If you’re looking for mantra music beyond traditional kirtan – say, a fun, sunny mix of soft rock, folk, and funk via the French Riviera and the Pacific Rim – you might want to try out Confused Soul’s new single “Madhu,” with its sing-alongability and joyful sax refrains. An album, “Riviera,” is set to follow this summer.
Confused Soul came about with the meeting of two minds who found that they had a lot in common. Chandrashekhara Acharya Das, who is half French, grew up in both Los Angeles and Paris. With music in his blood early on – his mother was on the board of directors of the L.A. Opera – he gravitated more towards pop and rock music, and served as lead singer for the bands Village of Peace and 18 Days, performing in front of thousands at the Polish Woodstock festival.
Tulasi Das, meanwhile, was born in New Zealand to a French father and New Zealander mother, and lived around the world in such countries as Singapore, Tahiti and Australia. Trained in classical Western music and playing the oboe from the age of twelve, he branched out into electronic music in university, then learned traditional Indian instruments after joining ISKCON. Since 2015, Harinama Sankirtana has been his main service, from the Yuga Dharma Ashrama in New York City, to Vrindavan’s 24-Hour Kirtan to the streets of Paris.
When Tulasi and Chandrashekhara realized how much they had in common – including musicality, the French language and a desire to spread the Holy Name in France – they decided to go on a two-month sankirtana tour of the French Riviera together in May/June of 2019.
“We took a small Renault car, filled it with sponsored Bhagavad-gitas, Tulasi’s harmonium and my guitar, and rented Air BnBs as we made our way along the coast,” Chandra says. “Every day, we’d distribute free Bhagavad-gitas to young people on the street, go back to our apartment for prasadam, and then go out again to chant with our harmonium and guitar.”
In the first few towns, they focused only on chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. But when the well-meaning manager of famous Saint-Tropez restaurant Sénéquier commented, “We love your music, but could you change up the melody and words a bit?” the pair saw an opportunity to better reach the local people.\
Developing a seven-song routine, including different Hare Krishna tunes and other simple mantras, Chandra and Tulasi practiced them daily until after one month, they realized they had enough material for an album.
They decided to name their band “Confused Soul” to honestly express the reality that most bhakti practioners have their daily struggles with bhakti yoga. “Although our hearts and eyes are aimed at the lotus feet of Krishna, it’s not always a smooth ride,” Chandra says.
While it was being recorded in Paris and Montpelier in the South of France, Confused Soul’s album organically morphed from a low-fi acoustic sound into a full soft-rock, folk, and funk album with drums and bass by professional session musicians and saxophone by Ethan, the South African virtuouso who plays with Indradyumna Swami’s Polish tour.
The first single, Madhu, will be released on digital platforms on January 15th. Featuring the mantra Hari Haraye Namaha, one of Lord Chaitanya’s favorite bhajans, its accompanying video is shot in the heart of Paris and showcases Tulasi and Chandra’s playful dynamic.
The rest of “Riviera” will be released song by song, with a new cut available around every six weeks and the full album out by the summer. The second single, Jaya Jagannatha, will be out in March and will wrap the mantra “Jagannatha Swami Nayana Patha Gami” in jazzy, Parisian chords. It will be accompanied by a video filmed on the banks of the Yamuna in Vrindavan during Kartik season.
“There are overhead drone shots of a huge face of Lord Jagannath we sculpted in the sand, as well as footage of Tulasi and I cycling a bycle ricksaw in Old Vrindavan town,” Chandra says with a grin.
Other album tracks include Mangalacharana, from the introduction to Bhagavad-gita As It Is; Nitai Gauranga, which invokes the mercy of Lord Chaitanya; Sita Rama, which utilizes a chord progression popular in Evangelical Christian worship services; and Major, which, as its title suggests, features the Hare Krishna mantra with a major chord progression.
Finally there’s Lenny, a maha-mantra tune that pays homage to Lenny Kravitz – whom Chandra once presented with a Srimad-Bhagavatam set – by drawing inspiration from the chord progression in his song “Be.”
“Most of the mantras we’ve chosen are quite simple, to make it easy for people to get a hold of and sing along to,” says Tulasi.
To add to the participation element, “Riviera” sees Chandra and Tulasi singing in harmony together, then leaving space for the listener’s response.
The main goal of “Confused Soul” is to reach people who are relatively new, but already have a foot in the door of spirituality.
“We plan to tour yoga studios in Paris and the South of France in May and June,” Chandra says. “Because the kirtan scene in France is ten years behind that of North America – and I think now is a prime time to enter it.”
The band also want to cater to the devotee audience’s need for a variety of devotional music in different genres depending on their mood.
“We hope to encapsulate the mood of yukta-vairagya – utilizing anything and everything that we can in Krishna’s service, while at the same time not compromising our own personal practice and ‘purity,’” Tulasi says. “And ultimately, we want to show that devotional service, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, is joyfully performed.”
Watch the video for the single “Madhu” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5iKPfHTi-g
“Madhu” will be available for purchase on Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Amazon on January 15th.
For more information, visit https://www.confusedsoulmusic.com