With the release of Sharanam Sharon Gannon adds another dimension to her body of work as a yogi, inspirational figure, and advocate of compassionate lifestyles. I have encountered Gannon’s philosophy and teachings in YouTube videos, web and magazine articles, on her website, and in a documentary on raw foods, and have always found myself appreciative of the contribution she makes towards a more peaceful and spiritually grounded world. This musical dimension, unfortunately, fell flat for this eager listener.
Being a frequent listener of sacred mantras set to modern beats, I fully expected to adore Sharanam. The cover artwork was done in sepia tones and portrays a tree-hugging Gannon looking very fairytale goth, with long black hair and ground-sweeping lacy white dress. My hopes for edgy renditions of mantras "Lokah Samastah," "Hare Krishna," and "Om Shantih" were further raised. Yet three of the eight tracks are different mixes of "Lokah Samastah," and even the upbeat version, for which I had the highest hopes, didn’t quite transcend the tranquilizing New Age tempo and high-pitched breathy vocal quality that has earned the genre a somewhat marginalized status among contemporary music.
The first rendition of "Lokah Samastah" begins with a compelling intro: spare, electronic, heartbeat-style percussion overlays Gannon’s voice heartfully calling out. I felt some tingles of excitement and anticipation here. Background vocals (belonging to David Life, Gannon’s partner and Jivamukti co-founder) are introduced along with keyboard-generated effects, which are referred to in the liner notes as "High Techo Sound"). The entire mantra "Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhav Antu" (which roughly translates to “may all beings be happy and free”) is repeated by both vocalists as an upbeat drum track is added in. The nearly seven-minute track totally loses me after the five-minute mark when the mix dissolves into a very slow duet. My interest is lost not for poor composition or performance, but slow, dreamy songs, especially with slow dreamy vocals, have never been my thing.
I wish I could say it got better for me from here. Track two, "Guruji," is a mix of keyboard, drum tracks, and the swirling sounds of a theremin. The more than fourteen-minute soprano rendition of "Hare Krishna" was also a deal-breaker for my ears. Never once was I inspired to dance, nor did I feel elevated to a higher spiritual plane, relaxed into a meditative state, or carried away in musical appreciation.
The healing and peaceful intention that Gannon evidently puts forth with Sharanam, and the meaning behind the lyrics used in each song, are powerful, beautiful, and positive. Mantras are said to open the heart and mind and to exert both healing and enlightening powers. Unfortunately for this seeker of peace, love, and awareness, the aesthetic of Sharanam turned me off so that the meaning behind the songs was lost.