Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Aradhna -- Amrit Vani

There’s no great secret here, but I’ll spell it out. I’m a Christian who has very little use for Christian music. Although some of my favorite music has been made by Christians (U2, Bruce Cockburn, Vigilantes of Love, Tonio K., Innocence Mission, Mark Heard, Peter Case, T-Bone Burnett, Sam Phillips, Buddy and Julie Miller, Over the Rhine, not to mention Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Willie Johnson and Ralph and Carter Stanley), the Contemporary Christian Music genre in general, and the Worship Music wing of that genre in particular, holds little appeal. There’s too much imitation of Fleetwood Mac circa 1975, and too much wince-inducing, sub-Hallmark “apple of my eye/wind beneath my wings” shite. When it comes to music that actually connects in spiritual ways for me, and that I actually want to listen to in the car outside of Sunday mornings, give me Sigur Ros or Miles Davis. They probably didn’t know they were creating worship music. It just worked out that way for me.

So when an album comes along that fits squarely within the Worship Music tradition, and I actually like it, then there may be some evidence that hell has begun to freeze over. But it’s happened with Aradhna. The four core members of the band – Chris Hale, Peter and Fiona Hicks, and Travis McAfee – are as American as their names would indicate. But they’ve all spent significant portions of their lives in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. And therein lies the strange and wondrous merger of two worlds that contributes to the uniqueness of the band’s music, and to the surprising vigor of Amrit Vani. There are sitars here. And tablas. They sound as exotic as you would expect. And there are acoustic guitar arpeggios and gently lilting violin solos that wouldn’t sound out of place on a very western Windham Hill album. It works beautifully. The lyrics are sung in Hindi, and far from being an impediment, the language barrier is actually a great help (see “apple of my eye” and “wind beneath my wings” above). Like Sigur Ros, sometimes the indecipherable is greatly preferable to the old, tired formulas. And by the time we reach the final song, “Narahari,” the music swells and soars, the ramshackle choir enters sounding like the Hindustani angelic host, and something remarkable happens. I find myself worshipping God.

Amrit Vani digs deep in a contemplative, meditative way that few worship albums even begin to approach. And it’s quite lovely. Even in the car.

6 comments:

John McCollum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John McCollum said...

Aradhna's "Marga Darshan" is my favorite worship album. Those guys are great.

KarlandBethany said...

Ok you've sold me! I have a music download card from my team this christmas. I'm hoping I might find this online.

comment word verfication balderdash-

aflue: What the best of us has had for the last week or two.

K.

Ron Freeman said...

Andy, I saw you in Paste and found your blog. I'm a Columbus musician who would really like to give you my first album. I see we like a lot of the same stuff. I have opened for Bill Mallonee a couple of times and Bill Pratt, his pedal steel player on the last record, plays on mine as well.

I looked for your email address on here and couldn't find it. That's why I'm leaving this horribly off topic comment. Please drop me a line at ronfreeman42@hotmail.com. I really would appreciate it, and who doesn't take a free cd.

Look me up on www.myspace.com/ronfreeman

john r. williamson said...

andy,

appreciate your openness. miles was amazing. have you ever heard david friesen/uwe kropinski's "departure" album from 1990. i think it would set well with you. recorded partially by jeff johnson in the ark...

del said...

Hi Andy,

Came across your blog when reading some Amrit Vani stuff (as I reviewed Aradhna's Namaste Sate for Phantom Tollbooth).

I also happened to come across your Bruce C review on CT last week. (One of his most consistent albums yet and I love the humour).

Just thought I'd say that I share your taste, agree with most of your comments and appreciate where you come from.