Heart of the Suns 1979 ♥︎ 2019
Youth (May 2019)
Suns of Arqa...Wow, you need this in your collection. Incredible compilation drawn from a vast catalog of rare and beautiful artistry . Lovingly curated by interchill ... world wide recognition and success awaits the mighty Wadada and Suns Of Arqa deserve every drop....pioneers and innovators, they have been pushing the threshold for decades. Essentially classical Indian ragas.... in Dub. Extasy for the soul and the dancing feet. Some of the best remixes I’ve ever heard and been involved with.
Bob Duskis / Co-Founder Six Degrees Records (May 2019)
A lovely sonic reminder that not only were Suns of Arqa one of the earliest ensembles to fuse the sounds of India with Ambient, Psychedelic Dub music, they remain one of the most interesting practitioners of Ambient Global Fusion to this day. A feast for both fans and newbies who are looking to dive into this group’s diverse and legendary catalog.
Rachel Sacks / Metaforce (May 2019)
What a pleasure to re-encounter these magical compositions, refreshed and remastered! Way back when I started bringing instrumentation into my DJ sets in the mid-90s, Suns of Arqa showed me the way, and these tracks still resonate deeply. Michael Wadada is a one-of-a-kind maestro, bringing together diverse musicians and producers to integrate pure organic sound and Eastern musical traditions with technology and hypnotic beats. This is such a timely release to inspire a new generation of musicians and producers to keep pushing forward. Thank you Interchill!
Ian Taylor / Liquid Lounge (May 2019)
This compilation, compiled by Andrew at Interchill, cherry picks some of the less obvious, but equally important tracks from their back catalogue, to be given a remastering and a new audience... Suns of Arqa are recognized for being the first band to blend Indian classical music with dub and dance infused beats. They are one of the true originators of the whole global music scene and influencing many musicians, dj's and music lovers all over the world, playing everywhere from WOMAD to Ozora. They are as as valid today, especially in the 'ecstatic dance movement' that has evolved...
CD Hotlist (May 2019)
Today, the idea of blending Indian classical music with dub and electronica may not sound particularly strange or even innovative. But Suns of Arqa–a rotating cast of musicians that orbits around founder Michael Wadada–has now been doing that for 40 years. I promise you, it was a much wilder idea in 1979. Anyway, over the course of those four decades Wadada and his collaborators have produced an extensive catalog of some of the deepest cross-cultural grooves you can imagine, and this beautifully-selected retrospective offers a perfect introduction to the group’s unique art. You’ve got your techno-flavored stompers, your floating dub blissouts, and your electro-funk drones, all shot through with various kinds of pancultural textures and melodies and all of it done respectfully and insightfully. Here’s hoping for another couple of decades of output from this band, at the very least.
Freq.org.uk (May 2019)
It’s incredible to think that Suns Of Arqa have been making music for forty years now. I first came across them at the start of the 1990s when they were being lumped in with other ambient dance artists such as The Orb, Future Sound of London and Banco de Gaia as that scene exploded in 1991. So here is Heart Of The Suns, a thirteen-track celebration that tries to cover some of what the Suns have done over the years.
The album opens with “Gavati”, a track that particularly hit me at the time of its release in 1992 as I was leafing my way through Muzz Murray’s book Seeking The Master – A Guide To The Ashrams of India and dreaming of my first visit to the subcontinent. Sarangi and tablas mix effortlessly with the more dub elements of bass and drums in what is for me the signature Suns of Arqa sound. This has you dreaming by the Ganges as the busy pace of life happens around you and the sun sets over the water. “Heart Of The Suns” starts with a beautiful drone, which again makes you want to drift in a blissful energy; slowly, other acoustic instruments come in, as does a sampled chanting voice. The overall feel of the track is one of devotion, while here the dub elements are not so prominent, but you are carried on a wave of positive energies to the life source of our planet.
“The Lama Geshe” gives us a Tibetan Buddhist vibe as chanting voices call to the mountains as Nicolas Magriel’s sarangi plays beautifully over Wadada’s throbbing bass, and some curious percussion adds to its exotic blend of sounds. Here are the Suns going to the edge of ragas and merging it with the slight buzz of electronica. “Gawati” takes on a more solitary mood as the sarangi and bass chime against each other, with some psychedelic backward masking to help open up your third eye. “Sul-E-Stomp” is a full-on ambient track that certainly fits in well with other artists from the period and is mixed by Astralasia’s Swordfish, full of swirling synth rhythms and a big bass drum beat that would have got you up and on the dance floor at Megadog.
Radio signals herald “Ahuras Fravashis (Ambient Edit)” as what sounds like a flute is played over distant voices and various bleeps appear as a singular synth sound collides with planets over the top. The Orb’s Youth remixes “Whirling Forest”, and with its pulsating synth sound and steady rhythmic beat, it feels like the sound you hear from a distance in the jungle as you approach a Goa trance party in the early evening. The flute on this is particularly beautiful and the sound of sampled bird sounds takes you deep into the jungle of your mind, then back to those glorious spring evenings near the beach in India.
