Category Archives: patti o’brien
Wrapping things up here on the Robin Renee Blog Tour, and I want to thank everyone involved. Special thanks goes out to all the folks who participated and helped with to tour, including, and not limited to, Shelley Szajner, Marie Gilbert, Becca Butcher, Patti O’Brien, Fran Metzman, Ray Cornwall, Andy Burns, the South Jersey Writers, the GAR! Podcast, Biff Bam Pop!, and especially to Robin Renee herself. You all rock, very hard! Thank you!
Here is a breakdown of the stops on the Blog Tour.
Robin Renee is interviewed by Shelley Szajner here about inspiration, Kirtan, and This..
Marie Gilbert runs down some of the places where Robin can be found on the internet here.
Becca Butcher gives her thoughts on the This. release here.
Here, I give a song by song review of This., along with Robin adding her thoughts and observations as well.
Patti O’Brien talks about Robin’s music, and then interviews her about her travels here.
We return to Welcome to Hell, where guest blogger Fran Metzman interviews Robin about her influences, inspirations, and creative process. See it here.
Over on the South Jersey Writers blog, Marie Gilbert returns to interview Robin about encouragement, inspiration, and the ups and downs of a music career.
Robin was a guest on The GAR! Podcast where discussion included DEVO, David Bowie, Saturday Night Live music moments, and the creative process. You can listen to the episode here.
Thank you, everyone!
I love Robin Renee. I love her as a friend, a fellow creative, and especially as a musician. The girl can rock, and I love that, but some of her musical journeys go beyond my horizons. But then, I guess that’s all part of the mantra pop mystique.
Robin’s latest album is This., it features call-and-response chanting, soulful voices, and a rich soundscape of organic instrumentation blended seamlessly with light, heart-opening electronic ambience.
I must admit my ignorance. I am unfamiliar Eastern spiritual music, kirtan, yoga, meditation – it all remains a mystery as much as I have tried. It is impenetrable. Or perhaps it isn’t. This. is perhaps a gateway drug to understanding, as I like it. Maybe I just need to understand it.
What follows is my track by track impression of the album, followed by Robin’s thoughts on what the songs are really about. Enjoy.
Glenn: The origins of this title come from, I believe, an aspect of Vishnu that is venerated to avoid bad luck or achieve good luck. It is a gentle start to the album, blending pop flavor and sensibility with the call and response method. Like many of the songs on the CD it has a subtle and wonderful build that I love. It is proof, as with much of This., that I can enjoy the music without knowing what it is about – but I am sure learning is the real joy of the journey.
Robin: My first order of business here is to try to dissuade you from taking This. as an intellectual exercise. From my perspective, kirtan is most essentially an experience meant to take us out of the chattering mind. Sanskrit has been called a language of energy or vibration, one that evokes peace, deepened consciousness, and infinite subtle expressions of love. What is most important is to allow yourself the experience of being still enough to just sing, or just listen and notice the experiences that come up for you in the process. By moving through whatever emotions and thoughts that come up in the practice of kirtan, you eventually get to a quieter place – the place that we all have somewhere inside where one encounters what some may call inner peace, awakening, God, Goddess, No-Self, or any other term (or no term at all) that most resonates with you.
Of course there are many stories that come out of the spiritual traditions that inform This. While it can be useful and interesting to study those, Sanskrit chants still aren’t really “about” anything. The words may have multi-layered translations, but the true “meaning” can’t really be stated. The intention of the music is to help bring about an experience beyond the mind rather than the experience of being caught in the mind. But since you asked:
Keshava is one of the names of Krishna, who is an avatar of Vishnu, who is called the Preserver of the Universe. The aspects of Krishna that show up for me while singing “Keshava” are the Universal Love that connects and runs through all, as well as the childlike playfulness and divine beauty that is associated with Krishna. The other names in the verses call out to some of those who appear in stories of Krishna’s life (mother, caretaker, lover, wife, Goddess of the Ganges River) as a way of conveying the many faces and many ways one can connect to the Sacred.
