≡ Menu

Where’s the Bhav? Snatam Kaur Tours East

Share

Buoyed by a surprise birthday concert for none other than Oprah Winfrey and an avalanche of publicity surrounding it, Snatam Kaur is back in the East with a new band for a series of concerts and workshops in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

The Sikh songstress and Kundalini yogi, who practically grew up at the feet of Kundalini yoga founder Yogi Bhajan, has enchanted packed live audiences for years and has emerged, arguably, as the most widely known artist in the “sacred chant” world.   And if the Oprah story is any indication, the rest of the world may be starting to wake up.  (Does anything say “mainstream” more than Oprah?)

Answer to a Heart Prayer

Absent this tour are Snatam’s long-time travelmate, band leader and manager GuruGanesha Singh (whose own tour with The GuruGanesha Band is storming the East Coast right now) and tabla maestro Ramesh Kannan (who played two shows in Northern California with Snatam earlier this month).

The new troupe includes the brilliant guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Todd Boston (who played with Snatam for Oprah, along with Daniel Paul on tabla), Jason Parmar on tabla, and Matthew Shoening (Shane-ing) on the electric cello. Yeah, the electric cello. You gotta hear this — the usually-solo Shoening does this live-looping thing on the cello that creates layers of rhythms and depth in the music that is truly innovative.

“This is what happens when God turns a page in your life and opens your heart,” Snatam says in a new promotional video about the tour.  “This whole band came together from a prayer from our heart.”

Boston, New York and Beyond

The tour opens with two nights (5/24 and 5/25) at the historic Regent Theater in Arlington, just north of Boston. (Get tickets for Boston here.)  It will be Snatam’s third trip to Boston hosted by Shunyam Productions, the husband-and-wife team behind the Boston Yoga and Chant Fest, now in its third year and quickly making a name as one of the country’s premier annual gatherings of kirtan artists.

Awakening the Kundalini

From Boston, the band heads to New York City for a weekend workshop in which Snatam “will share the technology of Kundalini Yoga and Mantra that awakens the Kundalini energy flow within” and two evening concerts (5/26 and 5/27) at Integral Yoga NYC.  The tour continues with a concert in Washington Depot, Conn. 5/29 and a workshop in Keene, N.H. 5/30, before the group heads to Kripalu Retreat Center in Lenox, Mass. for two multi-day mantra-practice workshops — Mantras of Spiritual Warriers (6/1-6/3) and  Mantra Medicine Wheel (6/3-6/6) — where Snatam will be joined by her husband Sopurkh Singh Khalsa.

For the full schedule, visit Spirit Voyage’s Website.

Here’s a little taste of the nectar Snatam consistently delivers, from her appearance at 700 Voices Sacred Music Concert in West Branford, Conn. last May…

If you’ve never experienced the divine presence of this lit-from-within enchantress in the flowing white veils and voice of liquid velvet, well…what are you waiting for?  If you have, you know what we mean, right?

Also see:

www.snatamkaur.com

www.spiritvoyage.com

 

Share
{ 2 comments }

You Want Shakti? Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti

Share

The first time I experienced Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe was at Bhakti Fest 2010, and I pretty much spent the whole set in jaw-drop disbelief.  I know I wasn’t alone;  the mid-day crowd on hand — many of whom, it seemed, were also new to this band from Long Beach, Calif. — was riveted.  This was not your average kirtan.  It was edgy, urban, hip-hop-infused modern “mantra rock.”

I fell in love with the Tribe’s vibe, and have seen them live at two Bhakti Fests since — each one more powerful than the last.  When their latest CD, “Rock On, Sat Nam” (a work of conscious art) came out, I listened to it incessantly (and wrote about it).  I interviewed Larisa Stow about her music and her bhakti path, followed the Tribe’s news about shows around SoCal, and pined to road-trip with them to the Holi Festival in Utah, where they played before a crowd of 50,000 or so drenched in flourescent colors.

So I figured I knew what to expect from Larisa and the Tribe this time around.  I was wrong.

Benj Clarke on Bass

What transpired on the stage over the midnight hours of Night One at Shakti Fest 2012 was beyond expectation. (There’s a nice long taste of it in the video below.) I can’t quite even put my finger on what it was that made this Shakti-fied set stand out so. Maybe it was the late hour or the fact that we’d been “in the bhav” for 15 hours or so, but those who stuck around (most of the crowd) after the Mayapuris finished know what I’m talking about.  It was like the perfect storm of exquisite musicianship, connection between “performers” and “audience,” and straight-from-the-soul message of forgiveness, transformation and hope. Larisa Stow has this inimitable way of connecting at a heart level — there I said it — that just seemed to resonate deeply with the throng of bhaktas crowding the front stage.

