Yantra | A Journey Through Timelessness

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World: Bulgarian Folk World: Indian Classical Moods: Type: Vocal
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A Journey Through Timelessness

by Yantra

A rich vocal fusion exploring the ancient spiritual and folkloric music of Bulgaria, India and England – Eugenia Georgieva, Manickam, Yogeswaran and Jeremy Birchall have created multitracked a cappella that’s simultaneously both ancient and very new.
Genre: World: Bulgarian Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Anon Excetre
4:24 $1.19
2. Going South
3:05 $1.19
3. Bow Song
6:07 $1.19
4. At Midday
3:22 $1.19
5. Lamentations
5:54 $1.19
6. Gel Yano
2:48 $1.19
7. Thirukkural
7:28 $1.19
8. Cherub's Song
5:28 $1.19
9. The Bagpiper
3:05 $1.19
10. The Praise
6:25 $1.19
11. Tecum Principium
5:20 $1.19
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A Journey Through Timelessness
Exploring the musical heritage of Bulgaria, India and England

Album notes

1. a river in Northern Bulgaria which has its source in central Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains). From Thracian “yatrus” – “fast flowing”;
2. the Sanskrit word for "instrument" or "machine"; it can stand for symbols or anything that has structure and organization.

YANTRA is the unusual project of three singers from very different backgrounds, united by their passion of unaccompanied human voice. Born from an experimental session for BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction in 2009, YANTRA's vocal focal point is the intersection of seemingly incompatible and incomparable singing traditions. Combining the purity of a cappella with modern multi-tracking recording techniques, their rich vocal fusion explores the spiritual and folkloric music from the traditional and ancient musical heritage of Bulgaria, India and England.

Languages and melodies merge, singing styles and textures meet and transform unexpectedly, resounding with an ancient resonance and leading you on a journey through timelessness where vibrations of the soul overshadow vibrations of the words…

Every sound on the album is produced by their three voices, except for the magnificent bell recorded at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Many of the pieces are firmly rooted in spiritual and liturgical tradition, where the human voice is the main instrument of divine glorification, and sung in the original languages – Latin, Tamil, Church Slavonic, sometimes at once (The Praise).

"Lord Shiva is in my thoughts and he is above all beings. He speaks through each word uttered by me.” The hymn dedicated to Shiva is combined with two psalms: an excerpt from the Latin plainsong psalm 150, "Laudate Dominum in Sanctis ejus" ("Praise Ye the Lord; praise God in his sanctuary”), and the Orthodox prokeimenon "Vsyakoe dihanie da hvalit Gospoda" ("May every breath praise the Lord"), a psalm sung at certain specified points of the Divine Liturgy. The bell tolls with the heartbeat of a global shared divinity (The Praise).

The fluid and dream-like texture of Tecum Principium (Extracts from Robert Fayrfax’s Missa Tecum Principium) is interspersed with vocal improvisations in the style of South Bulgarian and South Indian folk; the Lamentations is an unusual take on Thomas Tallis’ polyphonic masterpiece, creating a different thrill with the use of traditional voices.

A Hindu poetic meditation from 3 c. BC gives rise to a diaphony from the Bulgarian Shopluk (Thirukkural), whilst a sad Bulgarian antiphonal wedding song inspires a wailing improvisation in turn (Gel Yano). In the past a wedding often meant that the young bride will be taken to a different village and may never see her family again. All over Bulgaria wives used to weep and sing at their husband’s funeral; here, it is the bride’s past that is mourned.

The Bow Song (Villu Paatu), accompanied by vocal percussion, recreates the ancient Tamil art of storytelling. A rich merchant, Kovalan, falls in love with a beautiful courtesan, leaves his wife and spends his fortune on pleasures until he is left penniless. He then reunites with his faithful wife and together they try to start a new life. He goes to the market to sell one of her golden anklets but gets arrested and executed on suspicion of stealing the queen’s missing anklet, which was inlaid with pearls. His wife throws herself at the feet of the king of the city and testifies that her anklet was inlaid with rubies. Realising the grave injustice that has been done, the king dies. Kovalan then appears as a god before his wife and together they descend to the skies.

Vocal percussion is also featured in Going South, a lively medley of musical mini-stories about love and female beauty from the Bulgarian Shopluk and Thrace in southern Bulgaria.

