There are two different types of Sanskrit chants on this CD - 'Shakti' and 'Bhakti.'
Shakti: The ancient Vedic chants recorded on this album use the traditional pitches, accents and enunciations that have been passed on orally for thousands of years. Still, today, they radiate the same vibrant energy and sacred knowledge of the Vedas.
Bhakti: The devotional chants express the gratitude, beauty and love of the immanent present Absolute in its many guises and presentations as God, Guru, Divine Mother and attributeless essence of our Being.
The following is excerpted from a review by Amber Terrell in the 'movies, music' section of the Sep/Oct 2006 issue of "Nexus" magazine.
Shakti-Bhakti, Martin Wolff
"There are many beautiful CDs on the market that offer us a taste of Indian chanting, but most of these have, to one extent or another, retuned the original Indian musical interval in order to present the material in a form more familiar to the western ear."
"Martin Wolff's offering of Vedic and devotional chants in the Etherean Music release, Shakti-Bhakti, is of a whole different order. These are the authentic sounds of ancient India, presented in the original and exact intervals of the Vedas, and accompanied simply and elegantly by tamboura.... The years of meticulous study to which Wolff devoted himself in order to get these pronunciations exquisitely accurate have paid off in the precision and confidence of his deep resonant voice, in the powerful transmission of silence and grace evident in these selections, transporting the listener to a long-ago forest retreat of some ancient rishi (seer), where Shakti and Bhakti incarnated in living reality."
The following review of Shakti~Bhakti appeared on www.headbutler.com:
Martin Wolff first became known to me as one of those readers of Swami Uptown --- the blog where, once a week, I unload all the spiritual/political ranting that I spare you here at Butler --- who regards Internet writing as the start of a conversation. Soon after the blog launched, he shot me an e-mail, and I, out of politeness, responded. He wrote again. And not only did I gain a virtual friend, I had the good fortune to be in a dialogue with a very sharp guy who had more to teach me than I had to teach him.
That didn't become fully clear until Martin mentioned that he had recorded a CD of sacred Hindu chants. Out of curiosity, I asked for a copy. My expectations were low. Yours would be as well. A guy from Jersey privately recording music from a tradition thousands of miles and years distant --- what are the odds he's great?
He is great. There's no look-at-me in his voice. Martin dissolves into the chants, and becomes them, and then it's over. I emerge, blinking, delighted by the lack of ego.
Turnaround's fair play. I asked Martin how a nice boy from Long Island found his way to chant. Here's his response:
"I was in a teen rock band for a short while, mostly performing at church dances. I didn't sing in the group, but simply played chords --- on an electric accordion! I guess I thought it was cool, but it wasn't really a fit for my nature and it didn't last long."
"I have also been in a number of church and amateur choirs and I enjoyed this much more. I was especially fond of the polyphonic sacred music. But I should also say that growing up on suburban Long Island, our church was, for some inexplicable reason, using an 800 year old liturgy --- all of it Gregorian chant! There was something about that sound that reached me very deeply. I certainly knew no Latin or Greek, but the sound itself was like a heart massage and gently cooled my fevered teenage brain. I think this was really the beginning of my deep connection to sacred music. In one form or other, it seems like I have been singing sacred music ever since."
"There was a time, in my early teens, when I thought I wanted to become an Episcopal priest. I asked a lot of questions of the parish priest. But the answers didn't reach something in me that I wanted to be reached. Soon I was reading western philosophy. Of course, I had very little comprehension of what I was reading, but it was all part of the process."
"In college I became exposed to Alan Watts and, in particular, his "The Book (on the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are)." This opened up an entire universe for me and put into question all my basic assumptions about myself and the world. I was completely enthralled and began to sense some underlying message about unity in the Eastern traditions. Once I had read Baba Ram Das' "Be Here Now" I was totally hooked and the exploration of the East was fully engaged. But I never see a conflict between Christ's teachings and Hinduism (with which I am the most familiar), for example. All the difference is outer appearance, not essence."
"The actual experience of Presence --- of Huge Love, in whatever degree experienced --- is the important aspect. When I participated in Gregorian chant as a teen or when I chant the Sanskrit devotional chants now, there is a tangible knowledge of Love. This is not the love of one person for another, though that is included, but the vastness of Love which is somehow in our own heart. It is also the unconditional love of a mother. So the chanting becomes devotional, in prostration to that Love."
"The Vedic chanting brings out something different --- this intensity of awareness, of Presence, the immanence of God, however you understand That. But because the vibrations are arranged the unique way that they are, these Vedic chants have a power to rearrange the energies inside you in such a way that there is this incredible energetic --- but not frenetic ---happiness."
"The chanting intensifies my inner conviction that happiness and beauty are our real nature and that we always have a possibility to reach one another directly, perhaps without words at all, on this purer, freer plane of our existence. The chanting also reminds me that I can be true to my own real nature in a moment, even though I have gotten caught in some ridiculous ego-driven nightmare."
"I think I should emphasize that I don't consider myself an artist. I don't have the usual musical skills or the temperament of a performer. But I have had the opportunity to chant in sacred settings and have noticed that often when I am chanting, the chant moves --- or stills --- others the same way it affects me. So I was encouraged to offer the chanting which I love; it was a natural step to make this offering more available."
"I really had not planned this CD --- on a retreat, the man who became the recording engineer suggested to me that we could work together and come up with something that people could benefit from. I am not trying to push anything with the CD, it is an offering and I believe it will end up where it should end up."
In my case, it ends up on my CD, in heavy rotation, as a morning cleanser or late night comfort. It's not a wonder drug; it doesn't banish the world or bring lasting peace. But it points a way, soothes the soul --- it gets the immediate job done. What a wonderful medium this is that brings a Martin Wolff into my life. And how great it is that I can alert you to a potentially valuable CD you're not likely to find anywhere else...
-- by Jesse Kornbluth, for HeadButler.com