In a manner reminiscent of the rise of its 1991 "worst to first" Braves baseball team (that went on to post an unparalleled fourteen straight division championships), Atlanta's ascent from artistic underling to rightful recipient of a great deal of acclaim in key areas of the arts, is well deserved. As a Mecca of cultural wealth and nesting ground for high flying acts, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Cameo, Randy Travis, TLC, the renown Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; and regional favorite sons Otis Redding, James Brown, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Blind Willie McTell, The Allman Brothers Band, and R.E.M (to name a few), Atlanta has always boasted an abundance of talent. Yet, despite its rich musical history, anchored and nurtured by the contributions of a plethora of such artists, Atlanta's emergence has taken some by surprise.
In recent years, it's musical legacy has been bolstered by the ecliptic popularity of a cadre of self-described "Dirty South" hip-hop/rap artists, whose "gettin' krunk" style has flooded the urban airwaves, as well as Diana DeGarmo's 2004 American Idol success, and the broad, sweeping acclaim of industry notables Outkast, Jermaine Dupree, Dallas Austin, Usher, Ludacris and the incomparable India Irie. Factor in the recent breakout achievements of John Mayer, and the impact is undeniable. The influence of Atlanta artists is being felt, worldwide.
Having doubled in population over the last twenty years (to number more than 5 million), Metropolitan Atlanta's appeal as fertile ground for seeding ones' hopes of leading an influential and culturally enriching life is exponential. In making Atlanta their home, music legends, Isaac Hayes, Elton John, and the late Curtis Mayfield have added credence to the sense that the ethers surrounding Atlanta are laced with good graces. In an offhanded attempt at reasoning its magnetic appeal, while adding some levity to mounting local concerns over its aquatic challenges, I'd be remiss in not suggesting that "it must be in the water." Yet, unlike the recent scarcity of a "soak me to the bone, soul satisfying, torrential downpour," the hits just keep on dropping! In that regard, the Atlanta atmosphere lends favorably to one local artist's quest to launch a project he calls, "The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It?" That artist's name is Raja. Chances are, you've never heard of him; but I can assure you that's about to change!
As with all the aforementioned artists, Raja truly loves what he does. His connection to music (particularly writing) extends back to his grade school years. That's when his talent began to "pay off," as - in exchange for a little money - he would assist a few classmates with their poetry writing assignments and love letters. Growing up, he focused more on the way artists, such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield and others, crafted the socially conscious message of their songs than on dancing to their beats and swooning to their melodies. For those of us who share an appreciation for soul-stirring, consciousness raising lyrical content, it's clear that this intent is largely lost on most genre of popular music, today (a reality that may speak to the steep decline in CD sales over the last seven years). In an era where substance is measured in terms of "booty" and "bling," if enough of us remain who hold a torch for music that's "saying something about something," Raja's time has come!
Through his trademarked "New Paradigm Music?," and landmark "The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It?" two disc project, Raja embraces the role of a messenger whose capacity for raising the dialogue beyond racial, religious, political, educational, ethnic and economic boundaries is both inspired and inspiring. In speaking to our collective humanity, as well as our individual quest to better know ourselves, our purpose and our connection to all that is, "The Art of Living" (or The "AOL") unfolds a journey of enlightenment, inspiration and self-discovery that's beyond compare; thus Raja's inspiration to foster his "New Paradigm Music?" genre and independent Raja Records label.
From "Spiritual Revolution" to "Have Mercy," "Anytime We Come Together," "The Necessary Understanding," and "Rise" (tracks from disc 1), on to disc two, and "The Decree," "The Called and The Chosen," "The Kingdom of God is Within," and "I Come - A Song of Spiritual Renaissance," Raja's talent for deeply insightful, informative and inspiring song crafting is artfully supported by dynamic, varied and equally inspired musical composition, spearheaded by his production cohort Peter Moore, of Blackjacket Music Production, here in Atlanta.
Passionate about his calling to arouse, awaken, inspire and "help us get our true life groove on," Raja's music - while seasoned with dashes of "Old School, 'Word Up,' 'Brick House, funk" and "New School, "hip-hop" beats and layered vocals," - is a blissful blend of the philosophical thrust of, "Wake Up Everybody," "What's Going On?" "We Are The World," and another of his favorites, an old James Cleveland song titled, "Ordinary People."
Raja is here to sing and speak to our essence or spiritual core. And while an artist's quest to speak to personal spirituality quite often stalls along the narrow path leading to an endorsement of his or her personal convictions, that's not where Raja takes us. Having invested himself to the core of his soul, in response to what he senses as our higher nature's desire to "rise," Raja considers "The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It?" a timely musical enticement that beckons our humanity.
In response to questioning why he decided to release a two disc project now, rather than hold one until later, Raja acknowledges the "hold back" approach as the standard approach, particularly for unknown artists and adds that his decision is "purpose driven." In considering "The AOL" much needed food for the human soul, spirit, and psyche, he says he could not, in good conscious, hold any of it back. So, he laid out the whole buffet; including bonus track "The Human Race," which is a second helping but the original version of "Spiritual Revolution," as well as the spirit-infused instrumentals rounding out Disc 2.
From Disc 1 - track 3 - titled, "Anytime We Come Together - A World Anthem," Raja shares, "If the conditions in the world are going to get any better, we've got to come together and stop fighting one another, making havoc and war; prepare your mind for a new way, so that your spirit can soar." Raja's "The Art of Living: What Do I Think About It?" is a labor of love that - while providing each of us plenty to think about - unleashes a surge of self-validation and inspiration that should cause each of our spirits to soar! Visit Raja's website: http://rajaiam.com or myspace page, myspace.com/rajaim, to discover the greater extent of his appeal to our spirit; displayed through his talents as author, public speaker, workshop facilitator and life-path consultant.