CD: Love Language
Artist: Wouter Kellerman

Love LanguageSometimes in life, events happen that cause you to stop what you are doing at the moment and put it on the back burner for a while. Although South African flute maestro Wouter Kellerman started recording his new release, Love Language, back in 2012, he put it aside when the opportunity arose to collaborate with producer Ricky Kej of India on an album called Winds Of Samsara. And it’s a good thing he did, as that recording went on to win the GRAMMY in the New Age category in 2014! And that’s not all. Winds Of Samsara also reached number 1 on the US Billboard New Age Albums chart, and also peaked at number 1 on the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 International Radio Airplay Chart in July 2014, as well as winning both the ZMR “Album of the Year” and “Best World Album” awards.


However, winning awards is not a new experience for Wouter. He has been honored with five SAMA’s (South African Music Award, equivalent to the American GRAMMY.) His performances include sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in NYC and the GRAMMY Museum in LA in 2014, as well as at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and the FIFA Soccer World Cup Closing Ceremony to a global TV audience of 700 million people! One of the highlights of his career was performing his composition “The Long Road” – a flute solo for Nelson Mandela, on Nelson worldinstrumentsMandela Day in South Africa for a stadium of 80,000 people. This is just a small sampling of Wouter’s illustrious music career, which also includes performances in Berlin, Shanghai, Sydney, Cannes, France, and more.


Wouter’s world travels have influenced him profoundly and are reflected in his music, which is a melting pot of global musical flavors and sonic spices. In particular on Love Language, his fourth release, sounds of Senegal, Spain, Cuba, India, Greece, and the US, blend in sweet harmony. But as seemingly different as all these cultures may appear on the surface, the common thread that unites them all is love. Here, Wouter elaborates on this subject: “Just as we learn to speak within our first years on earth, so we all learn to love. And that simple choice to love not only your partner or family member, but everyone around you, is the seed from which this album project grew. Some people show love by giving presents or by complimenting someone, spending time with them or by touch, but my love language is music.”


Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman at The GRAMMY's

Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman at The GRAMMY’s

So lets open our hearts and ears and check out the sound of Love Language. On the opening track the dynamic duo of Wouter and Ricky Kej ride again, on Ricky’s composition entitled “Aishwarya,” Although they’ve brought some reinforcements along in the form of a string section, brass section, choir, keyboards, bass, percussion, and more. With approximately three-dozen people involved in this song alone, there isn’t room to list all the musicians as I write about the various tracks on the album. But they certainly do make some beautiful music together. While some know Wouter for his African-influenced music, this track transcends all boundaries and includes elements of classical, world music, and film score styles. It’s a huge powerful production that can best be described by the word “epic” – although, that comes as no surprise with Ricky Kej being involved.


This album is chock full of surprises, and the next track “Winter” is no exception. It’s actually an excerpt of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” presented in a way that you’ve never heard before. In addition to Wouter’s melodious flute and other instruments, this rendition features the Soweto Gospel Choir, bringing a soulfulness to the piece that Vivaldi, or most classical music lovers for that matter, could scarcely have imagined. The inspiring earthy sounds of the choir flashed me back for a minute to some of the music on Paul Simon’s classic Graceland album, which served as a lot of Westerner’s first exposure to this African vocal style.


Highlighting another corner of the globe on track 3 is a traditional Irish song called “Si Do Mhaimeo,” which is presented inWouter on stage anything but a traditional way. I particularly enjoyed the call and response in the intro between Wouter’s percussive flute style and the upbeat marimba playing of Kevin Lucas, who is quite an outstanding artist in his own right. As we have already seen in just the first three tracks, there is quite a diversity of material on this album. And that certainly doesn’t change with the next song, “Up To The Mountain,” which is a gospel-infused rendition of song by Patty Griffin that pays tribute to the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


With 14 incredibly unique songs on Love Language, I won’t go into detail on all of them, but will be happy to provide an overview of some of the highlights. One of the quieter moments on the album is found on “Solo Tu/ Still Life” which was inspired by the soundtrack to a 2002 film called Frida, which is based on the life of Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. Wouter fell in love with this film and here re-imagines a poignant section of the film’s soundtrack. Just as Wouter’s music bridges many cultures, the American folk song, “Shenandoah,” tells the story of the love between a French trader and the daughter of a Native American chief. It’s a moving tale that features some lovely interplay between Wouter’s heartfelt flute work and one of my favorite acoustic guitarists, Todd Boston. And speaking of guitar, Adam del Monte is on fire in “Guajira,” which blends Cuban and Spanish-bred Flamenco styles, providing a fast paced rhythmic foundation for Wouter to dance over with his fleet-footed flute playing.


mandela-dayIn contrast to the extensive and intensive ensemble work featured on the album is “The Long Road,” Wouter’s exquisite solo flute tribute to Nelson Mandela, mentioned earlier in this article. It’s an expressive original composition presented in three movements that shine a spotlight on Wouter’s virtuoso flute work. His command of the instrument is beyond impressive as he employs techniques I’ve never heard before. I especially enjoyed his percussive technique that is almost like a cross between flute and beat boxing – incredibly innovative. The album ends with a wistful ballad entitled “Love Gets Old,” that is highlighted by a duet between Wouter on flute, and the “heartbreaking” violin of Kelly Hall-Tompkins. The melody, at times, reminded me a bit of the feel of “Fields Of Gold” by Sting, and provides a perfect cool-down to an album of great energy and often multi-cultural intensity.


I used the word “epic” in describing the first track on this album. That description could apply equally to the whole recording, although in capital letters with a few exclamation points. It is an incredibly expansive production that includes the talents of dozens of musicians from around the world. The amount of planning and work that must have gone into Conceptual peace and cultural diversity symbol of multiracial haputting this all together is almost unimaginable. On one level, this project is larger than life, yet on another level it is life, capturing the day to day musical expressions our global family and combining them together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes someone with great vision to not only imagine but to implement a project of this magnitude and Wouter Kellerman is definitely one of those visionaries. Love Language is truly an album of staggering proportion. While Love Language includes a huge variety of musicians, instruments, and diverse styles it is ultimately the sound of one heart beating. As Wouter shares: “The theme of loving joins us all together, and music bridges cultural gaps, becoming a universal language that communicates across seemingly insurmountable barriers.”