Energetically tranquil is the best way, if also the most
perplexing, to describe how a person might feel listening to the Sanskrit chanting of Shanti Shanti. Sisters Sara and Andrea Forman call it the Sanskrit buzz, and they and their audiences notice a heightened sense of clarity and serenity when exposed to the sounds of 5,000-year-old Vedic texts.
“We love the way it sounds and the way it makes us feel,” Sara said. “We call it the Sanskrit buzz because you feel very excited inside, yet also very calm. It’s this dichotomy that’s going on in your nervous system. It’s very cool.”
There was standing room only during a rare Reno appearance at Esoteric Coffeehouse. (Although the Forman family lives in Sparks, they spend almost every weekend touring the country.) As the sisters chanted in remarkable unison—their voices very feminine, soothing and airy in resonance—the faint and simple drone of a keyboard provided backup. Audience members smiled and closed their eyes. Heads swayed to the natural, lilting beat of the nasal and liquid language. During the catchier (though not as affecting) English-versed pop songs, heads bobbed with more oomph and toes tapped, which said a lot about this Sanskrit rock group. Whoever thought there’d be a niche for such a breed of band?
Andrea, Sara and their dad Robert (songwriter, guitar, keyboards and backup vocals) make up Shanti Shanti, which translates to Peace Peace in English. Linda Forman, their respective mom and wife, had her book, Dreaming in Real Time: The Shanti Shanti Story, picked up last year by a national publisher (the book is in Borders stores across the United States). Just last week, Shanti Shanti received a letter saying that Borders stores nationwide would like to start carrying the book-inspired CD, Dreaming in Real Time, as well. The CD debuted at No. 2 on the national chart for new-age music (cellist YoYo Ma was No. 15) and were recently approached by VH1 for a possible feature piece.
Robert and Linda performed music together for years before their children were born (Andrea and Sara also have a younger brother, Micah). Growing up, Andrea didn’t particularly excel in school; reading wasn’t her strongest suit. But around the age of 9, she expressed to her mother an interest in Devanagri script, the writing of Sanskrit. Her parents had a background in Eastern philosophies (as well as being Catholics). They practiced transcendental meditation, so there was some Sanskrit literature lying around the house, although neither Linda nor Robert could read it. When Andrea told her parents she could decipher it, and that it was just like remembering something she already knew, her parents realized she had an amazing gift.
It wasn’t long before Sara also expressed a profound familiarity with the most difficult dead language in the world. The whole family agrees there may be a past-life connection.
“A lot of it just comes,” Andrea said. “I don’t know how to explain it … we’ll study it a little bit at night, and the next morning, we’ll know far more than we ever studied.”
“In fact, we usually say, the more you study, the less you know of Sanskrit,” Sara added.
A few weeks back, Andrea and Sara were put to a surprise on-air test by Sanskrit professors from Chicago and India who couldn’t fathom that the girls were self-taught scholars.
“At the end of the show," Linda said, "the Indian professor, who was supposed to be the arch enemy said, ‘I don’t know what anybody else is going to say, but I want them to come and visit me at my university because I think this is incredible.' "