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Shantala

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Biography

Based in Portland, OR, Shantala is a husband-and-wife team consisting of Heather and Benjy Wertheimer. Their primary focus as a duo is acoustic-oriented folk-pop, and Heather's influences as a vocalist (either direct or indirect) have included Janis Ian, Joan Baez, Sandy Denny, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell (among others). But Shantala has also attracted some attention in the new age market, which no doubt has something to do with the fact that their folk-pop tends to be pastoral, gentle, relaxed, peaceful and tranquil—no one would mistake Shantala for anti-folk (a gutsy, tough, hard-edged school of folk-rock that is associated with East Coast singer/songwriters like Lach and Lenny Molotov in New York and Adam Brodsky in Philadelphia). And the fact that Heather, who brings a lot of sweetness to her performances, is a yoga teacher certainly doesn't hurt Shantala's credibility in new age circles. In Shantala, Heather and Benjy both wear a lot of different hats. In addition to being the duo's lead vocalist, Heather plays acoustic guitar, helps with the producing and does most of the songwriting. Benjy, meanwhile, provides background vocals and plays several instruments, including electric keyboards, percussion and various traditional ethnic instruments associated with world music (such as the djembe, the esraj and Indian tabla drums). He also helps with the producing and does a little writing for Shantala, although Heather is the duo's primary songwriter and does the most to shape Shantala stylistically. It's important to stress that Shantala is not a full-time gig for either Heather or Benjy; in fact, both of them have been very busy with a variety of other projects. Heather has performed in different parts of the Pacific Northwest as part of the groups Lonesome Taxi and Heartstrings; she has also been a featured vocalist in the musical Return to Avalon. And Benjy has taken part in a variety of activities that range from playing and touring with different world music outfits (including the group Ancient Future and the Zakir Hussain Rhythm Experience) to composing music for television programs; for more than five years, Benjy scored music for the NBC daytime soap opera Santa Barbara (which was canceled). As a solo artist, Benjy has provided a world fusion CD titled Circle of Fire, which was recorded in 2001 and released independently on their Ancient-Future label the following year. Heather and Benjy's first CD as the duo Shantala came in 2003, when they put out The Love Window (a collection of yoga chants) on Ancient-Future. That disc was followed by the acoustic-oriented folk-pop effort Church of Sky, also on Ancient-Future.

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