8 Songs, 1 Hour 14 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

KathyPiano7 ,

From MainlyPiano

Dan Blanchard’s "Awakening - Raga Bhairav" (pronounced “buy-ruv”) was created as a musical accompaniment for early morning meditation and movement. Inspired by Indian classical music, Blanchard performs on santoor (a 100-string Indian instrument similar to the hammered dulcimer), tanpura, swarmandal, and harmonium and is joined on the various eight tracks by Sheela Bringi on bansuri flute, Brian Campbell on tabla, Gabe Marihugh on udu and djembe, Sangeet Mishra on sarangi, and Nisha Narsai on vocals. Raga is one of the primary forms of Indian classical music, and its name is Sanskrit for “that which colors or leaves an impression.” The raga form consists of “rules” that designate specific notes and embellishments, musical phrasing, emphasized notes, etc. Comprised of several movements that incorporate improvisation, a raga is different every time it is played. Ragas are often composed for a specific time of day, and this one is intended for early morning - particularly before dawn and the few hours that follow. It is structured to begin with quiet mediation or gentle warm-ups. As it evolves, rhythm is added and the tempo becomes livelier to encourage physical movement. It then slows down again to a more relaxed tempo. The album plays as an uninterrupted whole, but the eight tracks are easy to access individually, allowing the listener to change the playing order, if desired.

"Awakening" begins with “Invocation,” which contains the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra from the "Rig Veda," an ancient Indian scripture that is used to enhance health and vitality; Nisha Narsai’s beautiful vocals are hypnotic. “Centering (Alap)” is the actual beginning of the raga, and the melodic structure is slowly improvised without rhythm. This movement is very quiet and peaceful. “Emerging (Jod with Udu)” adds udu (a clay drum) to the hypnotic santoor, introducing rhythm to the melody. The tempo is still very calm, but energy is starting to build within the music. “Sustaining (Vilambit Gat in Rupak Taal)” has a 7-beat rhythmic cycle that continues at a slow tempo. It is accompanied by the tabla (an Indian percussion instrument similar to bongo drums). “Embracing (Madhya Gat in Teentaal)” picks up the tempo a bit, again accompanied by tabla. “Elation (Drut Gat in Teentall)” pulls out all the stops, increasing the tempo to a breathless pace. The climax (Jhala) would typically end the raga, but Blanchard continues with two more movements for gradually decelerating to a more relaxed tempo. “Transformation” slows dramatically, adding vocals, flute, and harmonium; Nisha Narsai’s singing is again magical and hypnotic. “Integration” is a “final relaxation” with vocal and flute, intended to integrate the musical journey and bring this compelling raga to a conclusion.

"Awakening" is music with a purpose, and Dan Blanchard is obviously a musician who has studied Indian classical music and instruments in great depth. If you are into this kind of music and/or meditation, this album would be an excellent choice.

MDiamond ,

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus

Starting at a relatively young age, Dan has been engaged in an intensive study of Indian classical music and the santoor (an ancient 100 string Indian instrument similar to a hammer dulcimer). His album Awakening is subtitled Rāga Bhairav (pronounced “Buy-ruv) and is an early morning rāga, ideal for meditation, contemplation, and introspection. He has arranged the music on Awakening to follow a particular flow starting more meditatively, and gradually increasing tempo and adding rhythm to encourage movement and build energy before slowing down towards the end to allow the listener to integrate the musical journey.

As can be expected, the first two tracks are quite peaceful and make you want to take a deep breath, close your eyes and go within. On track three, “Emerging,” a clay drum called an Udu, imparts a wonderful earthy ambience and adds sense of motion to the music. The energy builds on track four as tabla drums add to the momentum. As mentioned the tempo increases, and by the time we get to the end of track six, “Elation,” things are really cooking. The perfectly synchronized interplay of the santoor and tabla at this high velocity is impressive, and reflects the years of training it takes a musician to achieve such a level of proficiency.

“Transformation, “ the seventh track is a nice long one that adds female vocal, flute, and harmonium and might be equated to a “cool down” after a vigorous workout at the gym. Appropriately titled “Integration,” the last track retains the flute and harmonium bringing us full circle back to a meditative space, allowing time to assimilate what has transpired. Dan and the musicians on the album have done a masterful job of providing an exotic and engaging musical experience that has practical applications for health and well-being.

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