About the Album
Wah! brings in the bliss with her band, featuring Mike Haziza on beatbox, Katisse Buckingham on flute, Matthew Martin Kelly on keyboards, Christian Teele on drumkit and percussion, Kirk Margo on guitar, Wah! on harmonium and bass, Paul Hollman on keyboards and sampling. Great for yoga class… Sanskrit and English.
“This is yoga pop at it’s best. Wah!’s voice is somewhere between Sade and Sarah McLachlan; the music is dance, downtempo, and roots-pop”
INSIDE WORLD MUSIC
The Story Behind Maa
In April 2009, Paul and I spent a couple days recording the songs I had composed over the last year. I hadn’t used musical devices or recordings to store my ideas, so the music had to be retrieved from my head and heart. I realized as we recorded them that they had become my constant companions – soundtracks to my life.
We added beats and grooves, keyboards, percussion, bass. I wanted danceable beats for the yoga world so I studied Quincy Jones, Chakka Khan, Michael Jackson, Chick Corea, Stevie Wonder. I listened to filmscores – Slum Dog Millionaire, Avatar. World rhythms and downtempo grooves – Mystic Groove, Talvin Singh, Ustad Rakha Khan, Cheb i Sabbah. The female divas – Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Beth Orton, Mary J Blige, Joni Mitchell. The rappers – Eminem, Katisse Buckinham, Jay Z. I updated myself after being away from popular music for over a year.
The musicians were a collection of old friends and new talent found on the road. Mike Haziza, beatboxer extraordinaire, joined me on tour in 2009. At first we used him as a percussionist, an addition to the band. But then he got a loop station and started touring with us, building beats and loops real time. I wanted to showcase his talent, so he became the drumkit on Love Holding Love. His beatbox solo in the middle of Bhakti Da is just a small sampling of what he is capable of. Rockin.
Katisse Buckingham played alto flute, showcasing his talent and incredible career as a performer alongside Herbie Hancock, the Yellowjackets and other jazz greats. He has graced many of my CDs and performances with his flute. Katisse beatboxes for his own band, so we used his beatbox on Pahimam, along with a debut of his shehnai (indian oboe) nicknamed The Bean.
Christian Teele played drumkit for us at a gig in Boulder, introduced by my old friend Ty Burhoe. It was magic from the first song, and I knew he should be on the album. Christian recorded himself in Pro Tools. Don’t ask him how he got his percussion on Parashakti to sound like Irish clog dancers, he won’t reveal his secrets! He blessed Lalitamba with a touch of light cymbals.
Matthew Martin Kelly recorded at Dub Room Studios in Los Angeles on his tricked out Nord keyboard, offering some of the delicious stuff he plays every night on tour. He laid down a bass part on Love Holding Love which was funky and wildly melodic, just perfect for the song. Invocation was an old favorite, played at every show for the past 2 years now, born in Bali, captured on a cellphone recorder and played back to us after we forgot what happene. In live performance, I love to hear Matthew sing; that’s the only part of his playing we didn’t capture on this CD. All his other funky, groovy, ambiant, phasey keyboard stuff is all there, and I’m sure it’s just the beginning of the music he will share with the world.
Kirk Margo is an old friend who joined us for two songs – Stay in the Love and Amma. Amma was postponed to the next album because we didn’t have enough room on the CD. Kirk has had a rich and fruitful career as a session player.
Sequoia Neptune, goddess, sings with me at many of my live shows. She sings etherically on this album. Her own CD of chants and grooves should be completed this year, a voice like no other.
Paul did an incredible job of engineering and mixing. Old friends and creative partners, we worked synchronistically, analyzing problems and improving both sound quality and song arrangement as we went along. He upgraded his Dub Room Studio to HD (high definition) Pro Tools, which had many improved features for editing and production; but we stayed at a 44.1 kHz sample rate to be compatable with other studios. Paul’s skills in the studio and as a fellow composer (we cowrote Love Holding Love) are something I hold with great respect. Paul Hollman and I played various keyboards, basses, guitars, and digital samples. There were hours and hours of editing. Then Seva expertly mastered the CD giving it the high sonic quality he is known for.
Michael Gilbert, a student of Buddhism and meditation, a master visual artist, had painted the Sri Yantra as a study in sacred geometry. It was grace that I found his painting, out in the boondocks of Washoe Valley. As I prepared to photograph it one morning, I noticed the sun coming in the window. I found something shiny to reflect the sunlight onto the Sri Yantra and captured the sunlight reflection in a photo. It was a precious 15 minutes and the sunlight passed, but the moment had been captured on film and video. The photo marked a blessing, a feeling of completion of this strenuous spiritual lesson I went through. So the sunlight Sri Yantra was used to create the cover graphic.
