Incantations - Sheela Bringi

White Swan

World Music's struggle with branding continues, because when you get right down to it, World Music is not a genre at all, it's all musical genres filtered through a lens of global awareness. And, because of its hyper-inclusiveness, the label can apply to myriad musical expressions across the spectrum. One corner of World Music I rarely venture into is that uneasy nexus between New Age and Yoga spiritualism. The former is wallpaper, pure and simple. As for the latter, I wouldn't know my chakras from my Shakiras. It's boorish of me, but I have little time for vegging in a meditative state and to me, the best thing about yoga is the pants. Now, Indian American artist Sheela Bringi brings 'Incantations' to market, a surprising, and crafty album of mantras that even a lout like me can get into. Bringi was influenced by M.I.A. early on (that's bound to leave a high impact bruise on your serene sense of the divine). At the same time she was honing her skills in the classical Indian forms with innovative masters. "It helped me develop a sense of where music traditions might bend, and where they might break.” she explains. "This sense is necessary if you hope to reshape and re-imagine old music." Incantations turns out to be very flexible indeed, offering  tranquility without the tedium to the stiff-necked, uncentred masses who would surely snap something attempting the downward dog. With the help of longtime collaborator, producer and bluesman, Clinton Patterson, Bringi finds common ground between South India and the American South. Incantations also takes advantage of the cyclical atmospheres of Carnatic music to introduce other complementary languid voices, like some beautiful Nordic jazz-style trumpet performed by Patterson. There are the pure tones of the Himalayan singing bowls and hang drum, earthy grit of didgeridoo and conch, all adding special interest to Bringi's voice, harmonium, harp and bansuri. She even makes the connection between India and The Balkans on 'Buffalo-Demon Slayer', a tribute to the invincible goddess Durga. The song recalls the brass marching music Indian nomads brought to the Balkans centuries ago, which would come to define the spirited music of the region. Incantations keeps up the variety and vitality through ten compact compositions of meditative music, in of itself, a forward-leaning exercise in modern musical flexibility.