Amrit Vani


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In the nineteenth century, Rudyard Kipling wrote,
“East is East, and West is West, and never the two shall meet”

In our ever expanding, ever shrinking world, it remains true that there are chasms between the understanding and experience of East and West. But never has there been more effort, more connection and truer communion between these worlds. In this climate Aradhna releases their fourth CD, Amrit Vani “Immortal Word” and it could not be more timely or appropriate.

From the first beautiful strains of Jaya Dev “Victory to God” it is apparent that this is something new, something alive and vibrant. Neither East nor West, but some beautiful amalgamation. A bridging of gaps. A communion.

Aradhna was formed in 1999 by Chris Hale and Peter Hicks. Musicians and friends who had both spent their childhood years in and out of India and Southeast Asia (Hale was raised in Nepal and educated in Indian Boarding Schools; Hicks was born in Delhi and although raised in the US, remained very connected to India). The two friends connected in London and began arranging ancient Indian Spirituals, called “Bhajans,” to bring them into the present. Remaining faithful to the spiritual and musical heritage, they worked to make them accessible to new audiences in the east and points beyond. The results were instantly embraced by both eastern and western audiences.

Several years and four albums later, Aradhna has traveled the world, bringing this re-invigorated music to the modern residents of the sub-continent, to the peoples of the Indian diasporas worldwide, and ever-increasingly to Western audiences hungry for a connection with the traditions of the East. They have played to audiences on five continents, sold thousands of CD’s and most importantly have successfully built true and lasting bridges of art, culture and worship between seemingly unconnected cultures worldwide.

With Amrit Vani, Aradhna have achieved a landmark. A triumph. Indian music, with its microtonal scale and varied, complex time signatures can be a hard sell in the west. Aradhna seems to have cracked the code. This is unapologetically Eastern music. Unmistakably spiritual music. But it is also immediately accessible music. Tabla and Sitar combine with acoustic guitar and western drums. Hindi vocal weaves in and out of English counterpart, such as on Man Mera “My Soul,” playfully pulling back and forth, spiraling to ecstatic worshipful climax.

Recorded in Fayetteville, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Toronto and Windsor, Ontario, Canada; Cincinnati, Ohio and Queens, New York, and with an extensive cast of stellar musicians, Amrit Vani sounds fantastic. The recording and production are flawless, and work with the depth of the music to transport the listener. Barriers break down. Locations no longer matter. “Aradhna” means “adoration” in Hindi. This is Aradhna. This connection. No compromises made in this seamless marriage of two vastly different worlds.

With extensive translation, song notes and background, photos and recording/production credits; the CD booklet and cover are a treat in and of themselves. Beautiful photos by legendary Cincinnati photographer Michael Wilson accompany English-Hindi translations, which take you beyond the music and fully into the meditative spiritual experience of Amrit Vani.

The album ends with the epic Narahari, almost 9 minutes in length. Again Hicks  English vocal dances with the Hindi. Cello and duduk give way to electric guitar and bass. And over the lyric: “Jaya Deva Narahari” (Victory to God, the Man-God), the song builds into a rapture of release. It is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to an outstanding album… after listening to Amrit Vani one feels they’ve journeyed to somewhere else. A place where those worlds do in fact meet &. a place where, as Kipling’s poem finishes,

“…There is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When…men stand face to face,
though they come from the ends of the earth.”

Brandon Dawson
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
December 2007

Song List:
1 Jaya Dev
2 Yeshu Raja
3 Amrit Vani
4 Bhajo Re
5 Dhyana Mulam
6 Man Mera
7 Prem Milan
8 Prabhu Hamare
9 Khat Khataao
10 Aayo Hai Aayo (Nepali song)
11 Narahari

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