Robin Renée
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Robin Renée

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Band World Singer/Songwriter

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Aug
04
Robin Renée @ Crystal Prana

Morristown, New Jersey, USA

Morristown, New Jersey, USA

Jul
28
Robin Renée @ TBA

Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Jul
26
Robin Renée @ TBA

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

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By: Susan Van Dongen , TimeOFF , Princeton Packet- NJ, August 19, 2004


The latest CD by "mantra-pop" artist Robin Renée is titled All Six Senses (Menage a Music), which might make some people scratch their heads. We all know sight, sound, smell, taste and touch but, aside from an M. Night Shyamalan film, what is the sixth sense? Ms. Renée and her fellow seekers know this extra sense is a way to tie all the others together and go beyond human perception into the intuitive, metaphysical realms of understanding. It's the essence of a higher understanding and consciousness. "The album is all about knowing that mystery and getting comfortable with expressing my love and desire to merge with that mystery," says Ms. Renée, speaking from her home in Camden County.

"I've always been very aware and interested in things other than our five senses. I'm happy to be at a place where I'm free to talk about spirit." It is no surprise, then, that Ms. Renée, a singer with an openness to all kinds of spiritually nurturing practices, would discover kirtan chanting. This is a form of musical meditation - a call-and-response chanting practice that evokes deities from the Hindu tradition, though it can enjoyed by people of all faiths and all walks of life. Ms. Renée, along with musician and composer Karttikeya, will present another session of Kirtan-o-Rama at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health in Skillman, Aug. 21. They led an evening of kirtan chanting in July, which Ms. Renée says was almost as uplifting as a revival meeting.

"It was beautiful, my best experience there so far," she says. "I love the peaceful type of kirtan, but I also like when it gets energetic and emotional. "Kirtan came to me both by way of a powerful transformation and as a complete surprise," says Ms. Renée, who was exposed to the Indian chanting tradition partly through the music of central New Jersey resident Suzin Green. Ms. Renée has been a singer-songwriter for many years, performing as a solo artist with bands like Spy Gods and The Loved Ones. She draws from rock, punk, New Wave and folk, but a spiritual awakening brought South Asian chant into her musical vocabulary as well. She continues to perform her original songs, sometimes merging her melodies with the mantras that have become her passion - that's where the term "mantra-pop" comes from.

"I was a friend of Suzin Green's and had her CD 'Hearts on Fire,'" Ms. Renée says. "I just started going to the Princeton chanting group, which was led by Monica Johnson, taking part in any kirtan I could experience. I was chanting more and more and wanted to find a place where I could do it regularly. "I think 'All Six Senses' is a transitional album," she continues. "It chronicles a time slightly before I had this transformation. You'll hear the songs at the end of the CD have mantras, for example. That all came in during the course of my writing."

Produced by Scott Matthews, who has worked with Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and George Harrison, All Six Senses has an interesting array of styles, from the romantic, country-tinged "Cling to You" to the high-energy title track. Ms. Renée, who sounds a little bit like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, also does an interesting cover of Costello's "Cruel to be Kind." "I've always loved that song," she says. "It was one of the things I always wanted to cover. Scott helped incredibly with the feel and design on the tune, to give it that smoky jazz club feeling."

Ms. Renée has led chanting events throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, sharing the stage with Krishna Das, one of the best-loved kirtan singers outside of India. Musician and composer Karttikeya plays the South Indian Naal drum and is innovative with various percussion instruments and found objects, including an old-fashioned watering can. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Karttikeya immersed himself in Hindu practice, living and studying in Hawaii for 12 years.

There are many reasons for the meditative, healing effects of kirtan, some common sense some more esoteric. One logical reason kirtan brings such joy is simply that you are singing - which makes you exercise your lungs, bringing oxygen to the brain and disposing with toxins by exhaling. But there are other factors Ms. Renée and other kirtan devotees can't explain. Perhaps it's the group invocation - in Sanskrit - of numerous deities, like praying out loud. Maybe it's because you're moving energy through the chakras, seven special centers of the body that govern particular kinds of energy. By using the voice, you are activating the throat chakra - which has to do with communication and creativity.

"The reasons kirtan is so healing are complex," Ms. Renée says. "For me, kirtan is just the most intense way to open my awareness of spirit. All the time I've been interested in music, it's partly because it has a (meditative) effect like this. Music just opens me and I feel completely ecstatic. But kirtan approaches this experience too.

