Karen Salicath Jamali - 'Angel Pollination'
Reviewed by Vai Thomas
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1984 edition) describes the word 'Angel' as a 'divine attendant or messenger', or a 'lovely, obliging or innocent person'. And merriam-webster.com describes Angel as a 'spiritual being serving as a divine messenger and intermediary, and often as a special protector of an individual or nation'. Of course, angels may come in various forms, but the adjectives we use to describe them are, more or less, along the lines as above – divine, innocent, and spiritual. Now, how does one convey the depth of these terms auditorily? Easier said than done – for most rely solely on the tried and tested methods of the past composers from start to finish (which is, to an extent, a reasonable practice), but with little emphasis on creativity and uniqueness. Thankfully, though, it is a wonderfully different case with Karen Salicath Jamali's latest album 'Angel Pollination' which not only oozes with creativity and emotive dynamics but also, with a thunderous calm, explores the very depths of the terms – divine, innocent, and spiritual.
In the works for eleven months, Angel Pollination (the latter word being inspired wordplay for 'Poll the Nation') is a meditative canticle, an eleven-track piano album, with each track associated with a unique angel and dream. And here is where Jamali showcases profound creativity: she uses different scale modes to represent various qualities such as justice, love, adventure, peace, and hope. This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest attributes of this magnificent album. And this, combined with the New York-based pianist's signature style, incorporating quasi-arhythmic patterns with the left hand's ever-flowing ostinato, works like a superlative charm capable of transporting the listener to an entirely different world filled with infinite space and infinite goodness.
Each track is meant as a tribute to a trait. And a different scale mode is used to depict the same. As you listen, you can sense the angel in the room, through Karen's musical gift. Angel Calling', written in the key of G minor, employs the harmonic minor scale sprinkled with a few natural minor clashes, to create that feeling of yearning for help, enhanced no less by its 'D-D-F-D' theme. 'Angel Sabrael (The Angel of Miracles)', written in C natural minor, intelligently avoids foraying into bombastic territory, instead utilizing a three-chord progression over a topline that switches over to the higher octave towards the end – which is all it takes to accomplish conveying the 'miraculous' element that angels are associated with. 'Crystal Angel', written in Eb minor pentatonic scale over a single chord in the left hand is one of the album's most dynamically emotive pieces, with the mf – p transition as the octave changes performed most evocatively in an attention-retaining manner.
'Angel Anael (The Angel of Love)', written in A major (or D Lydian), oozes with tenderness in every note from the first to the last, utilizing three chords, over a standout theme that etches into your memory ever further, not least on account of the very first chord (D Major) used. Angel Adnaciel (The Angel of Adventure)' echoes shades of Mozart ( a major complement to Jamali) with its playful affection using just two chords – the A Major and the E Major.
'Angel Raguel (The Angel of Harmony and Justice)' demonstrates a profound exploration from key to key – starting with A natural minor, which then modulates for a while into D minor before concluding in the major key of G – depicting that quest for justice and harmony, as represented by the angel Raguel, and is among the album's most profoundly narrative pieces.
Here is a HearNow Link to each track on the album. Each track is anywhere between a duration of 1:51 and 4:01, and yet, perhaps inevitably so, because of the album's immersive traits, time bears little meaning in the universe it creates for the listener. And Jamali must be credited for this, first and foremost, for weaving a sonically immersive and beautiful experience inspired by the stories of angels and her own experiences upon the Steinway. Credit also goes to the mastering engineer Maria Triana for churning out a superb mix with balanced reverb that complements the storytelling with a surreal charm.
At a duration of thirty-one minutes and thirty-nine seconds, Jamali's Angel Pollination is a profound addition to the classical and new-age genres, and an incredible lesson for musical students on how to approach relevant and familiar themes with uniqueness and honesty. Each track of this album is an ode to both the immortal and mortal elements in mankind, and a prayer invoking those three traits of angels aforementioned: Divine, Innocent, and Spiritual.
About Karen Salicath Jamali Karen Salicath Jamali is a multi-award-winning composer, pianist, producer, and professional American artist with over 30 years of experience in painting, sculpting, and photography. Born in Denmark and currently residing in NYC and Florida, she is also a voting member of the Recording Academy.
Karen's journey into music began unexpectedly after an accident and near-death experience that led to her spontaneously playing the piano. Prior to this, she had never played the instrument. The head injury opened up a new world for her, and she started composing and playing self-taught, beautiful, and meditative music that had a healing impact. Following a three-year recovery period, in 2015, she began hearing music in her dreams, leading her to record and perform what she was experiencing. Over the course of seven years, she has produced seven albums and over 2500 compositions. Karen has performed at Carnegie Hall seven times with her music.
Karen's achievements include being the Grand Winner of The Akademia Award in Los Angeles for the best classical song in January 2023, featuring her track "Angel Arcadia." Her album "Hope of Angels" won the Global Music Award in April 2023, and she received the Global Music Award for composers. Her latest album, "Hope of Angels," is on the first ballot for Grammy® Consideration in the categories of Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album. Additionally, her composition "Angel Gabriel" is being considered for the Grammy® in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
Karen has been recognized for her work extensively. She won The Academy Award in Los Angeles for the best classical song in July 2022 for "Angel Gabriel." The same track was a finalist in the World Songwriting Award for the best alternative song in 2022. Her track "Angel Gabriel" was a number one hit on Berkshire Media Group Radios Los Angeles in September 2022.
Artistry and Influence:
Karen's albums, like "Sound of Angels," were selected for Grammy® Consideration, showcasing her ability to blend contemporary instrumental music with artistic expression. Her artistic background as a painter, sculptor, and photographer has greatly influenced her music, which often reflects themes of angels and spirituality. She believes angels represent energy, frequency, and vibration, and her art and music aim to bring the energy of angels closer to humans in various forms.
Aside from her music career, Karen's art has earned her global recognition. Educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, School of Design, she has participated in over 180 exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide. Her works have been featured in prestigious venues like the Louvre Museum in Paris. Karen's sculptures and installations convey spiritual and universal themes, often drawing on the human figure as a symbolic language.
Karen Salicath Jamali's remarkable journey as a musician and artist is marked by her ability to create deeply emotive compositions and artworks that transcend boundaries and touch the soul. With a unique blend of creativity and spirituality, she continues to captivate audiences around the world. For more information about Karen's art, visit her website.