Ananta Govinda is a visionary musician, author, photographer, and multimedia producer. Being a practitioner of Vedic sciences and bhakti-yoga for over 25 years, his presentations always blend tasteful artistic expression with eternal human values. Calling himself a handyman at the temple of the Sacred Universe, Ananta’s talents are versatile and well-rounded.
Born and raised in post-communist Russia, Ananta enjoyed his childhood on the banks of the mighty Volga River, the birthplace of the famous Boatman song. Spending summers outdoors and living on the many islands in the river, he learned to appreciate the divine in nature. From early on, his parents taught him the value of music and art and encouraged him to attend an after school music academy for piano and music theory for seven years. “I remember how hard it was for me as a teenager to leave my mates after school and spend hours practicing for piano exams, but it taught me to appreciate the world of music and nourish my imagination. My teacher was crazy about Bach and from her, I learned about harmony and the devotional aspect of his music.”
Living in a place, where all music needed to be validated by the state, Ananta learned how to tinker with musical equipment and assembled his first multi-track recorder and synthesizer when he was in 8th grade. Creating experimental rock and ambient music he was quickly noticed by the local art scene and invited to join his first underground rock band. Rehearsing in basements, Ananta witnessed the birth of “official” rock music in Russia and was instrumental in organizing the first rock-festival in his city in 1987. Selected for his academic achievements he received an opportunity to continue his education, on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Ananta traveled to Western Europe, spending time in France and Switzerland.
Being bilingual from childhood, Ananta felt like he belonged to an English speaking culture and so he journeyed to the ‘land of the brave’ to pursue his dream of becoming a multimedia artist. On his arrival to the US Ananta landed in California and felt blessed breathing in the salty ocean breeze mixed with the sweet smell of eucalyptus and palm trees. He enrolled in a two-year college program in Los Angeles and dove into the Hollywood lifestyle, attending many music events and visiting studios.
After two years, an opportunity invited him to move to New York. Ananta packed his belongings into a van and ventured cross-country to the Big Apple. “Driving across the continent was a life-changing experience as I saturated my mind with the landscapes inhabited by Native Americans and witnessed by the first European settlers.” On his way there, he visited his first Rainbow Gathering in the Missouri National Forest, which also felt like being on another planet. He noted, “I was very inspired by people joining and creating art and music together, completely free from boundaries and predispositions about each other, it was magical!”
New York was a lot different than sunny California and he got sucked into the hustle of a big metropolis. Life became an array of fast-paced faces and places: working a side hustle in Soho’s trendy jazz coffee bar Kavehaz, Ananta was writing his first novel and taking part in the “outlaw” rave scene of the 90s, as a musician and an event organizer.
His strong desire to learn more about music and film production brought him to the hallways of NYU, and not being able to afford it he would sneak into the classrooms hungry for knowledge. “I really wanted to know the world around me and learn filmmaking and music, so I thought college would be a perfect place for me to start. Not being able to afford international fees for students, I would come to the first class of the semester and sit in the room, projecting a look as if I belong there and the professor would eventually think that they made a mistake and would add me to his register,” he remembers.
Being exposed to so many lifestyles and living in a Jewish neighborhood in Williamsburg, Ananta started questioning his spiritual heritage and ventured into Biblical Studies. “I was moved by the example of Jesus and other saints, but could not connect his message to the contemporary condition of the church. Looking for something more spiritual, rather than religious, he studied the Koran and got connected with friends in the New York hip-hop scene propagating those beliefs. “We would sit on my rooftop apartment observing the Manhattan skyline, smoke joints and talk Old Testaments stories, then play music on the roof to the dismay of our neighbors!”
But then one day on Brighton Beach he stumbled into a street vendor and picked up the Bhagavad-Gita as it is the most well-known book on eastern wisdom and practical philosophy. He notes, “I remembered this book was banned in Russia, so I was curious to find out what was so dangerous in it to the totalitarian state. As I dove into the ancient Sanskrit texts things started opening up in a different light. Amazed by the depth and consistency of this book, I could not put it down.”
“Like some maze game, the Bhagavad Gita and Vedic wisdom were putting everything back together, there were no loopholes, everything was solid and consistent,” he explained. In 1997 he moved from New York to the quiet state of West Virginia and settled down on a farm community that was built around studies of Vedic scriptures. “Simple living and high thinking” was the motto. Ananta enjoyed the ashram lifestyle, organic gardening, and opportunities to learn the practice of meditation and the ancient wisdom of bhakti-yoga from actual practitioners.
While there Ananta remodeled an abandoned school building into a top-notch recording studio and bought his first Mac, as digital production had just become a reality in the music business. His first Album Reality Check was an amalgamation of the snowy winters of West Virginia and the study of the Mahabharata and the Upanishads. In 2001, feeling strongly connected to the devotional tradition of the bhakti-yoga, Ananta asked for a spiritual initiation from Radhanath Swami, an author, and teacher of Vaishnava lineage. He offered Ananta his name — Ananta Govinda — which means “ servant of the Unlimited One.”
Also in 2001, Ananta released his second self-produced album, Nuclear Angel, that was distributed on the Warped Tour, “I was doing the whole 60 city concert tour for three summers.” In those summer travels, he sold over 30,000 copies of his CDs!
Feeling more solid in his spiritual life and looking to get back into music studies, and inspired by the example and personal advice of noted Kirtanwalla Jai Uttal, Ananta moved west again to study vocals and Indian Ragas at Ali Akbar School of Music in Marin County.
In Northern California Ananta quickly became a staple of the spiritual music scene as a producer of devotional events including Kirtan Lounge and the epic Ecstatic Dance 906 San Francisco. Working with Google Talks, he helped bring Krishna Das, Karsh Kale, and others to speak on their campus.
He settled in San Francisco and currently works out of Marin County. Ananta has overseen many music and media projects to fruition under the name of Vedic Renaissance Productions. These include an extensive library of more than 30 audio and books on Vedic thoughts and sciences, travel almanacs on Indian sadhus, Babaji, an ebook, and a guide to the Cosmology of Tanka, and other spiritually oriented projects.
In 2016 he produced three brilliant YouTube videos that brought over a million views to his channel and accompanied his masterful album, Morning Rising, his third. And in 2017 he produced the Kirtan Lounge original albums Nectar of Devotion and Precious Jewels. For that project, Ananta produced a memorable show at Los Angeles’ Vortex Dome. In 2019 Ananta became the co-founder of Wisdome.la, a multimedia immersive park in DTLA, working with such artists as Android Jones and others.
Responding to the current times led to his new project, an epic album and fantasy novel, Mirror of Desire. “I truly believe that rediscovering our common heritage will help us overcome the tendency to divide and see each other on opposite sides of life. Putting that into an allegorical storyline of the Mirror of Desire trilogy, White and Black wizards are competing for access to the mysterious land of the Pyramid, accessing through the Gates of Time he adds, “I wanted to show that those two colors are the range of the spectrum and they are could not exist without each other.” The album is set for release on August 28, 2020, and the book will come out in fall of 2020.