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Mantra Brothers' Invoke: Album Review

I first met Noah Hoffeld in Taos NM, at the Hanuman Temple Grand Opening and Guru Purnima celebration. My wife, and I were rocking out some parking-lot Seva. We were standing at the entrance on the road in official looking traffic-vests, and basically just jiao-ing a bunch of beautiful bhaktas from trying to enter the full parking lot near the Ashram— redirecting them towards the overflow parking nearer in towards town. As the sun began to set and our duties started to wind down, I saw a familiar face walking towards us from down the street. It was Noah, whom I was excited to meet, having seen him play alongside Krishna Das numerous times, and having just been blown away by a really cool project he, Mirabai Starr and Jenny Bird, had shared with all of us at the Taos gathering the day prior. Exchanging introductions and a warm conversation, I was delighted to see, and feel, his presence throughout the celebration, his cello adding such an immense depth and bhav to the already essence-steeped week in Taos.

Having had this experience, upon returning back home to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville NC, I was delighted, to say the least, when I found out Noah, and his brilliant and multifacetedly talented brother Jeremy (check out his jaw-dropping artwork!), were joining forces to release a devotional album of mantra songs.

Mantra Brothers, Jeremy and Noah Hoffeld

Invoke, the debut album by Mantra Brothers, Jeremy and Noah Hoffeld, is a deeply layered offering of devotion. This album doesn’t feel like performance, it feels like practice in the most personal sense— from the heart and shared with a consolidated intention of union through music and mantra.

Jeremy and Noah, who describe themselves as “two seekers at the crossroads of sound and prayer” both journeyed unique, yet congruent paths to first find their way into music, and then into spirituality years later. Entering their sonic flow initially in high school, they honed their skills in the realms of Jazz and Classical music respectively, As time progressed, after experiencing the subtle, yet life-changing potencies of mantra meditation and spiritual-inquiry, certain doors began opening in their lives.

Noah, already an immensely gifted musician who at the time was practicing the likes of Bach and Beethoven on his cello in San Francisco, took his first major steps onto the yogic path studying under the South Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Feeling his way into devotional kirtan music, he began playing with various groups like the Art of Living, and Sri Kirtan, to share his practice in a public forum. A personal retreat at Baba Ram Dass’ home in Maui would spark a crucial meeting with the world famous kirtan wallah Krishna Das, and a rather quick welcoming for Noah onto the KD tour circuit.

Concurrently, Jeremy, whose creativity just seems to ooze out in all facets, was making a name for himself in the world of contemporary art— displaying a natural aptitude and fantastic prowess for both high-movement, feeling-inducing Abstract pieces, as well as mind-blowingly realistic Figurative works. Delving into Jeremy’s art, you can see over the years his journey along the spiritual path. This is exemplified in not only his portraits of sacred beings, but also in the subtle meditative and unitive nuances encoded into the entirety of his body of work.

A brilliant depiction by Jeremy of one of the first encounters Baba Ram Dass had with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba

Musically, inspired by John Coltrane, Jeremy quickly adopted a loving affinity towards jazz. Picking up a saxophone at a young age and honing his craft years later under the visceral auditory guidance of legendary jazz musicians Arnie Lawrence and Reggie Workman, Jeremy began to awaken to sense of something divine encased within music, a “higher purpose,” as he describes it. Congruently, around this time he would open to a higher purpose in the realm of spirituality as well, as he began to discover potent truths in yoga and various Eastern traditions. This would magnetize him to study with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York, and also, like his brother, bring him to the feet of the radiant Baba Ram Dass at his beautiful Maui abode.

Creativity and devotion being the two running themes and driving forces behind these two brother’s journeys, it’s no surprise that these natural arising causes and conditions fruited the apple of Mantra Brothers’ Invoke from the blossoming tree of Hoffeld. The seeds of Mantra Brothers were originally planted by Jeremy, whom alongside keeping a consistent outflow of visual artwork, had also encompassed a rich well of mantra songs he created within the context of his personal spiritual practice. Noah, hearing his brother’s music, was inspired to create similarly styled devotional music of his own, and water the sprouting album project which would bloom into Invoke.

Taking your first dive into the album, you will notice the deeply textured layers of the wonderful and pleasure-inducing dichotomy of the bright and flowing groove of Jeremy’s saxophone, offset and cradled by the deep and moving sway of Noah’s cello. It is this balance that creates an album that is as fervently uplifting, energizing and bold, as it is haunting, dark, and immersive. It is within the spiraled convergence of these nuanced elements that an enriching and nourishing new devotional sound has been teased out of the universe by Mantra Brothers.

The vocals/mantras, which, like the rest of the music, are masterfully layered and textured, flow in and out of each other like a pure in-breath / out-breath. Like a heavily steeped tea, each and every sang mantra on this album is swathed in true bhav and an unbridled devotion. This is where Invoke truly differs from many other mantra-based albums, in so that it feels like a truly imbibed devotional practice. As you listen to each mantra, you are invited and teased ever further into the richness and a deepness that is Jeremy and Noah’s personal spiritual practices, shared with you here in the heart space of this album.

As Jeremy’s teacher and jazz legend Arnie Lawrence would say, “When you play, you pray,” and I don’t know if one statement could better summate what Mantra Brothers have done with this masterful album.

Invoke by Mantra Brothers will be available on Aug 15th on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and wherever you find your music. Please support these amazing human beings.

With Love,

Ganesh Das

For more info on Jeremy and Noah:

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