Richard Hardy

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she is backed by four top-notch musicians, who are resonating right along on that heart-vibe with her.  This band is tight.  For “just” three guys and a drummer, they conjure incredibly rich melodies. Woodwinds wizard Richard Hardy (who also played with Marti Walker and C.C. White at Shakti Fest) performed his magic on the sax and the flute and…how many other instruments did he have in his bag of tricks?

Kimo Estores

Kimo Estores is masterful as the guitar hero, Benj Clarke lays down the funked-up bass grooves, and Paloma Estevez, the newcomer in the Tribe, rocks on drum kit.  Everyone sings response.

Center stage and weaving it all together is Shakti Sister Larisa, alternately playing the harmonium, dancing with Benj or Kimo, and belting out lead vocals.  But it’s more than her voice, with its incredible range; underneath it all is a warm, approachable authenticity to a depth that is surprisingly rare even in the “love-all, serve-all” world of sacred chant.

Before long she was sitting at the front of the stage, eye-to-eye with everyone, touching palms, connecting personally, physically, soulfully, with each one.  Later she declared from the stage midway through a soaring Radhe-Krishna mantra: “I just want to climb right down there with all of you!”  Then she did just that, leaving the spotlights behind to dance and chant with the throng in the shadows. It was a Larisa Lovefest!

The set electrified from the start: a HUGE Shakti Ma chant that woke everyone up and commanded attention. In a loving sort of way.  But that’s sort of the point with this music:  “Wake Up and Pay Attention.  LoveLoveLoveLoveLove.”  While that may be an oversimplification, it’s the message that, to us, pervades the multi-layered lyrics laced with mantra.

This ethic is on glorious display in the Tribe’s anthem-like “Peacemakers” song (video below), which gives us chills every time.  Do you feel it?

For more Shakti Tribe love, visit www.larisastow.com

"I just want to love you all."

 

 For more Shakti Fest coverage, see also:

Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

On-Stage Proposal a Bhakti Fest First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

 

Share
{ 7 comments }

Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance

Share

Lokah Bhakti

The Bhakti Beat @ Shakti Fest: We’re crazy about the “Bhakti Dance” with the dancing, rapping Latino yogi known as Lokah (“Loco Lokah” to some!).

He jumped on stage toward the end of Deepak Ramapriyan and Breath of Life Tribe’s set Saturday afternoon at Shakti Fest and led the crowd in an exuberant dance lesson that jumped and weaved and twirled its way throughout the front-stage seating area before settling back into a meditative prayer.  Deepak and the Tribe provided the soaring soundtrack for the choreography with a joyous Radhe chant.

Watch what Loco Lokah does at about three minutes in.  Sure caught us by surprise!

Earlier in the day, Lokah jumped in — literally — to the Temple Bhajan Band’s set and delivered three original songs in the conscious hip-hop vein that had most of us jumping for joy along with him.  (Was it possible NOT to dance during that Krishna rap?)

Lokah Bhakti jumps in with the Temple Bhajan Band for a little Krishna rap.

Now, we realize this trend for edgy, urban hip-hop/chant fusions is not for everyone, but we personally are loving it!  Bhakti yogis like Lokah, Srikalogy in NYC, Govinda Sky out of Boston, and a slew of other young hipsters (see this Facebook group for a sampling) — not to mention established pathfinders like Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe, who have been marrying rap beats to Sanskrit for years — are pushing the envelope and opening the calling of the names up to a new generation who might not otherwise be drawn to “sacred music.”

We say ki JAI to that.

More Shakti Fest coverage:

Jai Uttal:  The Essence of Bhakti Fest

Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

Share
{ 8 comments }

Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

Share

The Bhakti Beat @ Shakti Fest:  It was one of those quirky moments that Bhakti Fest is becoming famous for, like the two weddings last year.  No matrimonials occurred during this year’s fest, but a young man named “Irish Dave” did get the ball rolling after Jai Uttal’s set Saturday night at Shakti Fest.

Slender and blonde with a pierced lip and a shock of long hair off one side of his crown, Dave jumped up on stage (at the invitation of Bhakti Fest emcee Shiva Baum) just as Jai and his musicians were putting down their instruments.  Then he turned to his beloved…

Huh? Proposing to....Daniel Paul??

Ooops that’s not it.  Hahaha, couldn’t resist this crop.

No, it wasn’t Daniel Paul Dave wanted to marry.  He called his girlfriend to the stage, a lithe, tattooed young woman who promised to “get him for this,” and he made a short, touching speech before pulling a small black box from his pocket and dropping to one knee to …well, you can figure out the rest.  Right there in front of 1,500 or so bhavved out bhaktas glued to the drama unfolding on the stage.  Just look at the faces on the back-stage onlookers…

Daniel ducks just in time...

