BARBARAMARKAY On her third album, SHAMBHALA DANCE, Barbara Markay offers music to enhance the journey towards spiritual enlightenment – sounds for the body, mind and spirit.SHAMBHALA DANCE blends world-beat grooves, sultry flamenco guitar, violin tinged with Middle Eastern influences, occasional new age vocals, and a wide variety of other sounds including pop-oriented electric guitar and ethnic percussion from around the world.
“I try to create music that will help awaken all of us to the calling of the universal rhythmic pulse,” explains Barbara.“Shambhala represents the guidance for humanity.There is this wonderful, flowing, positive, totally-organized energy from shambhala that nurtures our whole progression and evolution.That rhythm of life is like a dance to me, and it inspired this music.” SHAMBHALA DANCE went to #3 on the national NEW AGE REPORTER charts.The seven songs – ranging in length from seven to nine-and-a-half-minutes – were written, arranged and produced by Markay, who also plays keyboards and sings on the three vocal tracks.She is joined by Alberto de Almar (Alicia Keys, Keiko Matsui, Doug Cameron) on flamenco and electric guitars, Eric Gorfain (Grant Lee Phillips, Lisa Lynne, Lowen & Navarro) on violin, Tim May (Stan Getz, Les McCann, Michael Feinstein, Lionel Ritchie, Sarah Brightman) on electric guitar, Joseph Lecuona (Jon Anderson, Judy Collins) on vocals, among others.
Markay brings a wealth of musical experience to the project.She graduated from prestigious Juilliard College, had salsa dance hits in Europe, wrote and performed a musical comedy revue in Miami Beach and New York City, sang backup with Bruce Willis and his blues band, wrote arrangements for the Saturday Night Live Band, did synthesizer programming on a Carly Simon album and the Michael Jackson “Bad” video, and composed music for India’s revered spiritual teacher Sathya Sai Baba.
“I wanted the music on this album to be entertaining, but I did create it with a higher purpose,” explains Markay.“If you simply sway to the rhythms, that can be enough.But I think of this music as meditation with movement.I tried to create a musical atmosphere of intense, vital emotions that are sensual and pulsing, but also meditative at the same time.In addition, I wanted the music to exude a healing energy.”
Barbara created the bulk of the music on the album on keyboards.“I left improvisational sections open for the other instruments – the violin, flamenco guitar and electric guitars.I wanted to use the violin to communicate to the listener in ways that were different than what they might hear in classical music.I fell in love with the flamenco guitar sound three years ago when I visited Spain and heard flamenco guitarists in a club in Seville.”
The CD closes with a seven-minute version of the traditional Sanskrit chant “The Gayatri.”It begins and ends with Sathya Sai Baba chanting.In between, the four lines of the chant are explored in different ways musically.“Each line is meaningful to me so I wanted to spotlight each phrase.”Markay first heard the chant in India at Sai Baba’s ashram where she was asked to be the musical director for their annual Christmas play which included composing music for the event.
Barbara was born and raised on Long Island, New York, in Rockville Center.She began taking piano lessons when she was four.When she was ten, she auditioned and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School of Music’s Preparatory Division.The following year she also began attending the Manhattan School of Music to study violin.For three summers as a teenager she won scholarships to the Chatauqua Institute for the Arts in upstate New York.At 17, Barbara spent the summer touring southern Italy as a violinist with the American Festival Orchestra and playing piano with their chamber music group.
Markay went on to attend the College Division of Juilliard where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition.She entered college as a piano major, but realized she was more enamored with writing music.As part of her college studies, she was writing dissonant, atonal music.Eventually, after so many years of concentrating on classical repertoire, she began listening to pop music (The Eagles, Sting, Prince, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins) and started composing in the pop genre.
After graduation Barbara formed The Girl Scouts, a group of women singers featuring five-part harmony and singing Markay’s songs. At a performance at Rykers Island Women’s Prison, tunes like “Vibrator Blues” and “Women in Jail” incited inmates to rush the stage and guards to draw weapons, although a full scale riot was narrowly avoided.Markay continued to write humorously-risqué material for her next group, Little Lulu and The Humpers.Their show, a rock musical revue, was sold out for two shows each night for two months in Miami Beach, Florida.The revue relocated to New York City and played at the famous Half Note Club.
Markay began recording original pop music with salsa-dance influences.Performing under her own name with her own band, she toured Europe extensively which led to a record deal with WEA International.The label released the single “It’s Alright” which went to #17 on Billboard magazine’s European pop charts (the song also was released in Asia and South America).The next year she had another hit in France on the Musicdisc label with “I Don’t Want To Be A Zombie” which went to #2 on the dance charts in that country.
