Kula Shaker Natural Magick album cover banner (credit: Apple Music)

Kula Shaker Album Covers: Pop Art Psychedelic Influences

Artist Kerwin Blackburn explores the album cover artwork of Kula Shaker – including their 2024 release Natural Magick – and how they combine pop art, psychedelic and Eastern art influences

Kula Shaker, a British rock band formed in the 1990s, captivated audiences with their eclectic blend of psychedelic rock, Indian classical music, Indie guitar music, and pop appeal. Renowned for their innovative sound and visually striking aesthetic and album covers, Kula Shaker – although somewhat of a niche band – has left a lasting mark on the British music industry.

As an artist who paints the world’s favourite music icons in my unique pop art style, I have a keen interest in the intersection of art and music. In this blog post, I explore the topic of Kula Shaker’s album cover artistry. From their debut album “K” to their latest release “Natural Magick,” I explore their fusion of pop art, psychedelic imagery, and Eastern influences that define their visual identity.

Kula Shaker combines pop art, psychedelic, and Eastern art influences in their album cover art, incorporating vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and symbolic Hindu imagery. This rich visual fusion reflects the band’s eclectic musical style and ethos inspired by Eastern spirituality.

Join me on a journey through the kaleidoscopic world of Kula Shaker’s album covers, where vibrant colours and intricate symbolism intertwine with musical brilliance.

View my collection of music icon pop art paintings and shop prints in my online shop.

The Origins of Kula Shaker

Who are Kula Shaker? The band’s early beginnings

Kula Shaker’s formation dates back to the early 1988 when frontman Crispian Mills and bassist Alonza Bevan crossed paths during their university years. Bonding over their shared love for music, the duo envisioned creating a band.

With the addition of guitarist Jay Darlington and drummer Paul Winterhart, Kula Shaker was officially formed in 1993 under the name ‘The Kays’, solidifying their lineup and musical direction. Drawing inspiration from Eastern spirituality, mystical philosophy, and the vibrant music scene of the era, the band embarked on a journey of sonic exploration and self-discovery.

Their shared passion for pushing musical boundaries, particularly around Indian classical and psychedelic rock, and channelling spiritual energies fuelled their creative process. This laid the foundation for Kula Shaker’s distinctive sound and visionary approach to music-making.

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My style of painting combines music with art. Explore my online shop.

Origin of the band’s name and its significance

In 1995, the struggling band’s frontman, Crispian Mills, suggested adopting the name Kula Shaker. The inspiration behind the name stemmed from the ninth-century Indian emperor and holy figure, King Kulashekhara. The adoption of this name not only honoured a significant figure in Indian history but also reflected the band’s admiration for Eastern spirituality and cultural heritage.

Thus, Kula Shaker became more than just a name; it became a symbol of reverence and a testament to the band’s journey of musical exploration and spiritual enlightenment.

The connection between the band’s name and their musical style

The name “Kula Shaker” serves as a fitting moniker for the band’s eclectic fusion of musical influences. Drawing inspiration from Indian classical music, psychedelic rock, and Western pop, Kula Shaker’s sound embodies a harmonious blend of diverse cultural elements.

This connection between their name and musical style underscores the band’s commitment to channelling spiritual and cultural energies into their creative endeavours, resulting in a truly unique and transcendent musical experience.

Kula Shaker’s Album Artwork

To accompany their uniquely psychedelic branch of 1990s Indie music, the band have also created some captivating album cover artwork over the years. Kula Shaker combines pop art, psychedelic, and Eastern art influences in their album cover artwork by incorporating vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and symbolic Hindu imagery.

They seamlessly blend bold pop art aesthetics with swirling psychedelic patterns, while also integrating depictions of Hindu deities and mandalas inspired by Eastern spirituality. This fusion creates a visually captivating and thematically rich visual identity that reflects the band’s eclectic musical style and spiritual ethos.

Kula Shaker K album cover
Kula Shaker ‘K’ debut album cover: combining pop art and Indian influences

Kula Shaker Debut Album Cover Art: K (1996)

Designed by comic artist Dave Gibbons, the cover of Kula Shaker’s debut album “K” is a visual marvel, blending a range of artistic elements – all themed around the letter K – into a cohesive and captivating design.

