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Mountain Xpress

There’s a story behind local rock outfit Mandara. “As a Buddhist in the Tennessee bible belt, [Amanda Mandara Sky] grew up facing much religious persecution. These events soon became the inspiration and foundation for her music,” says the website for the singer and the band that shares her name. (Also, her grandfather was Imre Kovacs, a Hungarian freedom fighter, author and senior editor of Radio Free Europe.)

Each of the three songs on Mandara’s new EP, The Event Horizon, is heavy-hitting and politically charged. Those politics could be personal or national — it’s hard to say, and ultimately it’s up to the listener to decide. “You make these statements / Like you haven’t heard / Actions speak louder than words,” Sky sings on “Empty Hearted.” It’s a big song built on swells of guitar, searing solos and drums that shimmer and seethe. The band — Spencer Cranfill on lead guitar, Chris Brittian on bass and Joe Campbell on drums — create a muscular wall of sound.

“Holding Me Back” enters on a march, the drums kinetic and the bass coiled and low. Instruments layer like a foundation onto which Sky unfurls her vocal. That song, more rhythmic, more syncopated that its prog-rock predecessor, offers the kind of dance beat needed to shake off a week’s worth of frustration and fist-pump into a happy place. “You have your blinders on / You don’t want to see / Is it threatening? / You’re oppressing me,” Sky sings. The words challenge limits both perceived and enforced, but the music has a supple bounce. There’s a smart tempo change, with the drums a tight pummel propelling the song through its paces. Cranfill’s solo bursts out of Sky’s final “Whoa-oh,” a serpentine ribbon of melody.

Final track “Into the Ashes” starts slow with melodic guitar and Sky’s voice. Her vocal is never shy. Instead, the pared-down music allows her to open up, exploring the reaches of her sound. The drums soon add rolls and cymbal flourishes, not picking up the tempo so much as adding to its heart-beat thump and emotional insistence. On bass, Brittian provides a solid floor allowing Cranfill to add texture and sonic color with clear high notes that rise out of crunch and buzz. Sky soars into her upper register just before the song’s end, showcasing her range without overplaying her hand.

It’s a tantalizing collection — just enough to hint at what this band is capable of on a full-length recording or live show.

Strutter Magazine

Out of Tennessee, USA comes MANDARA, a female singer with sadly just a CD-single out for now, because the included material is really great original Melodic Heavy Rock. MANDARA has a great voice and I truly can't wait for a full-length CD someday soon. This girl has talent and we should definitely keep our ears and eyes open for her in the near future. In the meantime more info on the 2 songs at: http://www.mandararock.com/

CW Reviews

Band : Mandara
Album title : Empty Hearted
Label : Own release
Distributor : /
Release date : 17/02/2011
Release : CD-single (2-tracks)

Sometimes good things just happen in a series! Here I am just writing another band into my own provate musical heaven, and along comes Mandara, a delightful young female singer-songwriter with the most incredible strong voice and a message to all those oppressed!

 

The oppressed...that's a group of people she feels very related to, and with cause...because born in New York, she was raised in the South as a Buddhist, in the Tennessee Bible Belt, which means she faced much religious persecution as a child. And there's there's actually quite some history of oppression and reaction to that in the girl's ancestry. Her Great-grandfather, as a child, escaped death when his mother hid him in a hay wagon leaving Russia, only to see his brother die of starvation in Vienna as Franz Joseph marched by. Her grandfather was Hungarian freedom fighter Imre Kovacs, esteemed author and Senior Editor of Radio Free Europe whom, having fought Nazi oppression and then the Communist repression, fought for a form of democracy in his country, and was therefore threatened with execution by the authorities...after which he escaped to the US. Current-day authorities having seen the light, there's now a statue of his place in Budapest. If he had lived, he'd have become his country's Prime Minister. Her Grandmother, by the way, became the first female editor of the Harvard Crimson in its 300 year history. Mandara's mother, who raised her daughter as a single parent not only spent her life rescuing horses, but also inspired the '70s Punk Rock movement and its relation to the band Talking Heads, created an unprecedented art form as portrayed in Visible Light.

