Deep Jale

Wednesday 22nd February 2006

Christian worship music inspired by the Indian subcontinent is the intriguing forte of two Americans who minister under the name ARADHNA. George Luke spent some time with this most unusual duo.

Chris Hale
Chris Hale

"East meets West" is one of those clichés that gets trotted out any time a pop star throws a 10-second sitar or tabla break into a tune. For Aradhna, though, it's more of a mission statement than an easy description. Since the beginning of the millennium, Aradhna have diligently sought through their music to build bridges between Western Christians and their Asian brothers and sisters.

Chris Hale and Peter Hicks form the nucleus of Aradhna. They are usually accompanied by bassist Travis McAfee and a handful of Indian friends. Peter was born in New Delhi in 1979 and raised in the USA; Chris was born in the US 10 years earlier and grew up in Nepal. A band playing Indian music and singing in Hindi was always going to be a tough sell in the Nashville CCM world. But despite the odds, Aradhna have managed to build up a strong following.

"We only fit into the CCM scene as a very independent act," says Chris. "There aren't any companies that are willing to take a risk on a group like us.and we're not really willing to take a risk on them either, because the way they might choose to market us might not be the way we feel our music needs to be marketed. So although we're fairly small, we have a group of people around North America, England, South Africa, parts of South America and India who know us and invite us regularly to come and share our music with them. And so a niche of some kind has been created that fits this music and grows slowly.

"Also, North American children in the Christian world are beginning to hunger to find out whether Jesus is in fact universal, or whether he's only American. I think there's a worry and a fear that Jesus might in fact be only American and therefore not relevant to the whole world, because they haven't experienced an authentic version of Jesus that is completely 'other'. So when they see Aradhna worshipping and their soul is touched in the same deep way that they're touched when they hear a Matt Redman song, a light goes on in their heart, that goes 'Wow - Jesus is in fact universal. I don't just have to listen to a Matt Redman song translated into 150 languages; I can actually hear an authentic song that was birthed out of another country, but has the same spiritual impact on me that my own music does.' And that, I think, is a revolution starting amongst many young people."

Peter Hicks
Peter Hicks

When Chris was one year old, his parents (who were doctors) fulfilled their dream of moving to Nepal and he grew up there, speaking Nepali and English simultaneously. Then he went to boarding school in India and learnt to speak Hindi. "In many ways," he says, "I'm only white on the outside - definitely Nepali and Indian on the inside. "I had a dream that after university, I'd be in India playing in a rock band. So that's exactly what I did. I formed a band called Olio with some friends. Pete found out about the band - and at a very young age, before he would have been able to join us, he expressed an interest in coming to India. I said to him, 'Come out to India when you finish high school.' So after high school, Pete wrote me a letter, saying 'I haven't forgotten your invitation. I'll be willing to carry speakers, wrap up guitar leads and do anything servant-like, just to hang out with you.' We thought that was humility enough for us; Pete came out.and I don't think he wrapped up a single guitar lead the whole time he was there!"

"I have a picture of me carrying a speaker, so I think that counts," Peter replies. "My parents had a lot of history in India," he continues. "I was raised in the US, but around the dinner table, there was always talk about India. A lot of my siblings were born there. I never really dreamt of being a rock star; I just loved music. And the thought of being back in India was a big attraction for me. To do music in India was perfect; I got to fill in a lot of the blanks the family stories had left in my mind. Growing up, I'd have all these imaginations of what my parents were talking about around the dinner table. Things turned out to be very different - but very cool, and very exciting and life-changing."

Peter was 18 when he finally linked up with Chris. "When Pete got to India, I discovered within a couple of days that he was the only authentic rocker in the whole band!" says Chris. "He would start giggling sometimes when we'd break into a song, because he found it so cheesy! He revealed a lot about what the band was at the time - and also revealed in me what my true desires were, which were leading more in the direction of these Hindi devotional songs, or bhajans."

For Peter - who'd grown up in an evangelical church and raised on a diet of Vineyard-style worship - playing bhajans became a source of spiritual renewal. "By the time Chris and I started playing them, I was worn out," he says. "The songs I'd been singing in church didn't mean anything anymore. I liked the melodies and they'd stick in your head, but none of it had any weight in my heart. Playing bhajans took me out of that 'active worship' place. In an evangelical church service, you'd go in, you'd stand and sing five songs, pray out loud perhaps, then you'd greet one another and then sit down and receive from the pastor, and then get up and finish with another song. It's a very active, 'I'm involved in this, 'I'm going to contribute, 'I've got an active role in this.'
When this music came along, even though I was playing guitar for it, it was very much that God was telling me to be quiet and receive. Back then, my Hindi was horrendous; now it's just horrible!

Deep Jale

"I couldn't participate vocally or cerebrally with the lyrics; I just kinda had the overall gist of the songs. Every now and then, I'd hear a 'Yeshu' and I'd go, 'Okay - I know what that means.' Or I'd hear a 'Prabhu' - which means 'Lord' - and so I'd have little key points where I'd mentally connect. But the rest of the time, it was a meditation. And what happened was, it just came in underneath all this tradition that had already been built up inside of me, and created a new foundation and a new paradigm for understanding Christ and worshipping him and receiving from him. And then I found that once that had been laid, when we went back to those English worship songs I no longer connected with, they had a completely new meaning because I had already found that place with Christ through non-action, and when I actively sought to praise him, it was much more complete. And that's a very common thing we hear from people like myself who consider themselves to be mainly American or Western, maybe with some idea of the East. They want a real experience. They don't just want to go through the motions. They don't just want to sing the songs; they want to connect with Christ. And so I think this brings another piece into the wholeness of the culture of God. And being part of that is an incredible thing - that and seeing it grow as we travel. It's amazing."

