In yoga, there isn’t one interpretation of pretty much anything. Depending on your lineage and studies, avidya can mean ignorance or the root of suffering (among other things), and klesha can be interpreted from a state of mind to layers of cloaks that hide or reveal our emotional states and afflictions. In musical terms, the New York based Avidya & The Kleshas seem to have picked an appropriate name to cover their wily musical escapades. It’s hard to pin down one style or reference, in fact as you listen the music on the surface seems to be one sound but as each layer, or cloak, is removed a depth and richness is gradually revealed.
The album was funded by a 2011 Kickstarter project which allowed band lead Stephanie Carlin artistic freedom to pull together an intense and complex musical journey for this album. The album, Tree of Series, begins with “Mother and God,” featuring a cooling smooth jazz beat that rises and falls gently and organically with a very full band while showcasing Carlin’s vocal range of sweet lullaby to lilting scat and rock styles -- all of which work together beautifully. Other songs of note are “In the Hospital Room” with its tender longing and sadness, “Here are the Apples” with its more upbeat and catchy refrain of SOS OM OM OM SOS, the more rocking “Babies Grow Up,” the ethereal and just beautiful “Body of Lead,” and closing out with a gentle and minimal piano and voice of “Being.”
Lyrically the album moves through themes of being nothing and everything, of awakening and what to do after that. Calling back to obvious yogic and Buddhist roots that run deeper than a mere namedropping of klesha or avidya, most songs come back to the idea of picking yourself up and living. Digging deeper you can start to identify with that challenge of finding balance in being aware and yet not too attached, as seen here in the lyrics to the song “The Human Struggle”:
When I finally start seeing the world in color
When the laws of the earth supersede law and order
And I’m finally tired of drowning in whiskey
And I stop sitting and wishing and start doing and feeling
When I’m okay with the man I love not calling
When I’m okay with the man I love suddenly dying
When I’m deaf and blind
And my throat’s on fire
Always stays on fire.
gate gate pāragate (gone gone)
gate gate pāragate (gone gone)
gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā (ultimate truth remains when all is gone)
Overall the album is definitely worth a listen -- it’s good music for chilling out or even for a party. Carlin along with Avidya & the Kleshas can be compared to Fiona Apple with some Ani Defranco, and maybe a little bit of Joanna Newsome. The band's website can be found here.
Nicole Traum is a yoga teacher, artist, writer and social justice advocate from Northern New Jersey. Teaching yoga for over seven years, she has cultivated a style of alignment and heart opening that aims to make students feel comfortable with who they are and whatever they are dealing with. Nicole works with adults and kids and is an active teacher in the Newark Yoga Movement bringing yoga, pranayama and meditation to the inner city kids of Newark. Nicole can be found at www.nicoletraumyoga.com and www.facebook.com/nicoletraumyoga.