Kristina Bennett 

As soon as her “Mother Tree” album went No. 1 on the iTunes new age chart in 2022, singer-songwriter Kristina Bennett began contemplating what her next project would be about. Embarking on an inner journey, she felt that she should continue exploring nature and crafting healing mantras. On Bennett’s Pacific Records debut disc, “Shakti,” that drops on August 9, she adds the divine feminine to her muse and finding its balance in nature with the masculine. She composed thirteen songs for the album produced by Patricio Pickslay that features her band, Full Moon Tiger.   

The songs on “Shakti” are performed in a mix of Sanskrit and English. Bennett uses her exquisite and emotive voice to chant with devotion, her vocal cords vibrating and emitting calming and soothing sounds. Simple and meditative percussive grooves backdrop her lush melodies, with the tracks deftly balancing classical Indian music rhythms and instrumentation with western drums, acoustic Americana folksiness and modern pop-rock sensibilities that make the album’s appeal mainstream accessible.    

“A great deal of what I sing about is rooted in mother earth. I’m constantly inspired by nature and the mystery of life. I created ‘Shakti’ in response to the climate crisis and our political crises that are present in most every part of the world. I was also working through my own experiences, past and present, and as musicians do, needed to express and process them through music. It was an incredibly cathartic journey writing these songs. Sanskrit mantras have dramatically transformed my life and I couldn’t stop myself from creating the music that was spilling out of me to overflow,” said Bennett.

The album opens with “Aham Prema,” Sanskrit for “I am divine love,” on which Bennett features Full Moon Tiger: Q Ortiz(percussion and cymbals), Nathan L. Samuels (darbuka), and Kelly Samuels (handpans and backing vocals). 

“I find when I chant this mantra, it brings immediate calm to my nervous system when feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. I added the English to make it more accessible to western audiences as well as to repeat healing words of affirmation. We’re living in intense, challenging and transformative times on the planet. This song is my offering of peace to the world,” said Bennett who adds synth to the track alongside Pickslay’s bass.      

“Dragonfly” is the album’s first single that is now available exclusively through Apple Music/iTunes as an instant gratification track with album preorders.

“I was working through personal challenges and began writing to channel my pain. The mixture of nature, represented by dragonflies, and its representation of transcendence. This feeling that I won’t be controlled, that I won’t allow society to define me as a woman, as a person, spilled forth onto the paper. I was trying to alchemize my suffering into empowerment as well as to remind myself nothing lasts forever. This was the first song I wrote for the album, and it actually defined the ethos of the project,” Bennett shared.

The Hindu goddess of music, knowledge and speech is Saraswati, who is revered in the ethereal song of the same name. Bennett said, “Saraswati represents the flow, a purification of energy, a flow of creativity if you will. In composing her song, I wanted a soundscape that was sophisticated yet dreamy, invoking her eloquence and fluid-watery movement. Patricio (Pickslay) suggested that we write the song in 6/8, giving it a waltz-like feel that invokes a dreamy ambiance. The song features Sarah Ingraham singing background and playing Koto, which is a Japanese stringed instrument that added heavenly flourishes that sweep you away to the water’s edge.”

There are traces of pain and darkness present on “Forgiveness,” yet Bennett’s overriding message is one proffering healing and hope. She believes that if the song soothed her, it would help others overcome their own traumas. The title track “Shakti” plays out to a rock drum groove played by Allen Aucoin (The Disco Biscuits) and surrounded by Brian Witkin’s (Slack Key ‘Ohana) 12-string guitar accoutrements. Bennett said that she felt the song was channeled through her and the words flowed swiftly, which is unusual, and it fostered intense emotions. 

“I couldn’t stop crying. For weeks after composing this song, I couldn’t get through the bridge (of the song) without huge emotional reactions. Shakti energy is within all of us – regardless of gender. She is the fabric of our existence and the energy of creation. This song is a prayer, and it speaks for itself,” Bennett explained.

“Om Hum So Hum” is about accepting our dual nature. While Bennett’s driving theme throughout the album is the divine feminine energy, the Hindu tradition taught her that you also must have the divine masculine (Shiva), that they cannot exist without the other.  

