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A History of Music Groups in the Sri Chinmoy Centre

 

"In the beginning there was nothing. Nothing but Aum, and Guru sitting there. Then Guru started singing and everyone had to be involved so of course there were the beginnings of singing groups. And then there were the beginnings of music groups," says Kanan, a disciple of Sri Chinmoy since 1970.
"Guru had, here in Queens, Narada- a nice sweet disciple who lived in Hollis- 40 blocks away. There was the Sri Chinmoy Orchestra led by Dulal, the First Viola in the Little Symphony Orchestra of New York."

"When I first saw Guru in '73, the meditation was a small part of it. Guru would meditate for 10 or 15 minutes, give a lecture, play some songs, and then there would be a period for questions and answers. There were no disciple groups at that time." Says Amayik Duckles, who met Mahavishnu backstage and was invited to be part of the group. It disbanded before his inclusion. "I probably saw at least ten times when Guru gave concerts and Mahavishnu would be on stage. I had a beautiful experience at a New Years meditation in '74 when I first moved here, when Mahavishnu was playing and I was filled with gratitude. It was a beautiful, powerful experience. "

1971 - Mahavishnu John McLaughlin

"Mahavishnu would just blow you away with an acoustic ovation guitar; take you on a journey. You've seen a couple of those early movies where he's playing? It's just pure magic. Pure magic, man. The spirit was really on him at that point, and he would play these absolutely magical things. Mahavishnu's thing you could ride right into a different world. The combination of his absolute guitar ability, inside and out... There were a couple years there where his aspiration was really awesome. That accomplishment will always remain immortal. The whole world went, 'Oh my God, what is that?' That might have been the last new music that's been created." -Anugata

"People still play his music in Europe, some of the stuff from the 70s and 80s. With string orchestras, singers, and all kinds of stuff." -Sahishnu

Mahavishnu with Sri Chinmoy and Devadip Santana

Mahavishnu John McLaughlin

From John McLaughlin's official website:

"I was increasingly influenced by the philosophical and musical ideas coming out of India at that time. These influences can be seen in that another name ‘Mahavishnu’ was given to me by my guru Sri Chinmoy, and the sophisticated rhythmical concepts integrated in Indian classical music, both north and south which directly influenced the compositions I was writing for The Mahavishnu Orchestra."

He offered the following message after Sri Chinmoy's passing in 2007:

“Finding one’s way in life is difficult even in the best of times. The presence of inspiring human beings is the surest way of receiving help and guidance in these matters. Five years of my life were spent under the direct tutelege of Sri Chinmoy. There are but a few real and true human beings to whom I will never ever be able to repay my debt of gratitude. The principle reason for this is that they have transcended the merely human and attained the All. Sri Chinmoy is one of these human beings. My gratitude to him will remain forever endless."
-Mahavishnu John McLaughlin

Devadip Carlos Santana

Love Devotion Surrender

1973 - Devadip Carlos Santana

"He would come up with a Spanish classical guitar, sit down and play as a meditaiton." -Anugata

"Devadip made a recording which was really sweet: Videos, beautiful and soulful, of Guru meditating and these great guitarists playing beautiful, soulful melodies. It was really, very very nice. When Mahavishnu was around, they were sort of sharing the spotlight. So he had a brother in that realm. Mahavishnu was having very high experiences and was universes beyond Santana in terms of his musical talent overall. But Devadip is a sweet soulful singer, whereas Mahavishnu is like a Beethoven.
In September '75 Guru asked him to form a second group called Sri Chinmoy Rainbow, which Premik was in, and only played Guru's songs. So he would give performances with his rock band and he would also do a short set of Guru's songs.
He did a thing with Herbie Hancock called Swing of Delight.
The rock and roll world is the world of the vital life and vital music. So it's very hard to integrate that with being a spiritual aspirant and playing spiritual music." -Amayik

"I just remember the first time I saw him, he had big long hair and everything.... I said 'Who the HELL is that?'" -Vinaya

"He was inspiring to me. And it meant a lot at the time. We used to go to circus practice at a school on Hillside near 240th St. There was a really sweet feeling and it touched my heart. It was about the spirit of oneness that we came out of and that we were sharing on a higher level with Guru. He used to make jokes about my personality- then he saw me play basketball and he was just amazed by the total difference. He would call me Sid Vicious. (laughs) I thought he was very, very sweet and that his music at that time was amazing." -Kodanda

Swapan Tari from The Swing of Delight

 

1973 - Jatra

Jatra started out being Led by Bhoibava Omar Mesa, who previously played as the lead guitarist in the afro-cuban jazz funk rock group Mandrill. Jatra was later led by Premik.