If any of that explanation feels directly important to listeners, that’s great. If not, that’s great as well. I don’t really know about the good luck/bad luck thing.
Glenn: I’m learning. I had to look it up, but it makes the music make more sense. ‘om namo bhagavate vasudevaya’ is a twelve syllable mantra used to attain freedom. The song is truth in advertising. It’s the chant, the mantra, set to a groove. I dig it.
Robin: Yes, all of these mantras, really, point toward moksha, or freedom from ego and the beliefs that keep us limited. Om is the primordial sound, the All-That-Is, and it is chanted by itself and as part of many mantras. Namo is usually translated as “I bow to.” One way to think of Om Namo Bhgavate Vasudevaya is “I bow to the God of the Heart” or “I bow to the indwelling Divine.” It is recognizing and connecting to the inner essence, allowing space for the untruths and limitations to fall away.
Kali Ma Potluck Singalong
Glenn: Much of Robin’s work renders itself to singalong, whether by intent as a call and response song, or as just a great tune that pulls you in and you find yourself humming and singing along in the car. This is how this one strikes me. It’s both, and I’ve found myself doing exactly that. And much like the above, there’s a subtle groove to this one. Another winner.
Robin: This song originated during one Friday evening when three women friends and I met at my place for dinner and chanting. We had our “Kirtan Intensives” fairly frequently then. They could be quite intense, indeed, and also a lot of fun. The melody and words to this one just sort of popped up during our singing and hangout time. Songs to the goddess Kali are often more minor-key and somber – Her energy is about the “tough love” of destroying what one no longer needs or what stands in the way of growth. I enjoy celebrating the energy that facilitates even that kind of often painful, jarring, but ultimately positive experience with an upbeat song.
Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho
Glenn: As the song begins I am hypnotized by the drums and their depth, and then, at first slowly, then quickly, the song builds and speeds up. I really dig this song as well. What I did not know in my several dozen listenings of the tune, before I moved to research what it really meant, is that this is a cover. And ancient cover perhaps, but a cover of a chant used to praise the joyous aspects of Shiva. Beautiful song, and beautiful rendition, Robin.
Robin: I don’t remember where I first heard this melody – It may well have been when I first encountered the music of Krishna Das. Shiva is the Lord of the Dance, turning the wheel from death and dissolution to rebirth and renewal. I do like how the drums are prominent and so evoke movement and dancing in this one.
Blessed Be, Namaste
Glenn: This is perhaps my favorite song on the album, a multilayered lullaby. From what I understand, ‘namaste’ is a greeting or salutation in the East when meeting and parting. As I said, I like this one a lot, from its many layers to its slow subtle build, it is terrific.
Robin: Namaste is a greeting in everyday use, but it also has a deeper meaning. It really is saying “the divine in me honors the divine in you,” so it is a recognition of the still center where we are all One. “Blessed Be” is a common Wiccan/Pagan blessing from the Western mystic traditions, and “Namaste” is from the Eastern, so this song brings those together and recognizes the synergy among varied paths. It does feel like a lullaby, or Irish blessing song. It is my favorite, too.
Glenn: This song makes me smile. “Leaving Space” is a song of bells, liberally spaced bells with silence that might make you think you have a problem with your iPod if you’re not paying attention. It reminds me crazily of a song on the most recent Eminem album where he lowers the volume and yells at you, the listener, for falling for his trick and turning up your device’s volume. Other than my crazed comparison, this is beautiful in its way, as well as thoughtful and relaxing.
