Aradhna blends Hindi and Christian tunes

Fresno State students experienced a week of spiritual music from Southeast Asia when the band Aradhna gave evening performances on Monday and Wednesday in the University Student Union.

The performances were co-sponsored by ASI and the International Student Fellowship.

Band members Chris Hale and Peter Hicks combine “Bhajans,” traditional Hindi devotional music, with Christian themes. Hicks grew up in Nepal and India, and Hale always had deep connections to the land.

In the late 1990s, Hale went to India after contacting Hicks and they toured as a rock cover band for a few years. During this time, Hicks was learning the sitar, and soon they left behind the rock covers and ventured into the spiritual realm.

“It’s a conversation between Christianity and the Hindu world,” Hicks said.

The two men saw a deeper devotion to spirituality in Christian Indians, but there weren’t as many songs coming from their world since a lot of devotional music comes from the West.

Most of their music is sung in Hindi, which Hicks is fluent in, or ancient Sanskrit. Much of the music is based on Hindi Bhakti poetry. One of the songs is taken from a hymn written by a Christian follower of Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

“People (in India) express their spiritual thirst more than in North America. You hear worship from early in the mornings and you can feel that, that spiritual thirst, coming out,” Hicks said.

While Aradhna focuses on Christianity, its shows are becoming increasingly diverse in attendance.

“I’d say primarily our fan base is Christian but its growing and we’ve made steps outside of that world and we want to have lots of conversations with many people,” Hale said.

“The origin of this music is straight out of India, so in a sense, we don’t want to take anything from it but we want to jump into that tradition and celebrate it — not steal it, not take away from it but to bridge it.”

Aradhna performed most of its music live and on the floor with its DVD, “Sau Guna,” playing in the background.

The DVD was shot in two weeks in North India. Each music video followed a simple story reflecting the spiritual nature of the song. The DVD was filmed by New Jersey videographer Ben Stamper. It was an audience favorite.

Aradhna has been performing consistently for nearly 12 years. Hale said the band is taking a year off in 2013 to focus on family and regroup.

“We’re doing about 100 dates a year at this point. It’s a lot to take away from our families,” Hale said.

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