It was a match made in kirtan heaven: apparently the couple met at a concert with Deepak Ramapriyan and his Breath of Life Tribe.  “Thirteen months ago I had no idea this community existed,” Dave told the crowd in a slight Irish brogue before turning to his beloved.  “Before I met you I was in darkness and you brought me into the light.  I truly, madly, deeply, love you.  Would you be my wife?”  Yes, the proposal even rhymed

Talk about pressure.  Thankfully for Irish Dave’s ego, the object of his adoration, Tonia, said yes. Make that, SCREAMED yes!

And perfectly on cue, the music rose up again.    See for yourself:

File this under “Only at Bhakti Fest.”

More Shakti Fest Coverage:

Jai Uttal:  The Essence of Bhakti Fest

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

 

Share
{ 9 comments }
Share

Jai Uttal: Seeing God in the mirror…

After having canceled his East Coast tour due to pneumonia, Jai Uttal was back strong as ever for the headline spot Saturday night at Shakti Fest.

Dancing Devi: Nubia Tiexiera and Subhadra

He filled the stage with master musicians — 13 or so, by our count, plus beautiful wife Nubia Teixeira dancing with the deities in the wings — and brought the crowd to its feet for nearly three hours, an exuberant joyride that had even Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein, who is rarely seen on stage, dancing with abandon at the back.

Daniel Paul and Mark Gorman

The set was classic Jai Uttal & the Queen of Hearts Orchestra in full-on heart-throbbing raucousness.  Long, rolling chants that built to an ecstatic frenzy were punctuated by soaring  guitar jams between Uttal, Yehoshua Brill on electric and Mark Gorman on bass, and playful call-and-response drumming between Daniel Paul on tabla and Visvambhar Sheth on mrdanga.

Yehoshua Brill. Remember the name.

It culminated in a new composition — being played for the first time ever as a group, Uttal said — that wrapped the Beatles mantra “HELP! I need somebody” inside a funky reggae-style Maha Mantra.

Interspersed through it all were the kind of down-to-earth, open-hearted “Jai-isms” that we love about this kirtan rock star.  Like his pointing out that Shakti Fest constituted he and Teixiera’s “first overnight date in seven years” without son Ezra Gopal (who declared to them just prior to the trip that he didn’t want to go, in classic 7-year-old fashion).

But the most spine-chilling moment of all for this writer, the moment that stands out not just from this set but from three days of world-class bhav-inducing kirtan — and for us captures the very essence of Bhakti Fest — is this one:


Simple, profound insight delivered in classic Jai style….unscripted, authentic, self-effacing, and straight from the heart.  Just the kind of person you want to see in the mirror…

Good to have you back singing Jai.

The band (L to R): Rasika (of Kirtaniyas), Shiva Rea, Vrinda and Visvambhar Sheth (of Mayapuris), Bob Wisdom (barely visible), Daniel Paul, Mark Gorman, Jai Uttal, Dave Allen, Prajna Vieirra, Yehoshua Brill, C.C. White, Dhanya and Bali Rico (of Mayapuris).

More Shakti Fest Coverage:

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

Share
{ 9 comments }

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

Share

Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein vividly recalls standing on the stage at Woodstock next to Swami Satchidananda before half a million or so flower children in August 1969.

Barely 19 at the time, but deeply involved in chanting and yoga, he had been charged with bringing “an element of spirituality” to the festival by Woodstock producers Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld .  Silberfein immediately turned to his guru Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga, and they flew together by helicopter to Yasgur’s farm to deliver the opening invocation that set the festival — and the “Woodstock generation” — in motion.  Swami famously called music ”the celestial sound that controls the whole universe” and led the crowd in chanting Om Shanti.

“At that moment, while I was standing there looking out at that sea of people, the seed for Bhakti Fest was planted,” he told The Bhakti Beat.  In 2008, 40 years later, the vision of a Woodstock-esque gathering completely devoted to kirtan and yoga came back to Silberfein, and he set forth to nurture the seed into life.  He likes to think of Bhakti Fest as a “spiritual Woodstock” — minus the drugs, sex and alcohol — a place for people to go and immerse themselves in the bhav for three or four days straight and “dive deeper into the self.”

Shakti Fest Dives Deep Into Ma

This weekend the fruits of Silberfein’s labor are ripening into Shakti Fest, the first of three big gatherings this year under the Bhakti Fest umbrella.  Shakti Fest, billed as a “more intimate” version of the 24-hours-a-day-for-3-days-straight bhakti blow-out that happens in September, is built around the theme of, well, shakti…a celebration of the divine mother. (It falls on Mother’s Day weekend, after all, and what self-respecting bhakta would pass up that kind of chance to get everyone singing ecstatic Jai Ma chants for hours on end?)

