Friday, January 4, 2019

Music Review: Healing Music Volume 2

Acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Valerie Romanoff has succeeded in delivering the ultimate two-disk relaxation album. Comprised of seventeen tracks, Healing Music Volume 2 is a two-hour serenade rife with delicate textures and brilliant guitar work. Most clocking in over five minutes each, these songs are designed to keep the listener in a peaceful mindset from beginning to end. The free-flowing nature of this music promotes a sense of openness and clarity and promote an uplifted state of mind.

Having studied music since childhood, Romanoff has always been driven to create atmospheres with her extensive knowledge of different instruments and genres. She categorizes her work into a spectrum that she likes to call “STILL, CHILL, THRILL,” all of which she uses to determine what kind of "life" or vibe each track will take on. She describes “STILL” as music for times of reflection and relaxation, while “CHILL” encourages active thought, and “THRILL” ignites energy during energetic peak times.

Staying within the realms of STILL and CHILL, disk one of Healing Music Volume 2 features eight of Romanoff's full-length compositions. “Pink Skies Over Still Water” showcase Stevin McNamara’s beautiful sitar playing as well as Tom Rossi’s ethereal flute. Paired with Romanoff’s guitar work, this trifecta comes together to create a piece with plenty of space, atmosphere and overflowing joy that continues on into “Pink Skies Over Waves.” Further down the list, “Om Shanti Shalom” has more of a groove than most of the other songs do. It is carried by solid percussion and her guitar playing layered on top of some ambient synthesizer work.

Disk two offers nine tracks which are radio edits of the songs on disk one, providing a compact version of the compositions from the previous disk. Concluding the second part of the collection is the bonus track “Prelude Went Beyond.” A celebration of love, it includes Tom Rossi once again on the kora as well as McNamara on sitar. Loaded with layers of strings and a variety of ornamental flourishes, the listener is left with a warm glow of motivation and positivity.

With this second album -- and a variety of notable singles including one with beloved yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch -- Valerie Romanoff emerges as an exciting new voice to follow in the arena of World and New Age music. Her lively social feeds, especially Instagram, offers a daily dose of positivity and good energy.

For more information on Romanoff and a list of her upcoming talks and live performances, visit Healing Music Volume 2 is now available anywhere music is sold or streamed, as well as on her Bandcamp page.
- Samantha Garcia

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Freeze Frame: Remembrance

Photo by Nic Jackson
(Little Visuals / Hand on Heart)

During the holiday break, I was looking for New Years Eve images for social media posts. A search for copyright free images led me to the work of a young twentysomething named Nic Jackson, who released a loosely topical mix of interesting images each week. His work was clean, spare, striking...and as I wondered for the 100th time if my love of minimalism is embedded in my Nordic DNA, I wondered if some of his landscapes had been taken in Norway or Denmark, and so I followed a link to his full site and found this shocker:



