Saturday, November 5, 2016

Peia - Beauty Thunders (Releases November 16, 2016)

Peia - Beauty Thunders and the Ties That Bind

The seeker’s life becomes a quest. It’s a search that never seems to end, one that takes them far from home, a quest for the truth on the horizon. Each discovery along the way becomes a gem, a joy to be added and celebrated. For Peia, each treasure is a song, a link to her past and to her future, and she documents them on her third album Beauty Thunders (released November 16, 2016).

“I’ve been finding my own roots through songlines,” Peia explains. “My bloodline is mostly Scots and Irish, and before that, we believe, Basque – travelers who migrated north as the Celts receded from the mainland of Europe.”

That movement explains the choice of material on Beauty Thunders. It opens with “Szerelem,” with Peia’s voice rising over a shifting soundscape of melody for an otherworldly introduction to the disc, before exploring the Basque and Gaelic traditions, while including her own songs that tie the knot between history and now.

Throughout, the theme is movement. “Bánchnoic Éirann Óigh,” for instance, is an Irish leaving song, a lament of one forced abroad through poverty and famine.

“It’s such a beautiful, moving piece,” Peia says. “His fate is to go far away and never return. That really spoke to me as an American with our lost culture. The song came to me from a family of song keepers in Ireland, people who also hold fast to the Gaelic tradition and help it stay alive.”

Peia’s ears truly opened to the sounds of the world when she was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. She was already a hugely talented singer, whose teacher had pointed her toward many kinds of music, from opera to the swing music of the ‘40s, but a full scholarship to the Conservatory pressed her into the Western classical tradition.

“Within a year I knew opera wasn’t for me,” Peia recalls. “But there were classes in so many other things – klezmer, Turkish music, Indian – and I devoured them. I did the minimum I needed to satisfy my opera professors and immersed myself in everything extracurricular.”

With those seeds planted, she moved to Portland, Oregon after graduation and heard Sufi Qawwali music for the first time. Its deep spirituality resonated with her and she found a teacher to start her on the path before she left for India to dig deep into its music.

The seeds were starting to grow and they began to blossom on The Dance of Devotion, her first album. But it was with 2013’s Four Great Winds that she truly found what she needed in music, tracing the present back along with winding paths of the past, while still making each piece very much her own. She’d made her voice into a powerful instrument to carry the listener into the song, and it’s still growing, the remarkable centerpiece of the new album.

The arrangements for Beauty Thunders developed over time, building into the vision of each song that was alive in her head. Each piece keeps faith with the root of the music but builds on that foundation to create something deliciously amorphous, a sound that’s intensely personal but still immediately accessible, always topped by her clear, soaring voice.

“I like to keep the songs alive in old ways and honor the traditions from which they came,” Peia agrees, “with the chords and the melody line. But each one touches me and it changes as I keep performing it. That’s what I want to record.”

That’s very apparent in a deeply mystical song like “Que Mi Medicina,” which originates in Peru.

“I’ve been singing and tracing the roots of this song for many years,” Peia says. “I’ve tracked it deep into the jungles of Peru, but the exact tribe or region is still unknown. The song speaks of healing and seeing the unity in all things."

The healing that music can offer is a vital part of Peia’s life; the four original songs on Beauty Thunders make that obvious.

“That reconnection with nature is something we desperately need,” Peia says. “After all, it’s the elemental forces that give us life. The song “Beauty Thunders” is about the beauty all around us in this world and also the delicate times in which we live, while “The Old Ways Restored” talks about the need to respect nature, to return and remember.”

The ties that bind all the people on the planet, no matter how far back in time they stretch – those connections across history and geography are the things that are important to Peia, the way from the present to the past. Humanity, history, the way forward, they’re all there on Beauty Thunders.

1. Szerelem
2. Beauty Thunders
3. Ciamar a ní mi’n dannsa díreach
4. Dance in the Storm
5. Que mi Medicina
6. Txoria Txori
7. Bánchnoic Éireann Óigh
8. The Old Ways Restored
9. We will Rise Again


Peia is poised to release her third studio album, Beauty Thunders, a collection of traditional and original songs tracing the movement of humanity and her own ancestors throughout the ages. This new album is produced by engineer and Grammy Award Nominee Kamal Engles and includes an array of phenomenal musicians from the world music community. 

Born in Connecticut, Peia trained in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music, followed by an immersion in Indian classical singing. Her recording debut was in 2009 with Renaissance lutist and Grammy nominee Ronn McFarlane. 2012 saw her first solo album, The Dance of Devotion, followed by Four Great Winds in 2013, which was signed by Sounds True for global release. These stunning recordings have sparked acclaimed tours across Europe, Australia and the USA, as well as collaborations with Rumi scholar Coleman Barks, mythologist Michael Meade and Iranian tar master Ali Ghamsari.

As an archival songstress, Peia has gathered songs from ancient traditions that span across the globe. She carries melodies wrinkled and wise with time, laboring faithfully to revive their language, stories and original essence. Praised for her crystalline tone and high soaring soprano voice, Peia’s music pierces the heart with bell-like clarity.

Accompanying herself with charangon, harmonium and guitar, her eclectic ensemble offers enchanting renditions of timeless songs.