Thousands of settlers moved north from Thrace Valley to Dobrudja Plain in 18-19 c. and brought their vocal traditions with them. The playful dance tune from Dobrudja, The Bagpiper, tells the story of a young bagpiper who plays from dawn till dusk against a backdrop of vocal percussion and a bagpipe-like drone.

Cherub’s Song, the primary cherubikon or song of the angels, sung during every Divine Liturgy of the year except those of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, highlights the way in which the Orthodox chants have bled into the traditional vocal music of Bulgaria in the five centuries of Ottoman rule and isolation from Europe (14-19 c.). A drone underlines the subdued solemnity of At Midday, a folk song from the Bulgarian Shopluk, in which the sister asks her brother over lunch who will he choose to marry – a rich girl or a poor but supposedly a beautiful one. The drama of that fateful decision is mirrored by the vocal improvisation in south Indian style.

The voices of Karnataka and the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountain rise unexpectedly but organically from a combination of two Catholic pieces - the Sanctus and Benedictus from a mass by John Excetre, dating from around 1400, followed by the Agnus Dei from an anonymous mass of 1310. Both are from the Old Hall manuscript and open the album under the title Anon Excetre, mapping out spiritual places yet unvisited.

A journey through timelessness is about to start – on and on. Anon Excetre!

Special thanks to Alexander Markov for his unending support and Chris Nickson for helping us make this album a reality!

Recorded, mixed and mastered by: Jeremy Birchall at Sounds Special
Produced by: Jeremy Birchall

Liner notes: Eugenia Georgieva
Cover design: Eugenia Georgieva/ Alexander Markov
Cover photo: Alexander Markov

Photos of Yantra by: Nick Mann/ Gustavo Camilo/ Petrina Hughes

“Very frisky collaboration for Late Junction! Excellent.” Orlando Gough, composer

“I was listening to The Choir on R3 on Sunday and nearly drove into a ditch because I was so excited and mesmerised by your sound. I LOVE IT!” Julia Draper, writer



to write a review


Journey Through Timelessness
Yantra is an a cappella group consisting of three members: Eugenia Georgieva from Bulgaria, Manickam Yogeswaran from India and Jeremy Birchall from England. They each are very experienced having been involved in numerous projects. Yantra's music is a mix of Western style sacred, Bulgarian and traditional Indian. Each track is distinct in its style, most of them delivered by one member of the ensemble and invariably accompanied by the other two. Backing can be in a variety of ways: chanting, vocal percussion - which can have a more contemporary feel - and droning. Yantra's music is probably much closer to that of our ancestors; not so much for entertainment the way it often is today but to tell stories, to praise God or to lament. I have come across other collaborations involving singers and / or musicians from different backgrounds but I consider Yantra to be exceptional. Apart from the genuine Bulgarian offerings it's wonderful to have the opportunity to hear authentic Indian singing. "Bow Song" in particular is a delight. Also, some pieces such as "At Midday" and "Cherub's Song" I found moving to listen to. The album is true to its name: songs from the past that reverberate in the present will prevail.

Barry Witherden - Contributor to BBC Music, Jazz Journal and The

Genuine fusion and a virtuosic (but never flashy) recital by three singers
This is a fascinating project, bringing together three venerable traditions: the plainchant of Western Europe, the folk music heritage of Bulgaria, and Carnatic (Southern Indian) classical music, which is itself leavened with folk elements. Add to that a subtle and sparing use of modern recording technology and you have a result as distinctive as the work of the Hilliard Ensemble with Jan Garbarek or that of Trio Mediaeval with Arve Henriksen. Each singer brought to the table a few pieces from their own culture’s repertoire, and each brought their own style and techniques to the performances, achieving a genuine fusion rather than some facile crossover product. Multi-tracking transforms the three into small choirs, but this is never overdone. One of the best examples is “Going South” where Eugenia Georgieva is multiplied into a one-woman Mystere des Voix Bulgares. In several places the over-dubbing permits the male singers to provide drones and rhythmic vocal percussion behind the melodies. All three singers also get solo time in the spotlight. Jeremy Birchall’s production creates a mesmerising ambience, which often evokes images of arcane rituals conducted for aeons on magical hillsides or in sacred groves, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t be doing with that sort of mystical stuff: this is a virtuosic (but never flashy) recital by three singers in total control of their gifts and with an evident love of their musical histories. Treat yourself
Barry Witherden - Contributor to BBC Music, Jazz Journal and The Wire