“Dreadquong” has more of a tribal dawn feel to it; here, the dub rhythm is back and this time it is the backbeat to beautiful lullaby-sounding vocals. We watch the sun rise and the stars slowly recede as the light of a new day appears. “Sanskrit Hymn” is a stunning piece with some glorious vocals that make you want to meditate on the universe for a while. The flute opening to “Ageing – Mimansa” is rather wonderful and reminds me of the playing of Nawang Khechog. When the chiming sounds and soft synth pads come in, you are transported to a heavenly realm where your mind is at peace. This is the music of the Himalaya played out like the soundtrack to the film Baraka.
“Kalavati Alap” uses drones and flutes again as its central premise, and captures the feel of the early morning traveller making their way through parts of the mountainous regions in the north of the country as the landscape is unveiled before them. The flute plays an alluring array of notes while the other instruments give the feeling of serenity. “Cosmic Jugalbandi” is music for those midday meditations at the ashram while the great mother river passes by, carrying the weight of everything she has collected from the mountains until she meets the sea in the south. The flute plays a raga as the world rages around it. Voices sound triumphant over steady synth pads at the start of “Formorian”, and tablas come in and add a beatific sense of rhythm to what is a fairly languid piece.
Compilation albums are always hard to review, because you always think there is something missing from them; especially when the tracks are chosen to cover such a long period of time, and maybe the essence gets distilled a bit. This could easily have been a double CD to really cover everything that the Suns do in depth. Anyway, Heart Of The Suns is a beautiful set of songs and certainly makes a fine introduction to the band, and I hope it makes people go and explore their music further. Here’s to another forty years.
Revenge of the Mozabites (1979 LP reissued in USA on CD 2017)
SpectrumCulture.com (November 2017)
There is “world music” and then there is world music. The former is a lazy catch-all for the myriad genres spread across innumerable cultures – i.e. non-Western music – while the latter is a true cooption of the many disparate styles contained within the “world music” umbrella that, when paired together, result in something truly representative of the world as a whole. Since its inception in the late-1970s, Suns of Arqa has seen some 200 members pass through its ranks, each of whom represent a wholly different and unique cultural contribution to the group’s sound. At the center of it all is Michael Wadada who, in his global travels, collected recordings and performances with scores of musicians that he then fused into his own unique vision of world music.
Because of the range of sounds and styles found on a Suns of Arqa album, it’s impossible to classify it as anything other than pan-global world music in its purest form. From traditional folk sounds from the British Isles to Eastern melodies to echo-y dub to flamenco and very nearly all points in between (often at the same time!), their debut album Revenge of the Mozabites plays as though the listener were constantly scanning the dial on a giant radio that managed to receive signals from all over the globe. A quick scan of the track list for Revenge gives an idea of the stylistic disparity represented throughout: “Acid Tabla”; “Sully’s Reel”; “Ananta Snake Dance”; “Sanaiscara Saturn.” The unifying thread is Wadada’s rhythmic stitching, used in such a way that these otherwise vastly different – culturally, geographically, politically, philosophically – styles come together to form a gorgeous sonic patchwork quilt.
Given the sheer stylistic disparity contained on Reven of the Mozabites, it can, at first, be somewhat of a jarring listen; random fragments come together throughout to bridge otherwise vast physical and cultural differences. Taken together as a whole, however, they show the true universality of music as it pertains to the human experience: While the sounds and tonalities might vary greatly, the underlying principle behind each remains the same, namely to elicit some sort of emotional or visceral response from the listener. With each melded together, it becomes almost overwhelming attempting to process the many different elements competing for the same amount of sonic real estate. This wild juxtaposition shows the influence of Suns of Arqa to have spread far and wide, ranging from ambient to dub to electronic to “world music” and how each is perceived.
Without any sort of stylistic parameters or restrictions in place, Wadada and company manage a truly liberating listening experience, one that constantly defies expectation and opens up a series of otherwise geographically remote musical ideas in a truly global sense, showing not only just how small the world really is, but how inherently similar we all are regardless of our perceived differences. It’s not for nothing that the cover image is merely that of an eye in close up, a distant Earth reflected in the pupil. Despite having been created nearly 40 years ago, Revenge of the Mozabites remains shockingly modern. Forward-thinking and utterly unique, Revenge of the Mozabites – and Suns of Arqa in general – is unlike anything else because it pulls from everything else.
Seven (1987 LP reissued in USA on CD 2017)
Corbett vs Dempsey (October 2017)
Perhaps the greatest record in the Suns of Arqa discography, Seven was released in 1987 and was in fact the band’s fifth LP. With its stunning cover design and outlandishly ambitious sound, steeped in dub but festooned with plainchant and Indian music, it was alone in the market, its closest relatives maybe African Head Charge or New Age Steppers, but with a host of original ideas and musical intersections and an incredible, almost unthinkable cast of participants. Among the singers is the British singer-songwriter Helen Watson, punk poet John Cooper Clarke, talk-over star Prince Hammer, and comedic genius Professor Stanley Unwin, all of whom offer their unique and unconventional words to the dub stew. A powerhouse Jamaican rhythm section is filtered through sitar, shenai, santoor, and tabla, hurdy-gurdy and pennywhistle, strings and saxophone, all orchestrated by the inimitable Michael Wadada, founding father of Suns of Arqa. On this reissue, Seven’s first time available in the U.S., the LP’s cover has been restored to its initial glory for the first time on CD, and the original music is available complete in one package for the first time, adding five extra tracks not included on the LP.