As well as being a unique link between eastern and western cultures, Aradhna are also one of those Christian bands who can almost seamlessly blend music with social action. Amongst other things, the band supports [the Sewa Aahram]: a ministry in Delhi which offers emergency medical help to tuberculosis and Aids sufferers in the most deprived areas of the city. Bhajans are used a lot as part of the patients' rehabilitation process. A lot of art-related projects go on at the ashram, and Chris's wife does some seminars there (you can find out more about the ashram's work by visiting their website: Both Peter and Chris feel that social action is a crucial part of Aradhna's ethos.

"When you're involved in leading worship as much as we are, it does create a hunger for social action because you're aware of the fact that you're only singing, whereas the world is dying," says Chris. "That causes a pain in you when you're singing on stage; there's an actual physical pain in your body that goes, 'Lord, I realise that you love it when I worship you, but I also realise that there's a world that's dying out there.' That hunger has led us to people in India who are spending all their time working amongst the poor."

"A few years ago, Chris and I were in Calcutta doing some studying for our music," says Peter. "We took a few days and went to Mother Theresa's hospital for the dying, as well as her children's home there in the city. In terms of it being a heart-touching experience, seeing people who are destitute and dying singing, enjoying themselves, smiling, clapping and singing along with us, it was an amazing time in my life. I did a lot of writing about it, and I think one thing I came away with was this sense in my own heart of 'I feel so good about myself now.' But what is a good feeling if it doesn't have action? As those feelings add up in my heart, it creates that drive to do more. But I guess the key is finding that place in Christ where it's not an issue about filling up my need to feel needed, or my need to feel that I'm doing good."

Deep Jale

"It's like the U2 line about playing Jesus to the lepers in your head," says Chris. "I think that's one thing that our Western consciousness - which knows that we can have a hot shower every day - struggles with. We fantasize, playing Jesus to the lepers in our head. I know I do. I picture that as being the ideal life, and that the life I lead now as a musician is somehow tainted with self-glory or advancing ourselves. That's a struggle we have to face; we have to face our own darkness. In the process of that, God leads us into experiences, sometimes more, sometimes less, of action among the poor - which, I believe, should be an integral part of every believer's life.

"At the same time, if we fantasize too much about it and throw ourselves into it - sell everything, quit music and go and live there - if it hasn't been God's calling, we could end up in really serious trouble. These things need to be a calling of God. A lot of people tell us that what we do now is our calling, and is deeply ministering. Even these people who work amongst the poor have our CDs, and they would be unhappy if we stopped doing what we're doing. So that tension has to go back and forth until God's calling in the future becomes clear. I know in my heart it's a longing; I just long to give up a load of stuff and just go there. But whether that's God's plan or not has to be played out day by day." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Reader Comments

Posted by AUGUSTIN in CHANDRAPUR-(MAHARASHTRA) @ 12:36 on Jun 17 2011

please pray for my parish & my family

Posted by Lilly in Amerika @ 06:34 on Jan 19 2011

I have yet to hear the music but what a well written story of entitlement and enlightenment! It brightened my day!

Posted by Priya Ranjan in Chennai @ 08:01 on Nov 3 2009

I would like to know the sites of all english songs are translated in Hindi
Light of the World You step down in to darkness
in hindi
Jyoti Jagat Ki andhkar mein hai chamki

Posted by vincent das in lucknow @ 16:32 on Jun 25 2009

can you please arrange for the cd of NAAM LEO RE

Posted by Ashley in India @ 07:06 on Apr 28 2009

Hey Guys Are You looking for some Hindi Worship Website Here is the ONe which can help you to find Hindi Worship Resources, Song, Lyrics, Free Downloads Etc. Visit or

God Bless

Posted by Vinay in Hyd/India @ 12:21 on Mar 9 2009

All Glory To God.

Posted by radhika in hyd @ 14:29 on Feb 12 2009


Posted by Rachel Glowacki in Charleston, SC USA @ 23:16 on Sep 25 2008

Dear Chris and Peter,
I am so thankful that the Spirit lead me to this sight. I am a Christian yoga teacher in the States and been praying about keeping the yoga practice authentic in nature and yet staying true to JESUS. I really love a lot of the yoga music and when lead to research the lyrics find that it conflicts in honoring Jesus. And after listening to your music, I am so grateful to have found and purchase it. I am aware that you both are very busy with your ministries, if you have the time to check out would love your insights. Peace and Health-Rachel

Posted by prema in mumbai @ 11:53 on May 5 2008

please pray for me and family.

Posted by justin in BANGALORE @ 04:39 on Mar 20 2008

i want christian hindi song PRAY FOR INDIA lyrics

Reply by susy in chennai @ 07:36 on Aug 9 2008

i want hindi song language pray for india

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