 

Mandara's own reaction to repression and oppression came at an early age, and in the form of song, writing songs that speak out for the protection of our civil liberties (you know, the constitutional rights to religious freedom and equality), overcoming the intolerance of our time, and striving to have her audiences overcome all personal obstacles. Her music is determined to be a catalyst to encourage all who hear it to be courageous and spiritually free. Blessed by an unusually emotional-laden voice, she has touched people's inner lives and inspired them. She was only 10 when a room full of Rockers pounded the air with their firsts for her, 14 when after a performance at the National Cherry Blossom Festival a Chinese family ran over to say how amazingly different she was, how she affected them... when a member of Rolling Thunder cried on her shoulder. She's also had mail from European countries, North Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan and as far as Indonesia, and one in specific wrote to her how her music and the message entailed actually saved his life. Mandaraalso got her name into the media, being described in various published newspapers and magazine feature articles...and gotten her Associated Press coverage (APis probably the biggest news group in the US), as well as a television feature. In the music business, Mandarahas had resounding praise from none less than Bob Leone (first manager of Lady Gaga), Dale Radecki (concert coordinator/ stage manager of the National Cherry Blossom Festival), Saad Al-Ameri (lead singer of Tarnished), and such well-placed people as Teresa LaBarbera Whites (Columbia Records) and Stacy Quarterman (Sony Records).

 

Having heard Mandara's voice myself (quite repeatedly), I am not surprised at all about all the emotions she has awoken thus far. What doés surprise me is that, in spite of all her accomplishments so far (to which should be added being invited by Pepsi Cola to sing at Freedom Hall two years in a row with audiences numbering well over 100,000 people, as well as for the first two World Peace Concert events at the Beck Black Heritage Center...she still was not offered a decent recording deal (as far as I know at this very moment, that is!). Of course there's hopes within this girl that her music will one day be able to sustain her living needs, but even so she's already made the solemn vow to have a third of all he profits go towards charities assisting starving nations, animal rights, or such like. In fact, she hopes to advance enough in the music business to be enabled to form her own charity in which she will acquire no profits at all, and of which the donations will be used only for the betterment of the world.

 

With her very nice female tenor which reminds me very strongly, somehow, of Cher...(enjoy it by listening to the 4 songs (very nice mid-pace ballads-with-balls Rock songs, you'll agree) posted at (www.) mandararock.com and on her MySpace page)...and the material she has at hand (she's recorded another EP so far, released in late 2010) there should be no problem for Mandarato accomplish these goals at all! Besides, and this is the most amazing thing of all...she's only 16 [correction: Mandara is 20] at the moment. One could only hope for people just like her to get into politics, and become leaders of our countries. As far as I'm concerned, it's Mandarafor US President first, then for World President! Tolerance, peace, love and respect for all on Earth and beyond. That may be seen as the stuff of dreams...but it's a dream shared by more people than some of the war-mongering idiots on this astral globe can fathom! Too bad they're also the ones in power, or protected by 'em! Until “that” day, we can only strive to spread our spiritual love freely, and enjoying to the fullest whatever little things we get in return without really expecting 'em.

 

98/100

Fireworks Magazine UK

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Voice Magazine

"This month the picture on our front cover is that of a wonderful inspirational young teenager. Born in New York and raised in the South, [Mandara], now sixteen, has dedicated most of her young life to encouraging people through her voice. When she began, after 9/11, in one year she went from singing for 200 people to over 100,000 people sponsored by Pepsi Bottling Co. She has already had seven newspaper articles, a television feature, and AP newspaper and radio coverage. Her music is based on our constitutional rights to have freedom of religion and equality. She has never written or performed songs typical to the pop media. She sings out for tolerance among races and faiths, and beckoning to all those struggling to surmount their obstacles...

Called "Young Lady Liberty," she has been supported by a broad spectrum of Americans, and has locally sung for the Bristol Veterans, Mosheim Fun Fest, the Greeneville Astros, Pepsi Bottling Co.'s Independence Day Celebrations at Freedom Hall, the DAR, President Andrew Johnson memorials, the Beck Black Heritage Center in Knoxville, and the Buddhist International SGI Peace Culture Festival. Last year, this Greeneville girl had the honor to be invited to perform her original songs in front of the Jefferson Memorial for the Washington D.C. National Cherry Blossom Festival. "I sing for Veterans because they were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our Constitution which guarantees equality for all..." [Mandara], with a young heart and a strong conviction, states, "If all Americans do not overcome their prejudices, hatred, and violence towards each other, then these Veterans have died or have been injured for nothing. That is the travesty of violence towards one another. If we do not uphold the visions for which our Veterans have died for, then we are trampling upon their graves. Therefore, we must uphold our civil liberties, protection our right to be individuals with personal liberty, racial equality, and freedom of belief. We, as Americans, need to declare an "armistice" towards each other. It is not enough to fight for a cause. We need to apply tolerance- our constitutional foundation- respecting our diversity and set a glorious example for the world- a world of huge diversity!"

