On Monkey, young Jai Uttal continued to fuse Indian spiritual music and American pop with generally pleasing results. Once again, he demonstrates his mastery of acoustic Indian instruments like the harmonium and the dotar while using electronic synthesizers in a very human and soulful fashion. Though some of the material bears some resemblance to secular Indian pop of the '90s, which also unites synthesizers and traditional instruments, Uttal's overall approach is far from secular. While Uttal's own songs (both instrumental and with vocals) are dominant, "Govinda" is a moving version of the time-honored Hindu prayer. Jazz improviser Peter Apfelbaum is heard on both tenor sax and drums, and a fair amount of jazz influence asserts itself on "The Hooded Serpent" and the title song.
If you think you know the music of Jai Uttal, then get ready for a surprising adventure into uncharted territory. When remix artist Rara Avis of Shaman’s Dream began to break down Jai’s devotional classics in his Los Angeles studio, he discovered a hidden side to the kirtan that was "dripping with funk." With Dial M for Mantra, Jai’s soulful chant takes a metamorphic trip through the alchemical labs of a world music innovator - and emerges as delicious, downtempo "kirtronica."
Like Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga, The Best of Krishna Das samples the singer's earlier devotional works, here drawing upon his albums One Track Heart, Pilgrim Heart, Breath of the Heart, Live on Earth, and Door of Faith. A devotee of Maharaj Ji Neem Karoli Baba, Krishna Das has spent much of his adult life making good on his vow to use his singing voice to alleviate suffering in the world. Krishna Das is that most wonderful blend of Eastern and Western cultures; originally a resident of Long Island, N.Y., he studied in northern India as a young man and has since spent decades reinterpreting the sacred music of that land in ways that are pleasant and often surprising. As a man who sounds at times like Waylon Jennings and who is obviously enamored of the "lila" or divine playfulness, Krishna Das seems to enjoy deliberately toying with the unusual and even humorous aspects of the East/West dichotomy, as when on the album One Track Heart he sang a "Krishna Waltz" that sounded more than a little like the old cowboy tune "Get Along Little Dogies." As an encapsulation of his life's work, this Krishna Das best-of collection is entirely devoted to Sri Neem Karoli Baba and through him to the One Deity with a thousand names and as many aspects as there are atoms in the universe.