Offbeat Magazine Reviews Unity

It’d be easy to dismiss Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band as music solely for the yoga world.

Though it’s rooted in the Indian kirtan genre with Sanskrit-sung mantras (often with call-and-response) and traditional instrumentation like the aura-inducing harmonium and the fretless dotar, it’s also apparent that the group would rather stretch beyond the paradigm than be confined by it.

Nine of the 10 tracks are originals and all have carefully crafted, densely-layered arrangements. There’s a fair bit of diversity as well, such as the Nashville country picking of “The Man in Blue” and the symphonic horn intro-outro on “I Will Rise Again” being prime examples.

On “Peace Song,” Gwendolyn Colman plays atypical instruments like the kalimba (African thumb piano) and the berimbau (Brazilian single-stringed bowed percussive instrument) to add to the symbolism of various world cultures chanting messages of peace in different languages. Now and then a melodious bass solo emerges that almost takes off into jazz.

Unlike the nonexistent harmonies of traditional kirtan music, uplifting harmonies are also incorporated into the mix.

Similarly, the proceedings are rife with ideas with the anthemic title track tying it all together. A poem from the Sufi mystic Rumi and a mantra are sung before Johnson raps in English about how unity is really universal, regardless of heritage or ethnicity.

It wouldn’t be over the top to dub Unity as a soul-cleansing listen but if nothing else, it’s a beautiful sonic collage to get lost in. Read full article here. 

Kirtan Central’s Daniel Tucker Reviews Unity

I never realized the oneness of all divine names until last night. I think I probably honored that truth intellectually, but had never tasted it. I would sing or repeat one mantra at a time only, avoiding “mixing and matching,” trying to focus on the experience of Krishna’s name, or Hanuman’s, etc.

Well, last night I sat down with Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band’s new album Unity. Listening to “Nur Allah,” I am grooving along, but when a second mantra is added it distracts me, then a third comes in, which confuses me, and a fourth and fifth – Om Guru, Sat Nam, Shalom, Allah, Om Mani Padme Hum, all being sung in one interplaying choir – and suddenly, I am pushed over the edge and into the experience they are singing of: all the names are dancing in the same light, naming the same love… Oh, my God!! Have I gotten hung up on the name? On preferring one name over another? While each may have its own beauty, its own characteristics, that’s not where to focus… I should be focusing more on what the name is naming – which is always the same – and the band sings, “it’s about love… It’s about love.”

For me, this album is as important as KD’s Pilgrim Heartor Jai’s Shiva Station, expanding and deepening the vision of modern kirtan music. In this increasingly interconnected world, we can no longer afford to think that one name of God is higher than another, otherwise we inadvertently judge our neighbors. Of course we have our favorites and love them dearly, but the truth must come out: there is only one God, called by so many names, and if concepts about God get in my way I will just remember, “It’s about love.”  Read full article here. 

New Orleans Advocate Interviews Sean About The N.O. Sacred Music Festival

In the intimate setting of the New Orleans Healing Center, performers from diverse faiths and cultures will gather Saturday for the Sacred Music Festival — a celebration that incorporates music, chanting and ceremonies.

“With so much tension and division … we want to help celebrate the connection, the universal thread that we all have as human beings,” said Sean Johnson, co-founder of the Sacred Music Festival and vocalist and harmonium player for Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band.

The festival offers a rare opportunity to experience Tibetan Buddhist chants and dance, spoken word poetry, medieval hymns, Japanese Shinto drumming, cantorial prayer, spirituals, blues, gospel, the Muslim call to prayer, mantra music and, for the first time this year, Sufi music.

Steering away from the feeling of being stuck in church, many of the performances are interactive and educational, teaching people about faiths and cultures they are otherwise never exposed to.

Kirtan music, for example, has deep roots in the practice of yoga in India.

“The practice of Kirtan is really designed to help people open up their hearts and sing through any numbness and dullness that they may feel inside themselves,” Johnson said.

The Wild Lotus Band takes Kirtan music and the traditional mantras — a word or sound repeated to aid meditation — and blends that with genres such as rock, gospel and folk music.

“The mantras in many cases have been chanted for thousands of years,” said Johnson. “Each of the mantras are associated with a particular kind of universal quality or strength that we have inside of us, and when we chant these mantras, it is a way of engaging the attribute that we all have, no matter what our beliefs are, the language we speak or where we come from.”

