Trance, Bliss, Chant, Massage

The sights and sounds of the New Age could help you and your loved ones get through the New Year.

While the world demanded more of our time and attention in 2004, thanks in part to the war in Iraq, the election, and the last season of Friends, the need for balance, inner peace, and harmony became even more essential in the lives of many. And 2005 has all the hallmarks of another emotional roller-coaster ride for the collective. What better gift to give than CDs and DVDs that enlighten, inspire, and uplift, 365 days a year. Here are seven suggestions for the seeker in your life.

Mind-Body-Soul DVD Series (New World Music, $19.99); available in stores and at www.newworldmusic.com

At the top of anyone's shopping list for New Age music and related products should be any of the fine instructional DVDs from New World Music. They have everything from Pilates to an introduction to Reiki, an energetic healing technique founded in Japan by Dr. Mikao Usi. These are terrific beginners guides to some fairly esoteric practices that are accompanied by music from a stable of New World musicians. In fact, world-class shakuhachi flute player Riley Lee even has his own DVD on the art of breathing. And like any great gift, these have the potential to keep on giving, especially when wrapped in the form of Jim Russell's Guide to Indian Head Massage. Somebody has to be the recipient of all that hands-on training. Know what I'm saying?

Krishna Das: Greatest Hits Of The Kali Yuga (Karuna Music/Artemis Records, $19.99); available at www.karunamusic.com

Krishna Das' personal story is illuminated on this two-disc document of sound and vision. It contains an audio CD that features some of the finest devotional Hindi chants you'll ever hear. Das' voice has a world weariness that gives these bhajans an almost bluesy feel that underscores the rapture and joy in his voice as a hard-won triumph of the spirit. He's joined by Jim Wilson (production), Jai Uttal (harmonium and dotar), and Geoffery Gordon (percussion) on most of the tracks. The accompanying DVD is a documentary of the evolution of the seeker in action and chronicles his transformation from private persona to an acknowledged spiritual voice. Das' longtime friend and fellow traveler Ram Das contributes considerable insight (and humor).

Steve Roach: Holding the Space—Fever Dreams II (Timeroom Editions, $15); available at www.steveroach.com

Steve Roach has been at the forefront of deep ambient/New Age music since the late 1970s, when a near-death experience while motorcycling hurtled him into a timeless void that has continued to be a profound musical inspiration for him. And while Roach still releases music through labels like Projekt Records, he has also pioneered creating and selling exclusive music from his Web site. Holding the Space—Fever Dreams II is his latest limited edition. It's dark and tribal, perfect for late-night listening and urban rituals of your own design—a great gift for anyone with adventurous tastes and an appreciation for the original and unique.

Vas: Feast Of Silence (Narada Records, $17.99); available at www.narada.com

Vas, the duo of Greg Ellis (percussion) and Azam Ali (vocals and hammered dulcimer), have been making gorgeous music together since 1995. Ali is of Persian descent, yet sings most of the lyrics to their songs in Hindi. The majority of their sound is similar to the ethno- spiritual stylings of Dead Can Dance. Feast of Silence is their latest outing, and they've expanded their repertoire to include the delightful bansuri flute playing of Deepak Ram as well as traditional Middle Eastern instruments like the oud and tombak. And while Ali has shown off her stunning voice in chant on albums past, she branches out in English lyrics on the title track and moves into Sarah McLachlan territory with considerable ease—a perfect blend of exotic and spiritually oriented song craft.

Deuter: Earth Blue (New Earth Records, $14.99); available at www.newearthrecords.com

In a unique marriage of commerce and art, Volkswagen commissioned Deuter, one of the most prolific and profound composers in the realm of New Age music, to come up with a series of peace-filled and contemplative tracks. With no discernable association to Volkswagen or even autos in general when it comes to the sound of Earth Blue, Deuter employs flutes, piano, synths, gongs, and nature samples to produce a work that is poignant, moving, and deeply meditative. Don't be turned off by the carmaker connection. We should have more corporations that commission beautiful music of such high quality.

Gabrielle Roth: The Inner Wave DVD (Raven Recordings, $14.99); available at www.ravenrecording.com

Urban shaman Roth has recently released a series of sweat-intensive DVDs on her own Raven Recordings. She's an acclaimed artist and healer, whose workshops feature passionate trance dancing powered by a rotating cast of world-class musicians. The whole concept of the "Inner Wave" is to find stillness through movement and motion, to quiet the mind with ecstatic trance. For your ADHD-addled friends who can't sit still long enough to cross their legs.

Ken Wilber: Kosmic Consciousness (Ken Wilber, $99); available at www.amazon.com and others

Ken Wilber is probably one of the most gifted thinkers and writers in the realm of New Age thought, and has recently been discovered by a group of young and turned-on spiritual seekers including members of the alternative band Live. On this 10-CD set, Wilber maps out the road to higher consciousness in great detail, ruminating on such subjects as astrology, human evolution, dreaming, reincarnation, etc. This is a must for folks who are deeply systems oriented in regard to their spirituality and are willing to follow the leaps and learning from one of the great minds of the 20th century.

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