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A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Grammy-Nominated Jai Uttal Collaborates With ISKCON Devotees on New Album
By Madhava Smullen   |  Apr 20, 2017

Jai Uttal, one of today’s best-loved and most popular kirtan artists, has released his latest album Roots Rock Rama! with Mantralogy, an ISKCON devotee-run record company that has also worked with The Mayapuris, Jahnavi Harrison, Gaura Vani and more.

Roots Rock Rama!, an epic double-album, features drumming by Mayapuri Visvambhar Sheth and was co-produced by Gaura Vani.

“I met Gaura about eight years ago at the first ‘Chant 4 Change’ in Washington D.C. and immediately felt I’d met my lost brother,” says Jai Uttal.“He is an inspiration to me, both musically and spiritually, my Bhakti Buddy. We are always in communication about our spiritual and life journeys, sharing thoughts and encouragement with each other.”

Jai also praises Visvambhar, calling him “an awesome musician and a shining young Bhakta.”


Visvambhar chants with Jai Uttal

Interestingly, Jai, who is a disciple of Hanuman devotee Neem Karoli Baba, was first exposed to kirtan in 1960s Manhattan by none other than Srila Prabhupada and his first Western disciples.

Soon after, he happened to visit his guru in Vrindavan, India, at the same time as ISKCON sannyasi Radhanath Swami, who was on his well-known “journey home” at the time.

Roots Rock Rama! carries all these influences and many more. “This album expresses the full fifty years of my practice of devotional singing, of my journey in Kirtan and Bhakti,” Jai says. “It contains so many moods and colors, and every bit of my heart is in it.” 

The lively cover of Roots Rock Rama!

The lively cover of Roots Rock Rama!

On the tracks “Raga Rocksteady,” “H.E.L.P. (Hari’s Ecstatic Love Potency),” and “Heart of the Gopis,” Jai Uttal sings the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

“Two of my other favorites are ‘Madhava Mystic’ and ‘Echo of Mercy,’ because of their moods of separation and complete dependence on Krishna,’ he says.

There are also songs about Srimati Radharani, Lord Rama, and Shiva the greatest Vaishnava.

Although all the lyrics are kirtan mantras, the exciting blend of styles include reggae, Beatlesey rock, ska, Bollywood, bossanova, samba, and swampy blues. Brasilian guitarist Jose Neto contributes, as do Indian string ensemble “The Melodious Strings of Mumbai” and Jai’s old band “The Pagan Love Orchestra.” Like Jai himself, the album radiates the joy of life and devotion.

This joy was shared at a concert in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganga on January 11th, where Jai – with friends Prema Hara, Gaura Vani and Visvambhar – performed the entire album. Featured in the video for single “S.A.M.B.A,” the concert was something truly special.

Jai Uttal's colorful concert on the banks of the Ganga

Jai Uttal’s colorful concert on the banks of the Ganga

“The day was so beautiful; the weather was perfect; the mood was pure joy,” says Jai.

The response to Roots, Rock Rama! so far has been enthusiastic, but it may be a revelation to some that Jai Uttal, a Grammy-nominated artist, doesn’t see commercial popularity as the guage of success.

“I think it’s totally awesome and amazing that devotional music has inched a little toe into the waters of mainstream culture,” he says. “But in the world of celebrity and performance it’s easy to lose the essence. The most important thing in Kirtan is for it to be sincere and heartfelt, and I pray for myself and all the new western followers of Bhakti Yoga to cultivate the truest and deepest connection to God through our singing and to never stop clinging to His lotus feet.” 

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