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"I always tell people: 'live happily and die majestically.'" ~B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014)

“I always tell people: ‘live happily and die majestically.'” ~B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014)

B.K.S. Iyengar, the great yogic master who pioneered a system of yoga and is credited for helping bring yoga to the world, died Wednesday morning, August 20, in Pune, India.

Editor’s Note: “I, Vrinda” is a new, occasional first-person series on TheBhaktiBeat.com in which I, Vrinda (aka Brenda Patoine) say what I’m thinking, whether you want to hear it or not.  Call it op-ed, editorialism, commentary — hell, call it whatever you want.  Vrinda is opinionated but open, largely unfiltered, at times irreverent, and sometimes downright sassy (don’t say I didn’t warn you).  She — I mean, I — may offer two cents or more on subjects from the ironies of the yoga world to the injustices of the corporatocracy,  the ins and outs of the bhakti community or the ups and downs of internet dating. Vrinda wants everyone to just wake the f**k up (I warned you).  For more on Vrinda, including why that’s her — I mean, my — name in this case, click here on this link…but you’ll have to wait until I get that piece written.

I, Vrinda, find it a bit ironic that B.K.S Iyengar is being hailed in the popular press for sparking the “global yoga craze” when he himself embodied a yoga governed by principles that the  multi-billion dollar yoga industry has largely forgotten.  According to Iyengar’s website,  Iyengar yoga is rooted in the teachings of Patanjali, who defined yoga as a “method to silence the vibrations of the chitta,” chitta being the consciousness of mind, ego and intellect.  Could that be much further away, philosophically, than today’s “yoga craze,” where yoga is one more offering at the gym and the yoga marketers and publishers seems to be defining yoga more as a hip fitness fad sure to get you a really great butt than a way to achieve union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self?

Iyengar started doing yoga as a child suffering from crippling respiratory conditions, studying under his brother-in-law Krishnamacharya, who was legendary in his strictness, and going on to develop his own original system of yoga perhaps best known for its precision of alignment — with liberal use of props and straps to aid the practitioner in achieving that precision alignment.  His medical applications of yoga are widely respected, and despite the global spread of Iyengar yoga (with now centers in 72 countries), he never strayed far from his Patanjaliac roots.

It makes one wonder what Guruji, as Iyengar was known to his followers, might think of the headlines proclaiming him as the man behind yoga’s popularization.  His niece was quoted in the New York Times’ obituary detailing his death saying that even up to a few weeks ago, he said: “I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.”

In an interview last year with Livemint.com, Iyengar steered clear of condemning the commercialization of the 5,000-year-old practice, saying it was probably a good thing that yoga has proliferated:

“Who knows, we may be reading it wrong. It all depends on what state of mind the practitioner is in when he is doing yoga. Without knowing that, I can’t say this yoga or that is bad. I think overall the majority of people who are practicing it as a subject are following the right line. For the aberration, don’t blame yoga or the whole community of yogis,” he says.

Spoken like a true yogi.

Pranams to B.K.S. Iyengar.  A great yogi before everyone was a yogi.

What do you think B.K.S. Iyengar would think of the current incarnation of yoga as a fitness fad for the wealthy?



Kirtaniyas Kirtan by TheBhaktiBeat.com @ Bhakti Fest May 2014Shakti Fest 2014 — the first of the three bhakti yoga “love fests” by the Bhakti Fest franchise — kicked off with a little pre-show Thursday night with the Kirtaniyas, the progressive Krishna Kid bhakti band that is pushing the kirtan movement into new ground.

The leader of the pack, Vijay Krsna, paused midway through the high-energy kirtan to tell a story of something that happened in Las Vegas a week or two prior (yeah, forget that old maxim that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — does not apply here).  The band was in Vegas for Holi Festival of Colors, the spring ritual in India where people throw brightly colored powder on one another which is swiftly spreading in the U.S., with at least a dozen color festivals at last count in the States.  If you’ve seen any of the videos of these festivals, you know how high the energy is…

Vijay Krsna, Kirtaniyas, Bhakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.comWitnessing the exuberance of the festival in Vegas, Vijay said, he realized “Bhakti is going to a whole other level, a level beyond ourselves individually or collectively.  We’ve entered a new phase of this kirtan movement.”

Sitting with a group of other devotees in Las Vegas after Holi Festival, Vijay exclaimed: “We need a bus!  We need a bus so we can drive wherever we want to sing and dance and share the Names.”

A few days later, the band of wandering bhaktas was in Santa Monica leading a street kirtan on the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city best known for its amusement-park pier and wide sandy boardwalk-lined beaches.  Less well known is Santa Monica’s rich bhakti history — Krishna devotees have long gathered on the city’s promenades to chant the mahamantra accompanied by bells and drums.  (The Third Street Promenade was in fact, where this writer/bhakta first experienced the “Hare Krishnas” many years ago as they danced and chanted their way down the street.)  Since 1977, the city has hosted the Festival of Chariots, a parade of elaborately decorated coaches in celebration of Lord Jagganatha, with devotees, locals and tourists alike jubilantly dancing and chanting all along the route.

Today, Santa Monica is home to a rich “California-ized” bhakti community, a city where you can get your sankirtana fix just about any night of the week.  Ground zero for this community is Bhakti Yoga Shala, a shaktified refuge in the heart of the city founded by Govind Das and Radha, a kirtan couple who are mainstays on the Bhakti Fest schedule. The Shala infuses yoga classes with chanting, holds weekly kirtans, conducts kirtan trainings and workshops, and regularly hosts bhakti wallahs from out of town for roof-raising sankirtana.

Nitai, Kirtaniyas, Bhakti Fest May 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.comSo, back to the Kirtaniyas…Here they are, chanting the Names on the Third Street Promenade just like their predecessors in the Western bhakti movement, just days after putting out the intention for a bus, when one of their extended family comes forward to announce jubilantly: We have a bus!

“Give thanks to Krishna: WE HAVE A BUS!” Vijay exclaimed to the group that had gathered around the little band of bhaktas.

Recounting the story of intention-turned-to-manifestation in a matter of days with an air of awe and gratitude, Vijay reflected: “This has been the mystery of my life: Would you like to live a life of your heart’s desire?  We have been vortexed into this intention of leading a life of chanting and dancing.”

At the end of the evening’s session, which began with a prayerful “Jai Guru Dev,” built expertly up to a rollicking rendition of “Sri Krishna Chaitanya” followed by a high-energy Maha Mantra/Hari Bol medley, and finished meditatively with Vijay singing “No Ordinary Name,”  the charismatic young kirtaniya offered this nugget:

“It is not longer enough to ‘perform’ kirtan.  We want to inspire kirtan and be inspired by kirtan.”

