“Roots, Rock, Rama” by Jai Uttal: CD Review

Jai Uttal: Making America Chant Again!
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I was very fortunate to see Jai Uttal perform some of the songs from his new double CD “Roots, Rock, Rama” last week and was blown away by the richness and elegance of the harmonies. This eclectic and epic recording transcends all genres and manages to pack Jai’s 50 years of musical and spiritual seeking into an infectiously joyful experience.

Without the lyrics, Jai’s music is a gorgeous hybrid of reggae, funk, Beatle-esque pop and classical India ragas with the sophistication of intricate jazz voicings and some Bossa Nova and samba thrown in for good measure. Add the hypnotic call-and-response devotional kirtans and you get a sumptuous mix of familiar yet unique grooves.

The title “Roots, Rock, Rama!” is a play on the name of Bob Marley’s song “Roots Rock Reggae.” Marley is one of the key influences of ”Roots, Rock, Rama” and the first CD is deeply steeped in earthy reggae rhythms, mesmerizing bass lines, jubilant horn charts and soulful vocal arrangements. Jai calls the first disc “Rama Sun.”

The second CD, known as “Rama Moon,” evokes an entirely different mood. Grounded in the gentle, lilting sway of Brazilian samba, the second disc touches on the pastoral splendor of the more acoustic tracks from the Beatles’ “White Album.”

I asked Jai about “Roots, Rock, Rama” and here is what he had to say:

The song “H.A.R.I. (Hari Awakens Radha’s Incandescence)” includes the Bollywood magic of the Melodious Strings of Mumbai led by cellist Jake Charkey. Thanks to modern digital technology they were able to contribute their parts without leaving India where they are based. Here’s what Jai had to say about “H.A.R.I.”

Lastly I loved the texture of “S.R.I. R.A.M.” and asked Jai how that song came to fruition:

Jai is partnering with a company called OneTreePlanted and for every copy of the CD sold a tree will be planted to combat deforestation around the world. For more information please visit www.jaiuttal.com

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