pot, while others strive to maintain a strict devotion to a particular ethnicity or cultural lineage. The music of Manish Vyas (pronounced Mahn-ish Vi-us) on his latest release, "Atma Bhakti," is the latter. But whatever style of music Manish is involved in, it always flows from the deep well of his inner being.
The first track is entitled “Atma” which means “soul or the divine” and is based on the mantra “mangalam.” At nearly a half hour in length, there is more than ample time for the listener to be drawn in and deeply immersed in the mystical musical flow. Listening with headphones and eyes closed I felt like I was merging with something that was very ancient, yet beyond time and space. On this track, in addition to chanting, Manish plays swarmandal (Indian harp), tanpura, keyboards, and bells. His beautiful clear vocals were recorded with a bit of echo, which added to the mystical ambience. Manish is accompanied by the haunting bamboo flute playing of Millind Date, who also plays on the next track, entitled “Bhakti.” This word means “devotion or worship” and is based on the mantra “shivaya namaha om.” Opening with the sound of a gong, sweeping harp glissandos, and drones, the effect is transcendental. As the song evolves, ambient synthesizer pads and studio effects on the vocals add to the meditative magic on this nearly 34-minute piece.
The third chapter of this trilogy is considerably shorter at 5 minutes in length. Entitled “Vedic Chanting,” it features Manish on vocals, keyboards, and tanpura, as well as the additional devotional singing of Jay Dave, Krishna Jani, and Snigdha Pious. The intro is quite interesting with its sonic collage of Indian street sounds, chanting, bells, the drone of a tanpura, and more. It reminded me a bit of some of the Beatles studio recordings in their psychedelic period. Once it moved into the main part of the song, it was interesting to hear the music following chord changes, giving it more of a song-like quality in contrast to the extended meditative spaciousness of the first two tracks.
This is not music intended for entertainment. Perhaps the word “entrainment” would be more appropriate. "Atma Bhakti" is a powerful meditative listening experience that is rich with the sacred heritage of an ancient culture. Manish Vyas is a skilled musician and vocalist who uses his considerable talents and deep spirituality to illuminate this inspirational recording.
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Excerpt from Music and Media Focus 28 Jan. 2016
By Michael Diamond - Published