Demon Slayers, Harp Strings, and Millennia-Old Mash-Ups: Sheela Bringi Re-Imagines Indian Mantra on Her Debut Album, Incantations

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The versatile Indian-American artist's multi-faceted exploration of musical styles and traditions is remarkable for its diversity and cohesion.

My music is about accessing a place of mystery and divinity.

Indian-American artist Sheela Bringi has been exploring the connections between her ancestral and actual homelands her entire life. The talented singer and multi-instrumentalist’s debut album, Incantations (Feb 25, ShaktiSonics/Black Swan Sounds), is a milestone in a young career rooted in the integrity of India’s classical music tradition, the beauty of its mantras, and a groundbreaking exploration of American blues and jazz.

Comfortable in numerous environments—she has performed in concert halls and universities presenting traditional material, yoga studios leading kirtans and in dance clubs over throbbing, bass-heavy beats—Bringi’s invigorating openness to possibility is helping to further the classical tradition without diluting its meaning and sense of personal and communal worship.

“My music is about accessing a place of mystery and divinity,” says Bringi. Her harp, harmonium and bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) create an exquisite sonic foundation for her unique singing of ancient Sanskrit mantras. On “Bhajaman Ram,” her gorgeous harp performance—once a staple in ancient Indian music, though today often only a footnote—locks into a Balkan-inspired odd meter with intriguing vocal harmonies. The song praises Rama, the hero of the great mythological tale The Ramayana; Bringi’s tranquil performance proves hypnotic.

Mythology abounds in “The Three Eyed-One,” a ceremonial mantra to Shiva as Lord of Death, featuring snake-like saxophone and trumpet, along with the Australian didgeridoo. The fire continues in the scorching tribute to the fierce goddess Durga, “Buffalo-Demon Slayer.” Klezmer-induced brass invokes the anthemic marching music that Indian nomads brought to the Balkans centuries ago, while the traditional thavil drums keep the song charging ahead. As with the entire record, however, Bringi’s vocals take center stage.

A mature and well-crafted release balancing its own arsenal of forces, from the heartfelt, gritty nature of bhajans to the seductive balladry she masters, Incantations is certain to position Sheela Bringi as a force in the evolution of Indian-American song, as well as its widespread potential to influence and inspire a world.

Already, the album is receiving accolades from such notable sources as NPR "The Record" and WNYC's long-running "New Sounds" radio show. She was also recently featured in a "Global Hit" segment on PRI's "The World".


Sheela Bringi was raised in the rugged foothills of the Colorado Rockies, singing the ancient melodies and mantras of her parents’ native South India. She went on to train extensively in North Indian classical music, jazz and world traditions with world-renowned pioneers at Mills College and California Institute of the Arts. Her vocals and multi-faceted talents on the harp, harmonium, and bansuri has won her a following in the yoga community, the Indian and world music scenes, and made her a sought-after addition to edgier club music projects (she’s toured with Karsh Kale, DJ Drez, EarthRise Soundsystem and many others).

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Joel Davis
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Sheela with harpSheela Bringi