“We create music that to Western ears sounds familiar, but the lyrics come from the yoga mantra tradition,” he said.
Wild Lotus Band bassist/guitarist Alvin Young played with Wynton and Branford Marsalis early in their careers, and backed New Orleans pianist James Booker and jazz drummer James Black. Percussionist and vocalist Gwendolyn Colman moved to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, bringing with her a background in Middle Eastern and flamenco music.
Johnson was influenced by New Orleans and Irish music. He plays the harmonium, a small keyboard that originated in Denmark. Missionaries brought it to India, where locals modified it by removing the legs and foot pedals.
“Now it’s come back to the West as an instrument that groups like us are playing,” Johnson said. “The harmonium is both East and West. Our music is the same.”
The band’s annual performance at the Sacred Music Festival goes to the heart of what they do.
The definition of “sacred” and “spiritual” is “wider than what most people think of as the five major world religions,” Johnson said. “It’s not just what is in churches and temples and ashrams, but what is on the streets of New Orleans every day.”
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