Jyotsna's ‘Krishna The Eternal’ contains devotional songs

Devotional albums have always been a bit of a mixed bag. It is quite common to see them hitting shelves in large numbers around the start of the pilgrimage season every year. It is the rather obvious deviation from this trend that makes playback singer Jyotsna’s new album 'Krishna The Eternal’ a breath of fresh air.

‘Krishna The Eternal’ can be best described as a balance between the traditional and the contemporary, and in hindsight this is perhaps its strongest advantage. Right from the delicate flute strains that accompany the opening track of Jyotsna’s rendition of Adi Sankaracharya’s ‘Achyutham Keshavam’ to the mix of guitars and percussion in the third track ‘Krishna Sundara’, the tendency to gently sway between Indian and Western influences is noticeable. While this may seem odd to some, the end result is that the almost movie album-like set-up works well in creating replay value, making this an album you are more likely to listen to frequently, rather than dust off once a year, perhaps during a puja in your house.

The album’s eight tracks resonate with a warm affection towards Lord Krishna. ‘Achyutham Keshavam’ starts off the journey on a traditional note, followed by ‘Narayana Veda Parayana’, one of Jyotsna's first efforts as a composer, and an example of the music stepping into commercial foot-tapper territory while the lyrics keep it grounded in spirituality. The next two songs, ‘Krishna Sundara’ and ‘Baalam Mukundam’, pay tribute to two of Lord Krishna's most famously recognised forms, the eternal lover and the mischievous infant. However, it is with ‘Ghana Ghana Neela’, a version of the famous bhajan in praise of the lord, that the album and its creators step things up. This track is one of the best examples of Jyotsna’s versatility as a singer, especially at the halfway mark of the song, where its energy is highest.

This high is followed by a tenderly rendered ‘Adharam Madhuram’ (from Vallabhacharya’s ‘Madhurashtakam’), once again with Jyotsna as composer. It is a testament to her understanding of the craft that it manages to stay close to the overall tone of the album while retaining the original verse. The album culminates at its spiritual peak with its penultimate track, ‘Tere Bin Hamara’, a soothing melody that reminds one of the Hindi songs of Bollywood's glory years, which will most likely appeal to all age groups.

Composer Gireesh Kumar and programmer William Francis deserve words of praise. The ease with which the album strolls through different musical schools is a mark of their skill.

The final song is simply entitled ‘Thank You’, and composed as well as penned by Jyotsna in English.Though she proved adequately in the seven preceding songs that she could comfortably switch between musical styles and even languages, using Hindi, Malayalam and Sanskrit with reasonable proficiency, the foray into English was a pleasant surprise

This song may come across as a bit of a jarring placement for those looking for hymns and bhajans alone, but as an earnest finisher to a personal musical pilgrimage, it could not have been better.