To which we say, HARI BOLLLLLLL!

Kirtaniyas at Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Stay tuned for more coverage of Shakti Fest 2014, here (TheBhaktiBeat.com), there (facebook) and everywhere (twitter, Google+, YouTube, yadayada!

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The emerging science of positive attitudes like gratitude and appreciation leaves little doubt that giving thanks is good for you and good for those around you.  So what are you waiting for?

 Also see:  5 Ways to Keep the Gratitude Flowing  (Donna De Lory Video)

Ahh, Thanksgiving.  Time to fight traffic and travel long distances to visit relatives we may not even like and gorge ourselves on factory-farmed turkeys to commemorate our ancestors’ conquest of Native Americans before rushing out to toss our dollars into the great black hole of corporate thievery…

Whoops…no, that’s not it.  Rewind.

That’s the kind of attitude that will get you in trouble, physiologically speaking.  Frustration, resentment, anger — these are the dark emotions that thrust our bodies into a state of stress and anxiety, triggering an evolutionarily ingrained response that floods our body with powerful, even toxic, hormones, puts our brain on alert, and throws our heartbeat rhythms into disordered chaos.

Positive emotions like love, compassion, and appreciation, on the other hand, counteract the physiology of the stress response.  They send up feel-good hormones like norepinephrine.  Dopamine flows in the brain’s pleasure pathways. Heart rhythms relax into a more stable, coherent order.

Gratitude, it turns out, may be one of the most powerful ways to get that “warm-glow’ feeling.  Better yet, it seems like that warm glow may actually spread from one person to those in his near vicinity.

Image from The HeartMath Institute

What Vibes Are You Emitting?

We’ve all experienced this, right? Someone so infectiously positive that you can’t help but feel good around them? Or expressing such heartfelt gratitude that you feel compelled to thank them for thanking you?  Of course, sad or angry feelings can spread as well.  We feel the “vibes” of other people, good or bad.

One scientific explanation behind that phenomenon is the idea that the heart emits an electromagnetic field that extends, according to some research, out several feet from our bodies, and is about 60 times stronger than the electromagnetic energy emitted by the brain. When we are interacting with people in close proximity, our heart energy field literally encompasses their body, and vice versa.

It turns out that positive emotions like gratitude and appreciation set your heart-rate pattern in a particular way – a smooth-waved rhythm of peaks – whereas negative emotions like anger and frustration send it into an erratic, disordered rhythm.  The Institute of HeartMath , a  non-profit organization that studies “heart intelligence,” has shown how different emotional states change the pattern of this heart-rate variability.

If you put this research together – and the HearthMath Institute is pushing the envelope on this idea – you can envision how your own emotional state affects those around you.  In fact, there’s pretty good evidence that your particular heart-rate rhythm — your “heart-print,” if you will — shows up in the patterns of those around you.

The Power of Gratitude

A couple years back, Gregg Braden, an author and activist who draws on science to explain spiritual phenomena, demonstrated this vividly in a weekend workshop at the Omega Institute.  He hooked up a woman volunteer to a heart-rate monitor, a simple clip placed on her ear that measured her heartbeat and displayed it on a projection screen the whole group could see.  Then Braden gave the woman a difficult mental task, something like count backwards by 103 from 3,457, and quickly!, he ordered her.  Immediately we saw the woman’s heart-rate jump all over the place, and it just got worse as she struggled with the arithmetic.

Mercifully, he stopped her.  Then he had the 100 or so of us in the room do a simple, quick exercise.  He had us put our hands on our hearts, focus our breath there, and think about something we were truly grateful for.  The guinea-pig volunteer was wearing headphones and was not engaged in the exercise, so she didn’t know what we were doing, but her heart rate was still projected. 

After just a minute or two, we opened our eyes to see that her heart rate had gone from jagged peaks and valleys to a relatively smooth, ordered rhythm – a pattern the HeartMath people call “coherence.” 

From The Institute of HeartMath: Real-time heart rate variability (heart rhythm) pattern of an individual making an intentional shift from a self-induced state of frustration to a genuine feeling of appreciation by using the Freeze-Frame positive emotion refocusing technique….Note the immediate shift from an erratic, disordered heart rhythm pattern associated with frustration to a smooth, harmonious, wave-like (coherent) pattern as the individual generates a heartfelt feeling of appreciation. (From The Appreciative Heart: The Psychophysiology of Positive Emotions and Optimal Functioning, by Rollin McCraty and Doc Childre http://www.heartmath.org/templates/ihm/downloads/pdf/free/appreciative-heart.pdf )

This was, for me, a memorable demonstration of the power of collective positivity, via the simple act of feeling thankful. Gratitude, Braden said, is the most reliable way to bring your heart rate into a “coherent” rhythm indicative of a calm, relaxed state of mind– and to bring others right there with you.

The Key to Relationship Happiness?

This may explain some of the findings of social scientists who have studied the impact of gratitude on interpersonal relationships.  For example, last year, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley published results showing that people who feel more appreciated by their romantic partners are in turn more appreciative of their partners and more responsive to their partners’ needs.  They also are more committed and more likely to remain in their relationships over time.

Makes sense, right?  You appreciate me, and I appreciate that you appreciate me, so I appreciate you in return.  Gratitude flows both ways, and everybody’s happy.  Could it be that gratitude is the simple key to relationship happiness?

To Be an ‘A’ or a ‘B’?

Much has been written about how our emotional makeup impacts heart health, positively or negatively.  Fifty years ago, Friedman and Rosenman first described how people with the now-infamous “Type A” personality — marked by hostility, impatience, competitiveness and dominance – were more prone to cardiovascular disease and death from heart attack.  In the decades since, researchers have attempted to narrow down the Type A traits that are most problematic, and guess what?  Negative-affect traits like depression, anxiety, and anger/hostility turn out to be the most damaging pieces of the puzzle.  Psychological scientists call it “Type D” (for distressed) personality.

Positive emotional traits, conversely, have been associated with better health overall and lower risk for heart disease.  Relaxed Type B’s, social extroverts, and optimists tend to enjoy better quality of live and suffer less serious health issues.  One study published in 2010 that followed 500 men for 15 years found that the optimists in the study had a 50 percent lower risk of heart-related death than those who had a more pessimistic view of life.

It’s easy to consider how gratitude fits in with a more optimistic, positive social personality.  Who’s more likely to be grateful: someone who is angry, anxious, or depressed, or someone who is calm, content and feels blessed? Someone who sees the glass half empty or someone who sees it half full?  Which kind of person do you feel better around?

Living Brain, photographed by Bill Tanaka

What About the Brain?

