I have just received and listened to Rajesh David’s latest CD entitled ‘Isha’. I must say that it is, as ever, an absolute gem. Rajesh brings out the wisdom, sentiments and inspirations of the Ishavasya Upanishad in his incomparable style. Beautiful chanting of the Sanskrit text. May Rajesh continue to produce more priceless renditions of the ancient texts as well new chants and songs with a modern flavour, but always anchored in a Spiritual vision of existence and what we are.Swami Nishchalananda
An Interview with Rajesh David.
Musician and Indian classical singer
Hear and download his music from:
Why Isha? What is the essence of this Upanishad and why did you want to do it?
I started reading and reflecting on the Upanishads from a very young age. My first entry into the world of Upanishads was through reading books by Swami Vivekananda and other monks of the Ramakrishna Mission. Since then I have been fascinated and inspired by these most amazing and profound texts. I believe them to represent the highest level of human thought! They are elegant and insightful, presenting their philosophy very logically.
For me, the Upanishads are my teacher, friend, philosopher and guide! They shine a light, illumining the inner realms of our being. Studying them is a life long journey; as we travel that journey, they reveal their truths.
The Upanishads encapsulate Advaita in Vedanta philosophy. They all express that idea of Advaita, non duality, in different ways. As Swami Vivekananda says “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”
The Divine essence in every one of us. Verses 15 of Isha Upanishad beautifully expresses this very important truth, ‘The sweetest emotions and even the lofty ideal of human life are but a golden disc covering the truth.‘
The first Hymn of the Upanishad “Purnamadah Purnamidam….” Is one of the most elegant and lyrical mantra expressing the highest truth. It is like a Zen Koan. This mantra pulled me to the Upanishad and then, I wanted to sing the Upanishad.
Isha Upanishad is among the 10 principal Upanishads and is also very short – 18 verses. I feel it is the Song of Advaita. In the past I have worked with the Mandukya Upanishad which has just 12 verses. I thought of that as the Song of AUM!
How does the creative process happen with you? Do you start with the words and get a feel for the music for each verse, or section, or do you have an overall musical idea to start with?
Music is an expression of my love for these most beautiful texts. By setting them to music and singing them, these verses become a part of my being. I relate to them, and I’m able to reflect and meditate on them. My creative process is to allow the words to speak to me. I read the verses and try to get a sense of the metre. Sometimes an inspiration comes from deep within me and sets me off on a melody. Those are the best moments! At other times I try to think of a mode which would suit the words. It is hard to describe this one, but sometimes the words just sing out on their own.
I think the bottom line is “ inspiration from the depth of our being” which in a way is the essence of the Upanishads – the Divine essence in every one of us!
Hope this isn’t a pretentious question(!) but when I hear you sing, and play, it seems that it’s not so much that you make music, more like you are expressing music from a part of yourself. How does this happen? Are some naturally made to be musicians?
I’m not sure how to answer that one without sounding a bit pretentious myself !
When I sing, I try to become one with the song, allowing the song to flow naturally. As we say in Yoga, “get out of the way and let the song find its own flow”. Yes, it is like the river finding its own natural path, flowing toward the sea! The most beautiful experience is when you are singing or making music and you have the feeling that the whole process is natural and effortlessly, as if you are the witness to the song and music.
Silence is the language of the Soul (Atman) and music is it’s manifest form. All musicians are blessed with the potential of delving deep into the Self through their music.
Coming out from that…. is it possible to briefly describe your musical upbringing?
I was born into a family of musicians and singers. Both my parents were singers. I would have heard them sing in my mothers womb, but I do remember listening to their music from my childhood. Music was the most natural sound in my early years. One of my sweetest memories of my childhood is going to bed at night and listening to my father softly playing the harmonium and singing!
I must have inherited the art of singing from my parents as it came naturally to me. I did learn music from my parents, just by listening to them. Later on I took formal training in Indian classical music.
You can buy (download) this album by going to Rajesh’s page on Bandcamp
Interview conducted by Narada of Mandala Yoga Ashram: