Prince Rama of Ayodhya merges Krishna, pop music

Prince Rama of Ayodha with, from left, Michael Collins, Taraka Larson and Mimai Larson, performs Saturday at Wayward Council. Prince Rama of Ayodha with, from left, Michael Collins, Taraka Larson and Mimai Larson, performs Saturday at Wayward Council.

Published: Thursday, January 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 11:12 a.m.

If you've lived in Gainesville long enough, there is a good chance you've met a person who is a Hare Krishna. If you are a student at the University of Florida, then it's an impossibility to have missed the lines of students waiting for their vegetarian meals from the Krishna Student Center every afternoon in the Plaza of the Americas.

The plaza is unofficial Krishna turf, and while the dozens of students scattered with paper plates are unmistakable to most, the sounds of the music and the image of the plaza are inextricable.

Bells ring in a steadfast rhythm, with the incessancy of a Salvation Army worker at Christmas. The usual two drums alternate beat for beat and lay the foundation for the slow, lingering chants of "Hare Krishna, Hare Rama."

Until now I thought that for all intents and purposes, the drum circle, chant combo was the extent of Krishna music, that even George Harrison at his most spiritual moments was as close as I would come to hearing the synthesis of Krishna and pop music. Prince Rama of Ayodhya then pried open the lock on my brain, and answered the mystery.

The trio, based out of Boston, formed somewhere in a Florida swamp at a Hare Krishna farm. Taraka Larson, Nimai Larson and Michael Collins quickly grew in the Boston scene and eventually toured Europe. Now, they're coming to Gainesville for a Saturday show at Wayward Council, a venue with a growing reputation for booking ultra-alternative, national acts. They will be promoting their 2008 album "Threshold Dances" for the British label Cosmos.

Prince Rama's music has mysticism, spiritualism and heavy Eastern influences. But for all the beauty that rises out of the dense mixture of guitars, synthesizers, tribal drums, conchs, bells and chants lies the reality that most listeners don't really get it.

The aural pleasure in their music is present, and it will certainly pique the interest of world music fans and Hare Krishnas, but the ritualistic arrangement and performance of the songs, which has been known to include werewolf summings-up and Sanskrit invocations, may get lost in translation for a first time listener, or even a 100-time listener.

The simplicity of the lunch-time drum circle is comforting, but the expansion of sound and the way they compartmentalize long "jams" into four-minute structures is what has warranted a cult following for Prince Rama.

In trying to find a reference point I can offer only one band, and that is Dead Can Dance, and even then I am probably thinking in terms far too Western. There is a sensible and admirable charm in playing music that sounds modern and 4000 years old at the same time, and hopefully Prince Rama will deliver it. Alongside them will be Posupulenn, and Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands.

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The show on Sunday at 1982 Bar may not carry the mystique or cultural appeal of its predecessor but it's a show that still deserves to be mentioned. Paint Me Irrational, a young quintet-turned-quartet based in Gainesville will head up a melodic rock show that has a tweeny commercial appeal.

The music at this show is going to be radio-catchy in a New Found Glory, Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy sort of way, which strikes me as poignantly contemporary. The pop-punk, melodi-core movement has grown considerably over the last four years and the rise of bands like Paramore, and Panic At The Disco only cement the genre's popularity. These bands, including The Bride Wore Black from Queens, N.Y., are capitalizing on a cultural shift in pop music and doing it respectfully.

Expect the expected, and enjoy the soft, sentimentalism of Paint Me Irrational and the synth and auto-tune laden rock vignettes of The Bride Wore Black, because frankly, it's hard not to.

Other notable shows and events this week are Green Room Rockers, The Neighborhood Watch and Alex Baugh and The Crazy Carls at 1982 Bar on Wednesday night; and Theory of Disorder, Pictures of Winter and What Lies Beneath The Tide at The Backstage Lounge also on Wednesday night.

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