Given the privilege to review Lilac Skies (2019) and Life Passage (2022), the most recent highly acclaimed soothing/relaxing guitar collections by veteran composer and musical visionary Shambhu, I dutifully highlighted the new age world’s longtime embrace of him and his vast artistry via accolades from Zone Music Reporter (ZMR) and other organizations. That roster now includes the New Age Radio Music Awards, which recently bestowed their Best New Age Acoustic Album on Life Passage.
I also noted his unique spiritual background as a means to understand how he began using his professional name “Shambhu,” which in the Hindu religion is one of the names for Lord Shiva, the aspect of his personality that connects with creation. Last but not least, because I was so fascinated by Shambhu’s musical evolution, I spent an inordinate amount of words recounting his eclectic, pre-acoustic music background, which includes everything from writing scores to off Broadway shows and playing Brazilian music in Brazil to working with Carlos Santana, Paul McCandless, Tony Levin and – on a track from Whitney Houston’s classic 1987 album Whitney – Narada Michael Walden.
Wildly interesting though all that is, it seems unnecessary because his latest simply rendered yet emotionally epic collection, the perfectly titled, beautifully compelling and heart and soul massaging Acoustic Oasis, has a compelling story all its own. Whether you know Shambhu’s spiritual and musical history is less important than the fascinating and largely spontaneous way he brought to life these ten gracefully melodic and tenderly rhythmic gems to life over a single weekend in late January 2023. He states his intention simply: “To offer a deeply relaxing acoustic guitar music. What emerged were these ten soulful songs as expressions of peace and devotion.”
On previous projects, Shambhu took a traditional approach, embarking on extensive journeys spanning months (and sometimes years) of recording at home in Westhampton NY and later moving to a pro studio and vibing with incredible guest artists like Tony Levin, Michael Manring, Eugene Friesen and others. Acoustic Oasis was radically different in that Shambhu played all the instruments and intentionally took a much shorter period of time to achieve similarly fantastic and emotionally impactful results.
Everything began with his friend, multi-Grammy winner Kabir Sehgal (owner of the guitarist’s distributor Tiger Turn) suggesting that he record a stripped-down acoustic guitar album for the purpose of relaxation. Taking up the challenge and guided by the muse of simplicity, Shambhu dove right in and began composing and recording in real time, drawing from his many experiences of performing live and jazz improvisation – i.e. challenging himself to compose on the spot.
Discussing this incredible process, he says, “There were instances where a song unfolded seamlessly, leaving me in awe, thinking, ‘Wow, there it is!’ Occasionally, I would record another version as a precautionary measure, but none surpassed the magic of the original rendition. Examples of such creations are ‘Shades of Light,’ ‘Lazy Afternoon’ and ‘Inner Light.’ In contrast, some songs emerged with imperfections, but I embraced those organic hiccups rather than resorting to overdubs. The rawness and authenticity of the live performances always won my heart. I would immediately improvise a second guitar part to complement the first, or if I encountered difficulties in finding a melody, I would revisit it later. Once the foundation of a track was laid down, I knew the rest of it would reveal itself.”
Shambhu embarked on this musical voyage at his home studio, which he calls the Hamptons Sanctuary. It’s a truly spiritual experience that starts with an expression of gratitude and an open and receptive mind and heart. He lit a candle, pressed record, closed his eyes and let his fingers dance on the strings until a spark of melody or change in chord progression suggested a song, which he in turn crafted into a Shambhu song. “These compositions emerged one after another,” he says, “as ideas, emotions and a musical journey unfolded before me, akin to a morning hike, serene swim or majestic flight along my inner pathway.” He fashions a melodically graceful, intricate expression of that inner pathway quite literally on one of the album’s most dreamy and transcendent pieces, “Pathway.” He’s also aware that the term can be used to convey the “search for the way forward, with the challenges of life there to teach and grow us” and ensure we never give up.
Shambhu launches Acoustic Oasis with the lilting, hypnotic lead single “Lumina” (so named for the experience it shares of true inner light) and from there invites us on an intimate, exquisitely intricate journey that includes everything from a laid back, easy-strumming ode to a laid back “Lazy Afternoon” on the beach in Maui (the second lead single) to a more intimate, introspective probing of those divinely illuminating “Shades of Light” and an even deeper, ambient dive into the artist’s “Inner Light” featuring some of Shambhu’s most starkly organic playing.
Though part of Acoustic Oasis’ mystical charm is that it was by design created serendipitously rather than with an overall thematic concept in mind, Shambhu chose titles whose thought- provoking imagery guide the luminescent flow and spark the imagination: an ever brighter “Sunscape,” the coziness of a fireside on “Afternoon Rye,” an invigorating stroll through the “Love Garden” and a dynamic, string-enhanced closing encounter with “Angel Blue.” While true to the intention of the collection, most of the pieces emerged as relaxing ballads, there’s one glorious outlier with a little more groove and plucky string movement – Shambhu’s ultimate invitation to join him on as his spirit darts and weaves and ultimately transcends the ever “Winding Road” of life.
Check out Acoustic Oasis here: