The Bhajan Project is back after 10 years for its second part. This truly contemporary expression of spirituality is a collection of the most popular bhajans and familiar mantras which Shivali herself has grown up to, just like most Indian youth, in India and around the world. Blending an eclectic mix of beats and sounds from the genres of R&B, soul, rock and pop, every bhajan touches your soul through its sincerity. The Bhajan Project 2 is poised to change the way people feel and, of course, establish a new way of life.
Shivali began producing bhajans in her teenage years to capture the hearts and minds of Hindus and spiritual seekers globally. In the UK, Shivali was the pioneer of contemporary bhajans. A decade later, with the release of her third album, The Bhajan Project 2, the question remains, why did Shivali continue to stick with bhajans? Her answer was simply, “Music is made from love, and if that love is devotional, there is nothing higher.”
Her albums are produced by her rakhi brother, the hit producer and singer-songwriter Arjun Coomaraswamy. “It’s important to me to really understand the meaning of the songs and also represent them authentically. Every bhajan is chosen for a specific purpose, it is never random!”
– Shivali Bhammer told Rolling Stone India.
The Bhajan Project 2 is available on Spotify, Amazon MP£ SME, iTunes and many other platforms. Here’s her exclusive Q&A with Asian Voice.
1. How are bhajans relevant to the contemporary generation? They do seem to be an important part of pop culture now.
I think spirituality and mindfulness is in trend. I am not sure bhajans themselves are an important part of pop culture because they are rarely featured. I’ve been in the business of bhajans for a decade with a major label but priority is always given to Bollywood, bhangra, or British Asian covers because they are more accessible and for a wider audience than Bhajans. However, what I have found is for those who want to listen to devotional music, then bhajans especially contemporary bhajans are meaningful and necessary. Especially for kids who often learn mantras and songs this way! I am very grateful for the love Bhajans receive from their families.
2. What is the idea behind making special compositions for “Mahamrityunjaya Mantra” and "Om Jai Jagdish Hare"?
The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is known as one of the most powerful mantras in Hinduism. It was originally from the oldest Vedic literature, the Rig Veda. It is 1500 years old, and the mantra is designed to alleviate mental stress, anxiety, and poor health and provide peace. It’s amazing to be able to do a contemporary version of a mantra steeped in history. Because it is a Lord Shiva mantra, who is the Lord of Dance, I incorporated Kathak bols into the mantra to provide it with that hip-hop ethnic edge and it sounds fresh. We also switched up the melody slightly to make it sweet sounding for the youth.
Om Jai Jagdish Hare was written in 1870 and is sung by Hindus across the world, the aarti is symbolic of a time the family come together to worship. I absolutely love the meaning of this aarti and very few understood it, so I put subtitles in my music video and within two days it crossed 300,000 views which is a big deal for a bhajan. I think that’s because everybody theoretically knows it, but very few know the depth of those lyrics. I wanted to bring it back in a different way for everyone.
3. How differently do you think older and younger generations consume spiritual music?
I think they consume it relatively similarly; spiritual music is perfect for any time (although perhaps not at the gym!). I generally listen to bhajans in the morning, or if I need strength, I know the younger generation like to listen when studying for exams or teaching their kids, and the older generation plays them in the car.
4. Where do you get your inspiration from?
From the divine, because I sing for the divine, so the universe, God, consciousness, whatever you wish to call this creative force is my inspiration and love.
5. How important do you think is spiritual music for the Indian diaspora?
I think it brings them back home. Spiritual music feels like family, it’s our roots, and when we listen to it, we think to ourselves, ‘It’s okay, I am going to be okay.’ A simple but important message for all of us.