Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Two weeks ago in the Guardian's list of top new tracks there was an unusual entry.
Alongside the clubland pop of Kiesza, a groovy remix of St Germain's Rose Rouge by Jorja Smith, the big voiced singer-songwriter Tom Walker and the r'n'b of Kenzie with Sia was the 84-year old Dalai Lama with the track Compassion from his debut album Inner Worlds.
Maybe – with senior citizens Bob Dylan and Neil Young currently dominating album charts everywhere – we shouldn't be surprised.
But of course we are.
A debut album on your 85thbirthday? That's some kind of landmark.
The album is the longtime brainchild of expat Kiwis Junelle and her husband Abraham Kunin, the latter providing the gentle, superior New Age soundbeds of arrangements for guitar (some backward effects), flute, cello, wordless vocals, keyboards and such behind His Holiness' spoken word samples – some in English, some in Tibetan -- about the Buddha, peace, harmony, children, wisdom, children . . .
Anoushka Shankar plays sitar on Ama La and there is a chorus of Tibetan monks on the final piece Humanity.
But this is very much a New Zealand project with a rollcall of local musicians which includes Finn Scholes, Alex Freer, Kingsley Melhuish, Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and others.
The Dalai Lama's deep voice is as distinctive as his appearance and here, even when you can't understand what is being said in the mantras, prayers and thoughts, the titles of the pieces and the gravitas he conveys make for something gentle but persuasive.
The album comes with a beautiful, explanatory booklet with artwork, lyrics and notes.
As acclaimed internationally as Dylan and Young's album, Inner World is a thoughtful album for an often unthinking world where high passions and rage command more attention that reflection and kindness.
Wonderful that it should have come into the world through the agency of people from Aotearoa New Zealand.
Proceeds from sales go to one of the Dalai Lama's social and educational projects, see here.
You can hear Inner World at Spotify here. The CD edition with booklet will not be available until August but the iTunes download version comes with the digital booklet featuring all the art and lyrics etc.
Junelle and Abraham Kunin are interviewed at Elsewhere about this project here.
The album on CD is available through Southbound Records in Auckland. See here.