Those of you who look at Little Visuals and any new visitors will be aware there have been no further uploads for over a year now. Sadly the young man who created this site died suddenly in Nov 2013. His name is Nic he is 26 and we are his family. Nic is one of far too many young adults who’s death comes under the heading of S.A.D.S ( Sudden Adult Death Syndrome ). We are now fundraising in the hope to provide a number of schools or sports areas with portable defibrillators in Nic’s memory. With this in mind we would like to ask if any of you that view his site and download the images would consider a small donation towards the Hand on Heart Charity. We hope to update this site in the near future with previously unpublished photos. 
With thanks, Nic’s family
Nic was bright, passionate and generous with his talent for could such a visionary young person be gone? I stared at the screen and the term S.A.D.S.  Sad memories flooded over me and tears welled as I remembered Jamie Hall, my beautiful friend who had also died of S.A.D.S in his sleep during his junior year of high school. Jamie seemed a man among boys back then...handsome, extraordinarily kind and very talented in sports. I've thought about him often over the years, and it is his example that I think of when teaching my son that it's so much cooler to be kind.  I lost touch with his family after moving away, but I was glad to see that his memory is still honored annually at our high school: 
The Jamie Hall Memorial Awards are presented to a junior boy and girl athlete at the (Governor Mifflin Senior High School) All-Sports Banquet. The awards are presented by Jamie’s parents in memory of their son. The awards are given to a junior boy and girl who have earned the highest number of varsity letters in their sophomore and junior years.
S.A.D.S is well named. Both of these young men were beloved by their families and had a zest for life. We are still bewildered by the mysterious killer teens, it really wasn't a diagnosis that helped us to understand why our friend had been taken from us, and as the parent of a teen now, it is terrifying that it remains a possibility today. 
In answer to their loss, Nic's family has established a U.K.-based charity called Hand on Heart, which supplies portable defibrillators to schools and sports establishments in the event that they are needed to save another young person from S.A.D.S (donations welcome).  
Here in the U.S., there is a slightly different acronym for S.A.D.S, which can be found at, a supportive site for families and friends who have lost loved ones, and for the many who have survived thanks to growing awareness and advocacy. 
As we ring in a new year, I'm realizing that while time moves on for all of us, it freezeframes the memories of our beautiful young friends and family who left us too soon. Thank you Nic and Jamie, for making a difference in our lives....and know that I am #grateful for your time among us, and for your gifts, which continue to give. 
I will be showing more of Nic's photography (and his story) in my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook throughout 2019. Whenever you recognize his work, I hope you will leave a 💗 & ✋ in tribute.
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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Music Review

Award-winning world flutist and composer Ann Licater has returned with a collection of 15 tracks that take the listener on a relaxing journey into a realm of tranquility. Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation, is a work of soulful simplicity. The stripped down nature of her music allows the listener to maintain their focus on the instrument at hand and truly appreciate the impact that a single sound can make. Ann’s Native American, Native American-style, folk and alto flutes make for the perfect soundtrack to any meditation, mindfulness practice or relaxation ritual.

After several years of studying classical flute at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, MN, Ann Licater took up the Native American flute while studying with R. Carlos Nakai. It was then that Licater really came into her own style of playing and composing. In this 5th release, Ann returns to the solo-inspired roots of her 2007 release, Following the Call. Overall, the songs on this album are a complete work rather than serving as individual units. Ann played 11 different flutes, including Native American, Native American-style and silver Alto....impressive to say the least! The use of soft reverb allows the listener to drift away with the airiness of the instrument.  

The album consists of mostly solo flutes, but does incorporate some use of flute duets and the occasional atmospheric sound. Additionally, GRAMMY-Nominee Peter Phippen co-produces and performs electric bass on “Aspen Awakening,” “Celestial Traveler,” and “Tranquil Dreams.” “Woven Hearts” incorporates a beautiful flute duet that lingers in the air in a placid and peaceful manner. “Dreaming at Daybreak” playfully uses the callback technique to give additional depth to the space in which this track lives.
Ann Licater; photo by Steve Voldseth.
A woman who can do it all, Ann Licater pours her heart and dedication into this work of art. Her ability to produce, record, and compose her vision from beginning to end speaks volumes about her undying love, not only for the flute, but also for the craft of making music. 

Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation is now available to stream, download and purchase. For previews, workshops and performance information, visit Ann’s website at       

                                                                                      - Samantha Garcia

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Music Review


The long-awaited album Protection by Rigzin came into being this November, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Protection completes an artistic Sacred Trilogy of albums that consist of ancient Tibetan "protection prayers" set to Rigzin’s unique mélange of world-inspired music. With her primary life’s purpose being her dedication to her studies of Tibetan Buddhism, Rigzin never imagined herself becoming a musical artist. She had never considered incorporating her knowledge of Buddhist chants and prayers into any sort of creative endeavor until the unique plaintive beauty of her voice was heard as she prayed for a friend's dying mother. Later, she was introduced to the creative group “El Circo” and she   Her avant-garde approach to melding her practice with her art took the West Coast underground music scene by storm and led her on a path of performances at such events as Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, and Symbiosis.
Rigzin lives, prays and creates in a remote mountaintop retreat.
The introductory track to this album titled “Call to Awaken” is a very intimate moment with the artist. There is minimal instrumentation save for some drumming and atmospheric sounds that carry Rigzin’s femininely soft yet fierce voice through a traditional prayer. In an unexpected twist, “Red Lotus Dakini” fuses modern day electronic world music with samples of a man chanting. Produced by the influential DJ David Starfire, it is quite upbeat but still possesses a trance-like quality. The fusion of the modern and the ancient make for a very intense and unique experience.

