For the 58th Grammy awards, to be held in Los Angeles next year on February 15, there is an unusual nomination this time.
A bhajan album titled ‘Bhakti Without Borders‘ – dedicated to Lord Krishna – has been nominated in the ‘Best new age album’ category. The album is a compilation of eleven bhajans (devotional songs) composed by devotees of Lord Krishna from across the world.
The other singers–Carmella Gitanjali Baynie, Chaytanya, Acyuta Gopi, Nalina Kaufman, Jahnavi Harrison, Gaurangi, Tulsi Devi, Sudevi, Mallika Des Fours, and Ananda-Amrita– are from Australia, England, Germany, amongst other countries.
The lone Indian singer Gaura Mani lives in Vrindavan. Apart from being Lord Krishna devotees, the singers are also part of a not-for-profit group that produces Indian religious music.
Das, who came up with the idea of the album, said:
“I couldn’t believe it when I woke up to a text message telling me we had been nominated.”
His parents met in a Krishna temple in Germany and he attended a boarding school ashram (gurukula) in Vrindavan.
He further said this was the first Grammy nomination for music in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, featuring traditional Sanskrit or Bengali bhajans.
The second generation ISKCON devotees who collaborated for the album were not paid any money. The production cost was raised through crowdfunding.
“The charity is the sole purpose for making this album. It was crowd-funded up front so any profits that come in go straight to charity. Many of the featured singers do not have professional music careers beyond this project,” Das said.
The profits from the album will go to Food For Life Vrindavan’s Sandipani Muni Schools which gives education and food to underprivileged girls.
The album was recorded in six months. “Tracks are in Sanskrit and Hindi, mostly ancient mantras over modern pop-influenced melodies,” said Gaura Mani.
Das adds that the tunes are his own and some bhajans were modified from the original.
” I used to visit the temple every day before filming for it. All the singers, too, would pray before the singing. We wanted to keep the focus on the spiritual,” he said.
The album aims to bring harmony and respect amongst people.
“There are just as many songs beginning with a male voice as with a female one. We hope to bring some more respect and empowerment to how women are viewed throughout the world,” said Mani.
Though there is no marketing budget, buzz about the album is spreading through word of mouth.
“I want it to be enjoyed by our friends and family in the devotee community; by people in the broader kirtan community; and even further, by the mainstream — people who listen to World Music.The result was Bhakti Without Borders.“
This is the third time that an album with Indian religious music has been nominated for Grammy awards.
Previously, Jai Uttal’s ‘Mondo Rama’ was nominated in 2004 and Krishna Das’ ‘Live Ananda’ in 2013.