Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
"Their music will ignite the world...a hybrid of East and West that will bring joy to your heart and get your body boogieing." –Yoga Chicago
For the better part of a decade, New Orleans-based trio Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band – vocalist/harmonium player Sean Johnson, bassist/guitarist Alvin Young and singer/percussionist Gwendolyn Colman – have been challenging common perceptions about yoga music, reinventing the soundtrack by merging ancient mantras from India with a vibrant gumbo of contemporary flavors. Regarded as one of the most distinctive in western kirtan music, their dynamic sound has won over fans nationwide and transformed hundreds of yoga studios in America and Europe into thriving concert and dance halls.
Unity, their latest offering, serves up an invigorating experience for music lovers and modern yogis alike, a celebration of diverse spiritual traditions, cultures, and musical genres. Ancient Sanskrit mantras are freshly voiced through the band’s distinctive songs, clearly rooted in the funkiness of their native New Orleans, as well as in elements of rock, gospel, and savory world grooves.
Band founder Sean Johnson has been leading kirtan for over sixteen years. Influenced in equal parts by his New Orleans roots, his ancestral Irish heritage, his study of Indian vocal music, and his love of bhakti yoga (the yoga of the heart), Sean is also founder of Wild Lotus Yoga studios in New Orleans, and of Soul School, an interdisciplinary yoga and spirituality teacher training program for teaching yoga with imagination.
When most people see the words ‘yoga’ and ‘music’ in the same sentence they might think of wind chimes, crystal bowls, synth pads, and dolphin sounds. But for the better part of a decade New Orleans-based Sean Johnson And The Wild Lotus Band (Alvin Young and Gwendolyn Colman) have been changing this perception, reinventing the yoga soundtrack by merging ancient mantras, rock, funk, gospel and world grooves. Their dynamic sound has won over yogis and non-yogis alike and transformed hundreds of yoga studios in America and Europe into thriving concert and dance halls. They are regarded as one of the most distinctive guiding voices in western kirtan music.
In 2007 they released their first album Calling The Spirits independently which caught the ears of pioneering Canadian record executive Terry McBride, founder of Nettwerk Records and Lilith Fair. In 2009 McBride signed the band to Nettwerk for the release of the follow up album Devaloka which was engineered and co-produced by Misha Kachkachishvili in New Orleans. When Putumayo World Music founder Dan Storper heard Devaloka, he chose music from the record to be featured in a series of Putumayo releases which include tracks from international artists designed to accompany yoga practice (Yoga, 2010, World Yoga, 2012, and Yoga Lounge, 2014). Storper also hired Sean to co-curate the albums and write the liner notes. These albums have helped propel the band’s music to listeners across the globe. Their songs have also appeared on the Sounds True and White Swan labels.
August, 2014 brings the release of their third studio album Unity. White Swan Music describes the album as “A collection of ten unique. soul-stirring songs that reveal the band more at ease than ever with interpreting and expressing mantra music through the guts and authenticity of their own American roots. The album takes the listener on a revelatory journey through myriad sounds and flavors – from bellydance rhythms, Motown-inspired grooves, back porch stomp and gospel chorus to trance-inducing eastern strings with passionate verses from Rumi, tantra yoga sutras, and chants from a variety of spiritual traditions. Some songs are perfect for a yoga flow playlist and other for simply savoring life, at full blast.”
Sean, Alvin, and Gwendolyn tour extensively as a trio and are a favorite headliner at yoga and music festivals nationwide. In 2010 they were the first kirtan band to ever play The New Orleans Jazz Festival to a large and appreciative crowd. Their debut at Jazz Fest was noted by Alex Rawls at Offbeat Magazine and chronicled in the international online magazine Elephant Journal.
“The New Orleans-based kirtan music group, Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band, bring an energetic mix of global treasures with lively kirtan, yoga, Sanskrit-inspired, and new age mantras with beautiful vocals and melodies on Unity. The ten-track release romps through infectious mantras, global chants, and Rumi poetry all composed in an easy-to-listen-to format. The extended instrumentals and repetitive vocals in spots reinforces the melodies and rhythms throughout. “Remember” contains an upbeat world rock beat with vocals akin to Australia’s Yothu Yindi, but the tune is more South Asian-inspired than Aboriginal. “The Man In Blue” features a great mantra and uppity guitar tune with a little Southern charm. In a similar manner, “I’ll Fly Away” is a gospel-esque tune with Southern roots and a kirtan infusion. “Unity” is a Rumi poetry and chant song that promotes happiness for all by repeating the popular mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu in a light pop/rock arrangement. Whether this is neo-kirtan, new age, yoga music, or spiritual music, you will find happiness and solace in the music of Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band.”
Yoga Chicago Review - Unity
Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band’s third release, Unity features red-hot jams with uplifting mantras, and messages straight out of their hometown of New Orleans. Each of the 10 tracks holds a unique space. The combination of talent, with singer/percussionist Gwendolyn Colman and bassist/guitarist Alvin Young, is synergistic. The first track, “Ganesha’s Belly Dance,” is a hypnotic invocation to remove obstacles. It wouldn’t be out of place in a film noir, filmed in a faraway place. The Sufi-esque “Nur Allah Nur” begins with Gwendolyn’s sublime voice chanting in Arabic, then Sanskrit. Sean joins her with some Hebrew, and the magic is made. “Remember” is bass heavy pop with a mix of Sanskrit and English. “The Man in Blue,” which is a play on Krishna’s blue skin, uses one of my fave instruments—the triangle! I can’t help but smile listening to this piece.
There is a delicate balance of light and dark on this record—that’s how my life is too. Hearing this group bust out the songs “Unity” and “Fly Away Home” at Bhakti Fest Midwest was quite a moving experience. There are only three of them in the band! Gwendolyn, how do you play your percussion and drums, while you sing so sweetly and strong? There is so much beauty in their finely crafted music; “Unity” will penetrate your body, mind, and soul.
Jiva Yoga Center :: Thurs Jan 22
Hilton Head Island, SC
Holy Cow Yoga :: Fri Jan 23
Asheville Yoga Center :: Sat Jan 24
The New Orleans Sacred Music Festival :: Sat March 14
New Orleans, LA
Bhakti Weekend with Sean :: April 17-19
Arkansas Yoga Center, Fayetteville, AK
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival :: Fri April 24
New Orleans, LA
Om Fest with David Newman and Mira :: May 1-3
2015 SPECIAL EVENTS PREVIEW:
Om Fest In Bermuda
Join us for this special weekend festival with David Newman and Mira in Bermuda. More details TBA.
Asheville Yoga Fest :: July 24-25
Moksha Festival :: July 26 :: Los Angeles
Lehigh Valley Yoga Festival :: July 25 :: Easton, PA
Bhakti On The Mat Weekend at Kripalu :: July 31-Aug 2
Floyd Yoga Jam :: Sept 4-6 :: Floyd, VA