Jennifer Salima Holt
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Jennifer Salima Holt


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"Martin Keller review of Laila Trance-Dance single"

Martin Keller, music critic, author of Music Legends: A Rewind of the Minnesota Music Scene (D Media, 2007), review of the single, “Laila Trance-Dance Radio Remix” (Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions, Salima’s Whirled Peas, 2009):

“Talk about rockin' the casbah! "Laila Trance-Dance" starts with a traditional sacred Muslim chant and beautifully builds into a modern mix sure to entrance both supplicants on the floor of the mosque and profane revelers out on the dance floor. Call it a sublime sonic transcendence that's as spiritually rewarding as it is smart and chic.”
- Media Savant

"Martin Keller review of Ecstatic Groove CD"

Review of Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions CD by Martin Keller, music critic, author of Music Legends (D Media, 2007):

“Who would have thought the long strange trip that the leader of a smart "all-girl" new wave band from Minneapolis in the '80s (Tetes Noires) embarked upon would include this immaculately realized mélange of select, sacred world music that reflects the spiritual songs and transcendent power of Muslim, Native American, Western, Eastern and other traditions? Jennifer Salima Holt, now a practicing "New Thought Muslim,” uses her grace-filled and mellifluent voice, plus simple but captivating contemporary arrangements, to create a collection of beautiful songs that lovingly expose the deep inner light of each faith journey. As a companion piece to her book, Sacred Gateway of Grief and Loss: Freeing the Imprisoned Soul (Indigo Publishing, 2009) and a testament to her work with women in prison around the world (many for actions against strict and outmoded religious codes), Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions, with Grammy-nominated Ben Leinbach co-producing, is a gorgeous illumination of the human spirit. But as a stand-alone album of global spiritual songs and chants, the disc will be a constant reminder of the joys and beauty that universal spirituality and innovative music making can bring to seekers and non-seekers alike.”
- Media Savant

"Multi-media Performance Review"

Therapist explores spiritual side of healing
February 19, 2010 - 4:29 PM

Like most people, Jennifer Salim Holt has gone through changes in her life, but few people have made such radical ones.
She represented South Dakota in the 1978 Miss America pageant. Shortly after parading across the stage in high heels and a swimsuit, she traded her tiara for a NOW bumper sticker and helped launch the Minneapolis-based feminist punk rock band Tetes Noires.
When she tired of the punk rock scene, she made another 180-degree turn, this time becoming a member of buttoned-down academia. After earning a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, she taught at the U, St. Cloud State and the University of St. Thomas.
These days she's living in California, where she picked up a master's degree in ministry studies and works as a counselor in women's prisons. Her specialty is dealing with prisoners' grief and loss issues.
"The women I work with are open to spiritual concepts and want to heal," said Holt, 52. "I enjoy being able to help them heal."
She has written a book, "Sacred Gateway of Grief and Loss: Freeing the Imprisoned Soul," based on her work in prisons. But it's applicable far beyond that, she said.
"The book uses the metaphor of being in prison to deal with people who are depressed or feel useless," she said. "When we feel stuck, that's a form of imprisonment."
Using her music background, she introduced her prison groups to sacred chanting, drawing from a wide variety of theologies, including Gregorian, Tibetan Buddhist and Native American. She recorded some of the chants, intending to include a sample CD with her book. But the music took on a life of its own and was released separately as "Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions."
"Both therapy and music are close to my heart, and this was a way to bring them together," she said.
They will be together again this weekend when Holt comes to town to present a concert of sacred chanting and a therapy workshop. First up is the concert, "Songs and Stories of Light, Love and Liberation," at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Av. S., Minneapolis. Tickets are $15 at the door. On Sunday she's leading a four-hour workshop on creative healing starting at 1 p.m. at Pathways, 3115 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis. Suggested price is $50, but there's a sliding-scale fee as well.
- Star Tribune


Ecstatic Groove
Jennifer Salima Holt
Considering her background as a spiritual counselor and author, it’s no surprise that Jennifer Salima Holt’s music is meant to serve a psychological purpose as much as anything else she has put out; she holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology in addition to a master’s in ministry studies from the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism. She has acted both as an individual counselor as well as a general teacher, having spoken in prisons and published multiple books. Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions is the audio companion to her book Sacred Gateway of Grief and Loss: Freeing the Imprisoned Soul. With a strong focus on dealing with grief, Holt’s compilation of fused world chants aims to transform pain into inner peace.

Supported by a steady droning choir, "Laila Trance-Dance" gives the impression of a mourner alone in her grief finally relying on the support of those around her. The song is indeed trancelike, with the lyrics purposefully indecipherable at times. The result is a warm, meditative groove that allows the listener (grieving or otherwise) to float in an alternate reality somewhere between consciousness and the subconscious. Inspired by chants that took place within a prison grief-and-loss group, Ecstatic Groove embraces chants from a slew of religions including Sufism, Catholicism, traditional African religions, and just about everything in between. On "Bear Willow Chant" the guttural cries of Native American music are softened by Holt’s angelic voice. Breathing a calming feminine energy into a song that is at times frantic, Holt embraces grief, allowing herself to give in to the process of mourning and letting it take its course.

