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Cover 06/19/2013

Girl in a Coma Singer Nina Díaz' Spiritual Makeover

Photo: All Photos By Daniela Riojas, License: N/A

All Photos By Daniela Riojas

Photo: , License: N/A



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“What’s up with Nina?” I asked Faith Radle, Girl in a Coma’s manager, looking at the band’s lead singer, Nina Díaz. It was pouring rain that afternoon in late May, but we were safely sheltered at the ballroom of the Omni Hotel, minutes after Judge Nelson Wolff gave his State of the County address and seconds before I lamely asked, “Is she going to the gym, or something?”

Before Radle could answer, the judge asked her a question, so I moved to the side and took another look at Díaz — even though the band had performed only one song in front of an unusual crowd (corporate big wigs, political donors, city authorities), Díaz sang and played as I had never seen her before. In addition to her usual fierceness, this time she was joyful, and her skin was shining with the effulgence someone sports after coming back from a pilgrimage in India.

At one point, Díaz came up to me, smiling.

“Hi! I haven’t seen you at the temple lately.” She meant the little San Antonio Hare Krishna temple, a special place for both of us. I’m passionate about Indian philosophy and became formally initiated into devotional yoga in 1986, but am now what any old-school Hare Krishna would call someone in very poor standard who “blooped,” or “fell down into the material ocean.” But the devotees Díaz met at the temple are the second generation of Hare Krishna followers, who have a much more mellow, tolerant approach than that of their respective gurus who, in the late 1960s and early ’70s turned Hare Krishna into a household name via chanting, book distribution, temple building, and a good deal of embarrassing scandals.

Whatever my reservations about the Hare Krishna movement, the devotees are my brothers and sisters. They literally saved my life in 1998, when I visited India for the first time. It’s a long, boring story, but Díaz’ face and energy reminded me of those days. Still, I wasn’t prepared for what she told me.

“Guess what!” she exclaimed. “I have a spiritual name now!”

What? Nina Díaz, the singer for Girl in a Coma, became a Hare Krishna? Not quite.

Her spiritual name is Neela Megha Shyama; in Sanskrit it means “big blue body resembling a black cloud.” When initiated, devotees take up Krishna names followed by “Dasa” for men and “Dasi” for women, meaning “servant,” as in “servant of God.” But Díaz isn’t formally initiated, a long process that would require her to choose a guru and make vows of chastity, vegetarianism, and refusal to partake in drugs or gambling. Instead, the devotees gave her a name as a sign of affection.

“She was already heading down the spiritual path and I could see her definitely wanting a change,” said Jeff Palacios, guitarist for Sugar Skulls and a regular temple-goer. He’s one of several local artists and musicians who have been attracted to the Hare Krishna life — others include filmmaker Laura Varela, artist Adriana García, and two local musicians who live as celibate monks: electronic recording artist Bryan Hamilton, who became formally initiated, and Karma’s Michael Evans.

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