An eon ago a dear friend of mine took to the stage of Parker Hall of Woodstock School with his fellow band-mates of Silmarillion. I was in the audience. They then belted out what was for me a pretty mind-blowing cover of the Pink Floyd classic 'comfortably numb.'
Over a quarter century later my friend is due to take a very different stage in Mumbai next month. We have booked a 1400 capacity hall for Chris Hale and the full strength Aradhna. Chris and Peter Hicks have formed the core of this group for the last 12 years. Thirteen years after Chris' Parker Hall gig, in the dying days of the last millenium, the then nascent Aradhna played as a two-some for the newly-married Sheba and I at our wedding reception in the Woodstock Dining room.
What a musical journey they have had since. Their debut album Deep Jale with its hauntingly beautiful Yishu-bhajans was followed by Marga Darshan. Then came the live album Satsang. As time flowed by the music continued to develop - with their own sound coming to the fore - a heady mesh of sitar and guitar and the whole jugalbandi of other instruments indic and western. At the core of it all - throbbing along with the varied musical collaborators - are the soaring vocals of Chris and Peter's intuitive guitar work - and a devotional strain that they have continued to explore and shape. The latter albums Amrit Vani and the latest Namaste Sate show greater freedom with English creeping in at various places and the sound being stretched well past the simple bhajan frame. But through it all there is a devotion to Yishu Raja - and a desire to share and explore what that devotion means.
This past year also saw the release of Sau Guna - the achingly beautiful series of six music videos shot by Ben Stamper - filmmaker extraordinaire. A sample can be seen from the promo clip above.
This tour of India will take Aradhna to Delhi, Chennai, Ooty, Mumbai (twice), Nasik, Pune, and Bangalore. They are a foursome this time - with their veteran bassist Travis McAfee joining and Uday Kumar coming on board from Hyderabad. Mike Williams - who was part of the Olio experience - will be manning the sound at each venue. Tour dates are up on the Aradhna website (www.AradhnaMusic.com). Most of the concerts (ours too) will be benefiting the remarkable work of Freedom Firm (www.FreedomFirm.in) which helps not only free women from sexual slavery (and work to book perpetrators) but also works to recover and rediscover their God-given personhoods of the girls who have been through such hell.
The concert we have the privilege of organising is historic as after so many years we finally have Aradhna sharing their soul with our city. Soberingly - it may also be their last time here as a group. An email today announced that for 2013 Chris and Peter will be cutting back on their touring to be more locally focussed and listen carefully to what God is telling them for the next steps.
So we are in for a treat. And some slogging to do before the hall is mesmerised by the beauty of music. November 16th is 6 weeks away from tonight.