Dalai Lama, Inner World - album review

To say Inner World is probably the best debut album by an octogenarian you’ll hear this year is underplaying its quality.

Dalai Lama album Inner World
Dalai Lama album Inner World

Released to mark the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday on July 6, this collection of mantras and chants goes beyond novelty, as befits someone with a Glastonbury Festival appearance under his belt.

Opener One Of My Favourite Prayers starts with a flute-like woodwind instrument, before the Dalai Lama introduces it in English, saying he daily repeats it up to 100 times. The remaining 10 tracks follow a similar template, but you don’t listen to a Dalai Lama album in the hope of hearing thrash metal, techno or an experimental jazz odyssey.

There are no attempts at singing, and the gruff spoken words contrast with the beauty of the music, composed by Junelle and Abraham Kunin and performed on more than 30 instruments with a cast of people from around the world.

Reportedly, Junelle Kunin first suggested the idea of the album to the Dalai Lama’s office years ago after a fruitless search online for something that paired his teachings with music. While Kunin’s idea was initially turned down, she was able to pitch it again during a 2015 trip to India. This time, the Dalai Lama accepted.

Second track The Buddha adds backing vocals and plangent guitar, first single Compassion is a hypnotic rendering of one of the most famous Buddhist prayers, while the tranquil Ama La features renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar.

All proceeds go to charity, and while Inner World won’t be for everyone, its New Age/ambient sounds will appeal to those seeking something different and a little bit deeper.

7/10

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