As research progresses, science is beginning to tease out, gradually but inevitably, exactly how and why positive emotions impact general health and well-being.   So what about the brain?  How does something like gratitude affect the brain?

People like Candace Pert, a prominent mainstream neurobiologist whose book, Molecules of Emotion, helped put words like neuropeptide into the public vocabulary, have shed light on the neural correlates of various emotional states.  Or neuroscientist Richard Davidson, whose groundbreaking investigations in the science of meditation have helped describe what happiness looks like in the brain. Or neurosurgeon James Doty, whose research center at Stanford University investigates the neural bases of compassion and altruism and how the conscious cultivation of compassionate states can literally reshape the brain.

On the other hand, neuroscience has barely nibbled on the question of how “gratitude” — a scientifically nebulous social construct — is represented in the folds and synapses of the brain. There is some evidence from brain-imaging studies that the brain’s “reward center” lights up when we’re feeling grateful.  This is the same neural circuit that underlies primal drives like feeding and mating, you know, things that have been kind of important to the survival of the species. It’s also the circuit that is co-opted by drugs of abuse like cocaine or heroin, which push it into a hyperdrive of reward-seeking over all else.

Gratitude is like cocaine to your brain?

Well, not quite. Maybe more like chocolate.  But the fact that it activates the reward center, the pleasure pathway of the brain, makes sense, doesn’t it? Gratitude is rewarding. Gratitude feels good, whether you’re the giver or the receiver.

And like the romantic partners who appreciated their partners more because their partners appreciated them, gratitude breeds more of the same.  The pleasure pathway keeps getting a “hit,” making us crave more of that feeling so we direct our behavior to getting more – just like aq junkie seeks out that next rush of cocaine.  

Dopamine is the neuro juice the good ole pleasure pathway uses to stay lubed up.  It’s the feel-good neurotransmitter, the one you get a hit of from sex, drugs and…well, maybe rock and roll, but definitely from high-caloric foods like chocolate, which we all know can be addictive. But don’t go calling dopamine the “gratitude neurotransmitter” just yet.  It’s certainly feasible that the rush we get when we offer heartfelt appreciation may be related to a little squirt of dopamine releasing deep in our mid-brain, but science still has a long way to go before anyone can point to a “thank you” part of the brain.

Could it be that they’ve been looking in the wrong place altogether?

Heart Over Head in Happiness

Richard Davidson, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, has led a ground-breaking series of studies with long-time meditators in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  At a conference on meditation and neuroscience last fall in New York, he told the story of when he and his scientific team traveled to India to perform a series of brain scans on the monks participating in the study.  Displaying a picture of a group of the monks heartily laughing, Davidson said: “This was right after we explained, through a translator, that we were going to scan their brains as part of a study to understand happiness.”

The monks, he said, thought it was hysterical that we thought we could learn about happiness by looking at the head.  You should be looking at the heart, they told the researchers.

The monks might be encouraged to see that more and more researchers are now moving a couple feet south of the brain to try to understand how and why an attitude of gratitude benefits health and well-being, in ourselves and in those around us. 

If nothing else, it’s something to keep in mind as you’re sitting down with that family of yours and contemplating the true meaning and value behind the tradition of thanks-giving.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Bhakti Beat!

Concordia-Loyola, setting for Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Concordia-Loyola, setting for Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.comMontreal has gained a reputation for its festivals over the years, but not so much for its bhakti.  Lea Longo is trying to change that. 

Lea Longo, founder of the Montreal Chant Fest, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Lea Longo

The primary force behind the Montreal Yoga & Chant Fest, Longo has been working to build the city’s nascient kirtan community from the ground up for seven years, ever since she came home from India with kirtan fever and found no one to chant with in the city she called home.  Last weekend, the bhakti community she helped birth came out in force to reap the rewards of her efforts for two days of chanting with more than a dozen bhakti bands from the City of Saints and beyond. 

Build it and they will come. 

Set in the historic chapel of the Jesuit-founded Concordia-Loyola University, the fest was a celebration of kirtan à les Québécois — more than 80 percent of the bands were local to the Montreal metro area. 

Sahara of Anahatha Kirtan at Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Sahara of Anahatha

The line-up ran the gamut from local bands that were on stage at a “big kirtan” for the first time (Anahatha Kirtan and MJ Ganesh, for example)…

Patrick Bernard at Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Patrick Bernard

…to a veritable legend in Canada’s bhakti scene (Patrick Bernard, who has released 24 CDs over the course of his devotional life).  

Bhakti Connection @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Bhakti Connection

There were bhaktas from Ottawa (Bhakti Connection, who finished their set with a “rebirthing” line while everyone sang “You Are Welcome”)…

Surya Chandra @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Surya Chandra

…and from Halifax (Surya Chandra, a 4-piece band featuring exquisite Paraguayan harp by Maryz Thuot and esraj by John Coleman). 


Eddy Nataraj & KC Solaris @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Eddy Nataraj & KC Solaris

There were even a couple Americans (Eddy Nataraj and KC Solaris, who closed out the fest with a high-bhav set that was a nonstop rolling joyride from Ganesha to Krishna & Radhe). (Video below.)

Lea Longo @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Lea Longo

And of course, there was Lea Longo, center-stage Saturday night, surrounded by a seven-piece band and an exuberant crowd that we swear shook the rafters of the old chapel with their high-energy ecstatic dancing.  

See for yourself in this rollicking rendition of a chant to the Divine Mother. “Adishakti, Saraba Shakti, Pritam Bhavati, Kundalini Mata Shakti, Mata Shakti Namo Namo.”

If You Can’t Join ‘Em, Start ‘Em

Longo has been singing and performing all her life, but it took a trip to India for her to find her true voice.  An accomplished recording artist  who has won national singing awards in Canada and whose pop/jazz tunes have graced hit movies and television shows, she discovered mantra music on a yoga retreat in India in 2006.  Like many, she hasn’t been the same since. 

“I was really mesmerized,” she recalled recently in an interview with The Bhakti Beat.  “I was transformed, I was excited, I was confused…I was all of the above.  All I knew was whatever this mantra business was that I had learned, it was amazing, and I needed to do more of it.  I had never felt that way.”

After searching in vain for kirtans in her home ‘hood, Longo decided to start her own.  Her musical partner, guitarist Rad Crasto, signed on enthusiastically, and the two started holding kirtans once a month at a local kundalini yoga studio where Longo practiced.  At first, she said, three or four people came to their kirtans, then 10 people, then other studios began to hear about it and invited them to play.  She founded the Montreal Kirtan meet-up group a couple years ago; it now boasts more than 200 members.  These days, the duo leads kirtans every other weekend across Montreal, regularly bringing out 20-40 people to chant the names.

