Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The creation of the album..... just when the world was ending: December 2012

Uplifting Mantras for You 2013 Tour

The Creation of Uplifting Mantras for You

In October 2012 we had no idea any of this would happen. Obviously we always said it would be good to put a mantra album out there because it is so closely tied to the work we do. One of the many thing I love about my husband is that any new idea/endeavour I come up with he fully supports and will even generally throw himself into it one hundred and fifty percent. So when we met a producer we resonated with on a fateful drive up the Garden Route that November, we made the spontaneous decision to compose the album, conceptualise it, record it and master and mix it by the end of April 2013(!) 

Never shy of a challenge, I locked myself away everyday for 20 days through December to create the ideas that would become Uplifting Mantras for You. I found a space wherein I could be held to keep a daily yoga and meditative practice and set myself the creative task of coming up with a new musical idea everyday. And so the album was born. At the back of my mind I thought “Well, I have nothing to lose.... if the world is going to end at least I will have done this last project I'm passionate about”. Luckily, existence as I knew it continued on into January 2013 and I was able to complete the album, and go on tour. Perhaps some higher power felt like the album was worth hanging on for. That's what I like to think anyway :O)

Of course we agonised over what the title of the album should be.  Fabian chose the title Uplifting Mantras for You and it kind of worked, considering the intention behind it.  We also agonised over an appropriate cover for the album for weeks.  Finally we settled on this one:

Album Cover designed by Graphic Design Artist Willeen Le Roux 

The Team

We chose to work with multiple SAMA award nominee and winner Howard Butcher at his studio in Knysna

The studio is set in the lush and peaceful hard wood forests of the Garden Route, South Africa and this setting brought such a peaceful and calming energy to the album. 

Our view from the studio

Besides Howard's outstanding reputation in the South African Music Industry for the quality of his work, one of his signatures is the quirky application of interesting and unusual sounds in his album projects. This came across in particular in Ek Ong Kar, where we recreated the sound of a Norwegian Fiddle by using a bowed mandolin (!)

Howard hard at work with Brent in studio
This little guy even added his own bit of music to the mix

We had some interesting visitors at the studio

We had a tight set of deadlines to get the album finished, because in February we already had my tour dates booked for Europe!! And as this is a purely self funded, self produced album, we had to take care of a lot of the admin with weeks spent organising and arranging music, schedules and the travel to Knysna from Cape Town before recording could commence.

The musicians we recruited were all astoundingly talented South Africans who added their own magical 'something special' to the mix. I had created a collection of demos which I had composed from scratch with my tiny midi keyboard and Logic Pro 9 and these guys turned each of those demos into masterpieces!

My musical director, Martin Wolfaardt is somewhat of a jazz virtuoso with a genius ear for abstract harmonies and arrangements (just how I like it). 

Martin Wolfaardt

Mostly I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the songs to sound and Martin helped me to knit the real instruments together in the fabric of the music so that all the music in my head could be heard by the world. Martin played piano and percussion, giving the album a lot of his energy, spirit and soul.

Me and Martin working on Whaa Yantee

We used two guitarists on the project; Ben Badenhorst on Kumbus and electric fretless guitar (who logged in virtually from Tel Aviv) and Brent Kozack on acoustic guitar.

Ben Badenhorst

I have to say that Ben is a wizard with the guitar and has created sounds for this album that seem to defy space and time. His style encompasses Maskanda, Jazz, Indian Classical, Progressive Rock, Middle Eastern and Avant Garde:

The final and finishing touch to the feel of the album was the tabla, a classically Indian percussion instrument. I was soooo lucky (and relieved) that we managed to recruit Ronan Skillen who is undoubtedly South Africa's best tabla player.  He is usually in high demand and off touring internationally, but somehow just happened to be free on exactly the weekend we needed him:

Ronan Skillen

And of course there was me on vocals and backing vocals (which spanned from the ridiculously low growling male type voice you hear in Namyoho Renge Kyo, to the unbelievably high pitched harmonies you hear in the Lokshmi mantra). I was also hauled in to play the peddle organ (to create the drone-like sound on Ek Ong Kar).  What can I say - this is how I hear music!  Complex and multi-layered! 

 Also perhaps a vague insight into how my mind works – ha ha!

The original photo we based the album cover on
taken by my dear friend Hazel Du Preez :

Lastly, my husband Fabian was always there sitting quietly in the corner of the studio, working furiously on the type setting of my album cover, working on my promotional campaign, cooking us food, making tea and generally fixing all and any of the IT issues (which cropped up frequently).  Thank you so much my love, you're the best!

You can find Uplifting Mantras for You here:



  1. Complements to you all, it's such an amazing album and hearing how it all came together makes it even more special and real!

  2. It was a remarkable project, wonderfully creative. :)