Bhakti Without Borders, a charity kirtan album featuring mostly second generation ISKCON singers, has been nominated for a Grammy – the biggest music recognition award in the United States.
The album has been nominated in the Best New Age Album category, along with four other artists.
It’s only the third time a kirtan album has ever been nominated, following Jai Uttal’s “Mondo Rama” in 2004, and Krishna Das’ “Live Ananda” in 2013 (neither won).
However it’s the first time an album entirely in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, featuring only traditional Sanskrit or Bengali bhajans, has been nominated. Songs include Radhe Jai Jai Madhava Dayite, Namo Maha Vadanyaya, Bhaja Govindam and Jagannathastakam.
It’s also the first time an ISKCON devotee has been nominated. Havi Das won a Latin Grammy in 2010, but the prize was for a Venezuelan folk music album, and the Latin Grammys are a completely separate awards to the U.S. version.
Bhakti Without Borders is also unique in that 100% of its profits go towards helping underprivileged girls in Lord Krishna’s hometown of Vrindavana, India.
“I couldn’t believe it when I woke up to a text saying we had been nominated,” says Madi Das, who came up with the idea for the album and sings on it with eleven Vaishnavi co-vocalists. “I thought I was being pranked! I had to go check for myself.”
The singers (From top left to bottom right): Carmella Gitanjali Baynie, Chaytanya, Acyuta Gopi, Nalina Kaufman, Jahnavi Harrison, Gaura Mani, Gaurangi, Tulsi Devi, Madi Das, Sudevi, Mallika Des Fours, and Ananda-Amrita.
Madi and most of his co-singers — Gaurangi, Achyuta Gopi, Jahnavi Harrison, Gaura Mani, Chaytanya, Sudevi, Mallika, Ananda-Amrita, Nalina Kaufman and Tulsi Devi – all grew up chanting bhajans in ISKCON temples with their gurukuli friends (The eleventh artist, Carmella Gitanjali Baynie, is a prominent chanter in the broader kirtan community).
In addition, the record label cited in the nominations list on Grammy.com and Billboard.com is Kuli Mela, a non-profit organization that connects a global community of second generation devotees by holding events and supporting worthy projects.
“This all started as a grassroots crowdfunding campaign, and now it’s become an actual legitimate presence,” says Madi. “I mean, we’re in Billboard magazine with Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. That’s crazy.”
Madi is very emphatic that the success belongs to the team, the family behind Bhakti Without Borders. He says he feels “a bit sheepish” to be the only one named on the ballot — he tried to include all his co-singers, but was thwarted by the Grammy rule that the named artist had to be featured on at least 51% of the album.
“I very much want to impress that there have been so many parts of the team behind us from the start,” he explains. “From our friends and family, and even people we don’t know, putting in their money to make it happen, to the actual individual artists who donated their time for free, to the various team members that did the graphic design, website, videos, and other back-end support.”
Brijbasi girls at Sandipani Muni School, who benefit from 100 per cent of the profits from Bhakti Without Borders
Now, it’s a waiting game until the Grammy Awards on February 15th, 2016 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to find out if Bhakti Without Borders wins.
But Madi already feels like he’s won. “Obviously we’re a long shot, but nobody can ever take away that Bhakti Without Borders is now a Grammy nominated album,” he says. “And more importantly, the nomination will give us a second wind in album sales, from which all the profits of course go to the Sandipani Muni School for Girls in Vrindavana.”
This service is what the album, and any Grammy win or nomination, is all about for Madi.
“You always have to remember that you’re simply an amplifer for a divine music coming through you,” he says. “And that you aren’t the source of that beauty, you are just a servant.”
So far, sales of Bhakti Without Borders have raised fifty per cent of the funds raised to make the album by the initial crowdfunding campaign. That’s enough to provide 17 young Brijabasi girls with education, food, clothing, books, and medical care for one year.
“My goal is to match 100% of the money we put into the album, and hopefully beyond,” says Madi. “So please go out and buy it for Christmas, give it to your friends, and please don’t pirate it! This is a gift that gives not only to the listener, but also does service for Brijabasi girls in Vrindavana. So I really do encourage everybody to join in the cause and help us make this seva take off as much as possible.”
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To purchase Bhakti Without Borders, visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kirtanshakti
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