Recorded on a break from touring with Indradyumna Swami, Bada Haridas’ new album “Gaura Sharanam” is a culmination of everything he has done up till now.
For decades, Bada Hari has been singing kirtan, teaching others, and mentoring young devotees. And for the past five years, he has been touring non-stop with Indradyumna Swami, averaging 13 countries a year and trying to serve people by connecting them with the Holy Name.
Listeners say all this experience, service attitude and austerity can be felt in what some are calling “his finest work to date.”
Thematically, Gaura Sharanam – literally “Under the Shelter of Lord Gauranga” – is Bada Hari’s meditation on the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
“The album centers on the maha-mantra,” he says. “The songs and verses around it are meant to accompany the maha-mantra and bring out the moods of humility and gratitude for the gifts we’ve received, as well as the joy of chanting.”
This joy comes across in the album’s six tracks, which are all in major keys, in contrast to Bada Hari’s other albums which featured wistful minor keys. From opener Trinad Api Sunicena, the listener is inundated in a cascade of beautiful harmonies and layered instrumentation that buoys the soul.
Verses accompanying the Hare Krishna mantra – some of them set to Bada Hari’s own melodies -- bring more depth to the meditation. Tava Kathamrita, for instance, is a Sanskrit poem originally sung by the gopis and later recited by King Prataparudra to Lord Gauranga.
“We sing this poem in appreciation of the power of Krishna-katha and in gratitude to the great saints, especially Srila Prabhupada, who blessed our lives with this divine knowledge,” the liner notes read.
In the track Treasure of my Life, Bada Hari sings a beautiful meditation from the first line of Svanistha, by Narottama Das Thakura – “Lord Nityananda is my treasure; Lord Gauranga is my master; Radha Krishna are my life-force.”
And on Yadi Gaura Na Hoito?, the only “sad” song on the album, Bada Hari invokes a beautiful Bengali poem by Lord Gauranga’s personal associate Vasu Ghosh. Accompanied only by piano and cello, he laments, “What if Lord Gauranga had not come? What would I have done? How could I maintain my life?.. Oh please, make your mind simple and sing again and again the glories of Lord Gaura. In this world of darkness who has seen such a magnanimous personality as He?”
The final track of the album, Kirtan Under the Stars, sticks to the maha-mantra only – but the twist is that it was recorded live, bringing a spontaneous, jam-like feel that evokes the best times you’ve had in kirtan.
Adding to the power of the tracks is the bevy of talented musicians and chanters, motivated by not only their love of Lord Gauranga but also of Bada Haridas – many of them are second generation devotees who grew up learning how to sing kirtan from him.
There’s Visvambhar Sheth on mridanga and tabla, Dhanya Gaurangi Rico’s clear, soulful voice dueting on Tava Kathamrita, and a chorus of young devotees including Amala Harinama and Nadiya Mani singing backing vocals.
Meanwhile accomplished musicians and senior devotees Purusartha Sadkin and Ekendra Dasa play bass and guitar, while Jaya Sita Lopez from Puerto Rico and Gandharvika Sundari from Russia tug at the heartstrings with their cello and violin.
This love and community spirit is even evident in the cover design for the album, by Govinda Cordua and Raghu Consbruck, and in the dreamlike cover artwork, an original painting of Lord Chaitanya by French artist Radhe Gendron-Naysmith.
It’s likely that Gaura Sharanam will be on playlists for a long time to come. There’s a purity and simplicity to Bada Hari’s chanting that could only come from years of sincerely calling out to the Lord and trying to please His devotees. There’s no ego in sight, and while the album is beautifully produced and the musicians are expert, this doesn’t feel like a musical performance. Rather, it’s a shower of Lord Gauranga’s mercy that you’ll feel cleansed and uplifted after listening to.
Bada Hari himself says it best: “The kirtan leader’s role is to help people connect with Krishna and I can’t do that if I’m not connected. So really the focus is internal. I try to be present in the moment, hearing attentively, sincerely calling out, asking for service and purification, singing for Krishna’s pleasure, thinking of the Lord, and begging for mercy. Chanting is all about re-establishing our relationship with the Lord.
“As the kirtan leader, it is best to be in the mood of serving the devotees. When Krishna is pleased, as Supersoul within their hearts, He pleases them, and that’s how we serve them. It’s not a show, or a performance.”
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To listen to sound clips and purchase the CD, visit http://badaharidas.com/gaura-sharanam/
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