Jatra in 1978

"I was soundman for a band Guru called Jatra. Bhoibava was my first room mate in Jamaica." -Dhanu

Jatra

 

1973 - Srinvantu, "The Green Group," was the first to make a recording of Guru's Music.
"As soon as I saw Srinvantu, I wanted to be in a musical group." -Kamalakanta
When first begun, Srinvantu performed devotional folk-rock songs composed by leader of the group. Kodanda William Nathan was a member for three years.

Listen to Swarupananda - A rare recording which includes piano playing by Surashri

1975 - The New Light String Ensemble
Dressed in pink, the group involved Amayik Duckles and later Premik. Played Jazz/Indian/Fusion style renditions of Sri Chinmoy's melodies. In 1976 alone the group gave over 70 public concerts.

 

1976 - Haridas Olivier Greif

"A musician of the highest order. One of the greatest musicians on earth. I knew him well. He's the most competent musician that I knew well as a person. They make documentaries about him in France." -Sundar

Haridas formed the Sri Chinmoy Song-Waves Choir, which performed his arrangements of Sri Chinmoy's music. His group was the first to employ classical style harmonies of the voice. The Choir went on tour through Europe.

"His stuff was from another plane." -Kanan

Solo piano playing
Choral arrangement

Haridas Oliver Greif

Haridas with Akasha (Live in Paris)

Dream-Glow by Akasha

In 1982 - Akasha set a new tone.

"There was this sort of evolution of things, where Guru began accepting harmonies once again.
To this day, I think a lot of groups in the centre have been basically imitating their sound." -Amayik

Akasha was a Swedish group consisting of five women, who passed the long winters in Sweden recording succesful albums.

"Akasha was the first really good music group that came along to play only Guru's melodies. They were the first really popular one. Everyone really liked them." -Sundar

"Akasha is immortal. I remember the first time they played, it was in the old Progress-Promise... everybody just went completely silent. Nothing needed to be said, it was like 'Oh my God.' At that point especially, it was a quantum-leap." -Anugata

"They were beautiful. Swedish group. Very peaceful. Very subtle, sweet, sattvic harmonies. They had great albums." -Kanan

 

1982 - The Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers

The Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers are an international group of women singers and musicians from North America, Europe, Australia and Japan who perform bhajans composed by spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. Most of the songs are written in Bengali. The singers seek to to create an atmosphere rich in devotion.

Instruments include: Hammer dulcimer, tampura, flute, sarod, violin, guitar, synthesizer and bells.

Listen to an early recording

Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers

 

1983 - Sri Chinmoy Vision-Muse In Action

Led by Prachar Stegemann, the Australian musicians recorded multiple albums, using their classical training to share their talents and arrangements of Sri Chinmoy’s music.

"Today I played a tape I had sitting in the deep dark corners of my cupboard. It was so beautiful - especially one piano solo. I'd better quit now before Prachar gets a big head" -Sarah

Sri Chinmoy gave the group its name in 1984.

Listen to Ei Jibaner Mahanander

Sri Chinmoy Vision Muse In Action

 

Alap Jetzer

Alap on one of his self-made flutes.

1985 - Alap Jetzer

Alap means "The source of music."
Alap was another innovative performer, specialized in self-produced recording with a multitude of layers, usually involving percussion and World influences.
He is from Switzerland and has played for over 30 years. Several times he has been featured in New Age charts.
Many of his flutes Alap himself developed to achieve very specific timbres and characteristics, which are particularly suitable for his trance generating rhythmic and meditative sounds.

"A magician of the flute."

Listen to a song

Alap on RadioSriChinmoy

 

1986 - Song-Garland

In the year 1986, at Sri Chinmoy‘s request, two of his students, Premik Russell Tubbs and Aparajita Fishman, set out to produce a CD based on Sri Chinmoy’s “Jharna-Kala” songs. These are songs dedicated to the Fountain of Art (Jharna Kala in Bengali).

Listen to 100,000 Paintings Smile

 

Temple-Song-Hearts

1988 - Temple-Song-Hearts
Listen to Run and Become

Temple-Song-Hearts, an all female vocal and instrumental ensemble, was founded in 1988 and is devoted exclusively to performing the music of Sri Chinmoy.

"We all follow Sri Chinmoy’s path of meditation and find that his music and the experiences we have in the group inspire and develop our spiritual life. Through our concerts we hope to lift and inspire others, to share the beauty of Sri Chinmoy’s music, and hopefully send people out with smiles on their faces. Our members come from France, Austria, Serbia, Slovakia and the U.K."

