A prominent force new age/classical crossover music who has been gracing us with her groundbreaking “mantra opera” aesthetic since her 2016 debut album Niguma, Sangeeta Kaur’s spiritual name – given to her by a yoga master – means “Princess of Music and Harmony” and laid the foundation for her to fulfill her musical and life mission.
From her elegant, gently rhythmic and free-flowing melodies to her otherworldly, multi-octave vocals that draws on her 20 years of studying classical opera, everything in Sangeeta’s universe revolves around the concept of light. As she says, “In music, and in each song, my goal is to find the light. I always want to help to find a solution, to provide hope, inspiration and uplift. There is enough music on the other side of the spectrum, and my mission is to bring light into the world.”
Speaking specifically about the nine elegant and calming, soaring and heart and soul empowering songs on Illuminance – Sangeeta’s most spirit revealing, enlightening and light giving collection to date – she adds, “We’re in a scary time. There’s darkness but there’s also light, and these songs are like the bridge to the light. They are meant to remind us of our strength and of our pure bright light within. It is this light that can help us overcome anything.
Though Illuminance features Sangeeta’s name and hands outstretched, hipster/angelic image on the cover, the project is actually a brilliant first-time collaboration between Sangeeta and two-time Grammy winning pianist/composer Peter Kater, who co-wrote each song with the singer and produced the album (with Sangeeta co-producing). The two, who had been huge fans of each other’s solo work, met a few years ago through a Grammy portal and knew immediately they would work together at some point. Once they decided to join forces, the challenge was adapting Kater’s more improvisation-driven compositional approach to Sangeeta’s vibe. The two hoped to get together in person to write, but once the COVID-19 lockdown began, they collaborated digitally, with him in Maui and Boulder, and she in Los Angeles.
While a glance at the luminous song titles – including “Illuminance,” “Light of Love,” “Path of Light,” “Supernova” and “Stardust” - might lead us to believe that they launched the project with the concept of luminescence in mind, Sangeeta says it was much a more organic process. She would send him song ideas and he would send her his. They would take elements from each other and transform them into fresh soundscapes that give new meaning to the term “astral projection.” She says, “We went in and allowed melodies to come through. Once we had the initial ideas and sketches to develop, I just heard a lot of humanness in the music, yet at the same time an overwhelming sense of brightness and a feeling of light.”
Sangeeta and Kater fleshed out the pieces with minimal but highly impactful outside instrumentation from classical guitar master Dat Nguyen, who brings the warmth and intimacy of his lush strings to the passages between her lilting vocals on tracks like the deeply meditative “Path of Light” and “Worlds Collide”; Grammy winning percussionist MB Gordy; and internationally renowned cellist Tina Guo, longtime associate of film composer Hans Zimmer whose intense, darker emotional gravitas creates stunning contrast to Sangeeta’s lofty vocals – metaphorically implying that dark shadings are as much a part of the journey as light, but light must prevail if we are to survive emotionally and spiritually.
In normal times, the deeply melodic and highly impressionistic journey Sangeeta and Kater take us on would provide important de-stressing moments during the normal flow of our day. But under the anxiety-ridden weight of 2020, the songs hit us even more meaningfully, providing ongoing musical caress for our weary spirits, deeper massage for our increasingly tense bodies and courage for empowering breakthroughs to that proverbial light – if we choose to not just listen but let it connect with the inner light Sangeeta encourages us to draw from.
Sangeeta’s wordless vocalizations on seven of the tracks allow us space to fill her magic with our own emotions, but she graciously comforts us with her hopeful poetry on “Worlds Collide” (which offers a unique perspective on past lives) and the tender, lullaby like “Come and Find Me,” which infuses a tune inspired by the devastation families face in the age of COVID with the spiritual reality that love is eternal).
To receive and achieve the full impact of Illuminance, it’s probably best to lay still or get into your favorite meditational/yoga pose and let the seamless genius of Sangeeta and Kater wash over you for the full 48 minutes without interruption. Starting with the opening track “All My Love,” which eases in with a soft, lilting flow before it swells and Sangeeta unleashes her amazing operatic power,” each song builds momentum within and connects seamlessly to the track that follows.
The two artists build the bridges she talked about by linking our inner “Illuminance” to the insight that “Worlds Collide,” the haunting embrace (perhaps a final goodbye or hello to the afterlife) of “Light of Love” and the gently loping energy we find on the “Path of Light.” Sangeeta then offers a more expansive universal perspective on all our truly temporary (no matter how painful) earthly problems via the seductive hypnosis of “Supernova,” which she calls “metaphysical mood music.” We can draw light from that and some of its residual, sweetly swaying “Stardust” to find just enough light to make it through.
The closing song “Dedication” takes us back to Sangeeta’s spiritual/musical roots as an artist, with Kater’s elegant piano flowing beneath the gorgeous texturing of Sangeeta’s voice as she offers a Tibetan Buddhist Dedication Prayer – for healing, strength and the will to survive these challenging times.
Listen to Illuminance here: https://open.spotify.com/album/42ctbm1VTQTVLrKH1P9ySP