Aradhna: Bringing Cultural Diversity In Christian Worship
by Greg West
About a month ago, when Chris Hale, front man for the band, Aradhna, first sent me an e-mail asking me to consider featuring their music on The Poached Egg, my first reaction was, “?” That’s about the only way I can describe it. As I briefly scanned over the description of his band and what they were about, my first impression was of someone sitting around with a sitar, smoking too much opium, and trying to mix Christianity with some sort of ‘Eastern New Age Mysticism’, which of course, I’m sure, has been done on more than one occasion. But then, for some reason, I took a deep breath, and read Chris’ e-mail again; more carefully this time. After a more careful reading I was quite intrigued, and decided that maybe I should put my cultural and ‘Western Evangelical’ bias aside and see what Aradhna was really about.
Andy Whitman, contributing author to Christianity Today, in his review of Aradhna’s previous album, had this to say:
Singing Christian worship songs in the Hindi language for an American evangelical audience can’t be an easy sell. Not only is there a formidable language barrier, but cultural and theological challenges abound—like working within the Indian classical-music tradition while conveying deep Christian truths. But that’s the approach used by Aradhna, a group of American and English musicians who have spent significant portions of their lives in central Asia. (Lead singer Chris Hale, for example, was raised in Nepal, where his parents were missionaries, and later served as a missionary to India with OM International.)
There are sitars and tablas— à la Ravi Shankar—and they sound as exotic as you would expect. There are acoustic guitar arpeggios that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Windham Hill album. And in the merger of East and West, Aradhna forges something utterly fresh and beautiful.
After watching the video to their song, Mukteshwar (which you can view here), I was completely astounded and knew then that I had to get Aradhna out to the masses; or at least to the ‘mini-masses’ that visit us here at The Poached Egg.
This week, we are featuring, the second video from their latest album, Namasté Sate´. Chris Hale describes for us what is taking place in the video below:
The diya, or Indian oil lamp, a symbol of worship, is floated on the Ganges river early in the morning. The vastness and power of the swollen river is a reflection of God who created it. Not far from this tranquil scene, just up from the river’s edge, there is a deep well whose stone steps form the shape of a cross.It remains closed, except for one day in the year. On this day, thousands of married couples in their last hope to be granted a child by God, descend the steps together break their glass wedding bangles, throw off all visible signs of their marriage, and plunge five times into the claustrophobic waters. They emerge and remove the drenched and cursed clothing, changing into new clothes and climbing the steps with renewed hope. This is worship: To be content, but to also weep with longing. God embraces us in either case.
The English lyrics to this title song from Namasté Sate´are immediately below the video. Enjoy!
Ultimate Reality, we greet You
In you the whole Universe is held together
Your life fills every nucleus that has ever been created
You dwell in our flesh and bones
Your Great Liberation is to bring us into loving oneness with you,
so full, that we can no longer feel any separation between us
We greet you, O Supreme One, all pervading, and eternal