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An unforgettable show in Grand Rapids, Michigan

- Hye Sung

When you think of John Calvin… what do you think of? Maybe you think “Protestant Reformer”, “passionate scholar”, “a writer of hundreds of commentaries”, “predecessor to the Puritans”–maybe you think “boring”? Perhaps you do not even know the fellow, but the school named after him is anything but boring, especially when it comes to the weekly performances on campus.

Over the years Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan has held hundreds of concerts. The book “Hipster Christianity” by Brett McCracken even noted that Calvin College is wildly hip because of the music scene on campus. Over the years, Yo La Tengo, Joan Baez, Ben Harper, Youth Lagoon, Ratatat, Lupe Fiasco, Anberlin, Sufjan Stevens, Switchfoot, Sigur Ros, Noah & The Whale, Joanna Newsom, Matisyahu, Jack Johnson, Ben Kweller, Iron & Wine, Copeland, Death Cab for Cutie, The Civil Wars, and dozens of other names you may know have been on campus to show what true art is. This year I have had the chance to enjoy Washed Out, Cut Copy, David Bazan (from Pedro the Lion), and the Head and the Heart in concert. Never did I come back from a show disappointed! Not only is there quantity in the music scene of Calvin but there is quality.

A year ago I was going to go to an Aradhna concert in Hoboken, New Jersey, but my girlfriend, who I was supposed to go with, and I broke up and I had nobody to go with. I did not feel like going to an “intimate, apartment show” (as the hosts of the venue described it) by myself, so I forgot about the tickets and regretted this decision for a year. Thankfully, Aradhna decided to come to Calvin College. As soon as I found out, I gleefully ran down to the box office and bought a ticket. Soon after, several of my friends decided to buy a ticket as well, and none of us were prepared for what we would soon experience.

The band that opened up was the Soil & the Sun. They describes their music as “Experiential Spiritual Folk-Rock meets New Mexican Space Music”, and you have to see them live to know that is not just nonsense. I was honestly overwhelmed to hear the opening act be so good, especially when I found out they were locals from Grand Rapids! Each song was like a ballad to some metaphysical, omniscient space creature, and as odd as that is, I found it beautiful. Their song “Spirit of Memory” rocked me and I felt connected to something greater while listening to it, as cheesy as that sounds. They are great performers as well. They are not afraid to dance and move. The guitarist lost his hat and glasses several times while he passionately got lost in the music. Their performance was engaging in every single way.

You can listen to the Soil & the Sun here, and you can also digitally buy their album for $10, and if you want to, you can buy their vinyl album for only $20 all on their website.

Now–Aradhna! Where do I start?!

Aradhna is considered “fusion music”, for they are heavily influenced by Northern Indian classical music but also include the guitar and bass. I mean, all the members of the band have lived in India and/or Nepal, but they are also all Americans. Their band consists of the sitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, Hindustani violin, tabla, bansuri, drums, viola, and cello, though not all these instruments are used in every show. In fact, there was only a guitar, bass, sitar, and drums at the show I just saw. Their music has heavy spiritual-themes and often speak of “Yeshu”, or Jesus. Religious or not, the music is incredibly calming, peaceful, and inspiring. It can lead you into deep meditation and can stir up the affections of your heart. The sitar-player, who grew up in Nepal (though having Indian parents), also has a beautiful voice and when he sang “Jai jai Yeshu jai jai ho” in the song “Amrit Vani”, my heart just melted. They often invited the audience to chant with them and people there were probably thirty or forty people dancing their heart out. The members of the band talked quite a lot between songs. They were not awkward and their words were never stale, but they would explain the context and history of their songs, the development of their band, how their instruments worked, etc., with much joy, often laughing and grinning quite a lot. You could tell they enjoyed playing together.

Basically, last night was a beautiful experience. I meant it when I said that I never come back from a show at Calvin College disappointed. In fact, I always leave in awe!

For Aradhna’s newest music video:

For Aradhna’s website:





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