Amrit Vani – ChristianityToday.com

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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.)
Amrit Vani (4 stars), Aradhna’s fourth album, offers a wonderful if challenging alternative to contemporary worship’s standard fare of three-chord jingles. The otherness of this album is actually its strength. Aradhna (Hindi for “adoration” or “worship”) focuses on quiet, meditative devotional songs derived from the spiritual movement in India known as Yeshu Bhakti (“devotion to Jesus”).
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. They keep it mostly calm and contemplative, but on “Narahari” (the Man-God), the final track, they showcase a soaring, post-rock crescendo:
Then Hale sails off into a wordless cry of the heart. It’s not Hindi. It’s human. And it is only one of several revelations on this strange, striking, and ravishingly lovely album.
Andy Whitman, senior contributing editor for Paste magazine
Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Amrit Vani is available from Aradhna’s online music store.
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