Moving “beyond” religious, cultural, and social differences, the Beyond project is an interfaith musical series created by four women: a “Baptist-Buddhist,” a Hindu, a Christian, and a Tibetan Buddhist. So far, three albums have been released under its name—a considerable achievement as each lady is a busy artist in her own right. Tibetan singer Dechen Shak-Dagsay recently released Asian Jewel, a remixed edition of her successful Jewel album, and will follow up with a new compilation in October. Building on a theme that has informed her musical career, her thoughts on Beyond are similar to her approach with her solo albums: “In the Buddhist view, not harming others and bringing happiness into people's hearts is critical. Since my childhood I carried a wish: one day I wanted to make people happy by singing for them. Whenever I sing these Buddhist prayers, I genuinely wish to touch everyone deeply and to give them a sense of connection and belonging. With the right motivation, every single note has the power to positively transform people's hearts.”
Meanwhile, Tina Turner remains a household name amongst the pop rock, soul, and R&B pantheon. Her mainstream reach has certainly brought greater global attention to the Beyond project. “I’m being a part of something greater than everything I have done. Personally, I am very proud to be a part of it,” she reflects. “What this project hopefully will do is to teach people to find out what they are born with, to use it, and to help the world. If we can tap into that inner peaceful space, like we plug in a lamp for light and spread it, there will be more world peace, I think.”
Indian musician Sawani Shende-Sathaye is forthright about this chance to work with Tina: “Of course I have always been her fan, and it was really even more overwhelming for me to see such a down-to-earth and true artist personally,” she affirms. “She has been a great source of inspiration to us.”
Their latest album is Love Within, which was released on 6 June and features their combined voices. The very first thing that all the singers agreed upon was that they were to “collectively pass on the message of love and peace through this album.” Even though each artist practiced her own set of values or religion, they shared a common purpose, offers Sawani. The album also received the blessing of Dechen’s father, the eminent Dagsay Rinpoche (he helped to guide the singers and choose the correct Tibetan prayers and mantras, which are fused with Christian chorale and melodies).
Regula Curti, creator of the Beyond Foundation and a Swiss artist with a background in church choirs and German folk songs, feels that music unites the team. “I found healing and a higher consciousness through music. From music’s gift came the desire to help everyone see similarities before differences. Through singing prayers of various religions and belief systems, I gained a deeper understanding of my Christian roots. My music and singing are coming today from another source, from the heart and connected to the divine.”
Buddhist and Christian Prayers focuses on Dechen and Regula’s joint singing, with Tina’s narration. This album was an intensely personal project for Regula. She had turned to Buddhism many years ago, but this changed in 2005 when she and Dechen organized a ceremony with the 14th Dalai Lama and Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln. “They reminded the audience to deepen their own religion and to search for shared values across all belief systems. This statement woke me up to look deeper into my own practice as a Christian. I was deeply moved when I discovered corresponding prayers with Dechen and experienced the same transforming energy. We both discovered that love and compassion are the unifying essence. The journey helped me to become stronger in my Christian belief and to be proud of my roots,” she says.
After Tina left the stage, she grew tired of the concerts that had become a staple in her illustrious career. “When Regula Curti came to my house and said, ‘I have a project,’ and she described it, I was excited. ‘Oh, I get to sing spiritual songs again!’” she exclaims, remembering the fond memories of religious songs abandoned for the mainstream. “I was excited about doing something I knew from the past. My music career was to make money for survival, performing, dancing, visual.