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Album Review: Asha
AO Music
Cover image of the album Asha by AO Music
Asha
AO Music
2017 / Abbeywood Records
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Asha is the fifth studio album by World Music artists AO Music and is their first release on Canadian label, Abbeywood Records. Upbeat, cinematic and joyously rhythmic, this is music created to inspire hope and unity. The album title is a Hindi word for hope, and the album serves as a reminder that Earth and humanity are the great unfinished stories full of hope and promise. Several guest artists contributed to the album, which also features children’s choirs from around the world. It is important to note that AO Music’s travels to record children in remote villages around the world inspired them to establish AO Foundation International (AOFI), a non-profit organization to help children orphaned by conflict and natural disaster. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each album will go toward providing sustainable support for these children. Great music for a great cause! The album is a prayer for peace, tolerance and love, and most of the songs were composed and performed by Richard Gannaway and Miriam Stockley. The lyrics and translations for the non-English lyrics are included in the colorful nineteen-page booklet that accompanies the CD.

Asha begins with “Jabulani,” which is sung in Zulu as well as English and features vocals by Miriam Stockley, Sang Ding Duo Jie from China and the Dong Ba Xiang Children’s Choir, also from China. Vibrantly joyful with a swirling rhythm, it’s an exciting start! “Love Knows the Way” is a stirring folk ballad that includes vocals by Gannaway and Stockley and didgeridoo by Kimba Arem - a favorite. “Thi Na Ngen Jabulo” is sung in Zulu by Stockley with Gannaway on Irish bouzouki, synths, and samples. Lively and upbeat with a strong rhythm that will get your toes tapping, it sounds like a big group of singers rejoicing about the return of rain after a period of drought and famine. “Quixote” is another favorite. I really like the lyrics, but I also like the mix of banjo, Irish bouzouki (Gannaway), and Native American flute (Mark Holland). Stockley solos the vocals of “Gael Medley,” a showpiece for her clear, beautiful voice. “The Inbound Trail” features Al Jewer on Native American flute and Andy Mitran on metallic tongue drums and kalimba behind Gannaway’s and Stockley’s vocals. “Four Simple Joys” was adapted from the traditional Tibetan folk song, “Hao Shi Guang,” and Stockley is joined on vocals by Chinese singers Sang Ding Duo Jie and Bai Ma Yong Xi. The album closes with the title track, which was composed by Gannaway, Sandeep Chowta and Jay Oliver (one of the founders of AO Music). Very peaceful and shimmering, the lyrics for this song are vocalese: made-up phonetics that leave their meaning up to the listener.

Asha is sure to inspire, uplift, and bring a large helping of musical joy to listeners all over the world! It is available from Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
March 28, 2017
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