Jahta Beat: Chanting with Tigers (Black Swan Sounds, September 24) is a revolutionary musical vision and mission statement from beat doctor, sound ambassador and Stateside Sadhu, DJ Drez. Breaking ground and blazing trails, Drez delivers a sonic gem that defines an entire genre of hip, fresh, devotional music that can only be called Jahta.
The brilliance of Chanting with Tigers is its unique sound, announcing the birth of a brave new world. In DJ Drez’s Jahta dimension, slick beats, dub sensibilities, hip hop know-how, electronic wizardry and deft production techniques mingle with eternal consorts of tabla, mrdangam, sitar, dilruba, harmonium, violin, traditional bhajans and ancient mantras.
Rare indeed is an album that can cultivate and facilitate the groove and the bhav -- the enlightened devotional mood and sentiment -- simultaneously. It is its markedly devotional tone that drives this record’s evolutionary jump, even from DJ Drez’ prior albums. But that leap is made, effortlessly and with room to spare, on this album. The “tigers” Drez refers to in the title represent the new generation of kirtan (call and response chanting) artists; young, ferocious, and ever ready to demonstrate their musical prowess, these performers leave their tracks all over Chanting With Tigers.
The Kirtaniyas – Vijay, Sarasvati and Nitai – are featured on the tracks “Sentient Shine” and “Maha Dub,” both deep dub journeys to the eternal source, full of devotion to Krishna. Drez’ West Coast influenced hip-hop sound melds seamlessly with Kirtaniyas’ traditional Indian instrumentation and Krishna bhajans (devotional songs) on “Nadia” and “Sweet Krishna.” The former leaves a G-Funk taste of years past on the aural palate, amidst Kirtaniya’s harmonium and tabla, and saxophone provided by frequent Drez collaborator Domonic Dean Breaux. The latter features bass and Rhodes from Trae Sevin and a classic Drez beat that invokes “Chronic”-era Dr. Dre mingled with violin and harmonium.
Part of the magic of Jahta Beat: Chanting With Tigers is the way DJ Drez develops songs conveying some of the loftiest, most esoteric and treasured teachings ever given on the sublime subjects of transcendental divine love, and naturally blends them with utterly solid modern rhythms and arrangements that will keep any dance floor moving. This bhajan-meets-big-beats formula continues on the standout track “Shiva’s Gate,” featuring another of the tigers, Tulsi Devi. Not only does the bass of this track make headlights bounce in the rearview mirror, dancing in concentric, ecstatic circles; it also delivers the dharma.
Other highlights of Jahta Beat: Chanting With Tigers include "Pataaka," featuring tiger Kirti Srivastava singing the classic bhajan, the epic Hanuman Chalisa rendered as a rockin’ electronic anthem with enough hip hop flare to make this an international classic. Crossing boundaries and borders, this song works perfectly in a set at a club in Mumbai or New York City, or at a Wanderlust yoga festival. Like most of the tracks on the album, whether you know what the words mean or not, the music is enthralling and dance-worthy all on its own. The inner meaning makes it all the more delightful. The intoxicating "Sugar Drop ’77" – the sole track showcasing Drez with no guest artist and one of just two instrumentals – combines classic elements like piano and dilruba with gritty drum beats, bass lines, and stepped up dub whomp that leaves listeners scratching their heads in awe and amazement at such beauty.
Whether you’re into electronic music, hip hop, dub, dubstep, world music, kirtan, mantra, bhajan or all (or none) of these, it would be a near impossibility to deny this album heavy rotation in your daily playlist. The transcendental subject matter and DJ Drez’s mastery take Jahta Beat: Chanting with Tigers beyond genre and beyond the material realm. Through this devotional offering, the sonic experience is alchemically transformed into something more spiritual, set to bangin’ beats, supremely elevated topics -- and many, many tigers. All glories to the One.