Renowned US kirtan singer Bada Haridas, a disciple of ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada, is well known for combining classical and modern western instrumentation with traditional Vaishnava instruments on albums such as Lalasamayi, Om Purnam, and Sri Nama. His soaring compositions have always been inspirational to devotees around the world.
But on August 28th this year, on the auspicious appearance day of Lord Sri Krishna, he is set to release an album that strips everything back to the very basics.
Seeking Your Shelter features only some violin and a little bass in addition to its simple traditional kirtan music. And it only has three long tracks, in contrast to the usual seven or eight shorter ones on other Bada Haridas albums.
“There’s less arrangement on this album than on my other studio albums,” he says. “It’s really transparent, more of a direct expression.”
This simplicity lends itself to the heartfelt theme of seeking Lord Krishna’s shelter.
“The idea is that we have something very positive in our lives—we’re connected to Krishna,” says Bada Haridas. “But we’ve forgotten that relationship. And we can’t pick ourselves up. We need His shelter, we need His help to get out of this [world]. So we’re singing the maha-mantra to get the shelter of the Lord. Because otherwise we’re helpless. I try to have that mood in general when I’m chanting. That I’m not the doer, I’m just calling out the Holy Name helplessly to Krishna.”
Most of Seeking Your Shelter was recorded in Bada Haridas’s Chandra Studios at home in Alachua, Florida this summer, during a short break from a particularly full year of travelling around the world and singing kirtan.
The cover art of Seeking Your Shelter
During the sacred month of Kartik (October / November) he chanted in the land of Lord Krishna’s pastimes, Vrindavana. Next, he travelled with Indradyumna Swami’s Festival of India tour through Gujarat, and then continued on in India to Pune, and Kirtan Mela festivals in Mayapur and Mumbai.
After that, it was on to Rathayatra in South Africa, and kirtans in Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong.
“I also had wonderful experiences in Ekaterinburg and St Petersburg in Russia and in the Ukraine, just having long kirtans with the devotees,” Bada Haridas says.
Currently, he is touring Poland with Indradyumna Swami’s Festival of India tour, and singing kirtan both from the stage and on three- to four-hour walking kirtans through villages and along the beaches.
All this immersion in chanting the Holy Name with devotees all over the world has added further to the depth of Seeking Your Shelter’s mood of calling out the Lord.
“The more we do kirtan, the more we have a chance to connect with the Holy Name and get purified,” Bada Haridas says. “So hopefully I’m a little more purified from all these experiences. It’s an ongoing thing. The Holy Name is never something that you ‘perfect’, in a sense. But hopefully it deepens and deepens. And of course the name is Krishna Himself, and Krishna is unlimited.”
The first track on Seeking Your Shelter, Radhe Shyam Meditation, is certainly a very deep meditation on the Holy Name. Running half an hour long, it consists of an invocation and a maha-mantra melody that Bada Haridas sang on the last day of the five-day Mayapur Kirtan Mela this March.
Bada Haridas chanting in St Petersburg, Russia this May
“It was the second to last kirtan, and devotees just really got into the mood,” he says. “It became very focused and meditative. We were all sitting together in Mayapur before Sri Sri Pancha Tattva, just calling for Them to please help us. I felt that mood very strongly. So I wanted to make a recording that hopefully can convey those feelings.”
The second track, Nandagram Maha Mantra, runs for 20 minutes and is a sweet, upbeat Bengali melody that Bada Haridas remembers singing back in the 1970s with the famous chanter Agnideva. Adding an ethereal quality that tugs at the heartstrings is the violin playing of Kazakhstan’s Murari Krishna Das.
“His playing is a mixture of classical, oriental, and a little gypsy,” Bada Haridas says. “It’s hard to describe. But whatever he plays is very plaintive. So it sets the mood very nicely.”
The final track on the album, Seeking Your Shelter, runs 10 minutes long and is actually a Bengali song by the Vaishnava saint Bhaktivinode Thakur originally titled Anadi Karama Phale. The song, from Bhaktivinode’s Gitavali, is one of a series each based on one verse of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastakam.
Anadi Karama Phale itself expounds on verse five of the Siksastakam, in which Mahaprabhu prays, “O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna], I am Your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at Your lotus feet.”
Making the song even more special, particularly to Bada Haridas, is the fact that his beloved guru Srila Prabhupada sang it.
“It’s such a personal kind of song—it’s Prabhupada’s melody, and I would play it while sitting alone by myself,” Bada Haridas says. “So I kept thinking, ‘Is this just for me, or should I put it on the CD?’ I wasn’t sure.”
Fortunately for all of us, he did put it on the CD, and the result is a track of such simplicity and devotion that one’s heart cannot but melt while listening to it.
The other tracks too, are similarly captivating—rather than being musical entertainment, they are genuine cries out to Krishna designed to absorb the listener in devotional feelings.
“I’m taking a chance, in the sense that I hope my audience can enter into the mood of the meditation, just go with it,” says Bada Haridas. “Generally on CDs, you do shorter songs and more variation to keep people’s attention. But with this album, I’m relying on the mood of the meditation to carry it.”
“I hope that it will help devotees and people in general become more attached to the Holy Name,” he concludes. “I don’t know if it will have that effect or not, but I’m hoping that Krishna will work through me somehow or other, with this humble attempt.”
Seeking Your Shelter is now available to pre-order from http://badaharidas.com/music/albums/seeking-your-shelter
It will be released on August 28th and will be available from cdbaby.com, Amazon.com, iTunes and Krishna.com.[ bada-haridas ] [ chanting ] [ kirtana ] [ maha-mantra ] [ music ]