Robin: That’s a funny comparison – I like that. “Blessed Be, Namaste” is kind of an ending song. I often will sing it at the end of a concert or kirtan. The next one, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” really is an ending song, too. When finishing up the recording of This., I realized I literally had to “leave space” somehow in order to have both of these songs appear. And “leaving space” in one’s life and mind for transformation, awakening, healing, love – that’s basically what kirtan and other spiritual music helps us do. Those were the concepts in mind as producer Jack Walker and I composed this ambient track.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Glenn: The slowly rushing water is both a relaxant, and an irritant if you need to go to the bathroom. I kid, but I am sure this would be excellent meditation music. There is a definite movement toward center here that I like. While the water reminds me of environmental vibes meant to put one to sleep in those sound machines, it’s accompanied by sounds to clear one’s mind and give focus. The combination works well.
Robin: The rainstick is convincing! The Buddhist mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, roughly, is “the jewel in the lotus” – our center or True Nature. If this track brings you closer to center, allows for more focus, relaxes you, or brings a peaceful sleep, I’d say it’s done something right.
Glenn: Thank you, Robin, for taking the time to give your thoughts on my impressions and your work. I have to confess that having This. on my iPod these last few months, and especially more recently delving deeper to write this, I have just liked it more and more.
This. is going to be followed up in 2014 by the singer-songwriter genre album …and Everything Else. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about that when it arrives. Thank you, Robin!
Today marks the start of the Robin Renee Blog Tour. For the next week or so, we’ll be guiding you through a journey of the work singer/songwriter/poet/activist/journalist, Robin Renee.
Who is Robin Renee? Besides, my talented and creative friend of several decades of course, Robin Renee is Mantra-Pop! – accessible, lyric-driven alt-folk rock with a spiritual twist. Conscious and melodic with an edge, think of blending the voices of Chrissie Hynde and Joan Armatrading with the wordsmith intelligence of Elvis Costello and the mystical passion of kirtan chanting.
Her CDs include In Progress, All Six Senses (produced by the world renowned Scott Mathews who has worked with George Harrison, Elvis Costello, Barbra Streisand, and many more), Live Devotion (East-meets-West chanting), and spirit.rocks.sexy – mantra-pop headlines from the clairaudient dreams of the evocative Robin Renée.
She has shared the stage with some of the West’s best-loved kirtan singers including Krishna Das, Dave Stringer, and Girish. Also a poet, artist, and writer, Robin’s work has appeared in PanGaia, Big Hammer #12, Curve Magazine, Songwriter’s Market, Blessed Bi Spirit – Bisexual People of Faith (Continuum Press), That Takes Ovaries – Bold Females and their Brazen Acts (Random House), and many other publications.
Her newest recording, This. (chant and sacred song), will be followed by ..and Everything Else (songs and spoken word) in 2014.
Here’s the schedule for the Blog Tour:
Tomorrow, Thursday, July 18th, Shelley Szajner will be interviewing Robin at her blog.
Friday, July 19th, Marie Gilbert will be hosting at her blog, Gilbert Curiosities.
Saturday, July 20th, Becca Butcher will be hosting at her blog.
Sunday, July 21st, we return here to Welcome to Hell, where I’ll be reviewing Robin’s “This.” Album.
Monday, July 22nd Patti O’Brien will be hosting at her blog, A Broad Abroad.
Wednesday, July 24th Marie Gilbert will be hosting an interview with Robin at the South Jersey Writers Blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories.
Friday, July 26th I will be conducting an interview with Robin Renee at Biff Bam Pop!.
Saturday, July 27th I will be closing out the blog tour here at Welcome to Hell.
See you tomorrow, at Shelley Szajner’s blog!
Today’s guest blogger Patti O’Brien is a fellow writer and dear friend from the South Jersey Writers Meetup group. She’s been having trouble getting folks to come to her blog, so I told her I’d give her a spotlight here on Welcome to Hell. She’s a terrific writer, check out her thoughts below on “American Idol.”
The premiere of the new season of “American Idol” (in mid-January 2013) may well be the most watched episode they’ve seen in years, and sadly, it won’t be due to the quality of the singers. The vocalizing on the first episodes is usually pretty dismal.
Nope, this year the singers will be secondary to what most viewers will be tuning in to see: the judges.
