Artist: Uma

uma-silbey-biopicIf this artist profile about Uma were to delve into detail about every facet of her life’s work, it could easily fill 10 pages or more. So the challenge is to present as complete a picture as possible within the scope of this feature article. The use of the word “facet” in the above sentence is not incidental, as we’ll soon see. For me, having been a new age music journalist and magazine columnist for over 35 years, I’m quite familiar with Uma’s music, and the 18 albums she has released since the early 1980’s. Interestingly however, my first actual contact with Uma (pronounced ooo-muh with a short o sound) had nothing to do with music. It was around 1987, when I co-owned a new age gift and jewelry shop in northernUma jewelry California. We were researching new products for the store and the one name that continually came up was Uma and the line of crystal and gemstone jewelry that she and her company designed and marketed. We visited her impressive showroom in the San Francisco Bay area, met her, and sold her beautiful crystal jewelry in our store for many years. Incidentally, her business, which bears her name, was quite successful with more than 2400 accounts and averaging over a million dollars of sales each year.


In addition to this particular “facet” of her diverse career, Uma is also a published author with four books to her crystal-guidebook-cover-1credit, including the international best seller, “The Complete Crystal Guidebook” published by Bantam Books, which has sold nearly 800,000 copies. Currently she is working on a new book for Skyhorse Publishing (New York) called “The Ultimate Guide to Crystals and Stones.” Uma is one of the pioneers in this field and has been a major influence in bringing awareness of the metaphysical and healing properties of crystals and gemstones into the contemporary mainstream. Over the years, Uma has become a leading spokesperson for the new age, traveling worldwide to speak and teach, lead workshops and perform concerts. Her articles and interviews have appeared in publications such as People Magazine, Yoga Journal and the Smithsonian Magazine. Uma’s media appearances have been broadcast nationally on over 80 TV and radio shows, including CNN and twice on the “Today Show.”


Underlying all these endeavors is a deep seated and ever-evolving spirituality that bridges East and West. Although she was raised as a Christian, Uma has subsequently studied, meditated, and taken initiation with Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist masters, along with Native American medicine people. She has practiced Vipassana meditation, kirtan (devotional singing,) and bhakti yoga, (the yoga of love, service and devotion.) Her spiritual path has led her to travel many diverse roads and learn from a great number of esteemed teachers and guides, including taking the Bodhisatva Vow from his holiness, the Dalai Lama, and being initiated by him into the Blue Medicine Buddha practices. She has also studied mantra and sound current meditation and pranayam (breathing practices), and is a kundalini yoga teacher. In addition, Uma has extensive training and experience in Native American traditions. On the more “traditional” side, Uma earned a B.A. degree from UCLA and a M.A. degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies in counseling psychology.


As can be expected, this profound spiritual focus that is woven into the tapestry of Uma’s life, also finds aura-1063278expression in her music. In an exclusive interview with Uma, she shared with me some of her thoughts and reflections about this: “I have always loved music. Whether a classical piano piece, a shamanic drum journey, good old rock and roll, Indian spiritual bhajans, or sound current yoga, music can bring such joy when we immerse ourselves in it and let ourselves be carried by it. I think music is the most direct expression of that inexplicable, joyful ‘something’ that is well beyond our ability to explain. Even though I enjoy most good music, in my music I like travel beyond pure enjoyment to also explore sound and its relationship to consciousness. Not only is meditation music my expertise, but through it I also draw inspiration myself. To both play it and hear it makes me feel peaceful and happy…and it is this that I wish to share with people.”


With this in mind, Uma went on to elaborate about her creative process: “When I hear music, I often find myself asking: What inner changes does this musical pattern or delicate phrasing create? I notice what effects are created in me, as well what effects are created in others. The tones and patterns important, but so is the force or energy with which a sound is created. In all of my music, then, I not only compose melodies, but wrapped around the melody, I also explore other sound relationships such as space and dynamics, rhythm, pulse and tonal inter-relationship, and employ these in ways that deliberately open the heart and expand awareness, while being deeply relaxing and centering at the same time.”


Altered States cover jpeg (Uma Silbey)Now that we’ve gained insight ino Uma’s creative process, musical focus, and  intention, lets explore her latest release,  Altered States. Subtitled, “Music for the Journey Within,” this meditative listening experience draws from the deep well of Uma’s extensive spiritual awareness and learning. In her words: “Meditation music is my calling, although I was a classical pianist, coming from a long line of classical musicians. So, after recording 16 other recordings over the years, mostly using synthesizers, I decided to combine both these Eastern and Western musical roots. Indian music is based on many different scales, each scale tied to a certain state of consciousness. Intrigued with this, I composed the songs in Altered States based on 7 of the Indian scales, but I played them on western instruments (piano and synthesizer,) and played them in Western mode.”


She goes on to say: In Altered States I love exploring the relationships between sounds, and what I call the “third sound” that gets created with the blending of another two together. Sometimes this sound is more like a silent vibration heard with the “inner ear,” other times you can actually hear it. The Indian scales also allow me to explore some tonal progressions that not only are rarely heard in Western music, but also create some deep inner states.” These scales, which were taught to her by a yogi, each evoke a certain mood. As Uma explains: “Our Western ears are used to expecting certain notes to follow previous ones, but with Indian music you often get a different note which leads to a sense of drama and wonder at what comes next. If you sink deep into these different sounds they automatically put you into a state of meditation.”


Having read this information before listening definitely enhanced my experience as I calmed my mind and lethqdefault the particular scales have their intended effect on my consciousness. On the first track, “Invitation,” the scale that Uma used is for evoking unconditional pure love and devotion. Her spacious and serene melody on the piano mixed with gentle nature sounds create a soothing ambiance that, as the title implies, invites you into it. On a song entitled “Voices From the Deep,” Uma uses synthesizers to create ambient choirs and heavenly harp sounds that are both oceanic and ethereal. A more earthy element is heard and felt on a track called “Mountain,” which Uma describes as: “a “powerful piece with the bass sounding like a heartbeat or a pulse, which always reminds us that we are living beings.” Interestingly, although the music is based on Indian scales, it doesn’t have the ethnic Eastern sound, but is more like what listeners are used to hearing in new age meditation music.


Uma Silbey photo with necklaceEarly in her career, Uma was referred to in the press as “one of America’s Renaissance Women,” and that title is certainly well deserved. Her many diverse achievements and all that she has shared with the world is remarkable, to say the least. Yet, while there has been a lot of creativity manifested on the physical plane, it is the spiritual energy and vibration behind it that distinguishes Uma as a true pioneer and light-bearer of the Aquarian age. In her words: “All of my creations, whether musical compositions, books, teaching, or symbolic jewelry, have always been specifically designed to help bring balance, health, wholeness, inner peace and expanded awareness.” After a career such as this, spanning 40 years, most people would be slowing down. Uma however, continues to be active in the work she loves, creating new books and music that touch people’s lives, and in some small way, add to the collective expansion of light and love in our world.


Click the links below to hear samples and/or purchase Uma’s music and books: