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Nina Rao, known for her Chalisa

Have you noticed a growing fascination with the Hanuman Chalisa, the 40-verse ode to the Hindu monkey-god who embodies the heart of devotional practice?  We’ve noticed it cropping up in more and more live kirtan sets, and Bhakti Fest Midwest was no exception.  Both SRI Kirtan and Brenda McMorrow offered rocking original versions of this long and fairly complicated chant during their respective sets on Saturday and Sunday.

Brenda McMorrow

Krishna Das and his long-time assistant (and chant leader in her own right) Nina Rao might take credit for helping make the Chalisa so popular.  KD’s “Flow of Grace” CD is  devoted completely to the Chalisa, with six different versions of the prayer.  The one by Nina Rao, the sweet “Nina Chalisa,” has formed the foundation for her own Chalisa chanting in her home ‘hood of Brooklyn, at KD workshops and at Bhakti Fest West in Joshua Tree.  Her morning Chalisa sessions have become a fixture, and are well-attended despite their early-morning hour.  She continued this trend in Madison, Wisc. at the Midwest fest.  Her traditional Chalisa is featured in this video from Vermantra 12-hour chant fest last fall.

SRI Kirtan (Sruti Ram & Ishwari)

Kirtan geeks that we are, we get pretty excited when wallahs mix the Chalisa into their sets — typically with an introductory warning that if you don’t know the words, have no fear, there’s a nice simple chorus that everyone can join in on.  Imagine our delight when this scenario occurred with not one, but two of our favorite up-and-coming kirtan wallahs at Bhakti Fest Midwest — SRI Kirtan on Saturday at high noon and Brenda McMorrow on Sunday afternoon.

Check out both shakti-shaking versions below.  Warning: the videos are long (did we mention it’s a 40-verse prayer?), but we think this is one of those chants that needs to be seen, heard and felt in its entirety.

(I have no idea why YouTube is not putting up a thumbnail on this, but I assure you, there’s a beautiful picture of Sruti Ram and Ishwari that SHOULD be coming up.  Please watch despite the blackness.)


See our full coverage of Bhakti Fest Midwest!

Bhakti Fest First: Krishna Das In the Spotlight, Reluctantly, at Midwest All-Wallah Finale
Hanuman Chalisa Rocks New Melodies from Brenda McMorrow and SRI Kirtan at BFMW (Videos
Bhakti Fest Break-Out Set? Wallah-to-Watch ‘Kirtan Path’ Wows ‘Em (Video)
Sridhar Silberfein: Changing the Pace of Kirtan in the West, One Bhakti Fest At a Time
Plus Photo Journals from Each Set on The Bhakti Beat on Facebook
And from Shakti Fest 2012 & Bhakti Fest 2011:
Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest
You Want Shakti?  Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti
Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance
Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted in Woodstock in ’69
Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal a First
Amazing Grace from Krishna Das after Bhakti Fest Rain-Out

Krishna Das. Like a rock...star.

The Bhakti Beat @ Bhakti Fest Midwest (June 30-July 1, 2012)  The grand All-Wallah Finale has become a Bhakti Fest closing tradition.  It’s also become one of those love-it-or-leave-it affairs, depending on who you ask.  Over the course of attending five of them since 2010, we’ve observed a lot of mixed feelings about the inevitably raucous everyone-gets-to-be-a-wallah jam-out that officially closes out each Bhakti Fest.  Some wallahs avoid it altogether, as Krishna Das has managed to for three years running at the West Coast Fest in Joshua Tree.

A pillar of stillness in the cacophany of the Bhakti Fest Finale

But there he was stage center at the Madison, Wisc. fest, a pillar of maroon-shirted stillness in a sea of bhaktified motion, his gravelly repetition of the Maha Mantra standing out even amidst the cacaphony unfolding all around him.  At least 50 musicians, yoga teachers, workshop leaders, staff and volunteers jammed the stage, dancing, leaping, twirling, and conga lining in ecstatic joy as everyone chanted as one.

The Bhaktified Gratitude Dance

Bhakti Fest Founder/Executive Producer Sridhar Silberfein with Shyamdas.

Sridhar Silberfein, the founder and executive producer of Bhakti Fest who is rarely seen on stage until this finale, poured out gratitude to his staff, the wallahs, teachers and everyone who made Bhakti Fest happen.  He somehow maintained order in the chaos of celebrating the successful completion of The First Ever Bhakti Fest Midwest, assuring the cheering Heartlanders that Bhakti Fest would be back.

Sridhar did a gratitude dance across the stage with one person after another.  He sashayed with Shyamdas, rapped with Ishwari, got down low with DJ Lakshmi, and spun circles ’round Ragani.  But when it was time to reach out his hand for KD to join him, KD wasn’t going for it.  He responded — playfully of course — with a certain arm gesture that fellow New York native Sridhar was sure to understand.  Did you catch that?  Yeah, he gave him “the arm,” the Italian salute. We can’t prove it with a picture but we saw it with our own eyes.

