krishna rock

krishna rock

In-A-Bhagavad-Gita, Baby
Krishna rock for GeneratioNext 09.28.99


They’re a little bit Krishna, a little bit
rock and roll. With their poppy, tight,
upbeat mix of rock, reggae, and raga
rhythms, the new top Europop artists
Undrop have blended their Swedish skatepunk
roots with Spanish orientalism to create a new
generation of the Hindu hipsway.

Hare Krishna rockers have brought down the
ashram for years, and drums and electric
guitars have long been an integral part of
Krishna fests. But save a few major stars co-
opting their mantra, this musical underground
has stayed close to the temple circuit, cloaked
in saffron-tinged anonymity — until a cross-
promotional Pepsi campaign brought this
skinhead Sanskrit subculture into the spotlight.

The GeneratioNext Music program warms over
Pepsi’s aura of rebellion by giving instant
stardom to little-known local bands — like
Undrop. After years of touring Europe, the
U.S., and Central America, Swedish brothers
Tomas and Steffan Runqvist, along with
Spanish bass player and fellow Hare Krishna
Antonio Crespo, were happy to curry favor with
the second-choice soft drink. Upon releasing
their English-language debut album The
Crossing (Subterfuge Records) last year,
Undrop graced the Pepsi spot that launched
them to fame.

In the commercial, as the band plays “Train,”
the crowd starts picking apart the lyrics, until
the lead singer chugs down a Pepsi and finally
gets to play it his own way. This song,
complete with mantra and praises to Lord
Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu, lyricizes a
cleansed chakra choo-choo “to a higher
destination.” A higher destination indeed.
Undrop’s dharma sprang out from the
obscurity of Spanish bars and into the Top 40.

Spain’s rama rama rockers are stellar
examples of stars rising from the Krishna
milieu. Undrop’s trio forgoes the priestly
saffron robes of temple full—timers, but all are
friends of the Spanish Krishna spiritual retreat,
Nueva Vraja Mandala. There, in Brihuega,
Spain, devotees shake their hare groove things
amidst Hindu idols and tethered cows. While
pop pagans seek nymphs and nose candy,
these plain clothes Krishnas prefer skateboards
(Steffan Runqvist was 1985 European Skate
Champ), yoga, and the vegetarian clean living
of ancient India.

Undrop’s current hit “Boomerang” (Columbia
Records) maintains the thread with thinly
veiled karmic references: “If you throw a
boomerang (yeah) it will surely come back to
you.” This surely harks back to the biggest
Krishna pop star of them all, ex-Beatle George
Harrison. In his ode to His Divine Grace A. C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, “The Lord
Loves the One (That Loves the Lord),” Harrison
sang “And the law says whatever you do/Is
going to come right back on you…”

The story of Krishna rock began in 1965 when
Prabhupada (“India’s greatest modern saint”)
reached America with nothing but eight bucks
and a Bhagavad-Gita, and showed acid-
drenched hippies a new high in the 16th
century teachings of Lord Krishna Caitanya
(God). Apparently, by chanting the 16-word
maha-mantra, one taps “the supreme pleasure
principle” to reach God-consciousness.

Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare
Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama,
Hare Hare is not a material sound vibration,
but comes directly from the spiritual world,”
preached Prabhupada, founder of the
International Society for Krishna
Consciousness (ISKCON). “His Divine Grace”
left this material world in 1977, but rock and
roll never dies. ISKCON festivals have long
featured clay-faced rockers in Deep Saffron.

The founding of the 1967 San Francisco temple
begat the Avalon Ballroom’s “Mantra-Rock
Dance,” with Swami Prabhupada, Allen
Ginsberg, and The Grateful Dead. As Bob Dylan
chanted at the Los Angeles, Denver, and
Chicago temples, Harrison topped charts with
“My Sweet Lord” and “The Hare Krishna
Mantra.” In the book Chant and be Happy
The Story of the Hare Krishna Mantra, Harrison
says: “Once I chanted the Hare Krsna mantra
all the way from France to Portugal, nonstop. I
drove about twenty—three hours and chanted
all the way. We sang it for days, John and I,
with ukulele banjos, sailing through the Greek

While multinational corporate sponsorship of
The Holy Names brings no apparent bad
karma, “chanting from the lips of nondevotees
should be avoided,” warns ISKCON. “Milk
touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous
effects.” Even so, Undrop has a gold record
and continues to chart hits. Soft drink touched
by the lips of Nirvana-seeking Swedes and
Spaniards clearly brings financial bliss, but the
implications for eternal enlightenment remain

His Divine Grace‘s current incarnation could
not be reached for comment.

Copyright by Brett Allan King and/or the publication in which story first appeared
Do not reprint without permission

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