“We just wanted to make it accessible to everyone, so that everybody can experience this ‘new’ sort of yoga in Montreal,” Longo said. 

Lea Longo & friends @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.comThe chant festival evolved naturally as more people fell in love with kirtan, and more people started hosting and leading kirtans.  “The vision was always to grow kirtan in Montreal,” Longo said.  With the festival, she said, “People can get introduced to kirtan and naad yoga (the yoga of sound), and to all of these kirtan artists who have come out of the woodwork in the last few years.”  

Longo partnered with Anne-Lisa Deforest, who helps coordinate Montreal’s annual Yoga Festival as well, and they were off.   They lined up a few sponsors to help cover the costs, but were mostly using their own money to pull this together.  The price was kept reasonably low — $99 for a two-day pass, with a half-price ticket offer available online right up to fest.  A small marketplace of vendors included yoga clothing, jewelry, Reiki/Massage and the yummiest cookies and veggie burgers from Prem and Sahara of Anahatha.

Hypnotized by Hari

Patrick Bernard @ Montreal Chant Fest by TheBhaktiBeat.com

If there was a “headliner” at this fest, it would have to be Patrick Bernard.  While that may not exactly be a household name, even among kirtan junkies, it’s a name to remember.  His short set, accompanied solely by his musical partner Mahavirya and Alex Trifan on soft djembe, was simple, traditional call-and-response Krishna kirtan, ancient devotional melodies to Radhe and Krishna driven by the chords of the harmonium and vocal nectar of two men singing to Hari.  It was hypnotic, in a way that took you deep inside.

“I like this word, ‘hypnotic,'” Bernard said pensively after his set when I described it that way to him.  “It is good,” he said with a thick accent (graciously excusing my failed attempt to recall my high-school French), “because the goal is to boycott the mind and go beyond, to touch the spirit soul which is our real identity.”

‘The goal is to boycott the mind and…touch the spirit soul which is our real identity.”  We like that.

But really, this festival wasn’t about “headliners.”  It was about bringing together a community, about introducing new faces, to give people a chance to connect and “join forces,” as Longo put it.  To provide a place where like-minded souls “can just be.”

And speaking of boycotting the mind…here’s how Eddy Nataraj and KC Solaris went about it. 


See also: Say Bonjour to the ‘Unknown’ Bhakti Bands of the Montreal Chant Fest (Coming Soon!)

For more photos of the full line-up of bhakti bands at the Montreal, please see The Bhakti Beat’s Photo Journal on Facebook

Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat YouTube channel for more videos from Montreal Chant Fest — being updated daily!

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Adam Bauer VerMantra 2012 by TheBhaktiBeat.com
Adam Bauer VerMantra 2012 by TheBhaktiBeat.comProject: Full-length Studio-Recorded CD
Fundraising Goal: $25,000
Deadline: June 4, 2013 @ 11:59 p.m. PT
Contribute NOW!
Ed. Note: This is part of our ongoing series on Crowdfunding Kirtan, in which fans and friends contribute money for new recording projects in exchange for “perks” ranging from free downloads to private concerts.  The trend has grown in the music business as record labels have cut back and artists have to fund projects themselves.

The Artist

No, he’s not just a go-to bass player in the East.  Re-meet Adam Bauer, kirtan wallah. Best known as the man in the back with the bass onstage with Shyamdas and many others in recent years (and with Krishna Das before that), Bauer is taking a bold “leap of faith,” in his words, and moving from the back of the band to front and center.  “This is a big move for me,” Bauer told The Bhakti Beat in an interview. “It’s been a very long, very rich journey of 10 feet.”  

Adam Bauer Neem Karoli Baba VerMantra 2012 by TheBhaktiBeat.comOn his debut CD, Shyam Lila, he’s trading his trusty 5-string bass for a harmonium with Neem Karoli Baba’s face peering out from above the keys.  Bauer started learning the harmonium about three years ago, around the time he attended one of Jai Uttal’s Kirtan Camps.  He describes leading kirtan at the camp as a “nervewracking” kind of coming-out for his voice, but one that helped him gain confidence to dive deeper, fueled by encouragement from Uttal and Daniel Paul.  He now regularly hosts living room kirtans in his Northampton, Mass. home and has begun to have his own sets at smaller festivals like Vermantra (video below), and most recently at an upstate New York Shyamdas tribute.

Adam Bauer VerMantra 2012 by TheBhaktiBeat.comHis kirtans are gentle, comtemplative — “devotionally quiet,” he says — the kind that fade away gradually and sweetly into that long deep silence that “nobody in their right mind would whoop or clap after.”  Soft, meditative, drift-away-on-the-melody kirtan prayers. That will be the vibe in Shyam Lila.

The Project

A collection of traditional chants to Radhe and Krishna done to original arrangements, Shyam Lila is “a deep bow from me to Shyamdas,” Bauer said, “an expression of my gratitude for sharing such intimate space for so long.”

He stops short of calling the new album a “tribute” to Shyamdas per se, yet it was in no small way inspired by the beloved bhakti scholar and wallah extraordinaire, who left his body in January.  “I wouldn’t be who I am in the same way without these last eight years with Shyamdas,” Bauer said.  “He was the closest I’ve ever gotten to the devotional heart of India.”

Shyamdas & Adam Bauer Omega Fall Chant 2012.by TheBhaktiBeat.comBauer had finally arranged his life around spending more time with Shyamdas in India, and was due to be with his friend and mentor just two weeks after the motorcycle accident that changed everything.  He arrived in India just in time for the traditional cremation and final rituals with Shyam’s family and closest friends, a series of events that were “very moving and very difficult, a total mind blow,” Bauer said. 

The songs of Shyam Lila came to him during the torturous weeks that followed, as Bauer wrestled with the reality of Life Without Shyamdas.  “I was trying to wrap my own head around how Shyamdas’s passing is part of God’s lila.  I was thinking, ‘You really f***ing chirped on this one’,” he snarked, instantly recognizing it as the “very human reaction.”  

‘A Deep Bow of Gratitude’ to Shyamdas

After that, Bauer said “Singing with my own voice just felt like the only thing left to do that resonated in a really strong way.” The songs fleshed themselves out over the weeks in India, as he sang them alone and in satsang with Sadhu Maharaja and friends. “These songs helped me get through that period.”

Adam Bauer Bhajan Boat by TheBhaktiBeat

Don't worry, he's still got the 5-string.

Gaura Vani, who Bauer calls his “bhakti love-bear,” will produce the CD, for which recording got underway in the wake of Omega Spring Chant, the first big kirtan event where Shyamdas would be steering the ship of bhav.  With Ehrin Hanson on tabla, John McDowell (producer of Shyamdas’s Beloved Chants) on African hand drums, and Northampton native Charlie Braun on guitar, Bauer says they laid down the bare bones of eight tracks over two days at the Art Farm, a private recording studio in New York’s Hudson Valley.  Additional instrumentation will be added to the mix as the process unfolds. Bauer is shooting for a Fall 2013 release.

Here’s a taste of Bauer’s kirtan prayer from Vermantra 2012 in Burlington, Vt…

Deets and Links

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Previous articles in this series:
Brenda McMorrow
Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
David Newman aka Durga Das
Sheela Bringi
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It’s been the subject of scholarly study, doomsday prophesizing and New Age philosophizing alike for…well, pretty much forever.  It’s inspired countless books,  millions of articles, a major motion picture, and more than a few good cartoons.  Whatever your beliefs are about 12.21.12 — the end of the world, the beginning of a new world, or none of the above — one thing is clear:  the occasion is being marked worldwide with consciousness-raising events focused on prayer, meditation, and yes, kirtan.  Along with more than a few end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it blow-out bashes.  

It’s no wonder: 12.21.12 is not only the much-ballyhooed date on which the Mayan calendar supposedly ends (but not really); it is also the winter solstice — the longest night of the year and the turning point for the “return of light” by way of gradually lengthening days.  Some theorists suggest the date coincides with Earth’s crossing a central nexxus in the Milky Way galaxy, signifying the end (or beginning) of an epoch in the orbit of our sun around the galaxy’s spiraling vortex.

There are as many theories out there about what 12.21.12 means as you care to dig for (30.5 million Google results in .24 seconds).  One recurring theme is the idea of a kind of global metanoia, a spiritual transformation or rise in consciousness like the world hasn’t seen in say, 5,125 years (the length of this last period in the Mayan timekeeping system).  Within the “conscious community,” 12.21.12 has become, it would seem, a lightning rod for stepping up the call for global unity and action to recognize our interconnectedness and avert ecological disaster on our home planet, a fate that seems to be racing toward us with accelerating speed. 

With that in mind, we set out to find out what was happening in the bhakti community.  We didn’t have to look far…

Worldwide Events

Golden Age Global Kirtan

Quite simply, kirtan will be everywhere on 12.21.12.  From every corner of the globe, chanters will be beating their drums and raising their voices in mantra throughout the day, all day, all night.   Championed by NoCal bhakta K.d. Devi Dasi and the non-profit Kuli Mela Association, whose mission is to promote and preserve bhakti yoga philosophy, Golden Age Global Kirtan links chanters and Krishna communities worldwide for a common gathering celebrating “a shared experience of Loving Service, Bhakti Yoga.” 

It has been a volunteer, person-to-person effort, Devi Dasi said, using social networking for spiritual activism. “On a deeper level we are activating a network of real people, real hearts to be connected, not on-line this time, but in our hearts, body, mind and spirit…in COMMUNITY!” she said.  As of Wednesday, some 25 countries had signed on to participate in Global Kirtan — with groups of ‘2 or 200’ people — and the list was growing fast as the news went viral in the bhakti world.   

“This is not simply each of us in our own corner praying,” Devi Dasi said. “This is a grass-roots call out to one another, as brothers and sisters, activating our communities with unified intentions, beyond borders, countries, or organization.”   For more info and to add your kirtan to the list, visit the Kulimela Assocation’s page on facebook.

UNIFY Global Moment of Peace

This worldwide effort links events around the globe in an umbrella event being called simply, UNIFY.  Highlights are a globally synchronized “Solstice Moment of Peace” at 11:11 GMT (6:11 a.m. EST) and a “Global Unification Moment” at 20:00 GMT (3 p.m. EDT), where people will gather the world over for a silent prayer, meditation or ceremony with the intention of uniting for world peace.  From a Unify.org press release:

The hope behind the ‘Unify’ idea is that joining in with these events will demonstrate that people have more desire to participate in something positive, than to dwell on the doom and gloom of apocalyptic predictions. Unify.org is serving as a hub for these events, including helping organize meditation flash mobs in city centers to live-streaming ceremonies at Mexican archaeological sites with hundreds of thousands in attendance to coordinating an interfaith moment in Jerusalem between major world religions.

Unify.org will live-stream footage of key events on the day including festivals, ceremonies and events from Jerusalem, The Pyramids at Giza, Stonehenge and Glastonbury, Chichen Itza, Palenque, Teotihuacan, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, Lake Titicaca, Cape Town, Byron Bay, Australia and even Antarctica.  For details on the movement and individual events, see www.unify.org.

Global Convergence at Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Global Convergence is a 3-day adventure retreat to Giza, Egypt (and a continuing Nile River cruise afterward) that culminates with a dawn-breaking ceremony at the Great Pyramid on 12.21.12, which will be live-streamed via www.unify.org.  Details of the ceremony are sketchy on the Global Convergence website, but as far as we can tell, it will feature “a selection of the top electronic music producers and DJ’s from the west coast’s music scene” as well as world-music pioneers Arjun Baba and Fallah Fi Allah, who never fail to rock the stage at Bhakti Fest with their high-voltage brand of Sufi Qawwali music.  Presented by L.A. electronic-music producers The Do Lab; for more details, see www.globalconvergence2012.com.

Best Bhakti Bets

(If we had a teleporter and could go anywhere, we’d beam in on these first — right after Arjun Baba’s set at the Great Pyramid, that is.)

Kirtaniyas at New BrajAt the top of the list is the first-ever New Braj 24-Hour Kirtan at the community of Krishna devotees in New Braj Village in central California, near Sequoia National Park.  Spearheaded by The Kirtaniyas, the internationally beloved foursome of “Krishna kids” Vijay Krsna, Sarasvati, Rasika Dasi and Nitai Prem, this kirtan immersion will span 12 hours each day Friday and Saturday.  Rumor has it there may be a live-stream of the chanting (the next best thing to beaming there); stay tuned to The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page for up-to-the-minute updates.  Starts at 10 a.m., New Braj Village, CA.  Details here.

SRI Kirtan & World Peace in the Catskills: It will be mantras and meditation in the mountains at this weekend retreat featuring Sruti Ram and Ishwari, the Woodstock, NY duo behind SRI Kirtan, who will lead ecstatic chant as part of Friday evening’s program.  Go for the night or the whole weekend by joining the World Peace Meditation Retreat at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, N.Y.  Learn more.

Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe in Phoenix: Can you say transformance? Any show with this band will transform you; Larisa Stow is passion personified, love without limits, delivering a wake-up call to anyone who will listen. Can you hear it? The Tribe takes their mantra rock to Phoenix this weekend, kicking it off with a celebration of ceremony and community with drum, flute, song and dance that they are headlining Friday night. On Saturday, Stow will lead a Mantra Playshop session, all part of the 12.21.12 festivities of the non-profit Fusion Foundation. Find out more.