“This belief has become a deep part of my spirituality. As humans, we are a mixture of both energies. As a planet, we are a mixture of both energies. It’s less about gender and more about balancing our energies. By embracing our dualities and complexities, we can become healthier and more whole, individually as well as collectively. I wrote this song with that intention. I didn’t want the album to be perceived as feministic in a way that could alienate, but rather to cultivate balance, integration and unity,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s musical pursuits shifted into the new age realm when she opened herself up spiritually in 2013. Having studied voice at Berklee College of Music, she then studied classical Indian singing under Silvia Nakkach, a Grammy nominated vocalist, composer and sound designer who accompanied Bennett on an immersive study period in India in 2015 during which she also received training from Dr. Ritwik Sanyal, a Dhrupad maestro. Bennett became mesmerized by crystal bowls and the Shrupti box (an Indian instrument like a harmonium). She uses both on “Beauty Bowls,” a meditative chant that Bennett said invokes beauty and elegance.

Honoring the Hindu goddess of abundance, “Lakshmi” is a compelling mélange of Indian music and Americana twang along with some tropical nuances that Bennett says represents her childhood upbringing on the coast in Cape Cod and her present coastal lifestyle in San Diego.

Lakshmi signifies wealth in all forms – health, love, joy, success, beauty, relationships, laughter, etc. I wrote the song to thank her for the energy of abundance that’s present in my life. I heard the song in my head to be warm and uplifting, beginning with water and birds to bring the listener into the space as well as to touch upon the ocean of consciousness,” offered Bennett.

Bassist Christian Fabian guests on “Chamundayei,” a song about self-confidence and self-worth. An accompanying video will be released in conjunction with the album release.

“Just like all of us, as I grow older, I’m being faced with changes in myself. Defying gravity and old age can be challenging and learning to embrace the process with grace is the goal. This particular mantra is more than skin deep and absolutely cultivates an inner strength and wisdom. I wrote the song not only to uplift myself but for others as well – specifically women,” said Bennett.    

“Om Namah Shivaya” coaxes Shiva, the masculine presence, into the spotlight on the album with a major assist from Pickslay.

“Patricio wrote the music and layered his voice to create a monk chant effect. Once I added my vocals, we listened and I had the idea to add a deep super bass sound, which is what Finneas uses in his music with Billie Eilish. The effect was powerful,” enthused Bennett. 

Full Moon Tiger features on “Radha & Krishna,” a romantic duet that dances to a 3/4-time waltz. “Seasons” is the sister song to “Love, Peace & Harmony” from the “Mother Tree” album that delivers a simple and Zenlike reminder that life is constantly changing and to flow accordingly.

“Tara” closes the album with the most mainstream pop-rock cut on the collection. Swinging to a groove constructed by Aucoin and bassist Matt Schalles, layers of electric and acoustic guitar laid by Kenny Beaumont and Pickslay and bolstered by Joshua Malavé’s lavish strings form a joyous celebration for Tara, known as the Power of the Universal Mother in Tibetan and Buddhist teachings as well as in other cultures around the world.

Bennett released her debut album, “Mermaid Tattoos,” in 2008, which was a blend of rock, jazz and world music. She followed up by releasing a couple of EPs and a handful of singles before delving deeply into the new age space. As a performer, Bennett toured with the Biketopia Music Collective in 2016, using cycling to create environmental awareness and power their concerts in northwestern states and British Columbia. She performs shows solo and with Full Moon Tiger. Bennett is also a certified sound, voice and music healing practitioner from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

“Music, specifically singing, is my way of trying to ‘make things better’ – to deeply heal, uplift, and unify. For me, music is the language of the soul. It’s the nectar or glue, the human language, which connects us as people, regardless of where we are from or what we believe. By singing about goddesses, nature, and the divine feminine and masculine as I do on the ‘Shakti’ album, it is my way of offering a healing balm to our collective consciousness as well as a healthy way to express my emotions. My desire with this project is to bring awareness to our Shakti energy to cultivate balance, unity, healing and empowerment. Coupling that with singing Sanskrit mantras, specifically if you believe that Sanskrit is an energetic language that clears and heals our karmic baggage like I do, made recording this album an especially mystical experience.”

The “Shakti” album contains the following songs:

“Aham Prema”
“Dragonfly”
“Saraswati”
“Forgiveness”
“Shakti”
“Om Hum So Hum”
“Beauty Bowls”
“Lakshmi”
“Chamundayei”
“Om Namah Shivaya”
“Radha & Krishna” 
“Seasons”       
“Tara”

In addition to her weekly Sunday evening residency at Riffs Yoga Studio in San Diego, catch Bennett in concert on local stages on the following dates:

June 30                       Ritual Wellness Collective

July 13                        Wild Island Collective                                    with Full Moon Tiger

August 24                   Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga                        with Full Moon Tiger

For more information, visit https://kristinabennettmusic.com. Preorder the album at https://ffm.to/lr7q66m.