But Sridhar wasn’t about to give up.  He pulled on KD’s arm while Ragani pushed from her seat next to him on stage.  Finally, the kirtan rock star gave in, reluctantly rising to receive the thunderous approval of the crowd.  He did not dance a jig across the stage.  After barely a moment he gave a look to Sridhar that seemed to say, “Can we get this over with now?” and went back to his lotus, back to his chanting.  Classic KD humor, legendary humility.

It’s moments like that that make us really glad we hung around for the Last Hari of Bhakti Fest.

See our full coverage of Bhakti Fest Midwest!
Bhakti Fest First: Krishna Das In the Spotlight, Reluctantly, at Midwest All-Wallah Finale
Hanuman Chalisa Rocks New Melodies from Brenda McMorrow and SRI Kirtan at BFMW (Videos)
Bhakti Fest Break-Out Set? Wallah-to-Watch ‘Kirtan Path’ Wows ‘Em (Video)
Sridhar Silberfein: Changing the Pace of Kirtan in the West, One Bhakti Fest At a Time
Plus Photo Journals from Each Set on The Bhakti Beat on Facebook
And from Shakti Fest 2012 & Bhakti Fest 2011:
Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest
You Want Shakti?  Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti
Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance
Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted in Woodstock in ’69
Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal a First
Amazing Grace from Krishna Das after Bhakti Fest Rain-Out
Krishna Das, Bhakti ‘Rock Star,’ Keeping It Real

David Newman and the moon.


Sridhar Silberfein dancing on the stage during Jai Uttal’s set at Shakti Fest 2012.

See full coverage of Bhakti Fest Midwest, Shakti Fest, and Bhakti Fest 2011 — links at the end of this article!

If mantra music had a Man of the Year, Sridhar Silberfein just might be it.  The founder of Bhakti Fest is taking his multi-day kirtan/yoga extravaganza on the road, venturing east from the chant-fertile grounds of SoCal for a locale with an altogether different vibe, smack dab in the middle of the American Heartland.  Bhakti Fest Midwest hits Madison, Wisc. June 29 for four days of mantra-music bliss, in all its modern incarnations.

Wait a minute, Wisconsin?  A world-class kirtan and yoga festival in…Wisconsin?

Cheeseheads, Meet Chantheads

Go ahead and put aside any preconceptions you may have that the Midwest is no-man’s land — or maybe, no-mantra’s land? — for chanters.  Kirtan is not just a “coastal” phenom exclusive to California or the Boston-NY-DC corridor.  In true middle-American form, Heartland chanters have been quietly building a chant community and making a name for the Midwest on the mantra-music map.  They got Bhakti Fest before the East Coast for crying out loud!

Native Midwesterner Dave Stringer had a lot to do with that — he told The Bhakti Beat he’s been pushing for a Midwest fest for years, trying to convince people of the vibrancy of the Heartland chant community.  Then there’s Milwaukee-based chantress Ragani; her monthly kirtans regularly draw 400 or more, and she has become a regional celebrity and media darling.  Midwestern wallahs like Brenda McMorrow (okay, if Ontario was part of the U.S.) and Mike Cohen are making their mark on the national (and international, in McMorrow’s case) kirtan scenes, and regional-scene pioneers like Kirtan Path, Sitara and Kalyani with Pavan Kumar, DEVI 2000 and MaaShakti Das are popping up all across the plains.  These are just a few of the bhakti bands with midwestern roots that will be holding the bhav at the Midwest Fest.

It remains to be seen whether Sridhar Silberfein and the team he and daughter/producer Mukti Silberfein have put together can turn out the kind of numbers that have been drawn to the fall Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, Calif. (heretofore to be known as “Bhakti Fest West,” it seems), but that is not the expectation.  Regardless of the final tally or the fest’s financial “success” (profits are divvied up among a hand-picked list of charities), Bhakti Fest’s march eastward strikes us like a game-changer in the kirtan world.  UPDATE:  About 1,200 people attended BFMW, according to Dave Stringer, and the fest will be back in 2013.

Super-Sizing the Chant Fest

Bhakti Fest has opened up a whole new super-size venue for mantra-makers, not just the “big acts” like Krishna Das and Jai Uttal, who can be assured of an audience of thousands, but also for up-and-coming chanters and complete unknowns seeking a larger audience for their music.  It’s as if the floodgates have been opened: Sridhar told us he gets 10 to 15 CDs a day from wannabe Bhakti Fest wallahs.  That’s a lot of wallahs looking for stage time, and one reason Bhakti Fest West goes all night AND has a second stage to showcase “new” talent (some of whom have been chanting for decades of course).

Bhakti Fest is changing the festival scene too.  Where once there was really just one big multi-day, multi-artist “chant fest” on the US scene (Omega Ecstatic Chant), there is now Bhakti Fest, Shakti Fest, Sat Nam Fest, Boston Yoga & Chant Fest, Bhakti Fest Midwest…and those are just the biggies.  Regional kirtan festivals of various sizes are popping up all over too; witness Chantlanta in Atlanta, Rock the Bhakti in Sarasota, Fla.,  Philly Shakti Chant Fest, Moksha Fest in Santa Monica, Twin Cities Kirtan Fest, VerMantra in Montpelier, Vt., and on and on.  And traditional yoga festivals seem to be opening to including more kirtan and mantra music in their “yoga-music” line-ups.  Hanuman Festival in Colorado does this well, as did the first Tadasana fest in Santa Monica this spring.  You will find at least one kirtan artist at most of this summer’s four Wanderlust fests, and if you’re on the right coast (the West one in this case), you might even find kirtan at a Yoga Journal conference (Dave Stringer will be in YJ San Diego in July, but not a wallah could be found at YJ-New York in April).

