Over the course of seven years of teaching, Six Degrees Records has supplied numerous songs for my EarthRise Yoga playlists. The San Francisco-based global-thinking label has been my favorite in the decade that I’ve been writing about international music, and I was both excited and honored that they opened their catalog to me to create a yoga mixtape. InnerVersions: A Six Degrees Yoga Compilation hit digital shelves last week, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight the amazing collection of musicians that found their way, probably unknowingly, on the label’s first foray into the expanding world of ‘yoga music.’
Abode (Bombay Dub Orchestra Remix) – Azam Ali
I’ve loved Azam’s voice since first hearing her sing with the duo, Vas, a decade ago. Her subsequent solo career was followed by the excellent Persian electronica sound of Niyaz. “Abode,” from her second solo album, was a favorite, but when Bombay Dub Orchestra created this spacious remix, I was hooked. The tasetfulness of the opening drone and sitar leaving plenty of room for Azam’s voice to shine, followed by the tabla build into the bass and light drums, makes this one of my favorite remixes of any genre, crafted by one of my favorite production teams.
Khayaal – Midival Punditz
I’ve long been a fan of this Delhi-based duo from their early days in the Asian Massive scene. This track features one of my favorite vocalists on this planet, Vishal Vaid, who has sang on all of Karsh Kale’s albums (and is preparing his debut). The punchy rhythm is tempered by a beautiful bansuri flute, not to mention the centuries of history that creates the foundation for Vaid’s meticulous, beautiful vocalizations.
Dreams of 18 – Lal Meri
Years back I was introduced to Rosey’s music, totally digging her smoked out, laid back jazz temperament. Teaming up with producer Carmen Rizzo and producer/percussionist Ireesh Lal, this unique song from a stellar debut puts Rosey’s insightful poetics and elegant voice over a foundation constructed sturdily with tabla, a roaming drum beat, and plenty of poignant overdubs. It fuels the flow of this collection effortlessly.
Roda – Ceu
Few are the listeners not immediately drawn into this sultry Brazilian’s voice. In my mind she’s the most creative artist coming from that country today, and that is in no way diminishing the stiff competition she faces. Rare is it a singer not only finds her own voice but also recreates an entire collection of genres with such ease. Ceu has not let me down once, and I had to include my favorite song in this collection. The dubby bass line is the perfect accompaniment to the yogic flow, and her voice keeps you soaring well after class ends.
Silent Song – Eccodek
The first time I walked into the Monastereo, Eccodek founder Andrew McPherson’s studio/home in Guelph, I felt like I had slid into a Hobbit village in the Shire (not in regards to height, mind you; he tops my 6’ 4” inch frame by a good two inches). After a great gig and ride back to Toronto with the man, I knew why magic seems to come out of his speakers. There are too many singular items to pick out, yet you’ll hear it too in this exceptional song, featuring fellow Canadian Kiran Ahluwalia on vocals
Makyen Ghrir Allah – EarthRise SoundSystem
I was very happy to find out I could include a track from my record with producer/percussionist extraordinaire Duke Mushroom, The Yoga Sessions, on InnerVersions. Hamid Bhoudali is a Moroccan emcee and trained Gnawa singer living in Queens and doing his thing in NYC. We were ecstatic with how this praiseful song turned out, with labelmate Go-Ray adding a stunning violin landscape. It was the clear winner to drop into this mix.
Break of Dawn – Karsh Kale
Karsh’s music was my introduction to Six Degrees, not to mention the entire concept of global electronica. My first book, Global Beat Fusion, was inspired by his debut, Realize, and I had the pleasure of throwing a weekly party with him in NYC for nearly a year. “Break of Dawn,” from his second album, Liberation, has long been my number one go-to from his catalog for my classes. The song was created in India as a morning welcome after a night out dancing, and the way that it opens up, from his tabla playing into live drumming, is perhaps the most inspired moment on this entire compilation—hence, the sun breaking through the darkness.
Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi – Gaudi + Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
The great Pakistani qawwali Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was my first introduction to “world music.” I randomly chose one of his collaborations with Michael Brook, Night Song, from my BMG subscription back in 1995. When the Italian-born producer Gaudi was given a stack of rare Khan finds to retool and retexture, he must have been psyched. The result, this inventive presentation of a number of ghazals from the vocal great, was an easy decision for this record.
Aegean Dub – Jef Stott
I’ve been in touch with Jef for a number of years, as he’s played in and produced a number of groundbreaking and forward-seeking projects over the years. None of them hit me the way his Six Degrees debut, Saracen, did. A master percussionist and oud player, he’s equally adapt behind the computer screen. A hearty dose of Arabic-inspired electronica awaits the curious listener, but I chose the most reggaefied cut on the record, which has proven itself a solid choice in yoga classes for some time now.
Strange Constellations – Bombay Dub Orchestra
We return to Bombay for a heart-stopping downtempo gem from 3 Cities. I love me a good santur, perhaps due to my Hungarian ancestray. Everything about this song is so right and cinematic; it creates a harmonious and peaceful space in the studio every time it comes on during class. I’m pretty certain I’ll be a lifelong fan of whatever Andrew T. Mackay and Garry Hughes put out from here on in, just as I’m positive I’ll be spinning their songs for a long time to come.
Lagi Lagan – Cheb i Sabbah
Cheb wrote the book—or at least recorded it—on creating lightly textured classical Indian music in a modern context. His first album of a yoga trilogy, Shri Durga, is one of my top 10 albums of any genre of music. Yet I pulled from his third, Krishna Lila, for two reasons. First, Radhika Rajiv’s jawdropping vocals. Second, the “divine play of Krishna” is the perfect metaphor for the yoga practice, finding balance within seeming oppositions. As Cheb told me once regarding the zone of the DJ, when you’re one with the music and the dance floor is one with the music, there becomes a three-part symphony playing one continuous note, and no separation exists between any of that trilogy. He’s struck that chord over and again with his groundbreaking work.
Adrift in Kerala – Bob Holroyd
The slow beat and nearly painful longing expressed in Bob Holroyd’s song makes this the perfect Savasana track: the ecstasy of union, the dissolution of the illusion, the return and integration with the world around you. To remember such yearning when everything around you seems to want to steal it from you is part of the illusion. Everything is right there for you to see, adrift yet oddly and firmly grounded.