Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits Break Through With New Release
By Madhava Smullen   |  May 17, 2009
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It’s not very often that an ISKCON-produced album of kirtan,

India’s ancient practice of call and response chanting, makes a real impact on

the general public. ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada’s original 1966 LP did it,

getting airplay on the hippy beat radio stations and drawing many to Krishna

consciousness. So did 1971’s Radha

Krishna Temple,
which was produced by George Harrison and spawned two hit

singles in the British charts – Govindam

and The Hare Krishna Mantra.

Since then, despite the contributions of well-respected ISKCON kirtan artists, perhaps nothing has made quite the same impact.

Yet listening to Ten

Million Moons
, the second album by Gaura

Vani & As Kindred Spirits
, I get the feeling that it could be the landmark

record we’ve all been waiting for.

This is partly because kirtan is becoming hugely popular in

the USA, with stars such as Krishna Das, Jai Uttal and Dave Stringer drawing

thousands and playing in not just yoga studios, but mainstream venues too. And

with the yoga community at 11 million practioners and growing, kirtan as a

genre is about to explode.

But it’s also because Ten

Million Moons
is just that good. While As

Kindred Spirits
’ first album, cult classic Nectar of Devotion, showed much promise, it felt more aimed at an

internal devotee crowd. With Ten Million

Moons,
however, the band are trying their best to reach out to a larger

audience, stretching their sound and creativity as far as they can – and it

works.

From opener My Body Is

A Temple (Krishna Murari)
the impeccable production by Gaura Vani, Rasa

Acharya, and Jai Uttal regular Ben Leinbach is apparent. You’re transported to

another world as calls and sounds hark back to village temples in the holy land

of Vrindavana, India. When the beat kicks in, festive images of villagers in

saris and turbans, hurling colorful flowers and cloth into the air and dancing

down the street, float through your mind. The harmonies soar, Acyuta Gopi’s heartfelt

call providing the perfect foil for Gaura Vani’s sure, meditative baritone.

It’s purely Indian flavor, but don’t let that fool you. This

is a band not afraid to experiment and to explore their widely varied

collective musical backgrounds. Stop and Talk (Hey Natha) is a hip-hop

ballad with Sanskrit lyrics, its electronic beats wrapped in futuristic

synthesizer and propelled along by a rumbling bassline. Where Was I Last Night? (Nami Danam Chi Manzil) is an Arabic hymn

with a distinctly middle eastern groove. Sleeping

Soul (Jiv Jago)
melds gospel harmonies in English with a sweet kirtan

melody, creating an instant classic as catchy as any pop song – and one which I

defy anyone with a beating heart and soul to not feel simultaneously overjoyed

and deeply moved by.

The biggest surprise, however, is Surrender. Here Gaura Vani goes it alone, armed with only his

guitar and singing his own lyrics in English. At first it seems completely out

of place on a kirtan album. But emotions begin to stir when you realize that

here we are meeting the man behind the Sanskrit prayers, letting us know who he

really is, what he’s been through, and what kirtan has done for him: “Thirty

long years of doing it my way has brought me here / The road behind me is

littered with the ruins of decisions made in fear / Now I surrender.”

And this is what As

Kindred Spirits
is really about – the personal connection. Gaura himself

listened to nothing but kirtan until the age of nine, while most of the band

are also second generation Hare Krishna kids. “Essentially, we are family,” Gaura

says in an upcoming interview with YogaMates. “We grew up together playing

music and singing kirtan since before we can remember.”

It’s this intrinsic love for kirtan and for Krishna, the simple

kind that comes with growing up with them as part of your life, that makes Ten Million Moons really special. The

title song, for instance, finds Gaura at his best – singing a prayer to one of

Gaudiya Vaishnavism’s founders Nityananda Prabhu, softly and with heartfelt

devotion, all the weight of the original poet’s lyrics behind him. Worship

the Golden Lord (Bhaja Gauranga)
, a Bengali song used in Nilachala Mahaprabhu (a classic

devotional film that many of As Kindred

Spirits
grew up watching), is infused with an achingly beautiful

wistfulness that only genuine feeling can bring. And Pirate Song (Dina Dayal), with its

roaring call and response vocals, conjures up images of a pirate ship lit by

burning torches coursing along in the darkness, as its crew link arms and belt

out the chant in a spirit of lifelong comraderie.

Which

all comes back to the same point – Gaura

Vani & As Kindred Spirits
are going to be big. They’ve been

enthusiastically praised by celebrated kirtan artists Dave Stringer and Jai

Uttal. Their album has been released under an imprint of Warner Bros. They’re embarking on a coast-to-coast tour of the US, as well as

international performances in Brazil,

India, Europe, and Africa. And they will be featured in this year’s Bhakti

Fest, the largest gathering of yoga musicians in the US. (Held from September

11-13 in Joshua Tree, California.)

The band

will also appear on Faith, Music and Culture, an interfaith religion

special to be broadcast Sunday June 7 on the CBS Television Network. The

program looks at modern music inspired within the varied cultures of four

religions: There’s a Jewish rap group, a Sufi orchestra, a Christian a capella

group, and, representing Vaishnavism, Gauravani

& As Kindred Spirits.

Their success elates those of us ISKCON members who felt our

hearts sink this March when we read Sara Eckel’s New York Times article Yoga

Enthusiasts Hear the Call of Kirtan
. In it, popular kirtan singer Krishna

Das said he was dismayed that many associate the chant “Hare Krishna” with

people who begged on the streets and danced in airports in the 1970s.

How surprised would he be to learn that this modern kirtan band, praised by his contemporaries and beloved by yoga audiences, are

comprised of the children of those very people?

For more information or to purchase the new album visit gauravani.com.

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