It is hard to categorize a commercial genre for Rigzin’s art, but it is undeniably spiritual at its roots. After the surging burst of energy that came before it, “Prophecy” shifts the mood into something more sonically mellow yet equally as intense.  Her evenly toned chants are met with droning sounds that crescendo with the use of battle drums and a rise in volume and dynamics. Something to be noted about this album is its perfect balance in the way that it ebbs and flows.  Despite the seemingly ominous title, “Wrathful Guru” is a beautifully cascading track that displays an airier, breathier side to Rigzin’s vocals. It is a light and beautiful yet still dynamic piece speckled with tambourine, electronic piano and a variety of dreamy synthesizers. The title track “Protection” gets back into some earthier, somewhat guttural chants that send the listener into a meditative headspace. Carried by darker, deeper synth, the song is accentuated by sublime shifts in beats and various atmospheric sounds.

From Union, the first of Sacred Trilogy
Deeper into the album, both “Vajrasattva” (produced by Kalya Scintilla) and “Kilaya” utilize similar structures and textures. Less concerned with typical song structure, these two tracks focus more on creating a soundscape that the listener can get lost in. They are undeniably appealing and hypnotic, an experience from beginning to end. In a similar yet far less calculated manner, “Protectors of the Land” is ten minutes of discordance, perhaps cries of the land?  “Heart of the Lotus” allows her to experiment more within the art of noise. Her fearless approach to making this album is what gives it such heart. Finishing up, “Bodhicitta” mellows out the mood once again introducing a jazzier sound and allows Rigzin’s voice to shine once more. The piece swells with gratitude and love almost as if to thank the listener for going down this journey alongside her.

Rigzin Tromge (her civilian name) is an artist through and through. She is fearless, wise, curious and gifted. With her combination of old-world knowledge and modern-day sensibilities, she is able to reach a much wider audience than she ever expected and bestow her gift unto people who love her for who she is.  Surrounded and supported by fellow artists including the visionary Android Jones, whose visual art adorns the Sacred Trilogy. Collaborating producers include Surround, Maximillian Malone, David Starfire, Kraddy, Biolumigen, Kalya Scintilla, Kmin, Chris Sia, and Random Rab.

To listen and learn more about Rigzin, go to where all links are available, including a connection to Bandcamp where she offers cool Tibetan merch and the full Sacred Trilogy of albums Union, Transition, and Protection, which are also streamable everywhere.   

- Samantha Garcia, BEING
Each of Rigzin's CDs has a prayer wheel spinning out positive energy as it turns.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Black Friday Challenge

 Top 12 Ways to Give Back This Season


Have you thought about where you will spend your money this weekend, with all the options available for Black Friday Sales and Small Business Saturday?

