Rama Bolo: This is a very traditional kirtan melody of Rama Bolo. Sometimes in our live kirtans, we sang this with just a drum beat, and everyone in the room would sing together. I love this song because it takes a traditional kirtan melody and creates a unique and abundant modern sound of spiritual joy. For this version, I wanted the musical theme to be similar to some of the modern electronic Indian music I have heard, specifically Talvin Singh. I played a Talvin Singh song for JT before we started recording this song and he, with his brilliant musical self, just came up with awesome sitar-like sounds for the intro and throughout the song.
This was one of the first songs where we really added a lot of layers of harmony, kind of like the Beach Boys did. I listened to the Beach Boys a lot as a kid, they were my Dad's favorite band. So, I was greatly influenced by their beautiful harmonies. Brian Wilson even recorded his later albums where he himself did every harmony part! This song reminds me of that. I hope my Dad is proud of this song in Beach Boys heaven where he is now. I love the second part of this song too, where it goes into a really rich overlay combo of Hare Krishna + Rama Bolo. This was also one of the first songs where we added in a lot of vocal highlights and overlays to add emotion and feeling. We had a lot of fun with this song.
Jai Jai Ma: I remember the first time I came up with this melody. I was in the shower, and all of a sudden I started to sing a Jai Jai Ma chant which was the precursor to this song. The melody was similar but evolved a bit in the studio. When I was singing this song in the shower, I loved it and knew I wanted it to be on the album. That has been one of the most fun parts of making this album - allowing the magic of creativity to happen.
On this track, JT invited his friend and the bassist of Grammy-winning Bruce Hornsby Band to play bass on this track. What a blessing. His name is J.V. Collier. J.V. ended up playing bass in ways that I didn't even know were possible. For real. His timing of when he chose to enter the track with his bass really delighted me and put me in awe of his abilities and musical intuition.
For this track, I wanted it to build up to having a feeling of excitement and ecstasy. We used some really cool electronic (EDM) sounds and beats. Combined with J.V.'s brilliant bass, JT's engineering and musicianship, and the blessings of the Divine Mother of Love and Compassion, I think we ended up with exactly what I wanted, and much more for that matter! I hope you like this song and feel inspired and ecstatic with the uplifting and fun beats, rhythms, and devotion of Jai Jai Ma.
Hare Krishna Magic: This was the first song we recorded for this album. Fellow kirtan singer Wynne Paris made the introduction between us and JT, and for that I am forever grateful! We were all in the studio together that day, and I knew I wanted to start the recording journey with Hare Krishna. JT found a drum loop to play, and I remember standing there listening to it, letting myself find the music to go along with that beat. I started to sing Hare Krishna in the exact melody that we ended up recording. I went right in the vocals booth, JT started to record, and I sang this whole song in one take. Then, JT sat down at his synthesizer, and experimented with different sounds with which he'd play the accompanying music. He found this really ethereal, cosmic sound, and went with. His musical accompaniment to this song is simply amazing. It adds so much, and really helps set the mood of this song.
When we finished this song, I totally remember just sitting on the couch in the studio, closing my eyes, and literally getting lost in the oceanic peace and bliss of this song. I remember actually feeling Srila Prabhupada's (the Hare Krishna guru) presence when I was listening to this completed song that day. I felt very grateful to begin the journey of recording a kirtan album, and I felt like Prabhupada actually blessed this song, and I felt like he was there listening to the song with me. It was amazing.
Nrsimha (Mystic Lion): This song was recorded days after the shocking passing of Aindra das, a world-famous (specifically in the global Hare Krishna community) kirtan singer. Aindra was also known for his fiery speeches and teachings on the true essence of bhakti yoga. When I heard the news that Aindra had passed away from this realm, I was totally shocked. JT's highly original piano melody really hit the perfect musical feeling to go along with this song, which to me embodies kind of a mystical feeling and even a haunting feeling of the great power of God. Listening to this song always makes me think of the mysterious and shocking occurence of Aindra das passing away, and concurrently makes me in awe of the mysterious and inconceivable power of God. Sometimes things happen and only God knows why. Perhaps Aindra's passing is one of those situations.
