Spirits in the Material World.
Aradhna is a band that is hard to characterize. Believe me–I’ve tried. Every description comes up short: White guys playing Indian music, singers of songs about Jesus in Hindi, trippy hippies dipping into the pulse of the world…
My plan for the Aradhna interview was to go in all smartassed and never let up, but I realized immediately that if I did that, I’d miss out on the questions I really wanted to ask. Before you dismiss me as a sellout, check out the videos for Namaste Saté and Mukteshwar, then eat crow, mother#$%*er.
Chris Hale sings and plays sitar. He and I were roommates in college. Back then, he was a monster guitar player, a generous soul, and a man seemingly incapable of any kind of negative feelings toward other humans. Some of that has to do with being raised in Nepal and India by missionary surgeon parents. Peter Hicks was born in India, though his primary instrument in Aradhna is the guitar. It’d be criminal to label what they create together as “World Music” or “Christian Music,” so I strongly recommend that you listen to some before proceeding.
I chatted with Chris, Pete, and tabla player Jim Feist while the band was taking a tour break.
Al: So when are y’all playing together next?
Chris: February 3rd, at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Al: What kind of crowd does Aradhna draw? Does it vary a lot by location?
Pete: Location has a lot to do with it, but I would say 80% of our audience is 20-45 year old white people, 15% Indian, and 5% other.
Al: Are they mostly folks who are familiar with your music?
Pete: Yes, but then they will often bring friends along, and the occasional poster person shows up
Pete: Someone who has seen a poster.
Chris: It’s pretty common for folks to come the show, and afterwards say they couldn’t believe their ears then buy up all six titles.
Al: On paper, Aradhna would seem to be a bunch of guys who left the drum circle to play for free beers. Has any first-timer ever mentioned to you what they were expecting vs. what they got?
Pete: I think most people who have never heard us have pretty low expectations. Four white guys playing Indian Music–ike Chris said, often they are shocked positively.
Jim: A good friend was at a recent show and he is steeped in the Indian classical arts. He came with the attitude that it would be a lot of bible-thumping, overtly Christian rhetoric. He left thoroughly enjoying the spiritual message and the top-class musicianship.
Al: As one who is usually turned off by most Christian music, I listen to your stuff and it inspires me spiritually–even when I don’t know what the hell you’re singing about...
Pete: Thanks Al!
Al: Part of it could be that I associate the music with Chris, who is one of Jesus’ VIPs.
Chris: Ok, let’s get Pete and Jim off this chat, and you and I can continue before things go south…
Pete: People do say he looks like Jesus.
Al: He’s too light-skinned. And his hair is too long and straight.
Pete: You know–the Anglo-Jesus.
Al: Oh. That guy.
Jim: We actually call Chris. the messiah.
Or rather, he makes us call him that.
Al: Jim, what’s your connection to India?
Jim: I live in middle America. Ohio.
Al: How did you develop your Indian musical authenticity?
Jim: Through a very long and patient study of the art that started 20 years ago and continues today. After all, Mount Everest is not a technical climb. It is one of endurance.
In part 2, it gets all Berklee-ish.