I first began recording a kirtan album back in 2007 with John McDowell, a gifted musician and producer. I was pregnant with my second child at the time and slightly deluded about being able to continue recording after he was born. So I put the recording on hold. About 5 years ago I began again, wishing to record many of the chants from that unfinished album as well as some newer ones. I was leading kirtan regularly at Brooklyn Yoga School and forming a friendship with the co-founder and director, Lily Cushman. One day she handed me a CD of original music which she produced and recorded herself some years back. I was pretty much floored by it (you all should harass her to let you hear it) and played it on repeat for at least a month. So I asked Lily if she might want to produce my album on a teeny-tiny budget. Naturally she said yes!
Here is the thing - we hit some major life obstacles just after our first meeting, and what we thought might take about a year to accomplish, ended up taking close to 5 years. During that time Lily and I formed a deep friendship. We became each other’s solace and support during the dissolution of our marriages, and through other serious life challenges. We started and stopped and started again, and again. And what I learned is that it is possible to begin again, and to create something of meaning even when facing considerable obstacles. I should also point out that I had many inner obstacles (as we all do) to releasing a recording. I wanted very much to share this practice and music with others, but I also felt insecure and afraid of putting anything like this out there. I was torn between sharing the practice and wanting to keep it private. I knew though that I would regret it if I didn’t release this album (in fact I already regretted waiting so long).
The creation of Mother’s Calling was very much a collaborative process. Lily brought in skills I just don’t have and surprised me often with her contributions. I love her aesthetic as well as her devotion to the practice, and to the creative process. We discussed incorporating samples of recordings from India on the album early on. She is incredibly skilled at this and did a beautiful job. It was her idea to integrate spoken word and had Nina Rao, Manorama D’Alvia, and me recite mantras and prayers. She also came up with ideas for vocal layering on some of the tracks as well as other specific instrumental parts, like having Devadas play dotar on the Tara Mantra, which ended up becoming one of my favorite pieces.
I would also like to give a shout out to Kevin Reilly here, who engineered the album. We recorded most of the album at his studios, and he was fabulous throughout the process. The three of us often laughed so hard my sides hurt (the outtakes are epic!) My daughter Lila joined us for the early sessions, earning the title of ‘intern’ as well as credit on the album.
Just before we began mixing the album I took a trip to India, and Lily suggested I record some ambient sounds while walking around for use on the album. Prior to that we had planned on using recordings friends of ours had made there over the years. I was able to record much more than I expected and we ended up including almost all of what I captured while there. I was especially happy about the recording of the female devotees singing a Devi prayer, which Lily and I loved so much it became the final track on the album. This trip was also the last time I saw my teacher Sri Siddhi Ma in the body, so these recordings have a special resonance for me. They bring me right back to the foothills of the Himalayas, the place where my life was forever altered, and it feels like a blessing to be able to share this with others. Jai Shri Ma!