Regarding the initial choice to put this song on the album, before I went to JT's to record the next song for the album, I asked Pia: "What should we do next?" She immediately suggested we record this song. So we did! This song is about a story of an incarnation or form of God known as Nrsimha, who is half-man, half-lion. Nrsimha is very protective of his devotees, but very fierce with those who go against Divine love. Many devotees pray to Nrsimha for protection in life.
Jai Govinda: This is another melody I just came up with one day and really liked. We went into the studio and got to work on it! JT's musical accompaniment almost has a country feel to it. Jai means "victory to" and Govinda (and Gopala) are names of God. Then, I start to sing Radhe, and Radhe Govinda. Radhe (or Radha) is the lover of Krishna, Krishna's beloved. Krishna loves all equally, but has a special love relationship with Radha. When we sing their names together, like Radhe Govinda, we are evoking the most sacred, most sweet, most unconditional love.
Just like when people root for their favorite sports teams, we are rooting for Govinda in this song. When people say "Go Bulls" or "Go Cowboys," we say "Jai Govinda!" However, in somewhat of a different vein than chanting to favorite sports teams, the mood of chanting and singing these Holy Names of God is really one of singing from our soul, sharing and expressing our unconditional love and gratitude towards God. Even though God may be difficult to really conceptualize or visualize or understand, there is something about chanting these Names of God that really consciously connects your individual heart and soul to the Source, to the Supreme Love that is God. And typically singing together in kirtan creates a very blissful, transcendent feeling in ourselves, in our minds, and in our spirits. These are spiritual feelings. This is a spiritual aspect of ourselves, one that actually feels real bliss, real transcendence, a burgeoning awareness of Divine love and grace in our lives. The more we sing in kirtan, the more these spiritual feelings arise. The more these feelings arise, the more devotional, pure, and soulful our kirtan becomes. It is a neverending love story.
Jaya Radhe: I remember first playing this song during a yoga class in San Diego. I think I just was experimenting with different chord progressions, and found this chord progression on this song, and it seemed like a good one. I may have starting to sing a different kirtan song to this melody, but then switched to Jaya Radhe. The sweetness of Jaya Radhe combined with this melody really seemed to go well together, so Pia and I went with that during yoga class that day. It sounded really nice, so we added that to our array of melodies and songs for our kirtan!
This chant is so simple (just two words!!), but can be so sweet, and so moving. I feel the essence of this chant is really acknowledging and being so thankful and surrendered to the much greater Divine power of Love in our loves. Radha is unconditional love embodied, she loves Krishna so much, Krishna is her life and soul. Therefore, as Krishna indicates, He is 100% devoted to her, he is actually bound by her love, because her unconditional love is so intense and powerful.
Do we realize that we are loved unconditionally by the Divine, by God? Do we realize how much we are loved? This chant can awaken that reality of being loved by God. We are glorifying this unconditional sweet love in this kirtan. We are also directly glorifying Radha's pure love for Krishna. This is important. In this song, we are glorifying and connecting ourselves to not only receiving God's pure love for ourselves, but also offering our whole being's love to God. This is the ultimate spiritual reality to experience: loving God so much that you don't think of anything else. You may be "doing" so many different things, but the ultimate feeling inside you is pure Divine awareness and pure love of God. Everything in life becomes a direct experience and manifestation of the Divine love relationship between you and Krishna. There is no need to wait for anything. You experience the sweet, mystical, unconditional love of Krishna now. Everywhere you look, you experience a feeling of Divine gratitude. Jaya Radhe!
- Produced & Engineered by John "JT" Thomas (keyboardist for Grammy-winning Bruce Hornsby Band) in Los Angeles, CA
- Contributing Vocals: Pia Rotman, Anthea Jaskirpaul Kaur, Govind das, Brock Pollock, Zalika King
- Contributing Bass:
- Contributing Mridanga: Vijay Krsna
- Contributing Violin: Bahman Sarram
- Album Art: Sarasvati Dasi
- Mastering: Lair Studios
THANK YOU Everyone!