The Mainstreaming of Mantra Music?

In the bigger picture, we can’t help but get the sense that this kirtan thing is accelerating.  The “mainstreaming” of mantra music is underway.  It’s a trend arguably launched by George Harrison himself when his song, “My Sweet Lord,” topped the charts internationally and introduced an entire generation to the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.  Sanskrit chants have crept into popular music ever since, from Boy George to Tina Turner, and we’re seeing more and more chant musicians meld their mantras with modern beats, nontraditional instruments, and pop songs, to the dismay of some purists but the delight of many.  Aside from the spiritual practice of chanting the names of the divine, mantra music is coming into its own as a musical genre.

Mainstream media is even getting on the bandwagon…you’ve seen the stories about Snatam Kaur being summoned as the special surprise guest at Oprah Winfrey’s birthday party, right?  We’ve also seen Ragani explain kirtan to Milwaukee morning television in 30 seconds flat, have watched Dave Russell chanting live on a Massachusetts newscast, and have witnessed the media frenzy surrounding the Holi Festival at the Radha Krishna Temple in Utah.  Heck, even Fox News reported on it!

The ‘Mantra Revolution’

Whether all of that is the reason for the rise of the Bhakti Fest franchise or an effect of it — or some of both, as we would argue — is really academic.  That’s just another “chicken-or-egg” question worth musing over but insignificant to the larger truth:  mantra music/kirtan/sacred chant/bhakti yoga — whatever name you want to call it by — is on the rise.  It’s growing like a slowly cresting tsunami, building gradually but inevitably (to borrow one of Krishna Das’s favorite phrases), just like a perfectly executed chant.  Gaura Vani calls it a “mantra revolution.”

Sridhar Silberfein didn’t start the fire (you’d have to go all the way back past George Harrison, past Srila Prabhupada, to the original 15th century kirtan revolutionary, Lord Caitanya, for that), but he is surely a modern torch-bearer for a movement that asks nothing less than the realization of the divinity within all.  This weekend, he is riding the crest of the bhava wave right into the heart of the Heartland.

The Heartland may never be the same.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about whether mantra music is “going mainstream,” if that’s a good thing or not, and whether you perceive an acceleration of the kirtan movement.  Please tell us what you think!

See our full coverage of Bhakti Fest Midwest!

 Bhakti Fest First: Krishna Das In the Spotlight, Reluctantly, at Midwest All-Wallah Finale
Hanuman Chalisa Rocks New Melodies from Brenda McMorrow and SRI Kirtan at BFMW (Videos)  
Bhakti Fest Break-Out Set? Wallah-to-Watch ‘Kirtan Path’ Wows ‘Em (Video)
Sridhar Silberfein: Changing the Pace of Kirtan in the West, One Bhakti Fest At a Time
Plus Photo Journals from Each Set on The Bhakti Beat on Facebook
And from Shakti Fest 2012 & Bhakti Fest 2011:
Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest
You Want Shakti?  Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti
Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance
Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted in Woodstock in ’69
Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal a First
Amazing Grace from Krishna Das after Bhakti Fest Rain-Out

Act Now & Win a Free 3-Day Pass to Shakti Fest!


UPDATE:  WE HAVE A WINNER!! Congratulations BRIDGETTA TOMARCHIO — you have won!!  Thanks to all who entered.  Check this space for live updates from Shakti Fest, beginning this Friday, 5/11.


Want to go to Shakti Fest?  Of course you do!

How about going for free?  Now’s your chance to win a FREE THREE-DAY PASS to the shaktified celebration of the divine feminine at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in California’s High Desert (May 11-13).  It’s simple to enter, and you can win a ticket worth over $275!


On Facebook:

SHARE the link to this blog post (http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851) and “tag” BOTH The Bhakti Beat and Bhakti Fest in your posting.  That’s it!  Tag and Share. You can write whatever you like (suggested wording below), just as long as you tag both The Bhakti Beat and Bhakti Fest — that’s our signal that you are entered in the contest.  (To tag on Facebook, first “Like” each page, then type @ before you type the name of the page; the pages you’re tagging will be highlighted and hot-linked.)

So, you might share the link with an intro that says, for example: Shakti Fest is THE place to be in the bhav!  That’s why I’m entering this contest from @The Bhakti Beat [tagged] and @Bhakti Fest [tagged] to win a FREE 3-day pass!  Find out how to enter here: http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851

On Twitter:

Same concept: tweet the link, tag the peeps!  You can use your own language — just don’t forget to tag @TheBhaktiBeat and @BhaktiFest.  Or, cut and paste this wording:  A free pass to Shakti Fest from @TheBhaktiBeat and @BhaktiFest? I’m in! Here’s how: http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851 

Not on Facebook or Twitter?