 

Ananda in 1995

Ananda in 1995

From their website:

Ananda are a group of male singers and musicians based in various locations around Great Britain. We arrange the beautiful and haunting melodies of Sri Chinmoy's music for guitar, harmonium, bouzouki, tablas, keyboard, percussion and voice. All the songs have a meditative quality and we try to express this quality whilst performing.
Listen to Ananda


1997 - The Blue-Gold Shore of the Beyond

The Blue-Gold Shore of the Beyond is a group from Russia that consists of five men. The musicians use in their arrangements a variety of unique musical instruments and successfully unite ethnic colouring with contemporary styles and trends. The vastness of the Siberian landscape is always tangible in their musical performance.

Listen to Aum Rishikeshaya Namaha-
a mantra which means:
"I prayerfully bow
To the Supreme Ruler of the senses."

The Blue-Gold Shore of the Beyond


Japaka Orchestra performing for Sri Chinmoy

2003 - Japaka Orchestra

A men's ensemble from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, founded by Japaka Strauss, which combines the power of the heart and spiritual depth with a fine, typical Czech sense of humor and cheerful ease. Force and soulful music full of optimism contagious joy and width, with elements of folk, rock, jazz, funk, and even polka and rap.

Listen to Japaka Orchestra

 

2006 - Monk Party

Monk Party began in San Diego, CA. It originally consisted of Marichi from Australia, Sujantra McKeever from San Diego, and Shapathanal from New Zealand.

"On that day, at Aspiration-Ground, it was sunny and hot as usual. It was toward the end of celebrations. The bleachers were full of smiling aspirants in whites and saris, and the band began to play this tune- embellishing Sri Chinmoy's melody and lyrics with electric guitar, keyboard synth, and portable drum kit.
I felt as if the skies had been torn open by a wild bolt of thunder, and that captured Shiva's consciousness more than anything I'd seen so far.
Beneath the turmoil of sound there was an unshakeable calm, granted always wherever Sri Chinmoy's melodies are present - despite the lead singer's nervousness - a moment he later described to me as the 'pure terror' of anticipating Sri Chinmoy's reaction to the style with which the pure melody and lyrics were rendered.
When Guru finally spoke, his reaction was positive and encouraging to the group, which later disbanded."
-Antara-Prabhat

Listen to Like the Supreme Lord Shiva

More on this song

Original Monk Party members

In 2010, Shapathanal's brother Nelson and father Pragunya revived the group under the same name and began recording albums and performing live shows.
Listen to He Amar Man from 2013's Daily My Promise.
Nelson and Pragunya Myers-Daly

Nelson Myers-Daly and his father Pragunya in 2013

 

2006 - Pavaka

In 2006 Pavaka released his first album of his arrangements of Sri Chinmoy's melodies, titled The Melodies of Sri Chinmoy. Since then, he has toured across the globe as well as collaborating on various projects with multiple groups.

Listen to Pavaka's Music

 

2007 - Sangit Surabhi - Listen

Sangit Surabhi

Sangit Surabhi means The Fragrance of Music. While listening to soulful music, we dive deep within and get in touch with our true inner Selves, our Soul. Like a flower emanating sweet fragrance, the nature of spiritual songs is to pervade and permeate every part of our being. Soulful songs thrill our heart and inspire our existence. The Self expands through music and eventually becomes one with the music.

"That Canadian girls group is really good." -Anugata


All-Local Students New York Sri Chinmoy Centre

2008 - "All-Local" Student Performances

These are arrangements by Paree Atkins of the melodies and prayers of Sri Chinmoy, performed by the New York students of Sri Chinmoy.

The performances occur every April and every August in recognition of Sri Chinmoy's coming to the west from India in April of 1964, and his birthday on August 27th, 1931.

Listen to a clip from the August 2013 Performance

Some of the groups I have yet to include:

Anuraga - Vishnu Debata

Gochar - Chalre Rabi Bai

Sri Chinmoy Centre - Philadelphia

Premik - I Can Lift Up 240 Pounds

Valeri Piankov - The Golden Flute

Sangit Tarangini - Bhagaban Jani Tumi

Shamita, Dohai & Bhoiravi - Desh Bideshe

My Promise-Cry, God's Promise-Sky (Kodanda's Group)

Ghandarva Loka Orchestra

Hridananda

Samir And Sanghamitra Chatterjee

Sanatu and Tapan Modak

Mountain-Silence

Bartika Jazz Group - You Tell Me

Ishwara / Pierre - Ami Kandibona

Dinesh Band

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