Anima Mundi

Por SiempreSeptentrión
Jagannath Orbit (In The Orbit Of Love)Jagannath Orbit
We Are The LightJagannath Orbit
Time To UnderstandThe Way
Spring Knocks On The Door Of MenLive In Europe
The Call And Farewell SongThe Lamplighter
Endless StarThe Lamplighter
SomewhereI Me Myself
New Tribes TotemInsomnia


Amina Mundi playlist



Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

Ladies and gentlemen, here you have it: Cuban Prog Rock [pause] … I’ll repeat that, Cuban … Prog … Rock, not what you expected to read, but, like the coffee in Twin Peaks, as music goes it’s damn fine.

Anima mundi is Latin for ‘the world soul’ and is, “according to several systems of thought, an intrinsic connection between all living things on the planet, which relates to our world in much the same way as the soul is connected to the human body.”

The band formed in spring 1996 – by five school friends – to “major as professor of music” (as their website states). Between 1997 and 1999, Anima Mundi made three demo albums and a name for themselves on the alternative Cuban music scene. There have been changes of personnel but the quest to produce quality music remains.

Anima Mundi photo

The band’s influences are legion; clearly, their native Cuba plays a big part as does the British symphonic rock of the 1970s and Western Rock in general but there are also Celtic overlays and, latterly, electronica. The website states: “Anima Mundi have always combined prog sounds with other music genres and used instruments that are uncommon for rock. Echoes of Celtic, Cuban, New Age, and Symphonic Rock music can be clearly distinguished.” Songs are recorded in a combination of their native Spanish and English.

At the time of writing, Anima Mundi have released six studio albums and two live albums.

Our journey begins with the opening track of Septentrión, the first album in 2002; the fanfare of Horizonte that leads into the second track, Por Siempre, that opens with Galician bagpipes, not your usual rock instrument.

Here’s the first of some direct quotes from the band’s official website, translated from their native Spanish: “Septentrión means the magnetic north, the guide, the light, the way. The album was completely conceived with the idea of showing that attempt of search of the ultimate truth, unmovable an eternal. It was a concept album from beginning to end. Every song talked about an attitude towards us indispensable on that path called Life.”

By 2008, they had fully embraced the prog rock genre and their second album, Jagannath Orbit, was recorded with florid keyboards, extended tracks and, with an eye on an international audience. English lyrics. From this album we have the title track Jagannath Orbit (In The Orbit Of Love) which talks about the quest for love and the intangible. I’ve also chosen the opening track of the album, We Are The Light, a close on 18-minute piece of colour and depth with an underlying message of hope. Rhythm Of Spheres on the same album commences with that classic rock ‘n’ roll instrument, the digeridoo.

Jagannath is a deity worshipped in the regional traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism in India and Bangladesh. According to Wikipedia, the icon of Jagannath is a carved and decorated wooden stump with large round eyes and a symmetric face and a conspicuous absence of hands or legs. The worship procedures, sacraments and rituals associated with Jagannath are syncretic and include rites that are uncommon in Hinduism. In certain Odia literature, Jagannath has been treated as the Ninth avatar, as a substitute for or the equivalent of the Buddha.

The Way followed in 2010, a suite of four songs which range in length between 8 and 26 minutes. I have chosen the opening track, Time To Understand (see top live clip). The band states that the album “is placed in the land of the pure symphonic-prog rock although its frontier is not close enough to Jagannath Orbit. Why? Just because The Way is a more lyrical, solemn and dramatic album, dressed of plentiful and constant melodies but also with slow changes of breathing and unexpected soundscapes, but it doesn’t resemble the traditional kaleidoscopic performances or lively arranges appearing in Jagannath Orbit; it is rather an album that takes time to allow us to paint different structures in a tempo, most of times, leisurely and meditative.”

The Way was recorded to be pretty close to ‘as live’ and this can be heard on the selection from the next album, Live In Europe. Spring Knocks On The Door Of Men is the centrepiece of The Way that loses nothing in the live performance and at 26 minutes long showcases the quality of the musicians.

The band returned to the studio to record The Lamplighter, released in 2013. Constructed as two ‘suites’, “The Lamplighter” and “Tales from Endless Star” with a final track Epilogue His Majesty Love, the album splits the suites into sections and I have selected a section from each suite: The Call And Farewell Song from “The Lamplighter” and Endless Star from “Tales from Endless Star”. Again, to quote from the band: “The conceptual idea for the album was about the light from its different symbolic meanings, perspectives and senses. The suite “The Lamplighter” is about the light of our heart, the bright of our consciousness and the shine of empathy. The lamplighter, as a character, was created using the patterns of mythology and fantasy. He is a symbolic representation of our capacity to perceive and understand in the deepest sense. The suite “Tales from Endless Star” is about our sun and the stars, the light of creation and the meaning of life. Finally, the Epilogue: His Majesty Love talks about the deepest recognition of love as the major force in the universe accepted by many philosophers, mystics and scientists.”

Anima Mundi’s next album was released in 2016. I Me Myself was recorded in Havana after an extensive tour in Continental Europe. In popular music, there are numerous songs featuring the word Somewhere and it seemed appropriate to select this track that is in two parts; Act I – “Toccata”, Act II – “Where Chaos Sleeps”. “Toccata” is a heavy prog rock fast-moving piece and takes the listener on the journey towards where chaos sleeps which, despite the title, seems a calmer place.

As the album title suggests, I Me Myself is a musical reflection about humankind which chimes quite well with me as I work my way through Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens” which paints a less than flattering picture of us.

Again, to quote the band: “I Me Myself is a kind of musical and conceptual mural about human conflicts. The themes are: our subjection to industries and technologies, the primitive and savage practice of war, the search for a transcendent reality to escape from this dense and disturbing material life, the danger of imposing ideologies and creeds to the others, the slavery to the unreal sense of time that modern societies inflict on our daily lives, the deep feeling of existential loneliness, and our responsibility toward the future in searching for a better world. These are the ruling subjects of the album.”

The most recent release (at the time of writing in April 2019) is Insomnia in 2018. The album moved away from the prog rock we had been used to and surprised listeners with a move towards an eclectic sound. The soundscapes are more experimental but nonetheless are definitely Anima Mundi and represent a progression for the band into new territory. New Tribes Item is one of the longer tracks on Insomnia which has a relentless drum tattoo running through it and an almost 1930s gumshoe detective feel, time travelled and electrified into the 21st Century before the vocal kicks in.

There you have it. A band from Cuba with ambitions to harness the soul of the world through music inspired by their home; western rock and progressive rock music with unexpected overlays of Celtic and Australian Aboriginal music thrown in. For this listener, it all works rather well.


Anima Mundi photo 2



Anima Mundi official website

Background Magazine interview with Anima Mundi (2013)

Anima Mundi at Discogs

Jagannath Orbit: In the Orbit of Love (YouTube)

The Call And Farewell Song [The Lamplighter] (YouTube)

Anima Mundi biography (Wikipedia)

TopperPost #793

1 Comment

  1. David Lewis
    Jun 14, 2019

    What a great band. Looks like I’ll have to search them out the old fashioned way – but the chase will be worth it. (Only five tracks on Spotify)

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