"One of the most interesting things is that I've written fewer songs since I've been chanting and I think it might be because kirtan allows you to connect to your own divinity so completely that there's nothing left to say," Ms. Renée says. "'Aum' is everything there is. I've gone through a long period of just being in that moment."
- Princeton Packet


by Terry Christopher

On May 27, 2006, a beautifully spiritual, OUT, singer/songwriter, Robin Renee who does double duty by making her presence felt in both Philadelphia and New York City, lit up an already stellar afternoon on the 3 day holiday weekend at the quaint performance space, Rockwood Music Hall.

Robin Renee literally owned the stage for her set. She had it set up with beautiful Batik styled fabric of maroon and off white, 3 tall candles and percussive instruments like the conga, Indian drum, chimes and naal skillfully played by Karttikeya were all around. The stage was set and so was Ms. Renee.

Robin opened with an uplifting song, Fly that did just that with her stellar vocal production. The next two songs First Sight and Spiritual Ink, the later being my favorite of Ms. Renee’s, left the listener knowing that they were in the presence of a singer as proficient in her own spiritual awareness without coming across preachy or contrived as she was in her lively guitar playing. For me, I would liken Robin Renee’s set to having a soothing tea with Mother Earth while listening to the voice of logic, inner peace, and reasoning of Buddha.

Ms. Renee’s vocals are rich like gems pulled from the earth itself with an almost weathered sound in that you get a sense that you are hearing a voice that has been, seen and done it all. Imagine combining Marianne Faithful, Stevie Nicks and Anita Baker and then you’d have Robin Renee. Hers is a voice of experience filled with history of days and perhaps, lives past. However, do not be deceived that a voice that seeps of such experience and history is delivered without zest and energy. Ms. Renee’s energy and sparkle behind her eyes will absolutely convey to the listener otherwise.

The one aspect of a Robin Renee set that I find as equally important is Ms. Renee’s expression and specifically the sumptuous story she delivers to her listeners with her eyes. Her eyes are like no other artist that I have seen. They are as rich in detail as is every note that she sings. Robin makes each listener in the room feel as if she is singing to them and just for them by acknowledging each person in the room with a visual connectivity that while playing to a group, comes across very one on one.

The rest of the songs in Ms. Renee’s set were Chant, I’m Coming Down, Holy River, The Other End of the Line, For Today & finally Into the Fire. All of which were solid standout gems unto themselves. Robin used the harmonium, which is very much like a floor sat accordion, in Chant and utilized a very willing audience to assist in the cyclic needs of the lyric.

Robin Renee is a singer/songwriter that is carving out a sound and style truly all her own. Ms. Renee is definitely a ‘must see’ LIVE performer because of the way she weaves successfully her wonderful lyrics into spiritual storytelling that alone is worth the ticket price at the door.

- ReviewCentre.com


"I like taking snapshots of emotions that are hard to describe," says singer-songwriter Robin Renée of her songcraft. The 13 "snapshots" that make up Progress find Renée adjusting the aperture of her mind's eye to explore the deep, complex emotional experiences that defined her early adulthood. Renée opens the title track by acknowledging the circuitous path of progress: "Time to find my way back home", and later in the song affirms her artistic identity: "I'm a camera in disguise/ Clicking off the snapshots as each new pose arises...." Progress shows Renée coming of age, awakening her artistic voice, negotiating love's challenging currents, learning to get up after falling, and progressing forward - or around a metaphorical circle.
"In the end I feel we all come back around," she sings in "The Beginning", and in the chorus: "Here I go again to the start of things." Renée's vignettes chronicle an artist's inward spiral through the layers of experience to reveal the soul.

The Atco, New Jersey-based artist learned classical piano as a child, but later embraced the guitar for its portability. An artistic epiphany came in her teens as she watched David Bowie perform on Saturday Night Live in a long gown. For Renée, the dramatic moment dissolved gender conventions and inspired her to use poetry and music to express her own bisexual identity.

Renée's musical style blends a poet's eye with Punk and Post-punk's independent, defiant spirit, New Wave's quirky art-pop, and the edgy introspection with which singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello, and Patti Smith dissected life. Renée has referred to herself as "a balladeer through the emotional filter of underground rock," but Progress showcases a diverse range of musical temperaments, from acoustic pop ballads to searing, guitar-propelled rockers to an a cappella tune, all reflecting the shifting emotional terrain of our lives.

Renée teamed up with Philly-based producer Jayar (Chaka Khan, George Benson, McFadden & Whitehead), who strayed from his R&B background because he was drawn to the honesty and strength that infused Renée's rock material.

