Music Review: Saraswati Dreams
Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda
After fusing kirtan music with electronica on 2013’s Kirtronica, former Lost At Last singer Jaya Lakshmi and her partner Ananda Yogiji have returned to form with Saraswati Dreams, a tranquil and reverent collection of traditional Sanskrit chants. Backing up their gentle vocal harmonies with acoustic instruments like hammered dulcimer, guitar, bansuri flute, and tabla, Lakshmi and Ananda take the listener on an imaginary boat ride down a sacred Indian river, with each song depicting a new encounter with a deity such as Gayatri, Govinda, and Ganesha.
Ananda, who played a supporting role on Kirtronica, emerges as a full-fledged co-leader on Saraswati Dreams, crafting the melodies and musical arrangements of half of the album’s eight tracks. Lakshmi is in fine form on the other four chants, the mild timbre of her voice tacitly assuring us of the universe’s fundamental benevolence.
While Saraswati Dreams isn’t far removed from the bulk of Lakshmi’s solo output, two of its songs take unexpected turns: “Govinda Jaya” features guest vocals from Karnamrita Dasi, Prema Mayi, and Krsna Dev, and on the uncharacteristically ominous “Kali Ma,” Lakshmi and Ananda harmonize in fourths for an eerie effect befitting the song’s namesake.
By the album’s end, we come to understand the imagery of the boat ride as a metaphor for the journey of the soul, and the deities that present themselves along the way are revealed as symbols for various spiritual forces that all beings encounter while making their way through life.