Reviews and Reflections

Press Reviews:

Yoga Journal:
Rich in polyethnic percussion and complex rhythmic grooves,
this global trance music draws listeners into the creation
fo new multicultural, mostly dance-based rituals…On 11 tracks,
Hamsa Lila draws inspiration from the cosmologies of the Gnawan
and Yoruban peoples of Africa, Buddhist mantras, African proverbs,
and even T. S. Eliot and Frank Lloyd Wright (whose quote "I
believe in God, only I spell it N-a-t-u-r-e" is cited
in the liner notes). [Hamsa Lila] weave beguiling multilayered
chants through an airy and somtimes bristling acoustic-electric
mix than pulsates at the bottom end like a rock band. For
a group fashioned at least in part to move and mesmerize audiences
at jam band concerts, Hamsa Lila beautifully embodies its
African, Indian, and Carribean influences on a recording that
pleases the head as much as it moves the body.

All Music Guide:
Ever since George Harrison first picked up the sitar on the
Beatles classic “Norwegian Wood,” the fusion of Eastern sounds
with Western pop music has been an extremely fruitful, if
sometimes dicey, proposition. And with the advent of computers
and sampling at the cornerstone of music production, contemporary
ears have grown accustomed to the synthesized versions of
such exotic instrumentation, with the genuine thing sounding
quaint or even archaic in comparison. San Francisco’s Hamsa
Lila succeeds where many have failed, creating music using
entirely live Indian, African, Arabic, and Western instrumentation
to sound excitingly modern yet wholely legit.Highly inspired
by modern house and electronica, “Oshun” and “Salmat Aisha”
easily lock into a pro-dancefloor groove that should be eagerly
picked up by DJs such as Ron Trent and Marques Wyatt, while
“Turka Lila” and “Om Tara” are perfect bricks in the downtempo
pyramid. The group even offers its own form of the remix,
with duplicate bass line and percussion appearing in the opening
chant groove of “Eh Mustpha” and again on the album’s only
English moment, “Full Moon Flow,” which features lead singer
Nikila Badua’s smooth rap flow. Never falling into unfortunate
world music, or worse, colonizing ethno (ethnic-techno), this
debut from a fairly young Cali unit deserves the ample praise
it has already received.

The Beat Magazine:
Here’s Gathering One, Hamsa Lila’s debut collection
of trance-rocking grooves, multi-culti world-beat, trans-planet
waves and sub-Saharan possibilities. Hamsa Lila begs, borrows,
and appropriates styles from Gnaoua music, Yoruba rhythms,
Buddhist goddesses, Latino chants and other world staples
to concoct an avant-cool, NoCal-meets-African melange of flavors,
riddims, and sounds.

Relix Magazine:
Hamsa Lila is a hypnotic and original musical ensemble with
a kaleidoscopic world-beat perspective. The band has been
creating lots of interest in the Bay Area with what it describes
as “world trance grooves.”…While the band uses
authentic indigenous instruments they offer a bizarre juxtaposition
of the traditional and modern rhythmic elements. There’s
a strong dance groove that permeates these lush textures with
some neat jazz undertones. Live, they reportedly often begin
at midnight and play well into the night. “We want people
to dance, sing and freak out with us,” says Greenmountain,
adding, “And they do!” Based on the delights of
their album Gathering One, you can certainly see why.

San Francisco Chronicle:
This is musical mysticism that invites listeners to dance,
clap, twirl, shout praise, sing along — anything that involves
a creative impulse. Hamsa Lila can slow down the pace, too,
as on the jazzy song "Sudan," but it’s the group’s
trademark up-tempo numbers that really anchor "Gathering
One." The tracks "Eh Mustapha," "Oshun,"
and "Om Tara" are full of extrasensory sounds, including
the North African lute called the sintir, and the heavenly
voices of M.J. Greenmountain and Nikila Badua. Hamsa Lila
incorporates traditions from Africa and elsewhere to make
its own brand of stalwart music. Call it trance. Call it spiritual.
Call it otherworldly. The effect is the same: bringing listener
and musician to a higher place than before.

Resonance Magazine:
With no electric bass, the acoustic thump of the sintir and
guimbri hold down Hamsa Lila’s rhythms, and the double-team
bass attack, augmented by sneaky drumming, bongo breaks, and
Roland Kirk-style reeds gives it a groovy sheen that’s
as much jazz-soul as world beat. Hamsa Lila want to lift your
spirits and make you move. Who can argue with that when they
do it so well?