One of her original songs was used at her high school's memorial for Virginia Tech. In it, she encourages her generation not to give up on themselves and to continue to strive towards a non-violent world. In the aftermath of VT, it is important to emphasize the more positive efforts by young individuals that remain anonymous in the glare of violent attention-seekers, and for our cultural influences to be less prone to glamorizing destructiveness, which swells into negative emulation in the real world. "We cannot suddenly have a perfect society without encouraging the individual, no matter what faith or non-faith, to stand strong against the tempest of life. America is the land of the free, but in that freedom we can fall into darker realms; we can harbor hatred; we can suffer in lonely depression. When I sing, I thank those who have protected our freedom, yet hope to encourage those who do not appreciate it, who need to awaken and strive above their frustrations towards a positive outcome in their lives, and ultimately a peaceful world."

[Mandara] has been a voice for her generation encouraging steadfastness in the face of the terrorism and violence that has "rocked their world." Simultaneously, her songs beseech the necessity to stand strong for the protection of our human rights. Both principles were imbued in her through the awareness that her grandfather Imre Kovacs, a hero in East Europe, established a democracy in Hungary after WWII that was crushed by communism and as Senior Editor of Radio Free Europe fought the information blackouts throughout East Europe that followed. These are [Mandara]’s personal witnesses to the religious and racial bigotry still very much alive today in the USA. Her ability to impact others comes from living through more loss in her youth than many adults experience in a lifetime. "Those losses have made me a much stronger person because I believe that coping with loss, pain, and struggle builds character. Because I believe that if an individual can rise above his or her own lower worlds of anger, hatred, jealousy, and greed, and can start to build a more enlightened world. It starts with a suffering teen; one misguided fanatic- overcoming personal pain and hatred and building a peaceful world- connecting. My songs bridge the two."

It has been said that her “resolute path” and “never give up spirit” will shine an illuminating light ahead for her generation, and a light of hope for older generations to understand that although they have left the young a damaged world, youth will rise above and commence the healing. [Mandara] set out to reassure our nation, through the conviction, power, and enlightenment of a young woman brought forth from the common people, that from this moment on there can be a new beginning. [Mandara] believes that after 9/11, everyone "woke up." "We became more aware of what America stands for, but over time we settled back to our personal divisiveness. I sing in hope that we can all wake up and become prouder, better, and more caring. It doesn't have to be only in crisis that we do that. We can change in this present moment; we can say no more violence, no more self-destruction, no more arrogance, and no more domination. It's a choice. That's all it takes." [Mandara] is a positive role model for the young and old. Proud of her heritage she will continue to sing from the heart with her conviction to find a better way. "life can be unbearably hard. We must find ways to overcome our personal obstacles and not turn our frustration into destruction of others or ourselves. We must find the inner strength to vault beyond the pain and create value from our hardships. That is what I sing about."

Bristol Herald Courier

"[Mandara]'s not what you'd expect from a 15-year-old singer. She doesn't have a sweet soprano. It's more of a though tenor. She sings with strength. Her songs have a message- a purpose. "I hope (listeners) get a new perspective on life- to have a wider, more open view," [Mandara] said. Her message of tolerance comes from her own life experience. She and her mother are Buddhists and at times have been persecuted for it in this rural East Tennessee town, she said... Other kids ostracized [Mandara] at school for protesting their widespread use of the N-word, she said... For the past two years, she's sung for an audience of tens of thousands at Freedom Hall Civic Center during Johnson City's Independence Day celebration. She's sung before Greeneville Astros games and at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington. She also has performed for the Bristol Veterans Council's Veterans Day commemoration services. At one service, a friend of a soldier killed in Vietnam cried on [Mandara]'s shoulder after she performed. "That, to me, felt like I had success," [Mandara] said. "I had touched the heart of someone. Whether it's one person of 100,000, it makes me so happy that I touched someone's heart." ..."

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