This project was created during a period of ill health. One day in September 2008 I had lunch with Paul Hollman in Hollywood and the next day I almost died. Suffering a brain edema followed by sixteen months of accidents and injuries. A week of critical condition, three months of motionless bedrest and eight months of immobility changed me on every level.
The injuries froced me to recreate myself and I had to break down my belief structures on physical, cellular, and subatomic levels. I had many conditions, some which had names, some which didn’t. Everyone wanted to know what was wrong with me; I couldn’t find a diagnosis that would stick. Each condition lasted weeks, replaced by another. Celebrations were warranted by small achievements, pain became the norm, often preventing sleep. I surrendered. Really surrendered. I attended to my health and bodily conditions with care, and prayed. I was led inwards to be present for myself. It was a journey into the love of the Dark Mother, the void – full of love, purifying heat, and terrifying darkness.
After an initial week of unbearable pain, there were seven weeks of not being able to see, talk, swallow or chew, followed by fourteen more months of varying symptoms. My illnesses went head to toe (eight months) and inside to outside (eight months). Personality fragmentation, physical immobility, pain, an unexpected fall in NYC from a 12-foot ledge, a torn ligament from a healing session. New symptoms, new doctors, new dialogues. Medical care helped, hypnosis helped, reiki helped, hands on healing helped. Chiropractic adjustments, massage, acupuncture, meditation, puja, holy water, therapy, clay packs, oil packs, ginger packs… it all helped.
I read books on near death experiences, I sat in silence. I laid in silence. I did a lot of silence. There was no quick fix. I learned to exist with love. I called on inspiration from saints and sages. Many beings showed up to help me. An army of healers helped jumpstart my body and rewire it – Irene Newmark, Jon Ahlstrom, Jim Leary, Atma, Shelly Happel, Lisa Mell, Mirit Eder-Turley, Berholdt in Munich, Samantha von Tariken in Switzerland, Lydian and Ott van de Bunt in Amsterdam, and others. I am also grateful to my friends and family who never gave up on the possibility of life for me – Matthew Martin Kelly, my mom, Sheridan and Norm Traner, James Baldwin. And to Narayan and James Baldwin who offered me their homes as sanctuary while I worked on this CD. Highest praises for Amma who holds a vibration of love for the planet, and for me, one small part of this Universe.
There were certain songs that accompanied me through my healing. Amma and Om Sri Matre were close companions, sung in times of pain. Shakti allowed me to tell my story in rap, and use its repetition onstage to heal my heart. Lalitamba held a vision that one day I would be able to dance again like the great goddess.
Bhakti Da and Jagatambe were resurrected after sitting idle for two years. Bhuvaneshwari was written in Puerto Vallarta on retreat in Feb 2009. Pahimam and Shanti were written to fulfill a need for groove and dance. Love Holding Love was written for Matthew Martin Kelly. He called my months of immobility “The Mummy Tours” because he had to carry me to the gig, unwrap me from blankets, scarves and sunglasses, perform, then wrap me back up and carry me out. Ganga was the celebration of the river, my constant companion through many lives. Sequoia Neptune, my goddess back-up singer, played me Robby Svoboda’s Soundwalk and I became intrigued by the idea of worshipping the Mother as the river. Stay in the Love was my prayer for my daughter Sweet Girl.
Pahimam came on September 21st, 2009, the Fall Equinox, the one-year anniversary of my near-death, and the day some ongoing personal and financial matters came to a close. I was only three days from going back on tour, depleted from traveling and studio time and the incredible but mostly sleepless Bhaktifest (the first one was in 2009), and I wasn’t sure I had the energy to write one last song. I had only the word Pahimam and nothing else. By chance I was staying at James Baldwin’s house and I awoke early to walk on the beach. As the surfers came at sunrise to bathe in the waters of the Ocean, I saw not surfers but so many men coming to worship the Mother with delight, reverence and anticipation. The song came easily and the album was complete.
And so it is, this project was born… I offer it to you as my journey of personal transformation. May all beings be happy.
The quote on the album cover is from a teacher in the Paramahansa Yogananda lineage who said, “The practice of retreat and solitude for spiritual aspirants is well established. Usually, the student will ask the Guru and with his permission enter into a year of introspection, healing and self-inquiry. Going up into the mountains, he will endure physical hardships and austerities and gain spiritual wisdom. Sometimes when the student does not submit to it voluntarily, the Universe will arrange it.”