A beginner's guide to music for meditation -- EW tells you what ''lifestyle music'' is like, what it's good for, and who you should listen to

By Kristina Feliciano
Updated August 22, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Meditation Illustration by Ward Sutton

A beginner’s guide to music for meditation

With schoolkids doing yoga and meditation making the cover of Time (how about those transcendent Federal Trade Commission attorneys?), it was only a matter of time before the consciousness-raising crowd got its own soundtrack. The surprise is that so-called lifestyle music (these artists prefer to save the New Age label for the Yanni pack) is actually hip, weaving together the sounds of chill-out and electronica CDs with world beats. Read this primer and you too could become a Zen master.

WHAT IT’S LIKE An aural magic-carpet ride that suggests bliss, sunsets, flickering intrigue, and occasionally the Hare Krishna down at the airport. The instruments are from the global village — sitars, congas, Indian flutes, and so on. The production indicates an awareness of dancey, trancey London clubs. And the lyrics can be in English, though Sanskrit chants are more prevalent. On ”Truth,” which sounds like a flowery ”Buddha Bar” CD, Mantra Girl (a.k.a. L.A.-based singer and kundalini yoga teacher Erin Kamler) chants about receiving ”miraculous blessings.”

WHAT IT’S GOOD FOR Maxing, relaxing, and doing yoga poses. But aficionados say the tunes can benefit you even if your favorite position is on the sofa. ”The music takes you on an emotional, visceral journey,” says Kamler, who collaborates with beau and movie-music producer Adam Smalley (”Adaptation”).

WHO YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ”Door of Faith” (out Aug. 26), the new chant album by Krishna Das and produced by Rick Rubin (System of a Down), sets a somber tone that’ll remind you of Dead Can Dance. ”Om Yoga Mix” (on Dharma Moon, a label founded by ”Midnight at the Oasis” writer David Nichtern) is groovier than its title implies. Then there are prolific divas, like Wah! and Deva Premal. Speaking of divas, Madonna fans can get an oblique thrill from M Path’s ”Wanderer,” out Sept. 9. Group leader Gardner Cole wrote Madge’s hit ”Open Your Heart.”

THE VIN DIESEL CONNECTION Mantra Girl’s chant-driven ”Gobinday” was used in Vin Diesel’s ”A Man Apart.” ”The nature of chanting is very repetitive, to occupy the rational brain so it’s not judging the spirit,” says Kamler. Or, in this case, the movie.