No problem.  Leave a comment here (in the blog comments) saying that you want to win the free pass, and be sure to include your email in the appropriate box (it won’t be shown publicly, and we’ll use it only to notify you if you win).

The Details

A winner will be randomly selected from all entries received by May 3.  So hurry!  Eligible entries are those that share the blog post link and tag BOTH The Bhakti Beat AND Bhakti Fest, as described above.

If you just can’t get to California in time for Shakti Fest May 11-13, Bhakti Fest has generously agreed to allow the winner to exchange the free pass for a pass to either Bhakti Fest Midwest (June 29-July 1 in Wisconsin) or Bhakti Fest’s fall bash in Joshua Tree Sept. 6-9.  How cool is that?

The Gratitude

Oodles of gratitude to Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein and producer Mukti Silberfein for generously making this contest possible.  We love you!!

Now, enter the contest!  Tell your peeps!  Be a winner!

Here’s the link to share:  http://thebhaktibeat.com/?p=851

Good luck!  Here’s what you have to look forward to…


Where’s the Bhav? Brenda McMorrow NE Tour


Brenda McMorrow Hits the Northeast

Canadian chantress BRENDA McMORROW’s World Tour 2012 hits the Northeast with a series of dates in Vermont (Shelburne, Friday 4/6), Connecticut, New York, Ontario, Ohio and Indiana.  You might call this the “Coming Out” tour for McMorrow as a world-class kirtan artist: the northeastern leg is just a small piece of a schedule that will take her to Austria, Germany and Italy by July; Bhakti Fest Midwest in June, and Wolfe’s Island, Canada for a three-day Shakti Retreat with SHYAMDAS in August.  Come December, you will find her and her acoustic guitar in Costa Rica for Rainforest Rhythm and Song, a week-long bhakti yoga and well-being retreat she is co-leading with master percussionist JOHN DE KADT.  Whew!

McMorrow has been performing since the 1990’s as a singer/songwriter in the folk/rock, jazz and bluegrass traditions, but is fairly new on the world kirtan scene.  Her first introduction to call-and-response chanting was in 2004, when a friend invited her to join a kirtan concert at a local yoga studio.  During the second chant of the evening, a simple Om Namah Shivayah, she recalls that “a change came over me” unlike anything she had ever experienced before.  “It was as if my whole body lit up, and I was in a place of presence and knowing that was so undescribable.  I was completely taken,” she said recently on Gary Goldberg’s radio show on WRPI.org.  “I dove in in a way that I never had before.”

Three years later, she was leading kirtans of her own.  She traveled to India, soaked up every bit of kirtan she could get her hands on, attended workshops, went to kirtan college with DAVID NEWMAN and started to make a name for herself in the chant world.  She has collaborated with numerous artists, including JAI UTTAL, WAH!, DAVID NEWMAN, GIRISH, and DAVE STRINGER, as well as the acclaimed cellist DAVID DARLING.  Soon enough, she had caught the attention of Brightstar, the artist-management firm best known for developing the live-performance career of powerhouse devotional singer SNATAM KAUR and for launching the GURUGANESHA BAND on its current coast-to-coast tour.

Wallah to Watch

In 2010, McMorrow signed on with White Swan Records, which released two of her CDs (Ameya and Love Abounds) that same year, and has taken residence as one of the label’s “featured artists.”  She wowed the Bhakti Fest crowd last September on the Hanuman Stage and was The Bhakti Beat’s pick for “Most Ready for Main Stage” in our Bhakti Fest wrap-up.  This, my friends, is a Wallah to Watch.

If you’ve ever chanted with Brenda McMorrow, you know what all the fuss is about.  She has a style and presence that come from deep within, a warm, down-to-earth personality that makes you feel instantly welcome, and an infectious joyfulness that veritably bubbles over when she sings — just try not to be happy chanting with this deva!  And have you seen her wail on that acoustic guitar?  There’s some serious finger-bleeding pickin’ going on there.  See for yourself in this luscious, 14-minute long Jai Ma chant from her performance at a sacred music festival in Vermont last fall.  It starts out slow and prayerful, like a good chant should, and builds to a rockin’ and rollickin’ climax of divine Ma energy from the bhakti world’s own Divine Miss M.


Brenda McMorrow’s 2012 Tour Schedule & Ticket Information

Brenda McMorrow’s Website

Brenda McMorrow band page on Facebook

Video: The Bhakti Yoga Practice of Kirtan with Brenda McMorrow


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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Mar. 23-25


What’s ahead: Covered in colors in the Utah desert with Jai Uttal, Larisa Stow, Mayapuris and Kirtaniyas (!), bhav in the Bayou with Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band, the GuruGanesha Band takes off, Girish takes his bhav to the Northeast and the Kirtaniyas take theirs coast-to-coast.

If you like the weekend bhav blog, please share it with your peeps.  We love you for it!

