In 2013, Krishna Das’ long-time accompanist and manager, Nina Rao, sent resounding waves through the Western kirtan world with the release of her debut album, Antarayaami. The album announced her arrival as a chant leader and a champion of the Hanuman Chalisa (the entire second cd in that double-disc collection contained a number of alternate versions of the Hanuman Chalisa that she’s become so famous for), and she has subsequently emerged as a prominent presence in the world of spiritual and new age music, touring and teaching as often as her very busy schedule has allowed.
A follow-up to her debut has been long anticipated, and now, five years later, Nina has finally released Anubhav, an ethereal and delicately eclectic assemblage of tracks that finds the Brooklyn-based kirtan walli coming into her own artistically.
On this first day of the 9-night festival of the Goddess ‘Devi Navratri’ I’m happy to share the release of my second album – ‘Anubhav’.
Anubhav is the inner spiritual experience, perception, understanding of our connection to the One, to the Divine, to Love. This inner knowing guides each one of us on the path of life and strengthens the trust in our own hearts. It’s a word I first heard from my guru, Sri Siddhi Ma. Over the almost 20 years that I was able to visit with Her, She emphasized the importance of disciplined practice (particularly japa – repetition of the Name, prayers, reading sacred texts, chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, and kirtan) as a regular part of our daily activities. Whatever inner spiritual experiences we might have (or not have!) it’s important to be regular with practice.
It’s been 5 years since I recorded my first album Antarayaami – Knower of All Hearts. Ram Dass’ favorite on Antarayaami is Vinayaka Always – this track is a fusion of an old recording of us singing at kids and my grandfather leading, with a current recording of me leading with our young children.
As more chants have come to me and I’ve revived old ones that I learned from my grandfather, I’ve offered them in ‘Anubhav’, the way they flow out of me with musical accompaniment that has been in my ears from my travels and friendships over the years.
Some of the tracks are invocational, some simple call-and-response, and some upbeat – all prayerful. The chants have a healing power, which is enhanced, the greater our attention and intention as we practice.
Noah Hoffeld, bhakta-musician and producer of this album, and I worked together to create luminous soundscapes, layered with strings, drones, resonant keyboard pads, tabla, myriad percussion, ornamental flourishes of African Kora, bansuri flute, and electric guitar.
The mantras resonate with the multitude of energies or forces that flow through us, and connect us. As we chant the mantras we align with those healing energies and the mind can get quieter, and the heart more easeful and open. The more we chant, the greater the cumulative effect over time. As ‘spiritual practice’ becomes regular, daily life and living blurs into practice – every moment is a teaching/learning, if we pay attention.
For me, these sacred chants are the path, the vehicle, the journey, and the destination – and it’s always a refuge.
I’ll leave you with a verse from the Chandi Paath below. Through out the Chandi Paath we bow to the Goddess ask Her to give us Her form. One of her forms is a beautiful multi-armed feminine body bearing earthly utensils and weapons which can be activated by sacred mantra to cut through our obscurations, into the One Heart that holds us all, and is all of us. We have everything we need, we just have to turn in the right direction.
“She with the beautiful face, the Destroyer of the Great Ego, is seated upon the lotus of Peace. In Her hands She holds the rosary of alphabets, the battle axe of good actions, the club of articulation, the arrow of speech, the thunderbolt of illumination, the lotus of peace, the bow of determination, the water-pot of purification, the staff of discipline, energy, the sword of worship, the shield of faith, the conch of vibrations, the bell of continuous tone, the wine cup of joy, the pike of concentration, the net of unity and the discus of revolving time named Excellent Intuitive Vision. I bow to that Great Goddess of True Wealth.” – from Chandi Paath
Raghu Markus and I chat in detail about some of this stuff and more on his Mindrolling Podcast where you can also preview some of the new chants.
Order the physical CD here.
Download on iTunes here.
Album is also available to stream on Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and more!
For more info, lyrics, tour and retreat information, and music visit NinaRaoChant.com.