Lama Gyurme / Jean-Philippe Rykiel

Rain of Blessings: Varja Chants

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The trend in the late '90s or so among new age musicians has been to adapt the devotional music of non-European cultures to make it more accessible, more palatable, if you will, to Western ears. For better or worse, this trend continues. The chants of Tibetan monasteries are admittedly a challenge for many Western listeners. While they have a stark beauty in their simple, repetitive, sub-basslines, most people don't pop them in the CD player for casual listening. This release is an apparent attempt to change that tendency. New age keyboardist Rykiel has added electronic arrangements to nine chants sung by Lama Gyurme. Unfortunately, the turgid washes of electronic sound, synth twinkles, and facile harmonies only serve to emphasize the disparity between the world of the Tibetan monk and that of the European synthesizer whiz. The unaffectedly folky melody of "Offering Chant" is all but drowned out by Rykiel's rumbly background sounds. The electric guitar-sounding solo and easy listening rhythm track do nothing to enhance the chant. "Medicine Buddha Mantra" doesn't fare much better. The plinky accompaniment smacks of the outdated stereotypical way Western composers used to interpret Asian music. While the accompaniment on some of the other tracks is subtler and a little less intrusive, most of Rykiel's attempts at "prettying up" these chants are misguided at best.

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