ISKCON devotee Premamaya Vasudeva Das (Pierre Edel) has reached the third stage in Season 3 of the Russian version of TV singing competition show The Voice, an international phenomenon.
At every opportunity along the way, he’s sharing what he knows about God consciousness, vegetarianism, and sacred mantras with judges, contestants, and journalists.
But Premamaya, 27, is not proselytizing – he’s speaking from the heart. For him, Krishna consciousness is part of a very personal journey – a discovery that turned around a troubled life.
To the materially-inclined, it would at first seem that Pierre Edel was living the dream. Born in Paris, France, to a French father and Russian mother, he grew up in a very wealthy family. He started playing the piano at six, and bought his first guitar at thirteen. At seventeen, he and his band Argentum Mori had already been signed to French label Wild Palms.
But the band was dropped by the label, and although Pierre went on to self-release ten albums, play over 300 gigs and produce many of his own videos, he never broke out in the French music scene.
Immersing himself deeper and deeper into the “rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle, he tried to find happiness in drugs and alcohol. “Because my mother was very rich, I could have practically anything I wanted,” he says. “And that wasn’t a good thing for me.”
By 2009, at only 22, he was so unhappy and disappointed with his life that he was feeling suicidal.
That was when he met his future wife, Maria, and the two moved to her native Moscow to live together. For the next year, Pierre continued to smoke, drink, take drugs, and live in depression. But somehow, although he “gave her a hard time,” in his own words, Maria always seemed happy. Finally, he begged her, “How are you so happy all the time?”
“There are other ways besides drugs to find happiness,” she said. And she revealed to him that she was a Hare Krishna devotee.
“Even though I was still smoking, taking drugs, and eating meat every day, she hadn’t been preaching to me, because I was very atheistic and didn’t want to hear anything about religion,” he recalls. “But for one year, she had been feeding me prasadam, praying for me, and asking the devotees in her bhakti vriksha group to bless me. And it worked.”
Chanting japa for the first time brought such a powerful wave of relief over Pierre that he broke down crying.
“It was like waking up from a bad dream,” he says.
Inviting devotees to his house for the first time, he began singing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra with them and immediately felt that Krishna wanted him to use his talents for Him.
Today, he and his wife are married, with a beautiful two-year-old girl, Radha. And on the occasion of Gaura Purnima in 2014, they were initiated in Mayapur, India by Jayapataka Swami as Premamaya Vasudeva Das and Maharani Radhika Dasi.
Along with spiritual success, Premamaya also began to experience a light at the end of the tunnel in his professional career. Producers on the French version of The Voice, impressed by his Youtube videos, invited him to apply for the third season of the show, running in early 2014.
With his soulful, soaring vocals Premamaya made it through the show’s blind auditions, battle rounds, and knockout rounds, before being eliminated in the live rounds, just before the finals.
But his Voice journey wasn’t over. Almost immediately, he was invited to apply for The Voice Russia. Here, he beat out 13,000 aplicants to be cast in the show, then once again made it through the blind auditions with his rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” and was selected by Russian singer Pelageya for her team.
He also emerged victorious from the battle round with “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and is now about to enter the knockouts.
Regretting that he did not use his time on The Voice in France to spread Krishna consciousness enough, Premamaya has been telling everyone on The Voice Russia – which is viewed by millions — about Krishna.
He wears a Jagannath t-shirt and his kanthi-mala, or sacred neck beads, during his performances. He has given Pelageya, his coach on the show, Srila Prabhupada’s biography, and has brought her producer prasadam on her request. And whenever he does an interview about the show with a journalist, he brings up Krishna.
“Sometimes they ask, do you have some ritual that you do for good luck before you go onstage to sing?” he says. “And I always tell them, “Yeah, I chant Hare Krishna!”
But most of all, he talks about Krishna, the maha-mantra, vegetarianism and more with his fellow contestants, whom he’s often working with for fifteen hours a day.
“I tell them, “I like your voice, I like the way you sing. Please come and sing mantras with us, we have gigs every week,” Premamaya says, referring to his Krishna conscious concerts at ISKCON Moscow’s Jagannath Restaurant. “And they actually come and sing Hare Krishna with us, and they love it. Then they start to speak about Krishna to others. It’s amazing.”
Lately, Premamaya has also begun receiving messages on Facebook and Youtube from hundreds of fans of The Voice, and is using the opportunity to tell them about his spiritual lifestyle too.
Progressing on in The Voice, Premamaya says that while he once would have been attached to the outcome, he no longer cares whether he wins or not – he’s just happy for the opportunity. But he does hope to get the chance to sing George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord on the show, which contains the Hare Krishna mantra.
Premamaya is well aware of the challenges of navigating the music world as a devotee, and regularly invites his inspiration Adosha Darsha Nitai Das, one of ISKCON Moscow’s managers, on tour with him and to The Voice tapings to remain in an environment of devotee association. Meanwhile, he’s also playing guitar and singing Hare Krishna to thousands at ISKCON Moscow events like Janmastami, Goloka Fest, Kirtan Moscow, and Mantra Yoga.
As far as his professional music career goes, Premamaya says he’s only interested if he can spread Krishna consciousness through it.
“I used to use it for my own pleasure, fame and recognition,” he says. “But now I realize that is useless and shallow.”
He has already received an offer to produce a track with Universal Music Russia, and plans for it to include the names of Krishna, which transformed his life and which he hopes will bring joy to others too.
“When I started singing Hare Krishna, that’s when I felt like I was really starting to live,” he says.
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