Renée's lyrical intensity and sharp perception give Progress a dynamic emotional breadth. On "Silent Partner", an electric guitar's dirty distortion throttles with urgency as Renée responds to a partner's slide into numbing addictions. A bounding bassline melodically anchors the bright acoustic pop jangle of "For Today". On "Progress", the Rittenhouse String Quartet elevates Renée's gentle acoustic reflections with elegant grace. A slick R&B groove helps Renée turn the page on "Spiritual Ink", while the punchy pop-rock of "Pennies and Perfume" is powered by a serrated guitar riff on the verse, then shifts to a shimmering arpeggio beneath Renée's delicate vocal. "I Could Love You" engraves a playfully insistent pop melody with lighthearted lyrical irony. Renée's musical vision, coupled with Jayar's production and supported by strong lead guitar (Tim Jordan, Mike Carlino, Reggie Wu) and fluent bass, invite repeated listening.

Outside of music, Renée is a poet and essayist who has been published in such journals as The New York Quarterly, Inciting Desire, and Northeast Corridor. She is also an activist with several bisexual advocacy and social groups, and works to develop social and support networks.

"Polished, biting songs, featuring lyrics that are both down-to-earth and abstract. Renée's expressive, idiosyncratic singing and catchy tunes...[have a] jangly, sometimes hard-driving folk-rock flavor that packs a subtle punch. Poignant and arresting..."


— Star Ledger


"Whether the dynamic punch of the Patti Smith-like "Empire" and "Silent Partner," the poppy acoustics of "For Today,"…or any of the other fine tracks, Renée never lets the listener down."


— Courier News


"Robin Renée is a…favorite for the passion of her songwriting…Robin will win you over with her blend of melody and emotion."


— Jersey Gaze

- TaylorGuitars.com


Renee performs yoga-inspired pop at Pennsylvania studio


Robin Renee, 8 p.m., Yoga on Main, 4363 Main St., Manayunk, Pa. $15. (215) 482-7877, www.yogaonmain.com


As a solo artist, Robin Renee always has offered an alternative-minded, lyrical-driven mix of folk and pop. On her last CD, 2002's "All Six Senses," Renee flirted with what she lovingly dubs "kirtan-pop," the marriage of her established Elvis Costello-like pop sensibility and kirtan chanting, a Hindu-based call-and-response-style of singing rooted in yoga.

But her new "Live Devotion" is devoted to sacred chant, so it makes sense that she returns tonight to Yoga on Main. She calls her fun acoustic performances in yoga studios Kirtan-O-Rama.

"I have grown to love this experience of kirtan over the last several years," said Renee, who'll be backed by percussionist Kevin McDevitt. "It is meditative and freeing and always brings one closer to center, to a sense of peace."

Both Renee's musical and spiritual growth are evident on her third independent solo release.
"I think of 'Live Devotion' as my inevitable album," the Atco-based singer-songwriter said. "I don't feel like I planned or designed it exactly, but it essentially 'happened' to me. Just before I recorded 'All Six Senses,' I had some experiences that really brought my spiritual life to the fore. A couple of the songs on that album reflect that, like 'I'm Coming Down' and 'Holy River,' but it was really just starting to grow at that time. So I'd been spending a lot of time chanting these mantras, privately at first, then at yoga and pagan events, and eventually, it just felt right that the songs and chants that developed over time would become a CD."

Renee, a Courier News entertainment correspondent, also will perform 8 p.m. Friday at Princeton Center for Yoga & Health in the Skillman section of Montgomery. Info: www.robinrenee.com, www.myspace.com/robinrenee, www.CDBaby.com/cd/robinrenee3


BOB MAKIN

Courier News Friday, April 13, 2007






- Courier News


Discography

Robin Renée- Live Devotion. Menage a Music, 2007.
Robin Renée- All Six Senses. Menage a Music, 2002.
Robin Renée- In Progress. Menage a Music, 2000.
Robin Renée- songs from In Progress. Menage a Music, 2000.
Robin Renée- "Brand New Woman" b/w "Magnet and Steel." Menage a Music, 1998.
The Loved Ones- 15 Minutes With The Loved Ones. Hedgehog Records, 1997.
The Loved Ones- The Loved Ones. Hedgehog Records, 1995.
Robin Renée- Tryptophanzine. 1994.
Spy Gods- Teaching the Mudheads to Dance. Amethyst International, 1987.
Chapter 12- Twelve Inch. Shirt Tail Records. Keyboard, backing vocals. 1985.

