Personnel: Krishna Das (vocals); David Nichtern (guitar); Gerald Menke (pedal steel guitar); Genevieve Walker (violin); Steve Gorn (bansuri); Kevin Bents (piano, Hammond b-3 organ); Jerry Marotta (drums, percussion); Nina Rao (finger cymbals); Arjun Bruggeman (tabla); Matt Kilmer (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Ron Allaire.
Recording information: Dreamland, Woodstock (07/2009-08/2009); Kampo, Clinton (07/2009-08/2009); Nudgie Studios, New York, NY (07/2009-08/2009).
Photographers: David Nichtern; Tim Trapnell; Jerry Scarnato; Renata Mendes; Krishna Das; Nina Rao.
Krishna Das is the biggest star on the kirtan/yoga chant circuit, having sold over 300,000 thousand albums in the past 15 years, which is not a heck of a lot of records. It's about 20,000 a year, which wouldn't keep any band on any label except maybe the smallest indie. Still, if the circuit has a superstar it's Das, and his success is well-deserved. He's found a way to blend elements of traditional Indian music and Western pop into a smooth, soothing sound that doesn't do tremendous disservice to either tradition, if you can call pop music a tradition. Kirtan is music, but it's functional music, meant to pull listeners deeper into themselves, not deeper into the music. It can't really be compared to pop music. That said, Heart as Wide as the World is probably the poppiest effort Das has ever made, but only because it includes one track, "Naaraayana/For Your Love," that's based on an old Yardbirds hit, and one "Shiva Puja," on which the Western instruments predominate in the mix. "Shiva Puja" even has a bit of a funky backbeat, which works well with the massed voices of the Kosmic Kirtan Posse of New York, the group that backs Das on the album. "Naaraayana/For Your Love" sounds like it'll be a hit on the Kirtan circuit, although the inclusion of the Graham Gouldman lyric (10 CC) is a bit distracting if you're using the music for meditation. Das sings with a low, rumbling baritone that's perfect for devotional music, and the mix, as on his other albums, balances the voices of the choir and the instrumental tracks without giving either predominance. If you find the idea of "Sitaram," an 11-minute song with only one word, daunting, this isn't the album for you. If you're looking for music that will help you deepen your yoga or meditation practice, then you'll find that Das lives up to his billing as the chant master of American yogis. ~ j. poet