Interview with Jurgis
By Oliver M.
Sanatana is a conceptual project formed by Jurgis (Khors, Nokturnal Mortum) and his wife Maha Shakti in 2015. They released an excellent double album “Brahmavidya” last year and are probably the most original Ukrainian band I’ve been listening to so far. We had the great pleasure to discuss with Jurgis about their concept and Vedic metal style, Many special thanks to Darya Brazouskaya for her great support for the translation.
Hi Jurgis! You founded Sanatana with your wife Maha Shakti in 2015. Apart from making discover Vedism, what are the other reasons that incited you to create this conceptual project?
We like music and songs we’re creating as they fully express our worldview, which is inextricably linked with the search and comprehension of the absolute truth. An exploration of life and of the concept of truth is always enriching, because with the right approach it leads to the enlightenment.
You released your first records in 2017. “Brahmavidya” is a compilation of your two first albums which are very different from each other. “Brahma” contains Folk Vedic metal tracks whereas “Vidya” has Vedic New Age compositions. However, the atmosphere is still very similar between both albums in my opinion. Do you have the same feeling about it? Why didn’t you mix both Metal and New Age tracks into one or two albums?
It’s like an artist that captures different tones in the same drawing. We presented the music with two albums and genres so that our theme could be reflected under different angles. Being that we enjoy both styles: metal and new age, we work with one and the other, from time to time combining or on the contrary excluding some of their elements.
You describe your music as “Vedic metal” and I think this label fits you perfectly. Your art is absolutely unique as you used many various influences efficiently. Are you going to follow the same process for your future albums?
Yes, we will follow our hearts and the spirit of Vedic traditions. “Vedic Metal” is not just the music, it’s our daily life filled with meaning, awareness, culture and general knowledge.
My favourite Sanatana song so far is “Ugra”. I really appreciate the way you mix blast beats and clean vocals together. Why didn’t you use some extreme metal vocals on “Brahma”?
I employ “extreme” vocals in other projects but for this one we decided to turn to the clean ones with the use of ancient mantras and Vedic prayers.
“Brahmavidya” is an excellent record in my opinion (especially the Metal part). You did a fantastic job at all levels and you have received very positive reviews so far. How was it received in Ukraine?
In Ukraine the album was met with interest and curiosity although it was a novelty to many people and a surprise to hear the music of this format and ideology from a representative of a black metal scene.
In general, the feedback was very positive with the demand for a new album and concerts and we are currently working on it.
“Brahmavidya” was released as a Digipack Double CD by Spanish booking agency Rising Moon Productions. Did you try to contact any labels before joining RMP? Are you planning to release your next records through them?
At the time we were working on Brahmavidya, I’ve already known that it will be released by the Rising Moon and therefore I haven’t tried to contact any other label!
Unfortunately this label does not longer exist that’s why I’ll be looking for a label for the second album.
You made a great, stunning video for the song “Consecration” which impressed me. How long did it take you to make this video and where did you film it?
Everything was built on the honest enthusiasm of our friends and family. During the shooting, spontaneity and creativity were combined with professionalism and the plot line. The place turned out to be mysterious and we were lucky with the weather too, it worked out pretty well even without any additional post production.
The whole video sequence is the pure camerawork of our friends Dmitriy and Katya Mikhalakiy. And what a delight to work with them on video, they always have fresh ideas and we understand each other without words!
Actors are close friends of us. We love to discover potential of our friends and we believe everybody has a talent.
The location is in Ukraine, its eastern part. Although the landscapes are not very ordinary, we were really lucky with the choice of a place. It’s a private area, normally under security. I contacted its director and told him about the concept, shortly we were given permission even though it’s not really common in such places. He was inspired by our message. We spent a couple of days shooting but the remaining work took a while. Now besides the video we’ve also got some new experience and a new fan in the person of the director of this place.
Your concept and lyrics seem to be very personal. Do you consider “Brahmavidya” as a reflection of your spiritual life?
Creativity is always an individual process, it’s the author’s experience, the pouring of the heart. And we are trying to keep our hearts pure. Spiritual life helps us in this, and BrahmaVidya is a natural reflection, a manifestation of the process of self-realization, the first chapter in our history of creativity.
Which languages did you use for your lyrics?
It’s in Ukrainian, because we are originated from this rock scene, and Sanskrit, the oldest language of scriptures, from which mantras from our album have been taken.
