A crowning achievement in the nearly 20-year recording career of Israeli born award winning visionary, world music artist, composer, educator, peace activist and record producer Yuval Ron, Four Divine States of Mind is a richly impressionistic, melodically, rhythmically and culturally expansive exploration of the Four Divine (Sublime) States of Mind – the Brahma-viharas – that come from the original Buddhist teachings of loving kindness, compassion, vicarious joy and mental equanimity.
Consisting of four spiritually free flowing tracks titled after those profound concepts and running from 11-15 minutes each, this is a profound, prodigious work of many modes, moods and movements featuring lead vocals by four premiere world music singers (acclaimed artists Estrella Morente and Deva Premal and rising stars Uyanga Bold and Chloe Pourmorady); the rousing Pasadena CA based Blair Studio Singers children’s choir; and contributions from famed world musicians, many playing native instruments that should inspire some joyful Googling - including Pandit Nayan Ghosh (sitar), Alam Khan (saroud), Adam Del Monte (guitar), Somnath Roy (ghatam), Dennis Karmazyn (cello), Jamie Papish (udu), Malek Vossough (ney) and Israeli-born singer-songwriter Elinor Sitrish.
While masterminding and overseeing the new age/world music equivalent to classic Quincy Jones’ productions like The Dude, Back on the Block and Q’s Jook Joint, Yuval also contributes his talents on oud, keyboards and string orchestration.
While the press materials tout the fact that Four Divine States of Mind “offers the perfect music for meditation, yoga and relaxation,” those applications of the music just scratch the surface of what sets this project apart from any other that can be used for similar practices. Earning the designation of “modern Kirtan music” because it is based on Sanskrit mantras, the mantras – sung, chanted and otherwise vocally imparted in languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Spanish and Hebrew – offer simple yet timeless, crucial messages of inspiration, hope and spiritual healing for a world desperately in need. (English translations of the lyrics are available on the MettaMindfulness Music website (www.mettamindfulnessmusic.com/fourdivinestates.html).
Though the project was initiated two years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Yuval and executive producer Dr. Richard Gold - Yuval’s partner in the Metta Mindfulness Music organization and aesthetic - have noted, “Meditation styled projects always have value. Clearly, the timing of the project is auspicious as the need for heightened awareness and community building are more needed now than ever before in our lifetimes. The pandemic shows us that we are all interconnected. The virus does not differentiate according to race, religion, political views, nationality, etc. The entire human species is vulnerable and needs to be protected and treated with compassion.”
Another aspect that powerfully separates these hypnotic and atmospheric yet deeply visceral and soulful pieces from those on most other “yoga-friendly” recordings is the sheer diversity of rhythms and sonic textures. It’s not just vocalists chanting “Om” to relax you for 54 minutes - it’s more like an empowering spiritual progression through the cosmos via organic yet otherworldly elements and countless groove variations.
Usually we’re just hearing Middle Eastern or Eastern vibes on these kinds of recordings. The sensual, gently rhythmic, second track “Compassion (Karuna)” featuring vocalist Estrella Morente features the beautifully exotic seduction of Del Monte’s flamenco guitar. And while most collections like this keep the flow soft, graceful and relaxing, “Vicarious Joy (Mudita)” is like an Eastern version of a gospel church revival, offering a blast of high-octane inspiration by spinning a hypnotic whirlwind of dense percussive instruments, Deva Premal’s passionate lead vocal, a buoyant choir and Gosh’s irrepressible sitar. It’s a 14 and a half minute high vibrational dance unlike any you’ve heard before in this genre.
The titles of the other two tracks reflect their overall feeling. Featuring the beautiful lead vocals of Pourmorady, the lush and meditative opening track eases softly along like a prayer offered to the deity of “Loving Kindness,” preparing us to be people of peace projecting kindness and good will. Driven along by the Indian flavors of Roy’s percussion, the sarod, ghatam and ney, its intention is to soothe the soul, slow our breath and help us focus our awareness. In Sanskrit, we hear “I am Divine Love,” and in Hebrew, “And you will love the whole entire creation with the heart, with soul, with the Divine essence of the soul.”
Opening and closing the echoing of distant church bells, the fourth track “Equanimity (Upekkha)” is infused with hypnotic synth washes, touches of choir and a deep, vibrational Japanese Zen “Sanskrit Chant of the Heart” by Hirokazu Kosaka and IKKYU Archer’s group (and other vocal delicacies). Its goal is to encourage simple, nonjudgmental acknowledgment of what is sensed, perceived or bubbles up in the mind. As Yuval says, “This mind of clear sky or mirror reflection is not passive nor stoicism but is integrated with the three other states to permit compassionate action with the joys of helping and of existence.”
Not surprisingly, Four Divine States of Mind is a truly international affair. The starting point of the composition was in Yuval’s choice to use Mantras chanting and Kirtan vocal arrangement (vocal call and answer) as the core of the musical treatment. The next element was his choice of lead vocalists. He was inspired by Deva Premal’s sweet voice and deep resonance with Sanskrit; Estrella Morente’s Gypsy flamenco expressions of the deeper resonances of pain; Uyanga Bold’s crystalline voice and Buddhist Shamanic Mongolian heritage; and Chloe Pourmorady’s graceful and richly nuanced Persian-Hebrew heritage.
The songs were composed in Yuval’s studio in Studio City, CA, then arranged for instruments such as sarod, oud, sitar, flamenco guitar, Indian folk percussion, string orchestra and cello soloist, gongs and bells. These instruments were recorded in California and Mumbai, India before the lead vocalists recorded their parts in Andalusia, Spain, Australia and California. The final touches were the children’s choir and the Japanese Buddhist chanters recording in Los Angeles.
Beyond the musical and spiritual effects of the music itself, Four Divine States of Mind functions as a compelling invitation into the world of Yuval Ron and Dr. Gold. From the time they began to work together, their mission was inspired by the Buddhist teachings illuminated on the current project. Metta (Loving Kindness) is in the name of their production company: Metta Mindfulness Music (MMM).
As stated, the mission is to utilize ancient wisdom, healing traditions combined with modern neuroscience in order to enhance healing and heightened consciousness. Listen to the collection the first and second time as a purely aural experience, preferably in a meditational state where you can focus on all it intends and allow the four divine states to spark your imagination. On a subsequent listen, treat yourself to a deep dive into their website (www.mettamindfulnessmusic.com) where you’ll learn about the label’s history and numerous other releases and gain insight into Four Divine States of Mind via Insights & Teachings and Suggestions for Meditation and Chanting Practices.
The album is dedicated to the children who will grow up to embody the Four Divine States of Mind.
Listen to Four Divine States of Mind here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3zG59FtfCPXZSseueiS2BN?si=lAa773k5RfONHxVNmGg0JQ