Compilations:

Robin Renée- "It's Not Me," "G" CD GLOBAL 1 (various artists), Woobie Bear Music, 2007.
Robin Renée- "Holy River," ALWAYS: A Benefit Compilation CD (various artists), Stay Records, 2006.
Robin Renée- "My Bride," Marry Me (various artists), FIGJAM Entertainment, 2004.
Robin Renée- "Thursday Morning Afterglow," Musicians Against Pop, Vol. 1 (various artists), LowBudgetStudio.com (Germany), 2004.
Robin Renée- "My Bride," Hot & Sweet-Outmusic Compilation CD (various artists), Outmusic, 2004.
Robin Renée- "First Sight," Artist Amplification, Green Disc (various artists). Artist Amplification, 2002.
Robin Renée- "For Today," Artist Amplification, Yellow Disc (various artists). Artist Amplification, 2001.
Robin Renée- "The Beginning," Artist Amplification CD2: Winter 2001 (various artists). Artist Amplification, 2001.
The Loved Ones- "Sleepover," Buda Bootleg Volume 1 (various artists).
Hedgehog Records/Childlike Records, 1997.
The Loved Ones- Sounds of the Unknown (various artists).
Village Records. 1996.
Robin Renée- "Wildcats," Love is Best, Volume 1 (various artists), 1994.
Spy Gods- "Clownman," Invisible- What You Can't See Won't Hurt You (various artists).
Invisible Records, 1988.

Other Recordings featuring Robin Renée:

Naked Soul- "Save a Life," Leap of Faith. Jacoda Records. Co-lead and backing vocals. 2002.
Spiral Jetty- "Let it Fall," Begin Responsibilities.
Hedgehog Records. Backing vocals. 2000.
Spiral Jetty- "Let it Fall," New Brunswick Underground (various artists).
Hedgehog Records/Childlike Records. Backing vocals. 1998.
Spiral Jetty- "Let it Fall," "Affection," Take Three.
Hedgehog Records. Backing vocals. 1997.
Slaves of New Brunswick- "Losing Your Hair," Slaves of New Brunswick.
Westwood Entertainment Group. Backing vocals. 1991.

Photos

Bio

If Robin Renée were to start a religion all her own, it might well hold Groupie Consciousness as its central tenet. She chases after the God/dess within with a reverence and fervor not unlike her passion for the music that moves her most- acts as disparate as Elvis Costello, Krishna Das, James Taylor, Gary Wilson, and Devo. Those in the know are realizing that Renée is worthy of just as much hot pursuit. Oh, and that religion? There'd also be lots of yoga, a strong belief in cartoon physics, a little sexiness, and zero dogma.

Such is the musical and magical world of Robin Renée. Her accessible tunes with a spiritual twist have forged her personal genre--Mantra-Pop! The seeds of her diverse influences can be uncovered therein, as well as a longtime focus on Eastern and eclectic mysticism, the mystery that cuts to the core of this powerful singer and wordsmith. At a live show today you might catch a solo acoustic set, a collaboration, or pure kirtan- a form of Hindu devotional chanting in Sanskrit, with which she finds deep resonance.

Released in March 2007, Live Devotion is Renée's first recording dedicated wholly to sacred chant. Borne of one inspired recording session in October 2006, the seven long tracks evoke peace, passion, and the presence of Universal Love. With the sexy, rock feel of "Jai Ma" to the traditional "Sita Ram" to the fun, multi-part "Om Shanti Krishna," Live Devotion is a fresh take on an ancient tradition.

Renée's previous offering, All Six Senses, is the real-life chronicle of one caught in the act of cosmic transformation. Themes of love, seeking, and celebration emerge through a medium of edgy rock, accomplished singer/songwriter lyricism, pop hooks, and the sonic impact of chant. All Six Senses was produced by Scott Mathews, who has worked with artists as fabulous as George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle and many more. Two of its tracks, "First Sight" and "Thursday Morning Afterglow" won Honorable Mentions in the 11th International Billboard Songwriting Contest. All Six Senses follows In Progress, Renée's full-length CD debut (2000). It follows In Progress, which was applauded in much alternative press across the U.S.

She has often credited the sight of David Bowie in a dress with opening her eyes to transformation and expression. It was no doubt an inspiration, but Renée's real drive comes from within. She has battled through the wearying grip of depression, has been enveloped in the bliss of spiritual ecstasy, and lives to tell the tales. She is not afraid to listen to what the voices in her head tell her: Live for your truth, keep it real, and make music that matters.

***

Her smooth delivery flows through and I expect her to pop up on all sorts of interesting projects delivering wonderful post-modern soul to the masses. - San Francisco Spectrum

She draws from rock, punk, New Wave, and folk, but a spiritual awakening brought South Asian chant into her musical vocabulary as well… sometimes merging her melodies with the mantras that have become her passion. --Princeton Packet

Renée's musical style blends a poet's eye with Punk and post-Punk's independent, defiant spirit, New Wave's quirky art-pop, and the edgy introspection with which [the classic] singer-songwriters… dissected life. -Taylor Guitars-- Discover the Indies

…one of the Garden State's finest singer-songwriters whose spiritual pop is a solid mix of
Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, and The Beatles. - Courier News