So far, “Sixth Rainfall” has been a hidden kirtan gem, with only a few homemade copies making the rounds amongst its creator’s friends.
But the word is starting to spread about the unique project – an epic eight-hour boxset that was born in Gopagana Das’s home studio near the lake island temple of Govindadvipa in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
Perhaps not for the casual I-tunes era track skipper with its whopping runtime, Sixth Rainfall pays off in dividends for those who are willing to put in the time. Whether you sit and listen on headphones or play it in the background while you’re doing household tasks, it’s a meditative, absorbing experience that will leave the Hare Krishna mantra firmly embedded in your mind.
Featuring original Hare Krishna tunes developed by Gopagana and a mix of traditional kirtan instruments with guitar, bass, clarinet, trumpet, violin, flute and keyboards, it’s a cosmic jam with the Holy Name at the forefront that’s probably unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Even though he plays multiple instruments on the recording, Gopagana modestly claims he isn’t “technically a musician.”
“I had a guitar and learned a few chords as a schoolboy, and that was it,” he says. “In 1984, when I first met devotees, I was very shy. But I was always figuring out tunes on the harmonium from well-known ISKCON chanters. I started with Vaiyasaki’s, then Agnideva’s, then Aindra’s. I learned all the melodies from Aindra’s first five albums.”
Gopagana would lead weekly kirtans on Govindadvipa for hours based on Aindra’s repertoire, which became treasured by the small group of devotees who attended – including this Irish-born writer, for whom they were an invaluable help in surviving teenage years on a remote island!
As time went on, Gopagana began to develop his own melodies that were more personal to him. In 2009, he started to record them as Sixth Rainfall, a title taken from Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura’s Sri Chaitanya Siksamrita.
“The book is divided into eight “Rainfalls of Nectar”, and the Sixth Rainfall describes the secrets of chanting Hare Krishna,” Gopagana explains.
The main bulk of the more than eight hours of kirtan were recorded over two days at Gopagana’s own home studio with many friends as the response chorus. Meanwhile he worked with a multitude of skilled devotee musicians around Ireland and the world who recorded their instruments separately and sent the tracks to him. Three years later, he had an eight-CD boxset.
The emerald island of Govindadvipa in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Each track of Sixth Rainfall – ranging in length from half an hour to one hour – is named after one of Srila Prabhupada’s lectures, according to their mood. There’s “Go to the Dazzling Bright Sky of Freedom,” “The Dancing Platform,” “My Lord, I Don’t Want Anything Material,” “Kindly Help Me,” and “Associate With Faithful” amongst others.
“I always liked the names of Prabhupada’s lectures, and saw them as slogans in and of themselves,” says Gopagana.
The first thing you notice about Sixth Rainfall when you start listening is the heartfelt emotion in the chanting. This is someone who has been chanting for a long time, and for whom chanting really means something deeply personal. And the emotion rubs off on the listener: Gopagana’s tones are warm and personable, with a simplicity and lack of self-importance that make you feel like you’re listening to an old friend.
The second thing that stands out is the clarity of the mantra. Gopagana pronounces each syllable with obvious care, and his mix places the vocals in the foreground so that it’s the mantra above anything else that gets lodged in your mind.
“I wanted to do a kirtan where the maha-mantra is the foremost,” he says. “Even though I’m using other instruments to help embellish it, the main thing is that at every single moment of the kirtan, you’re able to hear the maha-mantra very clearly.”
Another prominent component is that there’s no quick switching from one tune to another here – Gopagana, inspired by well-known kirtaniya Madhava Naidoo, holds each melody for a good 20 minutes. “It helps one to enter into a more meditative state with the Holy Name,” he says.
Gopagana is joined on Sixth Rainfall by a variety of vocalists and instrumentalists, who all add to the experience. On vocals and mridanga, there’s Irish second-gen devotee Gaura Hari Das, who has traveled on many tours with Indradyumna Swami. There’s ISKCON’s favorite trumpet player Ekalavya Das, who recorded his piece in India. And there’s classically trained flautist Satya Dasi on flute, Moona Radek on violin and Dvarakachyuta Das on clarinet, all from Poland.
Then there’s professional multi-instrumentalist Rama Block, who plays in ten different bands in Dublin, teaches at his own Kilmacud Music School, and handles bass, electric guitar and more on Sixth Rainfall.
“With all their talents, you’re tricking your mind [when you listen to Sixth Rainfall],” says Gopagana. “Normally your mind would be freaking out about sitting down to an eight-hour kirtan – no way I’m doing that! – but because it’s a musical experience as well and you’re being entertained, there’s enough to satisfy the mind, hopefully.”
Listen to samples of the kirtans in "Sixth Rainfall"
Sure enough, Sixth Rainfall is filled with artistic touches. Ekalavya’s dancing trumpet and Gopagana’s keyboards turn the end of “Go to the Dazzling Bright Sky…” into a joyful slice of blues funk. The sound of oars cutting across the lake or feet crunching on autumn leaves that open some tracks take you to Ireland’s Govindadvipa Island. And the sparkling acoustic guitar and crescendoing choruses of “My Lord…” and “Kindly Help Me” tug at the heartstrings and bring out both happiness and a pining wistfulness.
Meanwhile Rama Block’s funk bass and “wacka wacka” electric guitar on “Associate With Faithful” will have you jiving unashamedly. And in contrast, the traditional simplicity of “Special Senses Are Required,” with only the sounds of running water, clapping and a faint harmonium to accompany the Holy Name will put you in a still, peaceful place.
Finally, if the last kirtan, “Krishna’s Pastimes – Ever-Expanding” doesn’t lift up your day, nothing will. Manu Das, one of ISKCON Ireland’s stalwarts, takes the lead here, and his voice, sometimes breaking with grit, sometimes falling to barely more than a whisper, is that of an ISKCON soldier who’s been through it all and still loves Krishna more than anything else in the world.
By the last third of the track, multiple leads are overlapping, singing both rounds and harmonies along with a soaring chorus of responsive chanters that creates a cascading waterfall of the Holy Name. It’s an ending to the set that’s both deeply moving and makes you want to dance with joy.
For Gopagana himself, the experience of creating the recording was just as positive. “It was very inspiring,” he says. “One of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
In the new year, Gopagana plans to start recording his next project of original melodies, which, believe it or not, will be twice as long as Sixth Rainfall.
In the meantime, he says, “I hope Sixth Rainfall will help listeners absorb their minds in meditating on Krishna.”
To pre-order Sixth Rainfall on CD for £32 +p&p or on mp3 for £12 +p&p, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.[ ireland ] [ kirtana ]