At its core are two deities from Hinduism, including Krishna, adorned with elaborate jewellery and ornate headdresses, embodying the band’s profound connection to Eastern spirituality. Accompanying these central figures is a montage of cartoon faces of famous personalities, with a name beginning with the letter K (including J.F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and King Kong).

The montage of faces is very Beatles-esque and pop-arty; resembling the collection of celebrities on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Analysis of the pop art, psychedelic, and Eastern influences:

The cover art for “K” draws from a diverse range of artistic influences, seamlessly blending pop art, psychedelic aesthetics, and Eastern iconography. The use of vibrant colours, bold patterns, and intricate details reflects the influence of pop art, while the psychedelic imagery evokes a sense of mind-altering transcendence. Additionally, the incorporation of Hindu deities underscores the band’s deep reverence for Eastern spirituality and mysticism, adding layers of cultural depth to the artwork.

The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album cover
Kula Shaker’s debut album cover is reminiscent of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover of 1967

Impact and reception of the album cover:

Upon its release, the cover of “K” garnered widespread acclaim for its striking visual aesthetic and thematic depth. Its intricate design and vibrant colours immediately caught the attention of audiences, drawing them into the world of Kula Shaker’s music. The cover art not only served as a visual representation of the album’s sonic journey but also contributed to its commercial success, attracting new listeners and cementing the band’s place in the music industry.

The band – comprising white, middle-class Englishmen – were, however, also often derided for their fascination with Indian culture and spirituality. Critics in the 1990s even cited cultural appropriation by the band (before cultural appropriation was even a thing).

The connection between the cover art and the album’s themes or music style:

The cover art for “K” serves as a perfect reflection of the album’s themes and musical style. Just as the artwork seamlessly combines diverse artistic influences, the album itself traverses a wide range of musical genres and spiritual themes.

From the Eastern-infused rock anthems, such as Tattva and Govinda, to the introspective ballads exploring themes of enlightenment and transcendence, “K” is a sonic journey that mirrors the kaleidoscopic richness of its cover art. The intricate details and symbolic imagery found on the cover serve as visual cues, guiding listeners through the album’s mystical landscapes and spiritual revelations.

Did you know: “Govinda” by Kula Shaker remains the only UK top-10 charted song to be sung entirely in Sanskrit.

By Kerwin music themed pop art paintings and prints in a chaotic Jackson Pollock style montage 2024
My range of ‘By Kerwin’ pop art paintings is inspired by music

Evolution of Kula Shaker’s Album Cover Art

As Kula Shaker progressed through their musical journey, their album cover art evolved alongside their sound, reflecting their growth and subtle shifts in artistic experimentation. While they largely moved away from the Eastern psychedelic art aesthetic that I love about “K’ on their next three albums, including Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts, Strangefolk and Pilgrims Progress, this album art style returned for their 2016 release, K 2.0.

Each subsequent album in between K and K 2.0 nevertheless featured artwork containing intricate symbolism and vibrant imagery, encapsulating the thematic essence of the music within.

K 2.0 saw another psychedelic album cover, containing elements such as Eastern iconography, psychedelic patterns, and mystical symbolism, reflecting the album’s spiritual depth and cultural richness.

Kula Shaker K 2.0. album cover
Kula Shaker K 2.0. album cover

Natural Magick: 2024 Album Release & Cover Art

In 2024, Kula Shaker returned with their highly anticipated album, “Natural Magick”, marking a significant milestone in their musical journey. Building upon their legacy of blending diverse influences, the album promised to deliver a sonic experience that transcends boundaries and transports listeners to new realms of musical exploration.

The cover art for “Natural Magick” captivates with its ethereal beauty and mystical allure. Another Eastern-inspired psychedelic album cover, this busy composition also seems to draw heavily on the Axis: Bold as Love album artwork by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. (Learn about the meaning of Jimi Hendrix’s album cover here.)

Kula Shaker Natural Magick album cover (credit: Apple Music)
Kula Shaker Natural Magick album cover (credit: Apple Music)

Reflecting the bold and vibrant Indian aesthetic of their debut album cover, “Natural Magick” exudes a striking and colourful composition, containing Hindu imagery and Eastern and pop art influences. The mesmerising fusion of Hindu deity Ganesh with Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” and a pink and orange  pop art ‘rising sun’ pattern evokes a sense of natural wonder and spiritual awakening.