Five for the Bhav: Weekend Picks

Wallahs Gone Wild?

Photo from www.larisastow.com

We dream of being covered in colors and bathed in the bhav at the Holi Festival of Colors.  At the Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, they put on the biggest Holi splash in North American — an estimated 60,000 people went to last year’s fest!  Seriously, this is on our bucket list, and we’re trying not to whine too much about not being there right now.  (whimper)  Just look at the headliner line-up this year:  LARISA STOW & SHAKTI TRIBE (returning for the second year, with KIMO ESTORES, RICHARD HARDY and BENJ CLARK); JAI UTTAL, who will be joined by MARK GORMAN, BEN LEINBACH, RICHARD HARDY and others; the MAYAPURIS (VISVAMBHAR SHETH, VRINDA DEVI SHETH, BALI RICO and KRISHNA KISHORE), and, fresh from a European tour, the KIRTANIYAS (VIJAY KRISNHA, SARASVATI NUGENT, RASIKA COVIN, and NITAI PREM).  If someone said, pick your dream team of wallahs who won’t fail to shake the shakti of 50,000+ blissed-out bhaktas (or bhaktas for the day at least) drenched in brilliant chalk dust and singing praise to Krishna in the Utah desert, these four would be on the list, wouldn’t you agree?  Holi Fest is all day Saturday and Sunday; also on the schedule are TK AND NAM RAK, JAI KRISHNA and ANANDA GROOVE.  Click here for the full schedule and details on the event.  And check out this rockin’ video from Shakti Tribe at last year’s fest.

Bhav in the Bayou

From the desert to the bayou, sacred music takes over the City of Jazz this weekend with the first New Orleans Sacred Music Festival, happening Saturday and Sunday at the New Orleans Healing Center.  Hometown heroes SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND (aka GWENDOLYN COLMAN and ALVIN YOUNG) will be bringing the bhav to this party, which is cosponsored by The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival and features music from a wide range of devotional traditions.   Sean & the Band are celebrating the release of a brand new music video featuring their latest original song, Unity, which seamlessly blends Rumi poetry, the ancient Sanskrit chant Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu and Sean’s original lyrics around the “unity” theme.  Check out the exclusive premiere of the video on YogaJournal here, which accompanies an article Sean wrote for the magazine’s next print issue on yoga and creativity.  Looking forward to that one!

GuruGanesha Takes Off

Photo from GuruGanesha on Facebook

It’s been all the buzz for months and the raves are pouring in from the GURUGANESHA BAND’s debut-tour openers in SoCal last weekend.  This weekend the band heads north for two shows in Santa Rosa (Friday and Saturday) with KARNAMRITA DASI joining in, and San Francisco on Sunday.  Then it’s on to Santa Cruz 3/28), Berkeley (3/30) and several dates in Oregon and British Columbia before the West Coast leg of this national tour culminates at SAT NAM FEST April 12-14 in Joshua Tree, Calif.  East Coast dates have just been announced; see the full schedule here.  The GuruGanesha Band, the latest project of GuruGanesha Singh, the prolific producer, guitarist, singer/songwriter and founder of Spirit Voyage Records, represents “something new, in that it’s bringing a guitar band sound into the world devotional music arena,” GuruGanesha says on his Web site.  The band includes DANIEL PAUL, MICHELLE HURTADO, HANS CHRISTIAN, SAT KARTAR SINGH and GURUSANGAT SINGH, and from what we’ve heard, they jam.  Here’s a sweet Wahe Guru/Hallelujah medley and more just posted from their show at Naam Yoga, Santa Monica last weekend, where TINA MALIA, ASH RUIZ and THOMAS BARQUEE joined in the fun.

Kirtaniyas Take the USA

Holi Fest in Utah marks the blast-off of a coast-to-coast tour for the KIRTANIYAS, a foursome of young Krishna devotees (VIJAY KRSNA, SARASVATI NUGENT, RASIKA COVIN, NITAI PREMO) who are fresh from a European tour celebrating the release of their latest CD, Heart and Soul.  We first saw this band at Bhakti Fest 2010; they came onto the main stage at some past-midnight hour when most fest-goers had gone to bed and the rest of us were intermittently dozing on the lawn, bundled up against the chilly night.  Well believe us, when these kirtan kids took the stage, the place warmed up fast — and all napping ceased.  They rocked us out of our blankets and had everyone boogying to their bhakti beats the whole rockin’ set.  A series of California tour dates starts 3/30 in San Francisco, with special guest PRAJNA VIEIRA.  The band hits New York City in April, and more East Coast dates are expected.  Go see them live, wherever you can.

Girish Grooves the Northeast

Photo by Lauren Rutten Photography

East Coasters don’t get enough of GIRISH, the NoCal-based master musician long revered for his tabla playing alongside the likes of KRISHNA DAS, DONNA DE LORY and countless others and now firmly planted amidst the Wallahs to Watch short list.  This weekend he hits New Jersey and New York with a series of concerts and live-music yoga classes.  Fresh off the release of his latest CD, Girish Remixed (which came just over a year after the brilliant Diamonds in the Sun), Girish has been touring incessently.  He’s just back from Alaska (yes, Alaska) and is immediately heading back to California for more gigs closer to home, culminating in Shakti Fest May 11-13 in Joshua Tree.  Take a look at his whole schedule, which is booked right through November — this man is everywhere!  Go go Girish.


That’s our Five for the Bhav for this weekend.  Where will you be chanting?



Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Mar. 16-18


There’s a hometown vibe in much of the country this weekend.  David Newman releases STARS in his home ‘hood, Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda take their Altar of Love on the road, Irene Solea gets a home-studio welcome in Boston, Devadas sings for Amma in NYC, DC showcases home-cooked community kirtan, and Saul David Raye brings the bhav to your own home with Tele-Satsangh.  Here are our highlights for the Weekend Bhav.

David Newman Stars Party; Philadelphia (3/16)

DAVID NEWMAN celebrates his newest offering, Stars, with a CD release party in his home hood of Philadelphia, at the Tin Angel Friday 3/16.  David, aka DURGA DAS, talked about the making of the CD — his first since the birth of his daughter Tulsi and the first for the White Swan label — on GARY GOLDBERG’s In The Spirit radio show Thursday, offering commentary on each track’s genesis.  The song “We Are What We Are” is one of his favorites on the disc, he said:  “It came through to me right before the 11/11 shift…Recording it was really a magical moment for me.”  There are other magic moments on this record as well, like “Tulsi’s Bliss (Maha Mantra),” where the bhakti baby herself makes her recording debut with a gurgling girl giggle at its opening (did she say Rama?).  All around, a beautiful new recording that showcases David’s lyrical poeticism and singer-songwriter prowess, seamlessly melded with ancient chants.  Get Stars here.

Jaya Lakshmi, Altar of Love; Santa Cruz (3/16-18)

Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda (photo from JayaLakshmi.net)

All I can say about this weekend workshop series is wow!  Just look at this line-up with JAYA LAKSHMI and ANANDA:  Sacred Music Kirtan Friday night; Kirtronica Ecstatic Dance Saturday night, plus workshops on Couples Yoga, Bhakti Yoga/Kirtan, Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, and a Cacao Ceremony.  Yes, cacao, but not just any chocolate, mind you.  This will involve “a very special type that a cacao shaman selected personally for its energetic qualities.”  Jaya has been a pioneer in the fusion of live Sanskrit chanting with electronica dance beats, a musical hybrid that is growing coast to coast beyond its roots in conscious dance parties for urban hipsters.  She’s taking her brand of kirtronica on the road for the next two months, leading up to a Friday night set at BHAKTI FEST, right after JAI UTTAL plays.   Check out the description on the Altar of Love Weekend Immersion (even if you can’t get to Santa Cruz). At DiviniTree Yoga & Arts Studio and the Pacific Cultural Center in Santa Cruz.

Irene Solea, Boston (3/16)

If you’re anywhere near Boston, the place to be Friday night is with IRENE SOLEA at her “kirtan homebase,” South Boston Yoga.  Boston bhaktas are stoked.  Irene will be joined by EZRA LANDIS (guitar), OWEN LANDIS (drums), DANNY SOLOMON (keys/bass), McKENNA LONGACRE (cello), special guests KULA KULA, plus “another surprise guest or two,” Irene says in her invite with a 🙂  hmmmm…

Devadas, Integral Yoga Institute, NYC (3/17)

Devadas (photo from Nina Rao Chant)

NYC’s DEVADAS has been busy!  Prepping for a West Coast mini-tour next weekend, producing NINA RAO’s upcoming debut CD, recording with the Brooklyn Yoga School’s upcoming live CD, and planning a “duo tour” with ANJULA PRASAD.  Amidst all that (plus a night job as a graphic designer and a young daughter, btw), he manages to still keep the devi bhava flowing in his regular hometown chanting spots in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  How does he do all that?  “I don’t sleep much,” he told us in an interview recently.  A devotee of Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), Devadas offers up his heart to his beloved guru with every song.  He’ll be at Integral Yoga Friday 3/16 , joined by TERRENCE POMPEY on dholak and SUNDAR DAS on bansuri flutes.

DC Region Community Kirtan (3/17)

Let’s hear it for community kirtan in the country’s capital region — we could use all the good vibes we can get flowing down there, right?  Thankfully, the bhakti love vibrations are plentiful, including a double-dose of home-cooked kirtan this Saturday 3/17.  First, there’s KIRTAN CIRCLE at Sun & Moon Yoga in Arlington, Va., with RAIMA LARTER & friends leading BYOI kirtan (Bring-Your-Own-Instrument).  Then, DC SUPERSONIC KIRTAN takes off at Pure Prana Yoga in Alexandria, Va., described as “transcendental kirtan party that’ll rock your socks off!”  Who could resist that?  Socks optional, I think.

