Evoking a deeply affecting mixture of regret and hope, Gopagana Dasa’s new album “A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart” might be the perfect soundtrack to these difficult times for humanity.
Recorded in Vrindavana, India in early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Gopagana produced the album with minimal equipment, programming all the instruments by himself on Garageband.
“I’m in the vanaprastha stage of life now, and my situation is more simple,” he says. “The kirtans I’m recording are like my bhajanas, my personal offerings to Krishna. I hope that they inspire some soul out there.”
In some respects, Gopagana’s previous release – 2015’s Sixth Rainfall – was a very different endeavor to his current one. Created when he had more funds and facilities, it featured traditional instruments, and was recorded live with a large group of friends, and many musicians from around the world.
The creative DNA of A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart remains the same, however – in its own way it’s just as unique and artistic. Sixth Rainfall was an epic eight-hour boxset with Gopagana’s own original maha-mantra melodies. “A Surge…,” meanwhile, comprises thirteen Hare Krishna maha-mantra tunes ranging in length from 3 to 20 minutes, and blending every genre under the sun.
“In my youth, my friends and I would joke about the titles of different musical genres – like ‘bleak industrial music’ or ‘psychedelic ethereal funk,’” Gopagana says to give us an idea of the album’s eclecticism.
He also lists some of the diverse sources he drew inspiration from: “In the devotee community, I’m inspired by the energetic kirtans of Tribhuvanath Prabhu. The track ‘Kartik’ is an ode to the classic, calm kirtans of Madhava Prabhu, Badahari Prabhu and Sarvatma Prabhu, who are all dear to me. Other inspirations are video game soundtracks, world music, spontaneous jazz, American country music, and the B-sides of 7” European pop singles.”
The cover of Gopagana’s next upcoming album, Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow
Standouts include A Man Needs A Maid, which is reminiscent of a rolling Coldplay piano ballad; A Rush & A Push & The Land is Ours, an uplifting, bouncy number with an eighties pop flavor; and acoustic guitar ditty A New ‘New Vrindavana,’ in which the slight cracks in Gopagana’s voice reveal a man who has been through life’s ups and downs and is beseeching Lord Krishna from his heart. Kartika, which closes out the album, is another achingly beautiful call to the Lord, and conjures up the mood of the sacred month of Damodar so vividly that you can practically see the glimmering, floating lamps as you listen.
The album expresses a mood of regret for the way the world is veering more and more towards materialism, and remorse from Gopagana “for all the offences I have committed, and my lack of energy to rectify them.” But it also evokes hope. “People may feel helpless and stuck in their ways,” Gopagana says. “Nevertheless, by Krishna’s mercy, at any moment, one can turn and move closer to Him.”
As well as exploring such personal meaning with A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart, Gopagana aims to create positive, life-changing anthems for the masses, inspired by the simplicity of Srila Prabhupada’s four-note melody, which he calls “the greatest anthem of the sankirtan movement.”
“People are struggling to understand their purpose in life, to control the mind and develop a sense of inner peace,” Gopagana says. “We all have a forgotten, eternal relationship with God the person, and we can revive it by associating with Him through His Names. I really want to assist people in realizing their true selves, so that they can then help others to do the same – especially those in need. All people have a real world-changing potential and I want kirtan to help them reach it.”
Gopagana feels that different kinds of music and sounds can create an atmosphere by which to meditate on Krishna’s names, but that the Names should always be the focus.
“I believe Srila Prabhupada advised that if the music accompanying the Holy Name becomes more important and the Holy Name is relegated to another effect or backing vocal, then we’re missing the point,” Gopagana says. “Our meditation on the Holy Name can be embellished as an offering to Krishna, but our meditation should be uninterrupted, and deepen into samadhi. After all, this is what will be required at the time of death.”
He adds: “This album is a way for me to share my voyage in bhakti-yoga and a device to dovetail my obsessions in the Lord’s service. I hope that the listeners are inspired, that they can become absorbed in the Holy Name, and that the instrumentation acts like sugar to help the medicine go down.”
A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart, which has received positive feedback from Gopagana’s heroes Badahari Das and Sarvatma Das, is now available for free on ISKCON Desire Tree and Soundcloud.
“Because of my vanaprastha ashrama, I also plan to have a Patreon facility, where I hope that grihasthas who are capable and feel inspired can support me, so that I can continue doing what I love,” he says.
As well as A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart, which has been out since the beginning of the quarantine in March, Gopagana is set to release another album soon, entitled “Today Will Be Yesterday Tomorrow,” keeping up his flow of creativity.
Such offerings are an important contribution during this extremely challenging time for humankind, when the Holy Name can provide solace.
“Our previous relatives had to go through extraordinary situations, such as World War 2, and we hear of Sivarama Swami’s parents surviving the holocaust and Nazi regime; escaping Budapest to start life anew in the free world,” Gopagana says. “I imagine that this was a foundation to his gravity, in understanding the futility of the material world, and his consequent meeting with devotees.
“Our present situation is similar in that many people are suffering and dying as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being forced to undergo a different kind of austerity, whereby all the activities that normally filled our day have been stripped away from us.
“When everything is taken away from us, one may realise that all one has is the Holy Name,” Gopagana concludes. “And certainly, at the time of death, when we are lying on our backs, and the different aspects to our bodies are shutting down, all we have left is our capacity to hear and remember with our heart the Holy Name.”
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To listen to A Surge of Bhakti to the Heart, visit https://soundcloud.com/gopagana-dasa
Videos will be uploaded weekly to Gopagana Dasa’s official Youtube page here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6p5q18_fspg__x5p86TPow
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies