Cast In Concrete #2: Meet Dan Bellen And The Hare Krishnas


Cast In Concrete tracks Vijith Assar as he records the musical offerings of New York City’s street musicians.

Who: Dan Bellen And The Hare Krishnas
When: 6/8/11, about 6:15pm
Where: Union Square

Scorcher of a day out at the Union Square Greenmarket, which is the best I can do by way of explanation for my complete and utter snark failure here. When I was about halfway through recording these white dudes singing an Indian devotional chant, a husky and apparently quite confused West African fella approached me to ask, “Hey, what you believe in?”

Now, granted, I am a full-blooded Indian guy, and there was even a phase of my life during which music like this was a constant background presence—house parties with other suburban Indian families where the adults would sing this stuff in the living room while the kids played NES in the basement, and then all the above parties would eat tandoori chicken and aloo parathas together. But here I was standing off to the side, wasn’t singing, and was wearing a polo shirt, sneakers, and a considerably more conventional haircut.

So at the time, all I could think to do was shrug and tell him, “This isn’t my group, man.” But in retrospect that really seems like a waste, no? Some of the things I could have said instead:

  • Say what you like about the tenets of national socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.
  • Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Flying Spaghetti Monster forever.
  • I believe in minding my own fucking business—have you heard of it?

I suppose this sort of pent-up hostility is precisely why I’d be no good as a Hare Krishna. But Dan Bellen seems to be handling it just fine, even using it as a musical outlet—he was actually studying music at a community college in Michigan before that fateful road trip through Colorado five years ago when he first met the Bhagavad Gita, after which he traded in his guitar and piano for a harmonium and those little hand cymbals. Now it’s his name and contact info at the bottom of the flyers being handed out while he sings bhajans and kirtan songs with his buddies, and during his next trip to India in September he’ll also be part of a group that will perform kirtan for 24 hours straight. Given the ill-defined and unbelievably repetitive structure of these chants, which is on full display for these thirteen minutes, they could probably pull that off with a single song. In which case I’ll be downstairs with the Wii, thanks.

In the hat: buck and change

Dan Bellen And The Hare Krishnas, “Madhava Mellows” [FLAC, Mediafire link]