Los Angeles, CA – Gorgeous instrumental album, Aum Akua, the latest from Grammy-winning slack-key and 40-year “Weird” Al guitarist Jim “Kimo” West and Billboard New Age Chart-topper Joss Jaffe, will be released by Be Why Music on all platforms tomorrow. (Press only listening link here. All public links are here.)
The album presents a never-heard combination of unique instrumentation, including Indian tablas, Hawaiian percussion, African Ngoni (harp), custom and rare guitars, and ambient soundscapes. The music at times feels like a tapestry of dreamy ambiance, Hawaiian music, African kora music, jazz, and world music reminiscent of the 70’s band Shakti with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussein, who the tabla player Jaffe counts as one of his primary teachers and with whom he has performed en ensemble.
West, respected in his own right with a 2021 Grammy win for More Guitar Stories, is also well known as the lead guitarist with “Weird” Al Yankovic for over 40 years. In fact, he is currently on 130+ date tour with Weird Al! Additionally, West will be portrayed in an upcoming Weird Al feature biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe coming out this fall.
Jaffe is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist known for his ambient album Meditation Music, which reached number 3 on Billboard’s New Age Chart in 2019. He has toured the world, performing at premier yoga events and transformational festivals.
The album opener “Blossom” was also the lead single released late last year. The inspiration for this song was to open the album with a light, sunny, happy, upbeat track. The guitar evokes the descending and ascending melodic runs of a kora (African harp). The instrumentation includes Ngoni, playing a fun 6/8 ostinato with an African high-life feel. The tabla brings in world instrumentation with an uplifting, lilting groove that brings to mind a flower opening to the sun.
If Blossom is bright and sunny, the next track, “Open Ocean,” also released as a single last year, is more profound, more lunar, and moodier. A very different type of 6/8 groove creates a deeply meditative feel. Percussion comes from an Ipu Heke Hawaiian gourd with layers of shakers for a trance-like vibe. The middle section brings in the Bansuri bamboo flute from India. The ending ride out opens up into a major key refrain with a longing, hopeful energy, like clouds parting over the sea.
The album’s central track, “Free Float,” and third single, released this year, has been described by West as, “The most relaxing song I’ve ever recorded.” It features Joss’ vocalization to create an ambient pad with slow, meditative washes of notes surrounded by Ngoni and guitar for a dreamy atmosphere. This song is perfect for spa, massage, floatation therapy, and savasana.
“Kauai Daydream,” the album’s most recent single, invites you to picture yourself in Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai, looking out across the water to the green cliffs and mountains running off to the Nāpali Coast of Hawaii. You see clouds dance over the blue sky, idyllic, peaceful, and restful. It’s as relaxing as an afternoon daydream on the garden isle.
The focus track for the album release is “River,” which evokes the famous jazz/Indian classical/world fusion album Meeting by The River by Ry Cooder and VM Bhatt. “River” has a driving tabla beat that speeds up to a crescendo with slide guitar and layers that at times sound like blues, jazz, world, and classical Indian music.
Other tracks on the album include “No Rain No Rainbows,” from an expression popular in Hawaii that is similar to the Buddhist saying “No mud no lotus.” It speaks to the beauty that emerges from what’s dark, cloudy, or challenging; “Path Through The Bamboo” is a short interlude evoking the feeling of walking through a peaceful, tropical bamboo grove with the wind rustling above and the bamboo drifting around you; the album’s penultimate track “Voyaging” is dreamy ambient piece evoking the lilting, rolling waves of the open sea; the album closes with “White Sand Blue Waves,” a gentle, soothing ambient piece that is perfect for savasana, yoga, meditation, or just relaxation.
Not on the album, but a bit of a bonus single on all platforms, Jaffe and West cover John Lennon’s classic “Imagine.” The track is a benefit for Seeds of Peace, an organization that equips exceptional youth and educators with the skills and relationships to work in solidarity across lines of difference to create more just and inclusive societies. For info on this single, please go here.
Listeners are sure to enjoy this sonic trip to Hawaii by way of India and Africa! Aum Akua is released by Be Why Music, the California-based record label dedicated to music that uplifts humanity and known for its three Best New Age Album Grammy winners.