Reviewed by Christina Garcia, Fri., Dec. 14, 2018
On the singer's first full-length since 2012 debut Eastern Soul, Nagavalli Medicharla plunges into her classical Indian training for a deeply spiritual, meditative offering. Often, contemporary Eastern soul fuses to secular, English-language lyrics, Latin rock, and pop; but Nagavalli eschews the Austin dialect for her native tongue, emoting full-throated and singularly driven by melody. The gripping drone of the stringed tantu vadya, the bell and bass tones of the tabla (Shiv Naimpally), the enchanting sitar (Indrajit Banerjee), pedal steel (Gary Newcomb), and keyboard (Stefano Intelisano) embody a philosophical tradition wherein music from without ushers the listener to a pure music within. Nagavalli intones ancient Sanskrit chants by Indian mystics Saint Kabir and Meera Bai, weaving devotional songs called bhajans into one tranquil, continuous hymn. Concluding on the crescendo of "Jhini Re Jhini," which portrays life as thin and fragile as a worn sheet, Nagavalli stimulates hypnotic devotion.