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Album Review: Winds of Samsara
Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman
Cover image of the album Winds of Samsara by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman
Winds of Samsara
Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman
2014 / Listen2Africa Series
78 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Winds of Samsara is a glorious collaboration by keyboardist/composer Ricky Kej, flutist Wouter Kellerman and a crew of about 120 musicians from five continents. With musical instruments and stylings from all over the world, this is clearly a world music album. Several of the tracks have a very strong Indian influence, reflecting Kej’s cultural background, but there is also a gorgeous arrangement of “Greensleeves,” a track by Australia’s wonderful Fiona Joy, and a Nocturne by Chopin. Impossibly diverse? In less capable hands, perhaps, but this album works seamlessly and beautifully from the first note to the last. With themes of peace and global harmony as well as musical tributes to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi, Winds of Samsara is a richly rewarding experience from an emotional and spiritual as well as a musical perspective. I predict that this one will shoot up the charts very quickly!

Winds of Samsara begins with “Mahatma,” a piece with diverse musical elements that come together as one to symbolize the late visionary’s message of world peace, non-violence and love. Guests artists on this track include guitarist Ciro Hurtado and vocalist Prakash Sontakke, but it is Kellerman’s flute that makes it soar. “New Earth Calling” scales back the production a bit, but not the beauty or effectiveness of the music. “Crystal Moon” is the first piece Kellerman ever composed. Haunting and graceful, it features Kellerman on flute and fife, accompanied by guitars, keyboards, and percussion. “Madiba” is the family name of Nelson Mandela, and this piece expresses the feelings of gratitude the two composers have for the great leader. Both powerful and very gentle, it’s a favorite. “Heaven Is Here” is a new arrangement of “Pieces of Heaven” from Kej’s 2013 release, Shanti Orchestra. It is also the first piece Kej and Kellerman worked on together. With ethereal vocals and the universal spirit of love, it’s a deeply emotional stand-out. “River of Time” remembers a lost loved one and was composed by Phresh Makhene and Kellerman in a distinctive African style. “Remembrance” is set to the old English folk song, “Greensleeves.” Inspired by the universal and timeless quality the song, it is sung here by Indian and African voices. “Journey to Higher Grounds” is another favorite. An ode to positivity, progress, and resilience, Kellerman’s flute goes heavenward as strings, piano, and keyboards give it wings. “Grace” brings in one of my favorite artists, Fiona Joy, with her original composition and playing her new Stuart and Sons grand piano. Backed by Kellerman’s flute, Kej’s keyboards and bass, santoor and vocals, the song elegantly enchants as it touches the heart. “Nocturne” was a real surprise! (This is Chopin’s C# minor Nocturne, not the better-known Nocturne in Eb.) I don’t generally like my classics messed with much, but this arrangement is stellar with Michael Lewin on piano, Kellerman on flute, an Indian choir, and the Seattle Pro Musica choir. What a stunning ending for an incredible album!

Winds of Samsara is amazing and certain to be on many Favorites lists for the year! It is available from WindsOfSamsara.com, Amazon, and iTunes. Very highly recommended!
July 4, 2014
More reviews of Ricky Kej albums
Cover image of the album In the Garden by Ricky Kej
2016
(contributing artist)
Review by Kathy Parsons