Bhakti Blessings Coast-to-Coast


Venice, CA:  Rebirth of the Light Winter Solstice Movement Meditation with Shiva Rea, Dave Stringer, Global Sonic DJ Fabian Alsultany , Donna De Lory, Spring Groove, Yehoshua Brill and more. 2-10 p.m., Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, Venice, CA.  More info.

Los Angeles, CA:  Celebrating the New Age, an evening of “live yoga, live music, live food and live people” featuring multi-instrumentalist Sheela Bringi and Clinton Patterson (producer of Bringi’s debut CD in-the-works), with Leonice Shinneman, playing blues/raga/kirtan.  6:30 p.m. at Peace Yoga Gallery, Los Angeles.  Details.

Richmond, CA:  Blessings for the New Millennium,a multicultural evening of mantra, music and sacred ceremony, featuring Daniel Paul and Gina Salá, who are just finishing up their West Coast storm tour to launch their collaborative CD, Tabla Mantra. Includes Sound Healing with  Jan Cercone, Taiko drumming with Eden Aoba Taiko, and of course, tabla mantra with Paul & Salá.  Find out more.

San Rafael, CA:  Cosmic Dance Party with MC Yoga & special guests.  Described as an “Intergalactic Planetary Dance Party In Northern California to celebrate the end of the Mayan Calendar, the Winter Solstice, and anything else that makes you feel like dancing.”  That about covers it…and dance you will want to:  with Robin Livingston on deck and Amanda Devi on visuals, this threesome pumps out high-voltage, bass-heavy tracks from MC’s latest CD, Pilgrimage, that you can’t help but move to.  Get the scoop.

Vancouver, BC: Mantra, kirtan and labyrinth meditation featuring the World Peace Flame, organized by Sandra Leigh and Give Peace a Chant Kirtan Community. 7 p.m., Labyrinth at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, BC. Details here.

Seattle, WA: Dharma Sound is presenting kirtan at 7 p.m., Samudra Yoga, Bremerton, WA.


Rosemont, PA:  Stay Strong 2 Release Party and Winter Solstice kirtan celebration with David Newman, Mira and The Beloved.  This is the official release party for Stay Strong 2: You Can Count On Me.  The evening is a benefit for The Bridge Foundation and Global Green USA.  8 p.m., The New Leaf Club, Rosemont, PA.  Details here

Boston, MATom Lena is hosting a special Solstice edition of his regularly scheduled Kitchari Kirtan, featuring Beantown chantress Irene Solea. The evening will open with Shakti Rowan leading the KK Posse in a Solstice Ritual to welcome the new earth. 7 p.m., Cambridge, MA.  Details here.

Bedford, NY:  Satya Franche & MA Kirtan will add their “vibration to the celestial vortex” for holiday chanting and potluck gathering, beginning 7 p.m. at Transcendence at Sun Raven, Bedford, NY.  More info.

West Hartford, CT:  Celebrate the Winter Solstice with friends and family in a gathering that includes the ancient Homa Hotra fire ceremony to “let go of that which we no longer need and manifest all that we envision for ourselves in the future.”  And of course, there will be chanting and dancing.  8:30 p.m.; West Hartford Yoga.  Details here.

Bennington, VT:  DEVI presents an evening of Solstice kirtan with special guest, Bill ‘Jambavan’ Pfleging.  DEVI’s just-released CD, “The Path of Love,” will be available for purchase.  6 p.m., Karma Cat Yoga, Bennington, VT.  More info.


Minneapolis, MN:  The Midwest gets a head start on 12.21.12 with a celebration of mantra by Heartland bhaktas Sitari and Kalyana with Pavan Kumar (aka Susan Shehata, Colleen Buckman and Keith Helke), who are releasing their first self-titled CD on 12.20.  The evening includes a guided “clearing” meditation and a celebration of the return of the sun, and also features the music of Blue Soul Caravan and special guest Jill James. Long-time champions of midwestern bhav, this Minneapolis-based band (which also includes Will Kemperman) made its debut at Bhakti Fest Midwest this summer.  Details here.

Green Bay, WI:  Erika King and Be Alford team up for live music and yin yoga for a Winter Solstice Celebration at the Studio for Well-Being in Neenah, WI.  More info.

Chicago, IL:  The Bodhi Spiritual Center is hosting Birth of the Golden Age Celebration, a two-hour program including a Q & A led by Mariana Gigea on the Awakened State, a Crystal Bowl Meditation, dancing, and hands-on blessings for awakening in the tradition of  Amma Bhagavan, founder of the Oneness University. Find out more.

Your turn: tell us where you’ll be chanting on this long-anticipated day.  Will you be celebrating, praying, hiding your head in the sand…?


Gratitude is rewarding and may be contagious.  That is the suggestion from a converging body of research exploring how positive emotions like gratitude and appreciation affect our hearts, our brains, and even those around us.

Giving thanks may be easier on the day we Americans set aside for it, but how do we keep that thankful feeling flowing?  How do we maintain an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis, especially in the post-holiday haze and pre-Holiday craze of these longest winter nights upon us?

Here are five simple suggestions to flex your appreciation muscles.  Once you get in the gratitude groove, you begin to become aware — gradually but inevitably — of the abundance that surrounds us at any given moment.  You just might be amazed at how much there is to be grateful for.   Try it.

1. The Tried & True Gratitude Journal  

Every day, wake up and think: What Am I Grateful For Today?  List 5 things.  Keep a notebook next to your bed and write them down.

2. Make Someone Happy 

Do (at least) one thing every day that shows another person — be it your life partner or the kid at the coffee shop — that you appreciate them. 

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.”  ~ The Dalai Lama

3. Write a Thank You Note

And I mean the old-fashioned way.  Handwritten.  On a simple card or scrap of paper, it’s the message that matters.  Tell someone how they made a difference to you.  Find their address, put a stamp on it (yes, they still have those), and send it snail mail. 

4. Find the Gratitude

Think about a difficult or challenging situation you are facing.  Find something about it that you are thankful for.   There’s always something — a lesson learned, a pattern of behavior revealed, even just the simple knowledge that the situation will pass, in due time.

5. Make It Your Mantra

People don’t say thank you  nearly enough.  Surprise your partner by thanking them for something they do all the time, like making the coffee.  Thank the bus driver or the toll operator.  Thank the sun for rising another day. 

Here’s some inspiration for giving thanks from kirtan’s pop-mantra queen and dancing diva Donna De Lory, singing her beautiful ode to gratitude, Sanctuary, at Bhakti Fest Midwest last summer.