The feuds between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are already infamous. I don’t actually know what they’ve been fighting about but it doesn’t matter; two pop divas are at odds, presumably over which is the top diva, Minaj already playing the age card and Mariah, well, playing the Mariah card. Who’s to say which will actually be able to accurately judge new talent? Sure, Mariah’s the top selling female pop artist of all time, but can she offer valuable advice to the hopefuls who’ll sing for her? Other than ‘show a lot of boob, all the time, every single time you appear anywhere’ of course.
Minaj is a performance artist with a loyal following, but can she mentor a contestant who needs serious vocalist guidance? Only time will tell, and that’s what we viewers, who may have wanted to swear off the show when the new judges were announced, will tune in for—what will they do, what will they say, what will they wear?
The other new judge, Keith Urban, is possibly known more for being Nicole’s husband than for his music. Oh, and he’s cute, so that’ll draw in some female viewers. Of course, county music fans – those same fans who voted for Scotty McCreery – may also tune in to a show that’s historically been thin in this area.
And how about Randy? He of the ‘dawg’ and ‘dude’ and ‘I’m just not feelin’ it?’ Randy spends most of his time name dropping; his favorite thing is to name the original artist and maybe an obscure session musician who played on the first release of the tune the vocalist has just ‘made his own.’ Other than drool over all warblers who share his heritage, I think Randy’s shown us all the tricks in his bag, but it’ll be nice to at least have one judge who knows how this thing works.
With all the changes the show’s gone through, it leaves me to ask myself which judge I think has been the best and which the worst. Let’s start with the worst, because that’s easier – Ellen. Please. The woman is so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, she did nothing but praise or apologize: I’m sorry, it just wasn’t very good. But you’re so nice and pretty and wonderful and you’re a really good singer but for me, well, I’m sorry but I just didn’t love it. I’m sorry.
We get it, Ellen, you’re nice. But nice doesn’t butter the whole wheat toast on a rainy day in June, as my favorite judge might say. Yes, Steven Tyler, you were all that and a bag of crazy, but I loved you. You’d just as soon run up on stage and show ‘em how it’s done than sit there and listen, but you did offer opinions that were honest and usually on target, even if no one quite understood everything you said. You brought a certain panache to the show that the producers now need two crazies to bring.
And Simon? Well, you were harsh, obnoxious, full of yourself, wear nothing but undershirts, I mean, really, even plumbers wear shirts, Simon. Buy a button-up for the sake of all mankind, and learn to wear it with the buttons actually buttoned. You were mean and ornery, but you did make some good points.
Paula was sheer entertainment but on the few occasions when she was called on first, she could not put together a sentient sentence without first hearing what Randy or Simon had to say, then repeating it. But she, like J-Lo, looked pretty and was nice to the contestants; not as nice as Ellen, mind you, because Ellen’s kind of nice was gross. Sorry Ellen, I really am, but you sucked as a judge and you know it. Again, really sorry ‘bout that.
Someday, I’d like to see Ryan Seacrest in a judge’s chair. He’s heard everyone, knows the contestants better than the judges do, and must have a million opinions that nobody’s ever asked him to state. Well, I’m asking, Ryan: what the hell have you been thinking all these years? Maybe you should write a book; I’ll even ghostwrite it for you. We’ll call it “Dim the Lights,” and in it, you can tell us all the backstage gossip we crave.
So, when Idol debuts next year, I, for one, will be among the many who tune in to see how the new judges do. I don’t think I’ll like them too much, but I doubt they’ll be the worst. If you want to listen to some good ‘judges’ though, tune into “The Voice,” featuring Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Sheldon and Adam Levine. The format is different so they don’t judge, they fight over the singers they want for their teams, so it’s much more civil. And almost every one of the vocalists on that show are good, which makes the show already so much more watchable than “Idol.”
Also, I am now in love with Adam Levine, or as I call him, Mr. Devine. But that’s another story.