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   

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sounds of Healing: Music’s Power To Heal

Neil Tatar, musician and workshop facilitator
Music can be so much more than entertainment, it often has a strong impact on the brain.  Science has proven that certain types of music boosts immunity, increases cognitive function and memory and can even help alleviate pain.  Mood-elevating music releases the powerful neurotransmitter, dopamine, which regulates our reward-motivational behavior. As a result, we may become joyful, enthusiastic, passionate and inspired, possibly even smarter, more creative and more productive.

New Age musician Neil Tatar is a composer, pianist and guitarist who says he uses music as a means of communication. “Music becomes my words,” he says. When he isn’t recording music, he focuses his creative energy on leading improvisational workshops for a variety of groups, including, regional arts councils, various college groups, adult mental health programs and camps for children with serious illnesses. His workshops echo the energy he brings from continued inspiration and training. As a facilitator, he creates a safe and supportive environment for participants. He welcomes the musically inexperienced as well as the seasoned professional.

Tatar saw music’s power first-hand when he recalled this memory of a woman, so disengaged, that he was wondering if she was sleeping.

“As the workshop progressed, I saw that she started communicating by tapping her foot to the music,” he said, noting that it could have been her way of communicating.

“Whenever you get any group together, it creates a safe community where people feel permission to communicate and facilitate an open conversation. They feel safe enough to express their feelings and it allows self-expression. The tapping may have been her words.”

Well-known scientist Albert Einstein was aware of the link between music and spatiality.  To him, music as much more than just a composition of notes and he said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Just as mathematics can be considered both a science and an art, so can music.  In fact New Age musician Anaya (Aonki) often uses her background as a Digital Information Specialist to match the most effective sounds with her spiritual concepts, while guitarist-scientist Lawrence Blatt (FLOW) incorporated his love of the Fibonacci sequence into an album called Fibonacci’s Dream.

Many of us know that music has long been used operating rooms to help patients cope with anxiety and fear, but a fairly new program, utilizing music therapy, is being used by hospitals for patients undergoing surgery, rehabilitation or other procedures. The patient spends some time with the music therapist, who will ask what types of music evoke certain memories, and then will select music where the beats are aligned with breathing, heart rate, goals, etc.

Tatar said he was once told by a hospice nurse that one of his songs, “Where Did the Time Go?” was played throughout the facility to calm anxious patients:
“The song was inspired by a phone conversation with my mother. As we reminisced she said to me, “Neil, where did the time go?”

He continued: “Several years later when she was in hospice, I sent it to her.  Sadly, she died before it was able to reach her but, even through my sadness, I was gratified to learn it helped others.”

In fact, one of the highlights of Tatar’s long career occurred in 2017, when The C.A.R.E. Channel notified him that they would add his music to the channel, which is a music and relaxation program shown in hospitals and medical facilities throughout the United States. Neil's latest album is After The Rain.


Going beyond relaxation, music can also be a tool for motivation and learning. Tatar saw music’s ability to teach kids new skills and develop IQs from an early age, and he began teaching guitar when he was an undergraduate student at Boston University in the ’70s.

Many of the kids seemed distant and disinterested.  Always outspoken about music’s ability to engage and support people, one of the first questions Tatar would ask his students was “why are you here?”  Nine times out of 10, he said, he’d get some version of the “I’m-here-because my-parents-made me” response. So he turned the question around to “what do you like to listen to, and why?” Overwhelmed with the amount of dialogue it opened, he responded,  “Okay, we’ll address that in class, but first we have to do the ‘official’ stuff, like learning chords.”  

The students enthusiastically agreed, and actively participated in the class. His workshops to kids usually involve the creation of a composition, which develops:
  •      Understanding and reasoning: The kids have to keep asking themselves “Is this music in line with my writing?” and “Does it convey the emotions I’m looking for?”
  •       Listening skills:  In order to ask the above questions, one needs to listen and be aware.
  •       Self-esteem:  They need to stand up, present their piece, and take CONSTRUCTIVE criticism
  •       Learn the importance of collaboration. Even solo pieces often require harmonization.

So there you have it; whether you’re in need of relaxation, self-expression, or therapy, consider reaching for your instrument of choice, your favorite CD, or a new playlist to help you adjust your mood and reach the state of wellbeing that you desire. It’s not only nice to hear, but to paraphrase that well-known commercial, Music: It does a body good...and the brain, too.