While some songs are more abstract, "Listen" is actually the traditional Jewish prayer "Shema." The song directly translates to "Listen, Israel, God is our Lord, God is One." It is one of the most basic prayers in Judaism and is all encompassing, recited anytime from morning till night, as well as for births and deaths; the prayer is as universal as its message. While the album has wonderful healing qualities for those grieving, its intensely spiritual nature makes it a great listen for inward reflection or contemplation of a higher authority.



"Laila Trance-Dance Radio Remix," Oasis Sampler.
"Kyrie Karuna" youtube video:

Ecstatic Groove: World Chant Infusions (Salima's Whirled Peas, 2009).
"Rain Dreaming" youtube video:
"Affirmation Song" youtube video:
"Lucky Girl" youtube video:
Clayfoot Gods (Rounder Records, 1987).
American Dream (Rapunzel Records, 1986).
Tetes Noires EP (Rapunzel Records, 1985).



Musician/multimedia artist Jennifer Salima Holt's three-decade musical journey includes performing at top venues in cities across the United States (New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC), and praise in a wide variety of media (New York Times, Spin Magazine, London’s New Music Express, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Musician Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Village Voice). Jennifer, a Sufi Music Minister, has released several musical and video projects, most recently the CD, Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions (Salima’s Whirled Peas, 2009). The CD includes unique techno-infused chants from many spiritual lineages. Her musical mission is to create bridges of compassion and understanding across all world cultures.

Jennifer’s current multimedia project, “Songs and Stories of Light, Love and Liberation” features vocals, violin, spoken word and photography, telling the stories of individuals who found themselves literally imprisoned, yet who eventually attained permanent states of enlightenment. Jennifer notes, “If prisoners are able to wake up, why can’t we? If not now, when?” In this performance piece, Jennifer performs world chant and kirtan (audience sing-along) and plays the violin, accompanied by performance tracks from her CD, Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions. Visually, another dimension is created with dozens of photographic images illustrating the story of each song. “Kyrie Karuna,” for example, combines an ancient Gregorian chant of Christ's mercy with a Tibetan Buddhist chant of compassion. See it on at:

In 2009-2010, Jennifer's performances have included venues and festivals in Northern and Southern, Minnesota, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington. She performs frequently at Michael Bernard Beckwith’s Agape International Center of Truth in Los Angeles, receiving standing ovations for each performance. Jennifer has received the personal endorsement of Rev. Beckwith as a national speaker and singer. Her multimedia performance is available for groups in a large variety of venues, including music festivals, conferences, prisons, nursing homes, community centers and educational institutions. Jennifer is committed to bringing this work to as many people as possible.

In the 1980’s, Jennifer attained national prominence with her musical project, Tetes Noires, a feminist punk folk band that released three musical recordings including a CD produced by the Violent Femmes (Clayfoot Gods, Rounder Records, 1987). Clayfoot Gods was chosen by The Miami Herald as one of the Top Ten Releases of 1987. Rave reviews for Tetes Noires included The Village Voice, The New York Times, Spin Magazine, London’s New Music Express, The Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Musician Magazine, Boston Phoenix, and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. Her original song, “Lucky Girl,” a crowd favorite, was made into a garage video that is currently available on (

As the leader of Tetes Noires, Jennifer ‘bucked the system,’ and took many risks, independently producing the band’s first two records (“Tetes Noires” EP and American Dream LP, Rapunzel Records). She personally booked nationwide tours for the band and eventually Tetes Noires was picked up by a major New York booking agency, touring with internationally known bands such as 10,000 Maniacs, Violent Femmes and Talking Heads.

After the demise of Tetes Noires, Jennifer continued to expand her musical repertoire. She received numerous grants as a composer from such sources as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota Composer’s Forum and the Minnesota State Arts Board. The grants supported the creation and installation of “Vocalmotion,” Jennifer’s unusual performance art project combining primitive vocalizations with choreographed movement similar to the work of Meredith Monk. “Came to Believe,” which features Jennifer’s voice in an original, four-part a cappella chant, was featured in the film, Steps One, Two and Three for Young People, released by the Hazelden Foundation in 1990. Her “Affirmation Song” (1989) video extols the power of positive thinking and loving ourselves, and is available on (

Jennifer moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles in 1990, where her musical focus shifted to a more spiritual approach. In addition to being asked to provide solo musical inspiration at the Agape International Center of Truth several times, she performed for Marianne Williamson’s public lectures and at top L.A. acoustic clubs including At My Place in Santa Monica, Hollywood’s Café Largo and the Ghengis Cohen Cantina. Jennifer has also been a featured performer and workshop leader at music festivals across the country. The video, “Rain Dreaming,” a song written with the help of guitarist Jan Marra in 1990,