Also see:  Give Gratitude from Your Heart.  Your Brain Will Thank You. (And So Will Your Family.)

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Krishna Das: On Board

How does one person in suburban California manage to raise $20,000 to fight sex trafficking in India? 

Enlist the kirtan troops!

That’s been a big part of the winning strategy for Srutih Asher Colbert, a Palo Alto yogi mom and hair stylist who is now within sight of meeting her ambitious fundraising goal by the end of the year.  The troops who signed on to help include none other than the Chant Master himself Krishna Das, who contributed his share of the proceeds from NYC’s Bhajan Boat charity cruise in late September (check out the video here).  That pledge alone added $3,000 to Colbert’s coffers. 

Coast-to-Coast Kirtan Fundraisers

The drive also benefited from a gathering Oct. 20 at Brooklyn Yoga School when the best known bhaktas in the borough, Nina Rao, Devadas, Ambika Cooper and friends, joined forces to lead a four-hour kirtan in support of the project.  The chants to fight sex slavery continue this weekend, back in Colbert’s home ‘hood in the San Francisco Bay Area, with Prajna Vieirra and David Estes leading the call.  Local favorites in NoCal, Vieira and Estes are among the rising stars on the national kirtan scene as well; each had a debut set at Bhakti Fest West in September,Vieira with producer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Leinbach and Estes with his band Ananda Rasa Kirtan.

"Kirtan is not about getting blissed out and escaping life..."

Both jumped at the chance to help raise money.  Vieira told us:  “As kirtan leaders, we’re here to serve the devotees in their practice and help provide the conditions for exploring the depths of love and devotion. To me, expanding that sweetness of devotional service into the world is the whole point.”

“As a woman,” she added, “sex trafficking is an issue that is very dear to my heart, and I wish I could do a thousand kirtans for it…If we have an opportunity and the means to contribute even a little bit of time, energy or resources toward the solution, it’s a great blessing. Kirtan is not about getting blissed out and escaping life’s problems. It’s a call to wake up, to broaden our capacity to love and our willingness to serve.”

Off the Mat Into the Bhav

Colbert’s funding drive is part of the Global Seva Challenge, a worldwide service project created by Off the Mat Into the World (OTM) that has raised over $2 million since 2007 for a range of international humanitarian causes.  The 2012 campaign is focused on battling sex trafficking in India through locally based empowerment and rehabilitation programs, and Colbert is one of about 200 yogis who have taken the $20,000 challenge this year; so far about half a million dollars has been raised, collectively.  (OTM is the charitable organization founded by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling with a mission to “use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.”)

Suzanne Sterling: Not resting

Colbert got involved with Off the Mat at Wanderlust Festival three years ago, where the OTM session is always a favorite.  (No wonder: two years ago at Wanderlust VT, Michael Franti and his band joined Seane Corn on stage for a rockin’ 2-hour party-for-a-cause.  This summer, MC Yogi riled up the troops with a rousing rendition of “Give Love” (watch it below), then Suzanne Sterling knocked it home with a foot-stomping, soul-stirring rendition of a civil rights anthem called Ella’s song  — “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes” — that flowed right into the yogi’s anthem, Om Namah Shivaya.)

A top fundraiser for OTM three years running, Colbert kept earning herself a free ticket back to Wanderlust — and doing it all over again.  When she heard that the 2012 Global Seva Challenge was directed at helping the young victims of sex trafficking in India, she signed on. 

 ‘We Live in This Little Bubble’

“I have two daughters myself — 5 and 8.  I just felt moved to try to help these girls, and inspired to show my own girls how important it is that we help people who can’t help themselves,” Colbert told The Bhakti Beat.  “We live in this little bubble.  There’s so much suffering in the world and we can do something to help other people.”

OTM works with six different charities in India that are working in local communities to rescue, rehabilitate and empower women and girls affected by the sex trade.  “They [OTM] talk to people who are already doing this work to create sustainable change, instead of just throwing money at the problem.”  The funds might be directed, for example, to build a new wing on a safe home, or to teach women self-sustaining skills. 

Nearly $2,000 was raised at a Brooklyn kirtan (Photo by Srutih Asher Colbert)

Reaching out to friends in the yoga and kirtan worlds to support the drive was natural, she said, because “those are the two things I love and practice regularly.  It’s been an amazing blessing to reach out and have people say, ‘absolutely, how can I help?'” 

People like Krishna Das.  Not bad.

Colbert first met Krishna Das at her Yoga Teacher Training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, at a time when she “didn’t know anything about chanting and thought it was weird.”  After five straight nights of kirtan with KD, “it really clicked for me,” she said.  “I totally fell in love with chanting.  It completely changed my life from that moment forward.” 

Ten years later and $3,000 away from her goal, with bhakti yoga strongly at her side, Colbert is paying it forward, hoping to help change the lives of girls trapped in India’s sex trade, from this moment forward. 

“It’s been quite a journey,” she said. 

TO DONATE to Srutih Asher Colbert’s Global Seva Challenge (Type “SR” in the first box to support her project)
Srutih Asher Colbert’s Global Seva Challenge on Facebook
Chanting for Change w/ Ananda Rasa Kirtan & Prajna Vieira, Nov 10 in San Francisco
Off the Mat Into the World
www.chantkirtan.com (Nina Rao)


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Is there room for politics in bhakti yoga?  If social media on election day is any indication, the answer is yes.  In droves, bhaktas and yogis have taken up the call to engage, fully and consciously, in the quadrennial rite of passage that is the American Presidential election.  Even artists who you might not exactly consider “political” or “activist” are joining the drive to get out the vote, and in some cases, being very explicit about which candidate they support.

You might call it “Chant the Vote,” kirtan’s own informal spin on the popular “Rock the Vote” drive that enlists pop/rock idols and celebrities to encourage young people to register to vote and make their voices count at the polls.  The chant world may be coming to the game a little later than say, Madonna (who was booed at a concert for saying “I don’t care who you vote for, as long as it’s Obama.”), but, like Madonna, kirtan artists are not shying away from naming their allegiances. 

White Swan Records, the label of sacred chant superstar Deva Premal, posted this picture of her, apparently standing before a huge mural of Obama.  The caption read: “From Berlin, Deva Premal says to ‘vote.'”  If the written message was neutral, the picture says it all.

On Sunday before the elections, Snatam Kaur, the soft-sp0ken Sikh chantress, posted this message to her facebook followers:

No ambiguity there...

In two days on facebook, the post received nearly 4,000 likes, 170+ shares, and over 300 comments, which were overwhelmingly positive, by our reading.  (Snatam has the largest facebook following of any Western chant musician, with 109,000+ “fans” following her page; in comparison, Krishna Das and Deva Premal & Miten each have about 70,500.) 

