On the Record: Ashana Sophia

by Nick Pittman

"Lumière — Heart Notes on The Bayou" is not an everyday sort of album. But that isn’t a flaw.

Ashana Sophia’s Lumière — Heart Notes on The Bayou is not an everyday sort of album. If it had to fall into categorization it would be a scaled-down and earthy Enya meets chants, prayers and Cajun French, all accompanied by the cello, fiddle, guitar and world music instruments. It’s so far removed from the parameters of pop music, Justin Bieber could not see it with the Hubble telescope. But that isn’t a flaw. Ashana Sophia is accompanied by Chad Viator and Michael Doucet among others, and has crafted a fine (although not necessarily for the masses), intricate piece of work.

A multi-instrumentalist, Ashana Sophia is a classically trained cellist and also plays the esraj, the Indian version of the cello, and the harmonium. Here, however, her most powerful instrument is her voice as she uses it to gracefully give flight to chants and prayers in the style of kirtan — call and response chanting of India that is designed to quiet the mind and bring peace. Her haunting vocals combined with the ethereal and incredible indie-classical-Irish-folk soundscapes give chills. Though rooted in ancient traditions, its far removal from the soundtrack of modern life makes it seem otherworldly.

Even at its simplest, Heart Notes’ tremendous songs have a deep and rich sound quality. Sometimes grand yet somehow minimal compositions, they stir winds blown by the Far East with local accents provided by Doucet’s fiddle.

While the album contains both original material and tracks based on Sanskrit and Gurmukh mantras, Ashana Sophia also pulls from traditional Irish melodies: “Golden Apple Tree” is based on “Star of the County Down” while “Grieving Song” is a take on “Waters of Babylon” by Don Mclean.

Complex and intricate, Lumière — Heart Notes on The Bayou is a quiet storm of music made of beautiful clouds on a sunny day that leaves a lasting impact.