Today, 25 August 2016, is the Hindu festival of Janmashtami celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. While numerous songs have been composed and sung in Bollywood films, a little known fact is that the Hare Krishna movement created waves internationally since the 1970s.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement or Hare Krishnas, is a Hindu religious organisation that amassed more than a million followers worldwide in the 1970s and was started by Swami Prabhupada.
Starting with George Harrison of The Beatles, here are a few artists who have embraced the Hare Krishna movement and composed songs inspired in their spiritual awakening:
It Is 'He' (Jai Sri Krishna) by George Harrison
George Harrison of The Beatles was one of the first artists to embrace the Hare Krishna movement. After a chance meeting with the founder Swami Prabhupada in 1969, Harrison had a spiritual awakening that made his music take on the same tone.
Harrison was inspired to write this song while in the holy city of Vrindavan, in northern India, with his friend Ravi Shankar. The song is a part of his album Dark Horse released in 1974.
Hare Krishna by George Harrison
The Radha Krsna Temple is a 1971 album of Hindu devotional songs recorded by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The album has been produced by Harrison as a whole and his support has been instrumental in giving ISKON a solid presence internationally. This is one of the most iconic songs of the album that has been produced by Harrison.
Krishna Krishna by Alice Coltrane
Best known for her collaborations with her husband, the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane is an accomplished jazz pianist and composer in her own right. After the tragic demise of her husband, she made it a mission to make her music a spiritual experience. This song has Alice Coltrane's haunting vocals chant 'Krishna, Krishna' while a mournful jazz organ tune haunts the background. Coltrane founded the Vedanta Center in California in 1975, and has concentrated on making and recording devotional music.
Govinda by Kula Shaker
The English psychedelic rock band, Kula Shaker, fuses guitar-heavy, western rock instrumentation with traditional Indian instruments such as the sitar, tamboura, and tabla. Frontman and founder Crispian Mills named the band after the Indian King Kulasekhara.
The uniqueness of this song also stems from the fact that it is the only song in the history of the British Top Ten list to be sung entirely in Sanskrit. This song was a part of Kula Shaker's 1996 album 'K'.
Nina Hagen, a German songstress of the nineties converted to Hinduism after becoming a devotee of Haidakhan Babaji. This song is a part of her eighth solo album titled Om Namah Shivay which is a compilation of mantras and Hindu prayers adapted into song.