Saul David Raye, Tele-Satsangh (3/19)

Available right from your own hOMe, the next best thing to being live with SAUL DAVID RAYE is the Spring Equinox 2012 Soul Family Tele-Satsangh, the latest in a series of worldwide teleconferences with one of yoga’s most beloved bhaktas.  On Monday 3/19, the eve of the Spring equinox, Saul and special guest Astrologer DIVINE HARMONY offer wisdom, meditation, sacred chants and astrological insight amidst the healing, connecting power of sangha.  This donation-based event is open to all; find out how to join here.


Photo from Saul David Raye


More Hometown Bhav

Cali Callers

In the Bay area of Northern California, BHAKTI RASA KIRTAN, Pleasanton, Calif.’s “very own original home-grown kirtan band,” will be in residence at Downtown Yoga Saturday 3/17 for the studio’s 10-year birthday bash, an open house that includes food, raffles, prizes, demonstrations, and meet-the-teacher opps.  Bhakti Rasa Kirtan is ANDY & MARIA ALLEN, JIM COUGHLIN, SANDY CARMELLINI, plus “a special guest tabla player.”

Down the California coast in Santa Monica, another birthday bash: this one for GOVINDAS, one half of GOVINDAS & RADHE, in the studio he co-founded, Bhakti Yoga Shala, aka Ground Zero for SoCal bhav.  This event was just announced publicly, but we have a feeling the word is out and the bhakti brothers and sisters will be out in force to sing “appearance-day” praises to the much-loved yogi on his 41st birthday.  The Shala-shaking starts at 9.

Northeast Notes

Back East, Boston welcomes New York-based BHAKTI BAND to the MIT Center in Cambridge Saturday 3/17, reportedly the first time the group is playing in Beantown. Bhakti Band musicians “fuse their diverse backgrounds in rock, soul, world and jazz music with their love for meditation and yoga to bring expression to this beautiful form of meditative singing” and have played at New York City’s Town Hall and Lincoln Center, the United Nations, and Jakkur Airfield in Bangalore, India, in front of a crowd of millions.  Sounds like a can’t-miss to us.

In Portland, Maine, we can’t not mention this little band of bhaktas who are making some big noise in New England kirtan circles.  The SHIVA LILA BAND is back in its home ‘hood (back to that theme) with what is certain to be a high-vibe, raise-the-roof kirtan at Sadhana Meditation Center in S. Portland.

And in Framingham, Mass., there’s Home Kirtan with JAISHREE & THE PREMA BHAKTI BAND on Sunday 3/18, hosted by Alan Krentzel.  Vegan Potluck dinner follows chanting; RSVP’s are requested.

In Mount Kisco, NY, SATYA FRANCHE returns for her monthly chant night at the U.U. Coffee House on Saturday 3/17 for an evening of MA KIRTAN and “maybe even some green prasad, and Gaelic sounds” in honor of St. Patrick.


Where’s your bhav this weekend?




Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Feb. 24-26


It’s a “Wallahs-to-Watch” kind of weekend:  Five rising chant artists — Gina Sala, Irene Solea, Prajna Vieira, Larisa Stow, and Eddy Nataraj — lead the bhav this weekend coast to coast.  Plus, the party of the decade at Exhale Venice; Sean Johnson immerses NOLA in bhav; Bodhi Fest brings Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer and Deva Premal & Miten to Australia, and Brenda McMorrow sings in Estonia.  Yes, Estonia.

Best of the Weekend Bhav

Gina Sala, Prajna Vieira

GINA SALÁ plays in her home ‘hood of Seattle for Singing Satsang at Samadhi Yoga Friday night. Sala, who was introduced at Bhakti Fest 2010 as “the best kirtan artist you’ve never heard of,” facilitates “wholeness through voice” as a vocalist, teacher, composer and sound healer. She began chanting at age 3, living in a Hindu ashram in Canada. Today her music blends original lyrics and compositions with traditional chants from Hindu, African and Tibetan cultures, among others. If you can’t be in Seattle Friday, how about joining Gina in Mexico in March? Her Ocean of Devotion Sound & Wellness retreat holds court in Yelapa, a boatride away from Puerto Vallarta, March 17-24. (Use the code on the link to save $75, for friends of Sarah “Bhakti Babe” Garney.)

Irene Solea, Om Trinity

IRENE SOLEA, a favorite throughout the Northeast, takes her bhav West to Colorado this weekend for a series of events starting with the popular FRIDAY NIGHT YOGA CLUB in Denver 2/24, where she’ll play for yoga with JEREMY WOLF and ASIANA HARPER before kirtan.  Irene will be joined by Colorado kirtaniyas DAKINA MA JAEGER, JIM BECKWITH and DAMAN GROSSMAN.  Saturday morning, there’s more live-music yoga with Irene at Karma Yoga in Denver, and on Saturday night Irene is joined by local wallah MIRA GALE for an evening of devotional chanting at Yoga That Heals in Boulder. Word is that Irene’s new CD will debut in the spring: eight original chants set to pop/rock, Latin and reggae beats. GIRISH and JONI ALLEN are guest artists. Download a teaser track here, a luscious medley of uplifting original lyrics and Om Namah Shivaya.