“After I returned to New York City, I met my first meditation teacher in 1985 and it completely changed the personal and musical path I was on.”Barbara recorded her first album, CHANGE TO COME.The music was pop-oriented, but the lyrics, on songs such as “Woman of Light” and “Wake Up and Live,” were beginning to show the spiritual evolution she was going through.She also started listening to Ravi Shankar and gospel groups such as Reverend Milt Brunson and the Mississippi Mass Choir.In addition, Barbara worked as an assistant to Leon Pendarvis (a well-known arranger for acts such as Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and George Duke) which included programming synthesizers and other studio work.Pendarvis wrote additional music at the beginning and end of the Michael Jackson video for “Bad,” produced by Quincy Jones and directed by Martin Scorcese, and Markay did synth programming on the project as well as on Carly Simon’s COMING AROUND AGAIN album.
Markay moved to Los Angeles where she performed with Bruce Willis, singing backup with his blues group The Accelerators.She also wrote, recorded and released her second album, the world-pop-Latin-jazz HEART LIKE A SONG.“I was listening to a lot of Buena Vista Social Club, Los Van Van and Sidestepper at the time.”The album continued to explore spiritual themes with songs such as “All Is One.”In addition, Barbara co-wrote, co-produced and performed on the recording CANCIONES ROMANTICAS by Joseph Lecuona, part of a legendary Cuban musical family (his mother Margarita Lecuona, whom Joseph performed with, was a famous singer-songwriter who wrote the Desi Arnaz tune “Babalu;” and his great uncle Ernesto Lecuona composed the classic “Malaguena”).For two years Markay was invited to sing “The Great Invocation” at a gathering at Mount Shasta celebrating the Tibetan Wesak Festival after she put this new age prayer to music and recorded it as a single.
In the past few years Barbara has been influenced more and more by world music artists including Jai Uttal, Sheila Chandra, Chebi Sabbah, Buena Vista Social Club, Coyote Oldman, Caetano Veloso, Natacha Atlas, Angelique Kidjo, and Irakere. Regarding her SHAMBHALA DANCE album, Markay says, “My intent was to create music that would give the listener a boost in the direction of higher consciousness.”
In 2005 her “Shambhala Dance” world beat album climbed to #3 on the New Age Reporter Music Charts, becoming #17 on the 2005 annual charts, and won “Best dance/dub/club album of the year” , New Age Reporter finalist 2005 Lifestyle Music Award.
Some “Shambhala Dance” reviews:
RJ Lannan, New Age Reporter, March 10, 2005 “Barbara Markay taps into the pulse of the planet and …Shambhala to bring you an album of upbeat dance grooves, sultry Spanish percussion and ethnic-tinged instrumentals…music that will escort you to a mystical place of relaxation and “dreamthought”….Markay’s warm organic voice balances well with the Middle Eastern rhythm and Mediterranean guitar…dramatic…guaranteed to get your pulse going…”
Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire magazine, April 2005 “…slinky and sexy…a tasty and spicy amalgam that is the aural equivalent of exotic cuisine!......a true “global stew” of sultry melodies and sensual beats…puts a fresh spin on a tired genre…she could stand toe-to-toe with James Asher…inspired!”
"WIND and WIRE" Magazine Review of Shambhala Dance reviewed by Bill Binkelman | www.windandwire.com |firstname.lastname@example.org BARBARA MARKAY | My Things Music (2004)
For awhile there, world fusion-electronica recordings were a dime-a-dozen, and some sounded like that, too unfortunately. Luckily, such is not the case with Barbara Markay's Shambhala Dance. Markay and her accompanists (Eric Gorfain-violin, Tim May-electric guitar, Alberto de Almar-flamenco and electric guitar) light things up in fine fashion, combining Middle East, East Indian, and Mediterranean tonalities and rhythms to cook up a true "global stew" of sultry melodies and sensual beats. The inclusion of violin on the more Middle Eastern-oriented opening track "Atlantis" and the mixture of fiery flamenco guitar (not to mention electric guitar leads deep in the mix) with what sounds like a santur (a Persian predecessor to the hammered dulcimer) and ethnic percussion from that same region and Northern Africa on "Metamorphosis" displays Markay's considerable skill at uniting disparate musical elements into a tasty and spicy amalgam that is the aural equivalent of exotic cuisine.
Markay proves equally adept at lacing a thread of chill-out and electronica textures and beats throughout the recording. I would even pay her the compliment that on the first three tracks (the aforementioned "Atlantis," "Metamorphosis" and "Message from Morpheus") she could stand toe-to-toe with James Asher (on recordings such as Raising the Rhythms, Colours of Trance, and maybe even Feet in the Soil). However, where Asher emphasized rhythm over all else (him being a drummer you'd expect that), Markay tends to stress instruments that carry the melody more often than not. I'd also like to extend praise to Joseph Lecuona who engineered and mastered the disc. He did an outstanding job, especially given the multitude of instruments. I was expecting a less than stellar technical album, based on the somewhat low-rent look to the CD (not that bad, just not up to major label status). However, this is an excellent sounding album, with synths, assorted acoustic and electronic percussion, and other instruments all well placed in the mix, yet never thrown together haphazardly.