"How can I possibly help?" That's the disheartening thought we have when we see the vast gap of wealth and opportunities between rich and poor. Your local houses of worship or local organizations and schools that gather donations to support their programs, will be happy to remind you that every penny counts!
I don't know about you, but I know in my heart when I've crossed the line between conscious spending and fiscal gluttony, especially if I've recently passed up a chance to support my community.
It's the kickoff to the Holidays, and we want to enjoy the Season, right? Tempting bargains abound! It makes good sense/cents to think about your spending plan so that you come away feeling empowered by your money, and uplifted by your good fortune. So I offer you this formula for consideration: from every dollar that you save, put 10 cents or more toward "paying it forward" in some way.
So, not to be a total buzzkill, I suggest having fun on Black Friday if you are so blessed, and then tally up your savings to support Small Business Saturday! Here are 12 easy ideas, either for yourself or for gifting:
1) attend a gig, or buy a CD, Vinyl or merchandise from an indie musician
2) shop to find sole proprietors of jewelry, crafts, beauty
3) visit your local coffee shop (skip the big chains for a day!)
4) pre-order or give local experiences: classes, bowling, tours, tastings (esp. good for gifting to Millenials!)
5) subscribe to a local magazine, or buy a local author's book
6) give a visit to a local hair or nail salons, or blow-dry bar (date night!)
7) seek out local/artisanal beer, wine, tea, cheese, or honey
8) join a club: hiking, painting, knitting, reading
9) take that music lesson or singing lesson (or two, or three!)
10) purchase beautiful cards or stationery, and write to a friend
11) use a ridesharing service to get around town (no parking hassles!)
l2) give time, money, supplies...the YMCA, Senior Centers, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, Homeless Shelters, Food Banks and Animal Shelters all welcome visits and donations more than you know!
I just know that if you give my Black Friday Challenge (share w #BFC) a try, you'll get off the beaten track and meet new people, while also feeling great about sharing your prosperity and making your community a little brighter.
BONUS: Squeeze in ALL 12 suggestions between Small Business Saturday and New Year's Day. Reply in comments with your list of "12 Gives" and automatically be entered to win a "New Year - New You" gift package, shipped to your home!

Lisa Donahey's new album CHRISTMAS IN OUR SOUL is a top-notch indie release!
Visit for listening and purchasing!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

New Release: "Hallelujah (feat. Nicolas Laget)"

Arun Shenoy, singer songwriter performance shot
Arun Shenoy: Singer-Songwriter and Producer

There's a new Contemporary Christian sound coming out of Narked Records, the label known for today's most exciting fusion music.  Led by 55th GRAMMY(R) Nominee Arun Shenoy, whose love of blending genres drives the label, his current band -- Arun Shenoy and The Maverick Express -- has produced a gem of a song that will shine as we head into the holiday season.  

"Hallelujah (feat. Nicolas Laget)" is a heart-opening work of praise, exultation and bliss that clocks in at 7:04! It is part of a new EP, The Unplugged Songwriter Sessions, which serve as Shenoy's singer-songwriter debut, and what a debut it is! The shy artist's deeply-resonant voice and polished singing technique is a welcome surprise, and the EP, while not thematic like his former albums, serves its purpose to present a broad scope of his abilities. One can't help but sing along, and a lyric video of Hallelujah is available for the enjoyment of praise and worship music audiences worldwide. 

Music critic Jonathan Widran reviewed the album in The JW Vibe, calling it, "A delightful, organically rendered singer-songwriter album featuring the guitarist’s lushly melodic melodies, simple yet thoughtful lyrics and, as a wonderful surprise, surprisingly graceful vocals..."

Industry reaction to "Hallelujah" has been so positive that Shenoy's management submitted it to the 61st GRAMMY(R) Awards for consideration in Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song.

Old friends and new join Shenoy for this project, which includes the introduction of THE MAVERICK EXPRESS, a musical group and rolling roster of musicians comprised largely of Shenoy’s long-term collaborators. Lonnie Park serves as co-lead vocalist on the music, backed up by the powerhouse groove section of Duke Purisima on Bass, and Jerry Chua behind the Drums.

The band also features Vahagn Stepanyan on piano, Owen Gurry on the guitar and Nahuel Bronzini on string arrangements; Ian Cameron on Violin, Ravichandra Kulur on the flute and Matthieu Avanthey as the lyricist complete the lineup.  Featured guests include Nicolas Laget on the saxophone, Jon Sterckx on percussion and Jody Ward on backing vocals.

To listen to "Hallelujah" and to add it to your Spotify playlists, go to:

Explore Arun Shenoy's music and productions at