“Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna” is an Agnideva tour de force, delivered with inimitable grace and unassailable expertise. A tribute to the great acharyas and Srila Prabhupada, he honors them by working sensitively and cooperatively with mainly second-generation devotees who also show considerable talent and enthusiasm. Special stand-out performances are to be noted from Amala Harinam, on vocals, harmonium and percussion; Krishna Kishora on flute; and Jahnavi Harrison, whose hauntingly beautiful violin has become more than a mere addendum to kirtan and bhajan performances throughout the world. Her crisp and clear production on this CD is a further testament to her talent and feeling for the genre.
But “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna” is primarily Agnideva’s moment. Engaging an authenticity that is vibrant and sincere, he brings his listeners to Bengal via Trinidad and Tobago, and from there they find a direct flight to the spiritual world. Agni is clearly a Rupanuga Vaishnava, singing with all the passion and fire of his namesake. His seasoned voice and related skills catapult listeners into the hallowed realm of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates. In his voice we feel the presence of Rupa-Raghunatha, Narottama Dasa, and Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Apropos of this, the CD gives us six songs, all steeped in Gaudiya Vaishnava moods and conclusions (siddhanta). For example, “Radha Krishna Prana Mora,” composed by Narottama Dasa Thakura, focuses on the Divine Couple, Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna, but in a distinctly Gaudiya way, that is, by “entering into Their exalted service and seating Them on Their throne of jewels, anointing Them with sandalwood paste, fanning Them, garlanding Them,” and so on.
Four of the CD’s bhajans were composed by Bhaktivinoda Thakura, three of which are excerpted from his work, “Saranagati,” which is comprised of some 50 songs. The first, titled simply, “Saranagati,” focuses on the process of surrender, its permutations and absolute necessity. “Emona Durmati,” which follows, bemoans our fallen condition in the material world, beseeching both Mahaprabhu and the guru for their all-too-necessary mercy. “Atma Samarpane,” also from the same songbook, expresses confidence in the Lord’s protection, and visualizes Him as He grazes cows and kills various demons in Vraja-lila. And “Kali Kukkura,” from an alternate songbook named “Kalyana Kalpataru,” offers direct, emotional, and heartfelt glorification of Sri Caitanya.
The grand finale, the pièce de résistance, is undoubtedly the title track, “Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Lord Krishna” (Krishna Tava Punya Habe Bhai) — an 18-minute tribute to Srila Prabhupada, whose famously penned poem, originally written in Bengali in 1965 while on the Jaladuta steamship that brought him to Western shores, is now the stuff of legend. His intimate relationship with Krishna is expressed in full force, and Agnideva feelingly conveys it with both voice and heart. This is bhajan at its best. If you purchase only one kirtan/bhajan CD this year (2017) — make sure it’s this one.
—Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), author of 30 books on Vaishnava-related subjects, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies and associate editor of Back to Godhead magazine.