With each mantra or song, lasting for about 15 to 20 minutes, Kirtan music is designed to be interactive and participatory.

“It is a really electrifying feeling when everybody is singing along and participating. It takes it to a whole other level, and it becomes less of a performance and more of an actual visceral experience,” Johnson said.  Read the full article here.

LA Yoga Magazine Reviews Unity

I fell in love with kirtan late in my practice. It was within the expansive studio of the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, not long after Hurricane Katrina. Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band were touring to raise funds to rebuild their hometown when then they sang, played, chanted, and raised the proverbial roof. For me, the combination of an earthy, jazz-influenced sound, rhythms from New Orleans, and devotion to both music and mantra demonstrated by Sean Johnson, drummer and vocalist Gwendolyn Colman, and bassist and guitarist Alvin Young, was—and remains—transcendent.

The title track “Unity” begins with a famous line from Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there.” The chant segues into the peace prayer, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” mixed with invocations in Sanskrit and English, with a rhythm that begs us to dance, or at least sing along. This is one of many timely prayers for peace found on Unity. Beginning with the band’s groovy version of the traditional opening to Ganesh (“Ganesha’s Belly Dance”) continuing with tracks like the multi-lingual “Peace Song,” then closing with the band’s English-language gospel-tinged festival favorite “I’ll Fly Away.”

This is a Sunday-morning gospel-tinged soundtrack for the revival of this century. Merging mantra, frame drum, and world music melodies and rhythms, this is a must-have for your kirtan library.  Read original article here. 

Yoga Chicago Reviews Unity

Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band’s third release, Unity features red-hot jams with uplifting mantras, and messages straight out of their hometown of New Orleans. Each of the 10 tracks holds a unique space. The combination of talent, with singer/percussionist Gwendolyn Colman and bassist/guitarist Alvin Young, is synergistic. The first track, “Ganesha’s Belly Dance,” is a hypnotic invocation to remove obstacles. It wouldn’t be out of place in a film noir, filmed in a faraway place. The Sufi-esque “Nur Allah Nur” begins with Gwendolyn’s sublime voice chanting in Arabic, then Sanskrit. Sean joins her with some Hebrew, and the magic is made. “Remember” is bass heavy pop with a mix of Sanskrit and English. “The Man in Blue,” which is a play on Krishna’s blue skin, uses one of my fave instruments—the triangle! I can’t help but smile listening to this piece.

There is a delicate balance of light and dark on this record—that’s how my life is too. Hearing this group bust out the songs “Unity” and “Fly Away Home” at Bhakti Fest Midwest was quite a moving experience. There are only three of them in the band! Gwendolyn, how do you play your percussion and drums, while you sing so sweetly and strong? There is so much beauty in their finely crafted music; “Unity” will penetrate your body, mind, and soul. – Debi Buzil  Read original article here. 

Inside World Music’s Review of UNITY

The New Orleans-based kirtan music group, Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band, bring an energetic mix of global treasures with lively kirtan, yoga, Sanskrit-inspired, and new age mantras with beautiful vocals and melodies on Unity. The ten-track release romps through infectious mantras, global chants, and Rumi poetry all composed in an easy-to-listen-to format. The extended instrumentals and repetitive vocals in spots reinforces the melodies and rhythms throughout. “Remember” contains an upbeat world rock beat with vocals akin to Australia’s Yothu Yindi, but the tune is more South Asian-inspired than Aboriginal. “The Man In Blue” features a great mantra and uppity guitar tune with a little Southern charm. In a similar manner, “I’ll Fly Away” is a gospel-esque tune with Southern roots and a kirtan infusion. “Unity” is a Rumi poetry and chant song that promotes happiness for all by repeating the popular mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu in a light pop/rock arrangement. Whether this is neo-kirtan, new age, yoga music, or spiritual music, you will find happiness and solace in the music of Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band. ~ Matthew Forss Features The Band’s 2014 Jazz Fest Set

“Go on a spiritual jazz fest journey with Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band The trio are considered one of the most influential and musically dynamic kirtan artists in the west. A can’t miss for Jazz Fest attendees who appreciate creativity and are looking for a truly transcendent experience.” Read the full article here.