I also used this orange and pink rising sun pattern in my Jimi Hendrix psychedelic pop art painting – view this here.

“Natural Magick” reflects the evolution of Kula Shaker’s visual style and influences over time, demonstrating a maturation in their artistic expression while retaining the essence of their musical identity. From their early pop art and psychedelic influences to the mystical allure of “Natural Magick”, the album cover serves as a testament to the band’s continued exploration of new artistic frontiers and their unwavering commitment to pushing creative boundaries.

Jimi Hendrix music pop art painting and poster prints | By Kerwin
My Jimi Hendrix pop art painting combines pop art and Eastern symbolism

Exploring Pop Art, Psychedelic, and Eastern Influences

Pop art emerged in the mid-20th century as a response to consumer culture, utilising bold colours and imagery from popular culture. My own By Kerwin music icon paintings draw heavily on pop art influences – explore my range in my online shop. Learn more about pop art in my blog section here.

Meanwhile, psychedelic art, also popularised in the 1960s, embraced surrealism and vibrant colours, often inspired by hallucinogenic experiences. Eastern art movements, such as Indian classical art, feature intricate patterns, spiritual symbolism, and vibrant colours. Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love album cover is a great example of psychedelic art in music.

Axis: Bold as Love album cover by The Jimi Hendrix Experience | By Kerwin pop art
Kula Shaker’s 2024 album cover is very reminiscent of the Axis: Bold as Love album cover by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

How Kula Shaker incorporated these influences into their cover art

Kula Shaker seamlessly integrates elements from pop art, psychedelic aesthetics, and Eastern art into their cover art, creating a harmonious fusion of diverse influences. Their artwork often features vibrant colours, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery that evoke the psychedelic experience while paying homage to Eastern spirituality and mysticism.

The contrasting elements used include bold colours and geometric shapes reminiscent of pop art, swirling patterns and surreal imagery inspired by psychedelia, and depictions of Hindu deities and mandalas borrowed from Eastern art traditions. Kula Shaker’s 2024 album Natural Magick also combines depictions of “The Great Wave” woodblock art print by Japanese artist Hokusai; another Eastern art reference.

By blending pop art, psychedelic, and Eastern influences, Kula Shaker cultivates a distinct visual identity that reflects their eclectic musical style and spiritual ethos. This combination not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of their cover art but also reinforces the band’s message of unity, transcendence, and cultural exploration.

Kula Shaker’s incorporation of Indian music into their unique sound is also likely to have been inspired somewhat by The Beatles. Learn about The Beatles’ visit to Rishikesh in India in 1968 in my fascinating blog post – and discover the Indian influences in their own music.

The Beatles with a psychedelia-inspired orange and pink 'rising sun' flag (credit: Pitchfork)
The Beatles with a psychedelia-inspired orange and pink ‘rising sun’ flag (credit: Pitchfork)


In summary, this blog post has explored some of Kula Shaker’s captivating album cover art, from their debut release “K” to their latest endeavor “Natural Magick.” We’ve explores the diverse influences shaping their visual identity, including pop art, psychedelia, and Eastern spirituality.

Reflecting on the significance of Kula Shaker’s album cover art, it becomes evident that these visual album art covers serve as more than mere decorations. They are gateways to the band’s sonic universe, offering insights into their musical journey, thematic explorations, and spiritual convictions.

'Waves' single cover artwork by Kula Shaker, featuring Hokusai's The Great Wave (credit: Amazon)
‘Waves’ single cover artwork by Kula Shaker, featuring Hokusai’s The Great Wave (credit: Amazon)

In conclusion, Kula Shaker’s album cover art is a testament to their artistic vision and the symbiotic relationship between music and visual expression. Through their eclectic blend of influences and unwavering commitment to creative exploration, Kula Shaker continues to captivate audiences with their transcendent artistry, leaving a lasting mark on the British music and Indie landscape.

What is your favourite Kula Shaker song? Are you a fan of their Eastern-inspired psychedelic album artwork? Explore my range of music-inspired art in my online shop

Learn more about how pop art has influenced the evolution of album cover design in my insightful blog post here.

By Kerwin pop art music paintings at The Other Art Fair London panoramic landscape photo

My full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at www.bykerwin.com – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

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