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.
Markay’s albums are available at the leading online retail stores such as www.amazon.com and www.cdbaby.com.
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 may have been the first person to ever do so) 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."