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Album Review: Dreaming the Afterlife
Cover image of the album Dreaming the Afterlife by Sonaljit
Dreaming the Afterlife
2013 / Sonaljit
45 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Dreaming the Afterlife is the very impressive debut of Sonaljit. A native of India, Sonaljit is a self-taught musician and composer as well as a graduate student in physics. During his undergraduate years in India, he often participated in music shows and local competitions as a singer. He initially began to learn to play keyboards as an accompaniment to his vocals, listening to new age/contemporary instrumental music - especially that of Yanni and Vangelis. While comparisons to Yanni are inevitable, Sonaljit’s musical voice is his own. Three of the nine tracks are presented as piano solos and repeated as more complex orchestrations, with the remaining three tracks a symphonic mix of ethnic and cultural instruments. Sonaljit says that his compositions come from his imagination, feelings, stories, dreams, and notable events in his life, making his music very personal and expressive. The joy of creation can be heard in every note. The recording quality is also exceptional for a home studio. I would say we have an exciting new artist here!

Dreaming the Afterlife opens with the title track which was inspired by an especially vivid and unsettling dream. Shakuhachi flute and piano are the lead instruments, accompanied by guitar, drums, percussion, bass and ambient electronic sounds - a most impressive beginning! “A Recall before Silence” appears first as an orchestral piece and later in the album as a piano solo. It is about the thoughts of a person on his deathbed, revisiting memories of his life, family, and friends before taking his final breath. For me, the solo piano version more poignant even though it isn’t quite as dramatic as the orchestration - both are excellent. “Nodi Ontoheen” translates to “River Endless,” and was inspired by a type of Bengali folk song that is usually written about the boatmen who spend their lives fishing in river waters. While the traditional songs usually tell of the hardships of this life, Sonaljit chose to express feelings of bliss. Combining traditional Indian instruments with piano, dulcimer, violin, cello, and guitar, this piece evokes peaceful images of gently rocking boats on calm waters - perfect for a film soundtrack! “Waiting For Love” also appears in two versions and comes from a song Sonaljit’s father wrote when he himself was a singer/songwriter trying to break into the Bengali music industry. The deep emotions expressed in this piece seem ideally suited for film music - I love both versions. “The Road to Limelight” tells the story of an artist’s struggle for recognition, dealing with failure, and finally reaching the “limelight.” The orchestral version starts with just piano, gradually adding strings, and then fuller orchestration. The final movement is bold and triumphant as the artist’s goals are achieved. The solo piano version is two minutes shorter, but I love the intimacy of telling this story with just one voice - it seems more personal. The closing track, “Colors of the World,” was inspired by the idea of people from different cultural origins dancing together on a stage visible from everywhere on the planet. Sonaljit uses musical instruments from all over the world to express this idea and it works beautifully!

What a triumphant first effort this album is! Dreaming the Afterlife is available from sonaljitmusic.wix.com/music, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Very highly recommended!!!
August 7, 2013
This review has been tagged as:
Debut Albums
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