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Hidden In the Name

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Album Review

On this double-disc collection, Wah! explores kirtans in a variety of ways, some with solo vocal performances and some in the traditional call-and-response fashion, in which she sings a line with a group of chanters echoing her. To kick it off in the most auspicious way, she offers "Om Jaya Ganapataye" to Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles. It's an important thing to do at the beginning of any spiritual undertaking, and she does it with aplomb. An electric bass teams up with the harmonium to lay a foundation for the tablas. The response part on this one is done via guitar improvisations. A nice touch. Wah!'s work shines brightest when she sticks to the simple, traditional framework that these chants were originally meant to be placed in. "Hare Ram" and "Jai Ma" are testaments to this. The Western instruments don't even detract in that setting. However, when she goes all the way to incorporating jazz, reggae, and calypso-tinged melodies and grooves, as on "Radhe Bhaj" or "Ambe Mata," something gets lost in the translation. The "Dub Version" of the former takes it even further afield. Part of the problem is that, styled as such, all of the chants start to sound the same, so you lose the sweetness, the essence of the chosen deity and mantras. They also don't feel nearly as sacred, which is truly the main focus of singing to the Lord or the Guru: to connect with that sacred space, that higher power.


Formed: Los Angeles, CA

Genre: New Age

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Having practiced hatha yoga and meditation since she was a teenager, graduating from Oberlin College with a degree in Performing Arts was just another step toward becoming the singer/dancer/spiritual seeker known as Wah!. She took time post-university to travel to Ghana and Nigeria as a member of the Arthur Hall Dance Ensemble and live in an African shaman temple. Returning stateside, she spent a number of years composing and performing, most notably for the Angela Caponigro Dance Ensemble in New...
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Hidden In the Name, Wah!
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