The Gandharvas — Ananda’s First Singing Group

The Gandharvas (Celestial Singers) perform in San Francisco, 1974. L-R: Vijay, Girija, Mukti, Maitri, Hariprashad, Lakshman Simpson, Lakshmi, Seva, Kalyani (hidden), Dinanath. Click image to enlarge.

(Part 7 on our ongoing series, Swami Kriyananda on Art & the Artist.)

Twelve singers, with three guitars and a flute, had formed a group called the Gandharvas (celestial musicians). Swamiji thought they were ready to share the music with a larger audience than Ananda. Plans were made for a December tour. In November, he interrupted his work on the book to write more arrangements, and rehearse the singers. Sometimes they practiced with him for eight to ten hours a day.

Rehearsals began with prayer, chanting, and meditation. Swamiji talked about voice placement and singing technique, “but even proper placement,” he said, “comes from right consciousness.” In the same way a guitar string needs a sounding board to give it resonance, so the human voice needs the sounding board of the Divine.

Some of the singers were nervous about the upcoming tour, so he called them together and said, “Let me give you all the reasons for you to have self-confidence. It will be nice if you sing well. Be as good as you can, but that is not what will carry you. Just be yourselves. Whenever visitors come to Ananda, it is the people that make the deepest impression. The sweetness and happiness you radiate is what your audiences long to have in their own lives. It will make up for any artistic weaknesses.”

He hoped that their tour would help energize the communities movement. They would be a graphic illustration of what otherwise would be just a theory. The music would give people an experience of harmony; the singers themselves, of cooperation—not only with each other, but with Truth and with God.

“Give special emphasis to the song Go On Alone [now called Walk Like a Man],” Swamiji said. “We want people to understand that Ananda is much more than a nice place to raise a family. It is a life of profound meaning, which we have chosen after deep and careful thought.

“But don’t think your job is to get people to join Ananda. Don’t try to impose our way of thinking on them. If you do, they’ll just write us off as sectarian. Let them be inspired simply by who you are. Everything else follows from that.

“We don’t have to compete on the world’s terms. Meditate, be in tune with Master, give the audience his vibrations. Let your singing be an expression of your spiritual sincerity. That is what will make it beautiful.” (Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer, 1974, pp. 76-77)

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