World Music
If a good fusion band is one that knows how to combine the
best of all their worlds into a sound that’s immediately engaging
and stays that way, then Hamsa Lila goes beyond good and well
into the realm of great. Much of their melodic muscle comes
from liberal use of guimbri and sintir, stringed gut-and-skin
instruments that in Morocco (where many Gnawa now reside)
are the rough equivalent of guitar and bass. A standard drum
set sharpens and regulates the rhythmic flow, but don’t assume
for a minute that this music sounds reined in.
It’s as free-spirited as music gets, extending an invitation
to dance and trance that’s hard to resist.

College Times:
A fusion of cultures and music, Hamsa Lila springs out of San Francisco with an acoustic techno fusion that
conjurs feelings of oneness and spiritual enlightenment. Blending stringed instruments from Morocco and Gnawa with African drums and East-Indian-like chanting, the hypnotic overtones have a distinct, original, and meditative quality that teeters on acid-jazz fusion. Songs like “Om Tara” and bring drifting vocals over drum and bass rhythms that blend into the more modern “Salamat Aisha” with danceable beats and soft blends between choruses. While in a completely different direction, “Full Moon Flow” mixes their usual medium and adds a bit more thump behind vocalist Nikila rapping between sintir and giumbri accents that make this album a must have for would-be gurus and bodhisattvas alike.

An Honest Tune:
Looking for a truly unique musical experience? Then try San
Francisco’s Hamsa Lila on their latest release entitled Gathering
A winning combination of world beats and
inner soul searching rhythms and instrumentation, the music
spreads across the globe to hypnotize the mind and set the
spirit alive with dancing vibration.

Altar Native:
Gathering One
is a pleasing combination of spiritually alluring traditional
chants and authentic instrumentation, blended with mesmerizing
rhythms and masterful production. The sound of distant chanting,
a bass sintir kept in line with a tight, edgy drum kit, lead
into an upbeat crescendo of synchronicity between the old
and the new. This music looks to achieve what seems to be
so difficult in reality: Unity, where the idiosyncrasies of
humanity can, and will, intermingle freely.
MORE >>>

From the first glance at Gathering One’s artwork and
photography, it’s obvious that Hamsa Lila are more than
just a band… All throughout, hand drums and exotic stringed
gourds lay down a dense, unchanging foundation…

They create a wonderfully meditative blend of the ancient and modern, a bridge between cultures, continents and times. Each of the 11 songs alights on a different spiritual tradition, with the accompanying and wonderfully refreshing quotations that highlight the meaning behind the rhythms. To break them down individually, however, would be a grave injustice. This CD is a complete package, a 45-minute long ceremony of life, peace and improvisation…
MORE >>>

San Jose Mercury News:
An International Blend of Musical Styles Refreshes:
The group is known for its marathon concerts. The octet blends
music in the Moroccan-Gnawa (North African) tradition with
sounds from elsewhere in Africa, as well as Caribbean, American
Indian, East Indian and Middle Eastern textures.

San Francisco Spectrum:
Infectiously hip and world-rich Hamsa Lila will sail you onto
the dance floor while spinning a layered treat of vocals around
an African trance groove mash-up of aural delights. Your pulse
will quicken as the voices, drums, flutes and spirits collide
and spiral. Enchanting & inspiring.
What Hamsa Lila offers is powerful and compelling music. It
is these two things because the band aggressively breaks format
and cliché yet remains compelling because they don’t
choose the easier and more obvious routes that avant-garde
music is sometimes victim to. They remain respectful to the
traditions of this music while they open you up to a new level
of what music can feel, taste and sound like.


"Hamsa Lila creates a complete and undeniable mood to
be taken away by – in their space all that was happening before
is suspended! What makes Hamsa Lila’s tapestry of rhythm so
undeniable is that no one person is playing for themselves,
they are all completely dedicated to playing for the music,
for the one sound."

Michael Travis, The String Cheese

"Certainly a different kind of band, heavy on the world
music side like Fela & Femi Kuti, but also jazzy. Sometimes,
as upbeat and funky as Galactic and other times as ethereal
as Pharaoh Sanders. For anyone looking for beautifully powerful
music that takes you on a nomadic journey this is the band!"

Michael Sammet,
DJ KUSP, Santa Cruz, Ca
also published Jambase article

"Hamsa Lila is clearly staying connected to strong ancestral
energy, creating from a sacred place, which invokes new creative
spaces full of reverence and vitality. It was wonderful to
be part of such full involvement between the band and the
audience where everyone was so moved they couldn’t sit still.
They were a great gift to the community."

Liz Faller
Head Professor of Dance Department,
Prescott College, Prescott, AZ


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