Despite featuring an extraordinary cast of musicians (Pharoah Sanders, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Santana and Milton Nascimento), the music of Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors remains largely unheard beyond their sphere. Conceived as live, improvised soundtracks to Roth’s transcendental dance workshops, musical acclaim was never on the agenda. Instead, for a passionate dancer and spiritual polyglot like Gabrielle Roth, movement was a means through which to channel a wide spectrum of teaching, from experimental psychology to psychedelic counter-culture. It was from this heady mix that she devised a movement meditation known as 5Rhtyhms, which came to define her life’s work.
As “guide and catalyst”, Roth would dance to inspire the percussion-led instrumentals that would in turn fuel her 5Rhythms workshops, stimulating a secular form of ecstatic dance with roots in Native American shamanic traditions, Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and Yoruba drumming. Using anything from a Sioux pony drum to East African kihembe and Japanese Kabuki drums, Gabrielle’s lawyer-turned-drummer husband Robert Ansell set the foundational rhythms for The Mirrors’ recordings, each of which would then feature a rotating cast of friends and professional musicians.
“The secret of everything we’ve done is that we never told anybody what to play,” Robert shares. “Instead of our albums being a musical vision of one person like me or Gabrielle, they were the musical vision of a whole bunch of people.”At times the recordings have a Middle Eastern flair, at others, West African and spiritual jazz modes come to the fore. Hints of kosmische musik, proto-house and electronic ambience are laced like LSD through the organic rhythmic structures. This was kaleidoscopic ambient music to stir the body and free the mind.