Shivali – The Urban Temple
I had the pleasure of listening to “The Bhajan Project” and interviewing Shivali back in 2010 when she debuted her sound. Now, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing her latest album, “The Urban Temple.” She has received much acclaim for her debut album as well as for “The Urban Temple“. Both albums have done incredibly well in terms of sales and have catapulted Shivali to the top of the charts – globally and on iTunes. With “The Urban Temple” Shivali confirms that she is the new face of devotional music. She truly sounds like she loves what she is singing and has the perfect voice for bhajans.
The music production on this album is also top notch. Step aside AR Rahman, there’s a new king of music production in town – Arjun! Once you hear the album, you will agree that there is no doubt that Arjun, composer and producer of the album, is a genius! Over the next few years, I’m sure we’ll see his star rise even higher in the world of Urban Music and even Bollywood. His music production skills have become so much more refined since “The Bhajan Project”. It is the production that truly helps make “The Urban Temple” a keeper. As for Shivali, I expect her to continue to dominate the world of devotional music with her beautiful voice, and I hope she releases many more albums.
OVERALL = 4.5/5
Aum Namah – 4/5
“The Urban Temple” CD begins with a very calming prayer, “Aum Namah”. The placement of the track is perfect in the whole CD. The intro to the tune is great with the tabla beat added at just the right moment. The background flute on the track is also beautiful. The ocean sounding flare in the back truly kicks this song up a notch. This song, as produced, feels very uplifting and is sung well by Shivali. Instrumentation-wise, this track almost reminded me of tracks that the singer “Enya” would produce on her relaxation CDs. Felt like you were relaxing at a beach listening to the sounds of the ocean. I took off a point because the high notes in the song felt a bit strained at times. Also, sometimes words had a bit too much emphasis at the beginning (like on the “bhagvati”). I know this is a technicality, and didn’t occur often, but because the track had a very soft feel to it, even minor emphasis on words made it lose its softness. The overall track may have gotten a full score if it the vocals had been lowering by half a register. However, the track is still an excellent tune.
Vaishnava Janato 4/5
Another well composed track, with wonderful guitar playing. The layering of vocals 3 minutes into the track sounded especially good and helped emphasize Shivali’s vocal quality. However, vocals were overpowered by the guitar playing and drums at times. So, the track lost a point as some of the other tracks (like “Hari Sundar” which follows it) were even better compositions.
Hari Sundar – 5/5
“Hari Sundar” is an amazing composition with perfect beats and flawless vocals by Shivali. The drums are emphasized well and the flute compliments Shivali’s voice perfectly. Guitar flares are also infused at all the right places! Very beautifully sung by Shivali! Her voice sounds especially amazing on this track – pure perfection and so soothing to listen to! She handles the modulations in the song really well and sings the high notes in this track effortlessly. Each note connects perfectly with the next. Every time you hear this song, you will notice something new about the track. Best song in terms of composition, layering, vocals, and complexity in the whole CD! If I could give this track more than 5 out of 5, I would, since it is flawless from the first second of the song to the last. The slight rhythm change in the outro truly adds a new dimension to the song!
Jai Jai Radha Rama – 4.5/5
After the perfection of “Hari Sundar” I wasn’t sure whether I would be impressed with the track that followed it. I was happy that this track is well put together, but there are stronger tracks on the album. Shivali’s excellent vocals and the percussion all fuse seamlessly together. The music composition on it will surprise you, because it not your typical bhajan. The track has a greater R&B emphasis, which really works for it. When you listen to it, you won’t realize you’re even listening to a bhajan. All the instruments – guitar, percussion, flute – are subtle enough to make the focus Shivali’s vocals. It’s a catchy song, and my only complaint is that the song was too short!
Mara Ghat Main – 4/5
The song overall is catchy and Shivali sings very well overall. Her diction is good and it sounds like she’s having a fun time singing this! I’m only taking off a point because high notes sound a little bit strained. Like “Jai Jai Radha Rama”, however, this song is the perfect upgrade to a bhajan.
Shivoham – 3.5/5
Unlike other tracks, the intro in this song has more emphasis on piano. I took off a 1.5 because compared to other tracks on the album, this one felt a bit weak, especially after a series of high impact tracks. I do appreciate that the artists were trying to change up the sound of CD. However, Shivali and the composers spoiled us earlier with even more outstanding tracks and vocals. My other issue with this track is that you can hear, with more emphasis than in other tracks, when Shivali takes her breaths between stanzas. I know I’m being super picky, but earlier tracks were so well sung and composed so even such minor things stand out even more.
Chandra Bala – 4/5
“Chandra Bala” is another calming and relaxing track. The flute has a lot more prominence on this song and is really well played. The guitar accompaniment and piano playing is also really good! Personally, I think this track could have used a bit more percussion (such as a cymbal to help accent Shivali’s vocals at the end of stanzas). Overall, excellent track, but 1 point removed only because there are stronger tracks on the album that better showcase Shivali’s vocals.
Mujhe De – 5/5
No complaints on this track! Shivali’s voice sounds impeccable on this track – soft, smooth, and flawless! The range of this song falls perfectly into Shivali’s vocal range. Her diction is also dead on this. The guitar on this track really helps take the song to a whole new level. The rhythm and beat were catchy, and surprisingly went incredibly well with the bhajan. This song will easily get stuck in your mind. It’s a definite earworm! “Hari Sunder” may be the strongest composition, but “Mujhe De” is my personal favorite track on the album!
Madhura Madhura – 4.5/5
“Madhura Madhura” is a very simple track with comparatively minimal instrumentation (mostly reliant on acoustic guitar), but it is so beautiful to listen to. Considering how minimal the backings are on this track, it still leaves a big impact. Also, Shivali’s voice is so soft and lilting on this track that you don’t even realize when the track ends! It’s a track that you will definitely find yourself singing along to! The track is an excellent ending to an amazing CD.
All in all it’s an excellent album. If you loved “The Bhajan Project”, you’ll completely love “The Urban Temple.” Even if you didn’t, there’s no way you couldn’t love “The Urban Temple”. This is one temple that will provide you with uplifting music and bring you joy! Excellent job Shivali and her musical team! The perfect upgrade to traditional bhajans! The tracks, infused with hip-hop / R&B / soul beats, could each easily become popular tunes even at a club! Before you scoff at the thought of a bhajan playing at a club, let me simply remind you that bhajans aren’t necessarily limited to the temples. Bhajans are to help one feel happy and connect with the forces above wherever they are. Shivali accomplishes all of this with this album.