InnerVersions: A Six Degrees Yoga Compilation
One would have to have been hiding under a pretty big rock not to have noticed the way that yoga has infiltrated western mainstream society in the last decade or so. For baby boomers like myself, it's not the first time that this has happened. As a kid growing up in the sixties, yoga was everywhere, but it was part of the counter culture and went along with dropping acid, reading Ram Dass books and trying to stomach macrobiotic food. For a brief moment, yoga was everywhere, but along with the other trappings of the sixties culture, it disappeared to be replaced by jogging and disco some time in the middle seventies.
By the time I came of age and sought out a yoga instructor for myself in the early eighties, classes had been relegated to mildewy community centre basements in the worst part of town. Interest in yoga was at an all time low. Students were few and together we felt that we were part of a limited, almost secret society. We were a ragtag group of misfits who never could have predicted the explosion of popularity in this ancient form of exercise and meditation that waited just around the corner.
The austere spiritual boot camp mentality that defined the yoga classes and retreats of my younger years seems to have all but dissipated in North America. Memories of instructors telling me to go inward and forget the distractions of the outside world still echo deep within, and I have to admit that it was with a certain amount of trepidation and scorn that I first greeted the idea of music designed to complement a yoga session. Any 'yoga' music that I'd heard had been dreadful New Age synthesiser music designed to lull the senses, and before I heard Derek Beres' 'Earthrise Yoga Sessions' CD that came out last year, I didn't think that such a prospect would have held any interest for me or any other serious music listener.
I couldn't have been more wrong. Derek Beres is both a DJ and a yoga teacher who's been blessed with an innate sense of what kind of music and flow complements one's practice. The soundtrack he created for 'Earthrise' perfectly mirrored the phases of a yoga session while still maintaining a high level of musical integrity. Listening to it convinced me that many of my preconceptions were outdated and simply not valid.
'InnerVersions' marks Beres' second set of music designed for yoga practice. Whereas 'EarthRise Yoga Sessions' – produced in collaboration with Duke Mushroom – was comprised of original tracks designed by the pair to follow the flow of yoga asanas, 'InnerVersions' is primarily a sampler that features selections of the best downtempo Asian and Middle Eastern electronica from the last few years. For followers of this type of music, there's not much new on offer here, but Beres has done a wonderful job of putting together some of the most easily accessible tracks by leading artists in the genre.
The sampler opens with selections from Bombay Dub Orchestra and Midival Punditz that establish just the right mood for introductory exercises. Soaring and light, they are perfect for shedding stress, tension and excess baggage accumulated during the day. Tracks from Cheb I Sabbah and Karsh Kale conjure images of holy rivers and Himalayan trances while Eccodeck's 'Silent Song' - a composition specially commissioned for this CD - encourages a deep and active sense of meditation. Featuring the astonishing and transcendent Kirin Ahluwalia on vocals, it is the most exciting and immediately rewarding selection on 'InnerVersions' and is, in itself, reason enough to purchase this disc.
'Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi' from Gaudi's remixed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan CD of a few years past fits perfectly in with the other cuts on this album, and establishes context for 'Makyen Ghrir Allah' an original cut from Beres' Earth Rise Sound System that showcases Hamid Boudali's powerful vocals. Ethereal dub inspired sojourns from Jef Stott and Bob Holroyd - whose 'Adrift in Kerala' closes the album - also fit in very well with the overall flow that Beres establishes. The only songs that don't nestle in particularly well are Lal Meri's 'Dreams of 18' and Céu's 'Roda'. While both are excellent songs that deserve to reach a larger audience, the 'pop' edge that creeps into the vocals of each number does nothing to further the mood that Beres' has so carefully cultivated.
'InnerVersions' is a success in every sense of the word. It works remarkably well as a sampler as Derek Beres' impeccable taste is in evidence everywhere. Hopefully, it will become a 'gateway' yoga music collection and will help expose this type of cutting edge sound to a much larger audience. Like the soundtrack to 'The Harder they Come' did for reggae so many years ago, it should make people curious and encourage them to seek out other music from the performers showcased here. One can only hope that as you read this, Mr. Beres and Mushroom are in a studio somewhere conjuring up their next collection. I can't wait.