Album: Healing Ragas III
Artist: Manish Vyas

Healing Ragas 3Manish Vyas (pronounced Mahn-ish Vi-us) is quite a prolific recording artist. Healing Ragas III is the second album that I have had the pleasure of featuring this year, since writing about his beautiful Atma Bhakti CD on the Malimba Records label. Manish has a rich musical and spiritual background, which I wrote about extensively in the Atma Bhakti feature article. So rather than repeat it all here, I’ll refer readers who may be interested to that article here on Music and Media Focus. However, l will provide just the briefest glimpse at some of the highlights.


Growing up in India, Manish had the opportunity to study with many renowned music teachers including long-time Ravi Shankar accompanist and tabla master Ustad Allarakha. Manish has recorded, performed and toured with many well-known artists such as Snatam Kaur, Deva Pemal, Prem Joshua, Nandin, Chinmaya Dunster to name but a few. In 2002 he had the honor of playing in an ensemble at Sir Paul McCartney’s wedding. For Manish VyasManish, music and spirituality are inseparable and his recordings and performances are infused with years of meditation and spiritual study he has devoted his life to. Particular teachers who have had a profound effect on Manish are Osho and Gurudev.


Shifting to the present, in my interview with Manish, he shared some thoughts about this current release and the inspiration behind it: “Basically the music I have composed for Healing Ragas III is with the intention of creating a space of being, healing and relaxing, effortlessly allowing the listener to touch the deep space of silence and meditation. It is a very individual process so I do not claim it will happen for everyone. I just make music with this intention and prayer in the heart and then let music take over.” Somewhat similar to his previous album, this one features two extended-length tracks that run just over a half hour each. As he describes: “Both these tracks were born in a space of love and longing. When love catches a fire, it becomes longing, a thirst. In that space, it transforms into devotion. Love has the power to awaken too. That is why one of the pieces is called ‘Awakening’ and the other is called ‘Solitude’.”


Manish on the santoor

Manish on the santoor

On this album, Manish plays tablas and percussion, santoor, keyboards, swarmandal, and bells. For those who may not be familiar, the santoor is an Indian stringed musical instrument, played by striking it with a pair of little wooden hammers. The swarmandal is basically a small harp. It is generally used for the drone to accompany vocalists in Hindustani Classical music. In addition, the bamboo bansuri flute is played by Milind Date, a disciple of maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia. The two songs on this recording are original compositions based on traditional Indian ragas.



Milind Date

Milind Date

From the opening sweep of harp strings over a dreamy keyboard soundscape, the listener is drawn right into an exotically enchanted space on a half hour long journey called “Awakening – Raga Basant Mukhari.” Milind’s meditative flute adds a melodic element alternating with the hammer dulcimer-like sound of Manish on santoor. The use of reverb and echo on the flute add a mystical far-away feel that reminded me of the caves in the movie A Passage To India. After drifting serenely for approximately eight and a half minutes, there is a shift as Manish begins a relaxed rhythm on the tabla drums, providing a sense of motion. The rhythm doesn’t alter the deep space that has been established but actually entrains the listener in its flow. An interesting feature of this section is that until now the santoor and flute have been alternating, but here for a while, they play a melody in unison, which is quite a lovely effect. The synthesizer background is subtle and supportive, creating a cloud of ambient sound for the music to float on.


The second of the two half hour tracks is “Solitude – Raga Malkauns.” While “Awakening” is considered an early morning raga to start the day with, “Solitude” is a midnight raga. The first word that comes to mind in listening to it is: “deep.” Manish’s music is truly designed for an inner journey. I particularly enjoyed hearing it with headphones, as the wonderful stereo imaging is enhanced and the tinkling chimes, bells, and Indian harp glissandos move between the left and right side creating an immersive listening experience. Milind’s long sustained flute notes add to the celestial ambiance. As on “Awakening,” Manish brings in his tabla beat later in the song, although this time at around eleven minutes in. Other percussive accents are also heard as well as the santoor.


Although the two tracks are quite long at about thirty-three minutes each, they never seem repetitive or drawn out. There is a constant current of musical elements that come in and out of the mix as the raga evolves. Once immersed in the flow, you almost don’t want it to end as you drift downstream in sonic serenity. Healing Ragas III makes an absolutely exquisite soundtrack for meditation, massage and therapeutic practices, yoga, or just relaxing.


tablasAccording to Manish: “The material I select to play is always on a higher plane going to a higher dimension. That has always been my preference, to work on music that lifts you from the level of the mind and takes you up higher. My music is done from the heart, it is hundred percent genuine. I am not commercial in that sense.” While there is a lot of music these days that mixes in a dash of sitar or other Indian influences, I greatly respect the authenticity of Manish’s music and his adherence to traditional Indian scales and forms. In his words: “A motivation for me is to represent and keep the legitimate conception of this music and transmit it to those who are still capable to distinguish and appreciate it.” A perfect note to end this article on is with the words of Kabir, a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, which grace the back cover of the Healing Ragas III CD:




“Music without words means leaving behind the mind.

And leaving behind the mind is meditation.

Meditation returns you to the source,

and the source of all is Sound.”



Click the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album: