With her rich vocals Ananda Monet stands out as one of the most talented singers and musicians one may ever hear. With depth and beauty in her performances Ananda transfers us to a realm of divine bliss and happiness. Here she speaks in detail about her upcoming album “Inevitable Time” which will be showcased at the joined concert with Jahnavi Harrison and Samadhi Dance Company this coming May. Learn more about who and what inspires such an inspirational devotee like her.
Tell us more about yourself.
I grew up in Russia in a family of musicians practicing bhakti yoga. I attended a school that taught bhakti yoga components, such as Vedic philosophy and mantra meditation alongside regular academics in Moscow. There I developed a taste for an ancient spiritual practice of singing sacred mantras, called ‘kirtan’
I went on to study Russian national folklore music. After graduating from a music college in Moscow as a singer, I recorded a debut Russian language album, launched 2007. Shortly after this, I moved to the UK where I enjoy being a part of various mantra music projects such as Mantra Lounge, Oxford Kirtan, Leicester Kirtan Fest, Pop up Temple at the Mind Body Spirit Festival etc. I also love being on the team of ‘Kirtan London’, a project which aims to make mantra music accessible and relevant to a wider audience.
Take us through the moment when you first decided to become a professional artist and musician.
I can’t really think of a specific moment, because I grew up around musicians and have been singing since I was a child. My mother is a singer and a singing teacher so I guess I always “assumed” I am going to sing. It became more “official” when I started preparing to enter the music college, with many hours of practice, learning various songs and choosing which style of music I should study. I decided to explore traditional folk music of Russia and learn more about my roots. Turned out they were interconnected with the Vedic culture I had studied at school and that even languages – Russian and Sanskrit – have a lot in common. I started to develop this connection in my singing and at my final exam in college in Moscow I introduced a Bengali song by a bhakti yoga saint Bhaktivinoda Thakur called Jaya Radha Madhava. I still love exploring fusions and blends of different cultures in music.
Another part of me is a person who simply loves kirtan. Regardless of my singing ability and musical skills I would still love to do kirtan, even if I was tone deaf. Singing is not just a profession and even more than just a passion. It is also an important part of my spiritual practice and something I love doing in my spare time.
Share with us any special realizations that helped you to keep going regardless of the difficulties?
I have a few inspirations in life that have picked me up and kept me going in the hardest of times: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, who was incredibly determined to serve the Lord and his guru and ‘moved mountains’ in order to spread the knowledge and the love of God around the world. His dear spiritual daughter Yamuna Devi, who developed a deep attraction for Krishna and unalloyed devotion which touched the hearts of everyone she met on her journey. My mentor in Russia Medini-pati prabhu, who dreams big but never steps off the path.
I think my main realisation is that without these great personalities I would not find answers to many burning questions, I wouldn’t know which direction I need to be headed. When I am in doubt or confusion I look at their example and they show me right from wrong, they encourage and guide me, for which I hope to stay eternally grateful.
What inspires you to work with Jahnavi and Samadhi Dance Company?
I am really attracted to Jahnavi’s personality, she is one of those rare souls who are incredibly talented yet humble and sincere in their devotion and service. That is very moving and can’t leave anyone untouched. I love her kirtans and I love her ethics, so I am always happy to collaborate and serve together. I cannot express how excited I am about her upcoming album, it is absolutely spellbinding and will surely stir the souls and change the lives of listeners.
While I was recording my album, I had these visions of a beautiful dance troop bringing the songs to life and transforming the music into a magical experience. I soon realised that ‘Samadhi Dance Company’ is actually that troop. I had seen some of their performances before and was completely mesmerized by the way they fuse together contemporary and traditional styles of dance with ballet, and put it in a deeply spiritual context. Their work won me over and I wanted to create music that would inspire them to dance to it.
Tell us more about your upcoming album.
“Inevitable Time” is an enthralling journey five thousand years back, to a time of mystic heroes, to the ancient epic Mahabharata. All of the songs in this album are sung in Sanskrit, an ancient language in which the great epic Mahabharata was originally written. The lyrics were compiled from the original five thousand-year-old sacred texts such as Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Mahabharata, which are a great source of eternal wisdom and inspiration.
Through the songs of the album you can feel a mother’s heartache, find the freedom in surrender of a warrior princess, hear absolute wisdom from the Supreme Lord, enter the blood swept planes of the Kurukshetra battlefield, become awestruck at the Universal Form and pay your respects to a fallen warrior breathing his last.
Our dear friend once mentioned an inspirational quote from Srila Prabhupada that strengthened my faith in what I do and encouraged me to put my heart and soul into the album. In a conversation with George Harrison and John Lennon in 1969, Srila Prabhupada explains that mantras and verses from the Vedic scriptures are so potent, that even without knowing the translation, people can pick up great benefit: “So Vedic mantras are sung. This whole Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, can be sung very nicely. And it is Vedic mantra, chanting. Simply by hearing the vibration, people will be benefitted. Even [if] they do not understand.”
What message do you like to pass to the people who come your concert?
I want to say that Vaishnava culture (or as we call it Krishna Culture) contains a very deep message that can be relevant, accessible and highly beneficial for anyone. If you come with an open mind you will leave with an overflowing heart.