Private The Windhorse Ensemble : Songs in the ten directions (US,2002)***'
I am always interested in seeing / hearing results from any spiritual, esoteric or philosophical ideas, being transformed into music, hoping to see honest and powerful performances in pure musical expressions, which should be more directly coming from the real core of what has been practically understood. Of course I am now very curious to hear how much a real lama, when creating his own musical forms, is mastering, on this direct level of "music", with deeper lying ideas and with a musical group and within a concept of a recorded CD. It is just because a 'lama' is involved, I will now look at this music from two visions. One, very critical, weighing the depths in all expressed balances of the purely musical content, testing the vividness of the purity and self-honesty of inspiration, looking at the power of the now-energy, how much it is really renewed throughout any pre-caused thoughts-overs, and pre-chewed kinds of prejudged repetitions of ideas, and experience how much fitting harmonic contrasts the music brings, etc.. softened by a compassionate eye, thinking of how casual listeners could interpret and potentially interact with the result.
The Windhorse Ensemble consists of Ngakchang Rinpoche, an American Vajrayana Buddist lama of an order of Tantric yogins, who follow doctoral studies on religion and philosophy, teaches philosophy and religion at seminars in Universities and colleges, received a mastership in Meditation, and the rarely achieved permission to teach certain Vajrayana doctrines. In this ensemble he plays acoustic guitar, in his own particular style close to raga, but differently played from what I've heard before with other raga guitarists.
Second member, Rahul Sakyaputra, is, besides being a water colour painter, a renowned Buddhist Indian sitar player, who plays here in fine harmony with Ngakchang Rinpoche's guitar technique.
Ron Wagner is a percussionist able to play western classical, Indian & middle eastern percussion. He plays close to a minimal urge, and is somewhat repetitive.
At first, when the instrumentals are still in a mood creation mode when starting off, I did not notice much "live" interacting extra dynamism in his style, seemingly following the most obvious easy fitting road, I thought this style possibly might have been influenced by a certain snoozing repetition with devotional celebration ritual music. This kind of fundament in playing is ok, for most people who think they need, or at least appreciate, hearing a percussionist who follows the basic rules of the most predictable and from some point of views- fundamental rhythm. Later on I realized that such percussion can slow the attention, as with hypnosis, and when all elements are there, and the rhythm speeds up, it can bring a "live feeling" at the right moment when there's enough affection build up in the musical themes.
The first two moody tracks have the nice kind of interplay (sitar/guitar) I mentioned before. The additional bells and bird like noises makes the music work with an orange like coloured content, in an appealing, pleasing "dreamy" mode. If I would like to hear closer the fine interplay, this is less possible, because the same colouring also distracts from such a clear view.
In the third and fourth track we also hear a third member, MiraBai Khandro (or Sky Walker) Henderson, who contributes cautiously, but she has fine flower colours in her voice. This is possibly because she studied various wide ranged genres, and through her more than close interest in participating in a spiritual way by developing all kinds of singing that could interact with this Buddhist order's disciplines. These two tracks are more devotional, in an original fusing mode, with a rhythm that now has tendencies, like with psychedelica, to be slightly accelerating, attracting the mind to drift along with concentration on the completed content.
The following two tracks have touches of an "eastern" flavour, giving something happy to this devotional music fusion, where also the sixth track has a similar slightly accelerating tendency with the same captivating energy. The 7th track has very unusual and original harmonies in singing. This also gives more energy to the instrumental improvisation, which is raga like, combined with the sung mantra.
Last track is more filmic, with somewhat chaotically compiled noises describing what can be heard when climbing a mountain, like towards a temple, with an American narration (which reminds me of some spiritual hippie releases), and then, up tempo, a medieval like middle eastern instrumental, with a perfectly fitting adaptation of a Buddhist praying chant !
It took me a few listens before the music unfolded a bit more. The music is somewhat relaxed and colourful. It is so far the only example I know of (such) a (complete) Indian/Tibetan Fusion. The fusing ideas clearly come from devotional monastery music, but becomes at the same time something entirely different. It is a very good compromise between two styles which have not been "fused" before as far as I know, starting from the Buddhist content itself. Each of the songs is also connected some way or another with some Buddhist teaching or story, which can be read in the accompanying booklet.