It has been a privilege to put together this eclectic blend of Indian and western kirtan music composed and rendered by several celebrated musicians. The beauty and diversity of musical pieces have enabled us to evoke and re-create the rich effulgence of those times with Neem Karoli Baba. And when it comes to great beings, words fail more often and the melodies provide fillip to the higher mysteries and array of inexpressible emotions that are stimulated.
Maharajji's own American devotees who used to sing in his presence -- the likes of Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, both of whom went onto becoming Grammy Award Nominated musicians/ pioneer kirtanias/ chant artists in the field of New Age/ World Music have both generously offered their tracks for this film on Maharajji at no cost.
Krishna Das: Shares his kirtan practice and wonderful stories of his life on the Path and Maharajji, though chanting, retreats and workshops. He has released 17 albums since 1996.
We were blessed to attend two of Krishna Das's concerts live in Rishikesh during the filming period to witness first-hand the heavy dose of devotional ecstasy they emanate.
Jai Uttal: Jai Uttal, is a sacred music composer, multi-instrumentalist, and ecstatic vocalist, who thrives on creating stimulating and exotic multi-cultural fusion that is truly world spirit music. Having travelled extensively in India, Bhakti Yoga has come to be his personal path. Jai has been leading, teaching and performing kirtan around the world for close to 50 years. Shyama Chapin & Nina Rao both wonderful exponents of the fusion kirtan genre and chant artists have generously contributed a special recording of the Hanuman Chalisa in lieu of the fragments we had of Shyama singing Hanuman Chalisas on a roll, in complete oblivion at the Rishikesh Maharajji ashram.
Indian vocalists of great stature who are highly accomplished in Hindustani Classical, Bhakti music of different genres-- from revivalist Gurbani kirtan to Nirgun bhakti to Folk --have been kind enough to contribute their renditions without any demands.
Their music has lent wings to the most mundane expressions and helped create many spectacular moments in the film. It is pure serendipity how I ended up recording some of these tracks and then using them in the film as some of these musicians happen to be family or family friends.
Bhai Baldeep Singh: hails from the lineage of GurSikh masters of sacred Gurbani kirtan maryada. He is mentored in the Hindustani classical Dhrupad genre as a vocalist and is also a prime exponent of the oldest surviving classical percussion (pakhawaj- jori) traditions of India, among other accomplishments. He is the founder chairman of the And Foundation dedicated to recovering the tangible and intangible heritage of South Asia.
Gursharan Singh: Trained in Hindustani classical music, learning different instruments from an early age. Gradually he became a sitar exponent and resorts to singing only on rare occasions. For several years he headed the Music and Theatre Departments at the Doon School, Dehradun and continues to produce choir and orchestra ensembles for some of India's best schools.
Ravi Joshi: Ravi Joshi -- hails from Nainitaal, and currently heads the department of music at the Kumaon University. He has trained under Shri Nalin Dholakia at the Kumaon Gandharva school of Music and is presently a disciple of Padmashri Pandit Madhup Mudgal. He is a young artist of remarkable promise and has made his mark in both Sagun (divine in a manifest form) and Nirgun (divine in an unmanifest form) bhakti music.
Sujit Ojha: Trained from an early age in folk music from his grandfather and subsequently in classical music from Shri Om Prakash Rai and others of the Bihar Gharana. He has been a faculty member at the pre-eminent Gandharva MahaVidyala, New Delhi for over 20 years. He is exceptional in Khayal gayaki and through his unique repertoire he attempts to preserve the couplets of bhakti saints like Tulsidas, Surdas, Meerabai, Malukdas among others.
Bhajan Mandlis from Maharajji's ashrams comprises a dedicated lot of Bengali musicians at Kainchidhaam as well as a random assortment of devotees at the Hanumangarh and Rishikesh temple singing with sheer love and joy.
KK Sab: Who is dearly loved in Maharajji's fold for his exceptional 'bhaav', his all embracing love, his jest and his sublime love for music. A true 'rasik', who loved singing as much as he loved listening to music.
One one of our visits to his house, we happened to listen to some of the recordings of the tracks he had sung with Diana Rogers at a satsang in the US. After his passing, this original recordings couldn't be traced, and we were compelled to use our recording of us hanging out and listening to these recordings with him. So please pardon the extra 'noise'.
Muthu Lakshman Rao: Is a delightful, shadow puppeteer of great skill and wit. He recites, mimics and sings throughout his lengthy performances of the Ramayana in Tamil. He surprised us with this upbeat bhajan on Nataraja at a special request by us for a bhajan.
Most of the recordings that were used in the film were ‘live’ recordings. Some of them happened spontaneously in a private, informal setting. And because its not easy to re-create such a mood and ambience, we preferred to include these live recordings in the album while sometimes compromising on the sound quality.
While editing the film and incorporating the music I was often overwhelmed by the incredible beauty of the musical piece and would often get carried away in the desire to prolong its use, but couldn’t because of the severe time constraints in the film. So it gives us great joy to be able to bring out the kirtan album for the film and be able to do full justice to these incredible tracks, many of which are unique and not available elsewhere.
We remain ever grateful for the exquisite talent and devotion of these musicians in leading us to this nectarous communion with the divine.