When and how did you discover Vedism?
I discovered Vedism 6 years ago along with vegetarianism, yoga while reading different sources looking for answers to some of the most common questions about life and death…
The Vedas are the ancient scriptures and they make sense to me, all the more so this ancient culture has already been present across the Slavic territory before christianity, both cultures have common points in the worldview.
Do you recommend any particular books for anyone who would like to embrace Vedism?
You don’t have to adopt Vedism or any other “ism,” but seeking for the purpose and the meaning of human life is absolutely necessary! Otherwise it’s just an animal’s life in the matrix of opinions.
There are several books that have changed my life in a way and have been continuing to inspire me since: Sri Isopanisad “Bhagavad Gita as It Is”, “The Science of Self-Realization”. I also like “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach and “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle. I would recommend these books.
Have you ever been to India? If not, don’t you think that visiting this country would bring you a lot of inspiration for your next works and help you to generate new ideas?
We will certainly go to India, and of course there are some holy places, ancient cities and temples, saints, that keep lasting a knowledge heritage from ancient civilizations. We’re going to see all this and then we’ll show it to others. By the way, we have a video for the song “Sadhana” with footage from India.
Since I know you’re vegan, could you please tell us how veganism is perceived in your homeland in general? I live in the United Kingdom and the vegan metalhead community is big there. Is it also the case for Ukraine?
Veganism and Vegetarianism are not the same, but that’s not the point.
In Ukraine in general there is a tendency to vegetarian and vegan food, there are a lot of cafes and restaurants opened in the capital and other cities lately. Personally, I’m a vegetarian, but my whole family like dairy products, at the same time I’m also into vegan assortment. Meat and alcohol extremely narrow the mind, now it’s time for a positive change and the future lies with the clean and healthy lifestyle. As for vegetarianism among musicians, many friends of mine consider it to be a matter of principle, others do not feel the need for it.
As far as I know, Sanatana is the only Ukrainian metal band that uses extensively oriental folk instruments. Most of Ukrainian Black/Folk metal bands are well-known for using their traditional folk instruments and Slavic paganism for their lyrics and imagery. Some of those acts achieved international recognition like Nokturnal Mortum for instance who put Ukraine in the metal map. As I said earlier, Sanatana seems to be an exception within your local scene. Do you see it as an advantage or a drawback?
Yes, we used some ancient instruments, it’s part of the genre, but I don’t think that we are the exception. Although everybody is unique in its own way so there is no frailty in it.
We are making Sanatana’s music without using any templates or in the light of preconceived ideas. If I somehow hear some Slavic flutes and themes in the next album, which is however unlikely, they will be there. I will never be conditioned by a style or anything else. Everything should come from the heart.
What’s your opinion about the Ukrainian metal scene in general? For me, the Ukrainian black metal scene is one of the best in the world. Do you have the same feeling about it?
It could become the best in the world, but plenty of western teams are held metal icons, there are not so many bands of that level on the Ukrainian scene.
I know you’re currently planning to organize an exclusive theatrical show in Kiev this year with Natavara. Do you have any news about it? Are you planning to do some shows in Europe?
So far, due to the involvement of all members in various third-party projects, we have postponed the theatrical performance, however the concerts will probably be held. The only thing we can tell for sure is that now we are working on a new album.
Everything is going to happen a little later and of course we will come to Europe with our project when it’ll be ready.
You’re well-known for being the vocalist/guitarist of Khors and current guitarist of Nokturnal Mortum. I assume you must have a very busy timetable if I also add Sanatana, your job and family life! Which band has priority for you?
That’s my character. I don’t like wasting my time in vain. Indeed sometimes it gets really difficult to manage but I’m enjoying this speed of life as for today! I always give the priority to the Family first and then comes the music. As for bands I love all of them equally.
What are your projects? Have you already started working on a new album?
I already have songs for the new album. Currently I’m starting to record some drafts and to meditate on future details, shapes and colors… We are in the process let’s say.
To conclude this interview, do you have anything special to add?
I would like to add that life moves very fast and may be cut at any moment, therefore it’s better to devote it to something worthwhile, that makes you wanna wake up and live every morning, to something you can share with your loved ones, which brings joy and benefit to others, for which you can die for and sacrifice everything. I think if a person begins to take on a meaning like that he can be easily called happy.
Thanks to everyone who has read this interview and I hope it will inspire our listeners.
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