Instrumental music devotees should be aware that there are two "straight up" vocal songs here ("Your Fire" and "Common Ground") with Markay handling the lead vocals. She has a solid singing voice, but the songs themselves are more pedestrian than the instrumental tracks, although I had no problem just playing through them. They're not bad, they just suffer in comparison since, as vocal numbers, the emphasis is on singing not on instrumental fireworks. Of the two, I preferred "Common Ground" which is a slinky and sexy tune, kind of a fusion lounge ballad. The CD's final cut ("The Gayatri") is an ethnic chant/song (with instruments, too, of course) sung in what is probably Indian or a Middle Eastern language. If you're into that kind of thing, it's a good example of how to do it (I'm just not that turned on by this type of vocal music).
On balance, I recommend Shambhala Dance. Another of its unique properties is that it contains only seven songs, the shortest one being 7:00 (including the three vocal tunes). Because this is world fusion music involving a lot of different instruments, and despite the length of tracks like "Metamorphosis" (over nine minutes!), the music seldom (if ever) wears out its welcome. I was engaged from the start of every song until it ended, even when listening intently. Credit is due Markay, her accompanists, and Lecuona for putting out an album that puts a fresh spin on a tired genre and doing it in both inspired and enjoyable ways.
New Age Reporter Magazine| RJ Lannan | March 2005
What News from the East?
The concept of Shambhala takes on many forms; a place for enlightenment to dwell within us or the kingdom of an illuminated society or perhaps a notion of a third dimension where compassion and dignity resides. Barbara Markay taps into the pulse of the planet and her perception of Shambhala to bring you an album of upbeat dance grooves, sultry Spanish percussion and ethnic-tinged instrumentals called Shambhala Dance.
As Markay suggests, the music provides meditation though dance. The seven track album has enough rhythmic music to keep you entranced for some time, so perhaps you may achieve a higher state or you may just enjoy swaying to the beat.
Joining Barbara on her journey to spiritual/musical enlightenment are guitarists Tim May and Alberto de Almar, violin player Eric Gorfain and vocalist Joseph Lecuona. Although there are only seven tunes on Shambhala Dance the shortest one is well over seven minutes and the longest is over nine minutes. Thus, there is much to energize and enthrall you within the fifty-seven minutes of music.
Atlantis is an incredible introduction to the power of Markay’s music. In the song she begins with a strong beat and the tinkle of glass as Gorfain’s ghostly violin score dances about to Middle Eastern rhythms and odd little nature sounds. You become fully engaged with the sad singing of the guitars and after a time, you feel as if your own heart beats to the music.
Filled with flamenco guitar and Middle Eastern zither, the tune Metamorphosis is guaranteed to get your pulse going. It has an innate beauty that calls to you like a zephyr from the desert on a starry night. You will be the one changing. Your Fire is my favorite of the two vocals on the album. Common Ground is the other. On Your Fire Markay’s warm organic voice balances well with the Middle Eastern rhythm and Mediterranean guitar. It is a love song about the fire of passion.
Message from Morpheus starts out with a decidedly funky beat. A bit surprising for this kind of album, but it soon transforms itself into a strange, flowing tune with a moaning guitar lead and a dance groove rhythm. The missive from Morpheus, the god of dreams, is that you need not be asleep to realize your dreams. Allow the music to take to that state between wakefulness and slumber. There you may find an answer. It is my favorite on the CD.
The final cut and one of the most dramatic songs on the album is her version of the mantra The Gayatri or prayer to the sun. The hymn is usually sung as the sun rises and it is an entreaty to the gods for blessings. As in many Tantric mantras, it is the belief in the power of magic combined with the compelling of the gods through prayer that makes the ritual produce positive results. Markay’s eerie rendition featuring Sathya Sai Baba. The additional voices of Stacy Rasfeld and Aaron Loo give sway to the powers of the mantra.
As a budding pianist Barbara Markay garnered a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music when she was ten (perhaps she saw Michael Dulin hanging around in the halls). She graduated from the college division as a composer and pianist. She has had her own one woman show, Little Lulu, composed music for India’s revered Sathya Sai Baba Organization and performed with rock stars Carly Simon and Eric Clapton. She also has two previously released albums, Change to Come and Heart Like a Song.
On Shambhala Dance Markay creates music that will escort you to a mystical place of relaxation and “dreamthought”. My advice is to get up, shake the cobwebs loose and go with the flow.
Steven Parente, The Smiling Ear radio show, Hilo, Hawaii February 1, 2005 "(I'd like to) say how "pleasantly" surprised I was to listen to Barbara Markay's Shambhala Dance CD. I included several songs and am already getting a favorable response from Smiling Ear listeners. The blend of sophisticated melodies and vocals over ambient world rhythms is both relaxing and refreshing. The sole purpose of the Smiling Ear is to discover and play music like this."
ALBUM CREDITS: all songs written, arranged and produced by barbara markay recorded, engineered and mastered by joseph armillas lecuona
electric guitar: tim may (atlantis, message from morpheus, common ground) flamenco guitar & electric guitar: alberto de almar (metamorphosis, your fire, & deep) violin: eric gorfain background vocals: barbara markay and joseph lecuona background vocals on The Gayatri: stacy rasfeld, aaron loo, barbara markay, & joseph lecuona flamenco vocal improvisation: joseph lecuona ("your fire")