On Stars, David Newman (aka Durga Das) shares a sense of hope and celebrates the beauty of life, even in times of struggle. Poetic English lyrics, flowing seamlessly into powerful Sanskrit mantras, are bathed in an array of diverse musical textures, earthy grooves, and melodies that nourish like comfort food for the Soul. With its intimate sound and nurturing sentiment, Stars is David's contribution to an exciting time: Now!
For his seventh release, the first that he's recorded in his hometown of Philadelphia, David turned to local producer Bill Moriarty (acclaimed for his work with Dr. Dog). Although quite rooted in rock recording, Bill, a practicing Buddhist and meditator, quite naturally tuned into the spirit and essence of David's music. In addition to many of his regular musical collaborators, David enlisted several gifted local musicians from all genres of music, allowing him to explore new territory as a musician, arranger and producer. David also spotlights the contribution of his wife Mira, whose work as a vocalist and percussionist he describes as "an immeasurable asset to the sound on Stars. Her beautiful voice, sense of groove and invaluable input on arrangements leave a palpable imprint on the texture and beauty of the music."
The first song recorded for Stars, "Love Belongs to Everyone/Gayatri", illustrates the experimental nature of the recording process behind the album. For the first time on a recording, David plays lead electric guitar (using a violin bow on it during the chorus) and employs a muted trumpet. One of David's many joys in the making of Stars was combining elements that you wouldn't ordinarily expect to be juxtaposed together. In this case, a song about universal love was joined with the sacred Gayatri Mantra and placed in an ambient trance arrangement with overtones of smoky blues. David describes the writing process for this album to mining: digging into deep parts of himself to bring back something that inevitably shares a sense of hope and celebrates the beauty of life. Spiritual liberation, the remembering of our true nature, and the quest for ultimate happiness, present a common theme throughout Stars. Perhaps this is most transparently addressed on the song "We Are What We Are/Sri Ram", on which the chorus states... 'We are what we are divine and liberated, we are what we are spirit incarnated, we are what we are at one with all creation, we are what we are, we are our own salvation'. For David, this song "represents one of the deepest mystical and musical journeys on the CD," weaving elements of song and chant and building to a climactic wall of sound echoing a celebrative affirmation of truth and spiritual unity.
There were also significant personal life events in 2011 that inspired certain songs. For instance, he wrote the album opener, "Dreaming", while his wife, Mira, was pregnant with their first child, daughter Tulsi. As David explains, "The lyrics were conceived from Tulsi's perspective as she was dreaming herself into our lives. When I sat down to write the song, it was with her in mind. In a sense, I felt as if we were writing the song together. If you listen closely to the lyrics, you'll see what I mean": 'My mother's love awaits me, my father's song I hear, held in the everlasting, so near, so dear, I'm dreaming'.
2. Durga Maharani-7:32
3. Love Belongs to Everyone/Gayatri-7:57
4. Ancient Spirals Shiva-9:25
5. Thinking Of You/Sri Krishna-6:31
6. We Are What We Are/Sri Ram-8:10
7. Tulsi's Bliss (Maha Mantra)-8:02
9. Ganesh Under Moonlight-4:24