Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band’s first album Calling the Spirits was released on April 13th 2007 which was followed by the Nettwerk/Nutone debut Devaloka in September of 2009.
Kirtan music, also known as bhakti yoga, is the practice of chanting sacred mantras or phrases over and over. Typically the words, melodies and rhythms are simple and approachable regardless of the practitioner’s musical background or vocal talent. As a result the healing aspects of chant meditations and bhakti yoga are available to all. Bhakti yoga has been shown to lower both blood pressure and respiratory rates while at the same time clearing the mind of excess worry or activity. I recently attended a kids kirtan class at the Rasa Lila Yoga Festival and the thinking mind was presented to the children as the monkey mind. After the kirtan the kids were asked to reflect on their monkey mind and unanimously they had been freed of the monkey mind as a result of their singing.
Calling the Spirits is the quintessential kirtan album. Much of the work is recorded in the traditional call and response singing style. Sean Johnson’s low toned, trance-inducing chants are followed by the beautiful and ethereal song notes of percussionist and vocalist Gwyndolyn Colman. The layered, repetitive nature of the vocal arrangements calls the listener into the music. Listening to Calling the Spirits is a sonic immersion. The complex textures of the songs surround and support the listener as a participant. Response singing is an unavoidable consequence of listening to this album.
At first glance, or in this case first listen, we hear traditional kirtan chants steeped in Eastern rhythms, however a deeper listen reveals a collage of styles and influence. The bass grooves of Alvin Young provide a jazzy tapestry that begs for the ephemeral and delicate paint of vocal artistry. The jazz influence of this work definitely stands out but we hear subtle dashes of folk, Caribbean, swing and even rock and roll.
Nothing compares to a live kirtan experience with Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band but Calling the Spirits allows you to take a little kirtan home with you. Pop in this album when you get home and within minutes you will be singing. Give it two of three songs and you too could be relieved of your monkey mind.