Chanters with Chutzpah Ki JAI

The outspokenness of these two artists, both of whom have a reserved, quiet demeanor (in terms of their public face at least) surprised us a bit — in a good way.  Anyone who is willing to stick their neck out to voice their opinion in this close, contentious race deserves a Golden Cojones prize, in our view, especially in digital age, where one can be slashed and burned in mere minutes on social media. 

"Seize the day"

Mid-day today, Donna De Lory joined the chorus of Obama supporters, posting this message on her facebook page:  “Today is a day to ask yourselves, who do I trust? Despite all of my human disappointments, Who is most compassionate and concerned in the sustainable future of all living beings, this beautiful life as we know it?”  De Lory then reprinted a lengthy message from a friend named “Allison” laying out the case for re-electing Obama.

Of course, there are folks like MC Yogi who have left no question as to their political allegiances:  the conscious hip-hop artist released a special single and video in support of Obama’s first campaign (Vote for Hope).  He has also been an active proponent of Yoga Votes, the voter-registration drive that has had a strong presence at Wanderlust and other yoga festivals in the past year. 

MC posted this Obama graffiti portrait on his facebook page yesterday, with the message: “We can’t wait for the change, we have to be it!”

Vote Then Chant

Other artists have focused more on getting out the vote than on promoting a particular candidate.  Girish and manager/partner Virginia Rodriguez launched a special election-day concert called “Vote then Chant” that was scheduled for election night on Long Island — but sadly, was cancelled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Undeterred, the artist has taken the effort worldwide, offering up a special live version of Om Namah Shivaya for 99 cents and up to encourage people to “vote then chant,” and at the same time help the victims of Sandy. Proceeds from the sale of the single will be donated to the Red Cross’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.  Get the details here. 

“Chant with us in support of our east coast chant family and in support of the highest outcome of our national election,” Girish implored fans in his newsletter mailing.   


What Will You Be Chanting?

From the buzz we’re seeing on facebook and elsewhere, people are going to be chanting through the results from coast to coast, whether in small community kirtan circles or with touring musicians.  In Hillsboro, NH, for example, Bethel Farms is presenting “Bhagavan Das–Electing Kirtan” in a three-hour election-night chant and in Atlanta, Bhakti Messenger’s Ian Boccio is leading a group of bhaktas in a Rama mantra (because “every little bit helps,” he said).  In Minneapolis, Pascale LaPoint of Kirtan Path was hosting satsang at her house “where we will chant, chat and meditate in peace without following the results.”  In Sacramento, Radiant Friend kirtan is getting the chant out at Yoga Shala …

The Bhakti Beat wants to know: did you chant through the election results?  What were you chanting and where? 

And, the burning question we have: are there any Romney supporters out there in chant land?  We know there must be…

Vote then Chant. Yeah, you!


MC Yogi: All that and more.

MC Yogi’s new CD, Pilgrimage, topped the World Music charts from the moment it was released in mid June, so it should be no surpise that his performance at Wanderlust Vermont June 23 was off the charts as well.

The Saturday evening set was an extravaganza of psychedelic lights, special effects and floor-shaking bass, rife with the get-off-your-asana dance beats and heart-thumping, tongue-twisting vocal riffs MC Yogi (aka Nick Giacomini) has come to be known for.  Silhouetted against a larger-than-life multi-media backdrop in the shadow of Stratton Mountain, the man who put conscious hip-hop on the charts cranked up the volume and raised the roof on the outdoor tent filled to the brim with Wanderlust revelers.

Buoyant from an East Coast CD-release tour and No. 1 chart ranking, the superstar yogi appeared to command a larger crowd (by our nonscientific method) even than Ziggy Marley, the festival headliner who played later that night.  Which is probably not surprising, being that this was Wanderlust (these are yogis, after all, not potheads — well, at least for the most part).  “MC” had big praise for Ziggy, whose message of love, freedom and tolerance resonates with Giacomini’s own “Give Love” anthem-for-the-masses.

We were kind of hoping he would break out in a hip-hopped up version of “Love is My Religion,” but alas, it was not to be.

Instead, he focused on the high-powered, horn-happy, bass-driven raps from Pilgrimage, a tour de force of an album that has been four years in the making.  Anyone who fell in love with his debut CD, Elephant Power, has been waiting for this one — and, full disclaimer, that includes us.  We weren’t disappointed.  Right from the first music track, a tribute to Ganesha subtitled “Sound the Horns,” it grabs you and practically propels you to “Rise Up”– the first of the disc’s many anthem-like calls to wake up and be the change.

And now that you’re up, MC Yogi invites you to “fly away home” in the soaring, trumpet-punctuated rap, “Born to Fly.”  At Wanderlust, acro-yogis converged on and in front of the stage during the song and wowed the crowd with some gravity-defying moves that drove home the tune’s inspirational message:  “You know we…are born to fly, spread your wings and touch the sky.”

We also fell for Giacomini’s funked-up “I Am That,” with its twangy electronic beat and classic Indian-style “scat” sprinkled throughout.  “Sunlight” is a feel-good, let-the-sun-shine-in anthem with a message of hope, love and letting go — with (you guessed it) lots of horns.  How can you not love a song that reassures you repeatedly that “It’s a brand new day,” and “Everything is gonna be okay”?  One Light baby.

And then there is Hanuman.  We didn’t think it was possible to outdo “Rock on Hanuman,” the Elephant Power track featuring Krishna Das, but this just might do it.  This time, Giacomini takes on the legendary “story that must be told” from the Hindu sacred text, the Ramayana,  In it, Hanuman, the monkey god who is Ram’s most beloved servant, leaps across the ocean to save Sita from the evil king who has kidnapped the good Queen.

Amanda Giacomini, MC Yogi’s artist wife, perfectly illustrated the tale with an array of carefully choreographed cartoonish images, animations, and old video clips.  “Hanuman” is  Big Sound, befitting to a Hindu Superhero who can leap across oceans and hold whole mountains in the palm of his hand.

Sadly, there was no trio of trumpeteers on hand on the Wanderlust stage to add the perfect punctuation.  And that bass?  It really did shake the floor — so much that the mic on our camera couldn’t handle it.  But the “floor show” with Nick’s moves and Amanda’s graphics, along with the turntable wizardry of Robin Livingston, was so engrossing we just had to share (with soundtrack provided by Pilgrimage’s “Hanuman” track, which you can download free for yourself here).  Watch below and tell us what you think of the new MC Yogi.  Listen right to the end.

The only thing else we can say about “Hanuman” by MC Yogi is “God Bless that monkey, he made my day.”

hahaha.  Jai Shri Ram.


Also see:  www.mcyogi.com