So, who’s chanting at Shakti Fest?  Who’s not chanting would be an easier answer!  Bhakti Fest’s spring fling is sort of a little sister to September in the same way that Omega’s Spring Chant is a little sister to Ecstatic Chant weekend in the fall.  As such, it lacks the really big names that headline the September Fest (like Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Dave Stringer).  But, seriously, with a line-up like this, who’s going to feel like they’re missing something?

The Line-Up for Shakti Fest. What's not to love?

 

If you can’t be in the bhav at Joshua Tree this weekend, you can still follow the flow by staying tuned to The Bhakti Beat’s ongoing coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and right where you are now.  We’ll be posting updates daily, talking with artists and producers, and posting more from our earlier interview with Sridhar.  Get the bhav, wherever you are!

 

Share
{ 11 comments }

Where’s the Bhav? Omega Spring Chant!

Share

The spring chant-fest season has officially arrived, and the bhav starts flowing Friday night 5/3 with Spring Ecstatic Chant at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y.  This weekend’s chant retreat, now in its fifth year, is the little sister to Omega’s epic Ecstatic Chant weekend over Labor Day, a don’t-miss destination for chantaholics for more than a decade.

Spring Chant headliner Jai Uttal has had to bow out of this weekend’s festivities due to an ongoing battle with pneumonia — and the whole bhakti community is praying for his complete, speedy recovery.  Even without Jai, the line-up shines:  Shyamdas, Wah!, Donna DeLory, SRI Kirtan, Gaura Vani, and — just announced and at Omega Chant for the first time ever — Masood Ali Khan, who will be joined by tabla virtuoso Daniel Paul and multi-instrumentalist phenom Sheela Bringi.

Ali Khan and Bringi are two rising stars in the sacred music scene, and their addition to the Spring Chant line-up cements their reputations as world-class artists in the “yoga music” genre.  Ali Khan’s second album, “The Yoga Sessions: Hang With Angels,” released last September, features his percussive magic on the hang drum (pronounced “hung”) in collaboration with a star-studded list of world musicians that include bansuri flute master Steve Gorn, guitarist Ray Ippolito and vocal harmonies by the likes of Visvambhar Seth of the Mayapuris, Kamaniya Devi of Prema Hara, and West Coast yogi-wallah Suzanne Sterling.  For a little taste of the magic that can be expected during Ali Khan’s set Friday night, check out this video:

For those who have never experienced a chant retreat Omega-style, put it on your bucket list!  There’s something about Omega that sets the Hudson Valley center’s famous chant weekends apart from the rest.  Maybe it’s the fact that there is nothing to do but chant, chant, chant and chant some more — there are no competing yoga classes or workshops to entice you away from the calling of the names.  Or maybe it’s the fact that the audience tends to be “hard-core” chanters — everyone knows the words and they’re not afraid to sing them out, creating a resounding response chorus that you won’t hear many other places.  Or maybe it’s just simply the magic of the Omega campus, a former Jewish camp at the foot of the Catskill Mountains converted to a high-end holistic wellness retreat center,  where countless thousands of seekers have gone in search of enlightenment (or at least to get a little closer to it).

Whatever it is, there’s nothing quite like it.  And while the younger and less-likely-to-be-sold-out Spring Chant doesn’t have the big headliners that Fall Chant has — including Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, and Snatam Kaur —  it remains a perennial highlight on our short list of must-do kirtan events.

Shyamdas will be there of course — he told The Bhakti Beat at last year’s Spring Chant that he has been there every year and wouldn’t miss it for the world.  The Sanskrit scholar and wallah extraordinare’s inimitable style of Hari Katha — chanting intermingled with stories and teachings from Hindu scriptures — will be on display throughout the weekend, and he will lead the closing session on Sunday.  That session has always been a highlight for us, as the whole kit and kaboodle of wallahs join together on stage for a last rousing round of Hari Bols (check out the video below for a taste of the fun from last year).

SRI Kirtan, the divine duo of Ishwari and Sruti Ram, will be joining Spring Chant for the third year straight, and we’re hoping they will be permanently on the line-up.  Because they rock the bhakti, baby.  They never fail to deliver a set that is pure heart-stirring joy and exploding with devotion, calling upon their diverse musical backgrounds (ranging from Gregorian Chant to punk rock!) to bring down the house.  Or more accurately, bring UP the house?

Spring Chant this year also sees the return of Wah!, Gaura Vani and Donna DeLory — each world-class chant wallahs in their own right who have become Omega mainstays.  Yes, Jai Uttal will be missed — it’s hard to imagine Omega Chant without him.

Nothing left to do but chant, chant, chant…

Share
{ 2 comments }