Speaking of CD’s we can’t wait for, the long-awaited duet release by PRAJNA VIEIRA and BEN LEINBACH is coming soon. There’s even a date for the mandatory CD Release Party: April 20 at Rudrimandir in Berkeley, Calif.  “Amrita” represents “almost two years of hard work, love, devotion, laughter, tears and deep friendship,” Prajna said in an email. This Saturday, Prajna reunites with DONALD FONTOWITZ and RAMANA ERICKSON, aka the MUKTI KIRTAN ENSEMBLE, for a benefitconcert in Pacifica, Calif. (South Bay area) in support of Dyllan Kianna Wicks, a 2-year-old who was born with a rare heart defect and received a heart transplant a year ago. Call Ocean Yoga to pre-register: (650) 355-9642. But hurry, this event is likely to sell out.

Larisa Stow, Bhakti Fest 2011

LARISA STOW & SHAKTI TRIBE continue their quest to transform the world, one soul at a time, with love and mantra rock. Described by the Tribe as a “raise-the-roof celebration of unity-in-community,” Soul Transformation hits the Orange Coast U.U. in Costa Mesa, Calif. on Saturday 2/25. The Love Fest continues in Temecula, Calif., where the Tribe will be rocking the mantras at Living Yoga Sunday night 2/26.
And, on Sunday morning — we love this! — Larisa & Tribe are performing for Reverend Pat Campbell’s services at the Center For Spiritual Living in Temecula Valley. Sunday service with Larisa Stow?  Wish my parents had taken us to that kind of church…

Eddy Nataraj, 700 Voices

Returning to the theme of “best kirtan artists you’ve never heard of,” have you heard EDDY NATARAJ? We caught up with him last Spring at 700 Voices in Connecticut, where he “opened” for DAVID NEWMAN and SNATAM KAUR, and thought he pretty much blew everyone away with his phenomenal Spanish gypsy guitar-strumming and soulful vocals melding Spanish, English and Sanskrit.  On Saturday 2/25, Eddy will be singing at Dharma Yoga of Central CT in Meriden, Conn., so if you’re in the Northeast, go see him.  You will not be disappointed.  (Next week he’ll join up with BARRY RACCIO for Bhakti Shakti, a kundalini yoga workshop and kirtan in New Haven.)  How does he do all that with a brand new baby?

Those are 5 Wallahs to Watch this weekend.  Lots more below…


More of the Bhav

Yoga Bash of the Decade?  Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., is celebrating 10 years as a mecca for SoCal yogis with a birthday bash Saturday 2/25 featuring a live music all-star jam and dance party with SAUL DAVID RAYE and the RED MUSETTE ENSEMBLE (aka MICHELINE BERRY, DJ DREZ, JOEY LUGASSY, DEEPAK RAMAPRIYAN, CARLOS TORRES, YEHOSHUA BRILL and others to be announced.  Music is from 8-10 p.m. (apparently there’s a curfew), and there’s YOGA WITH SHIVA REA & FRIENDS from 5-7 p.m.  Oh, and it’s all FREE.  Beam me there Scotty.

Gwendolyn Colman, Sean Johnson

Show Us Your Chants: Trade in the Mardi Gras beads for a mala, and join SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND as they kick off their BHAKTImmersion retreat in New Orleans this weekend . The 8-day intensive starts with a full-on kirtan celebration in their home ‘hood on Saturday 2/25, and fills the week with ecstatic interactive chanting, dancing, storytelling, mythology, “bhaktiful asana practice” with live music, journaling, and love poetry from the Bhakti tradition. Sounds better than Mardi Gras, doesn’t it?

Gone Down Under: The Aussies’ itch for kirtan is being scratched this weekend with BODHI FESTIVAL in Newcastle, Australia, which claims to have “the finest kirtan (devotional) musical line-up ever seen in Australia.” U.S. headliners DEVA PREMAL & MITEN are ending their Australia tour there; DAVE STRINGER is beginning his there, and JAI UTTAL is…flying out for the weekend. (He’ll be joined by the Queen of Hearts Orchestra Oz.) Plus dozens of other artists, yoga and meditation teachers, and inspirational speakers. And get this: admission is by donation, a policy the festival’s spiritual director, Shakti Durga, said “liberates us to
dance together in truth and deep harmony.” This is a trend we’d like to see spread to the U.S., wouldn’t you?

Kirtan College Connection: So, maybe we missed something, but Estonia wasn’t at the top of our list for bhakti hot-spots. In fact it wasn’t even on the list. Well, guess what? Kirtan’s thriving there too, and thanks to a connection made at one of DAVID NEWMAN’S Kirtan Colleges, BRENDA McMORROW is in the former Eastern bloc country for two workshops and concerts in the capital, Tallin, and in Tartu. Palju õnne Brenda!  Meanwhile, DAVID NEWMAN is busy creating more connections: his first 2012 Kirtan College is going on right now at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida, and KC students will be showcasing their talents at a free public concert Friday 2/24 at the ashram.  More Kirtan Colleges with David coming up in greater Toronto (April 27-29) and Satchidananda Ashram in Yogaville, Va. (September 27-30).

Northeast Region

Bhav in Brooklyn: In New York City, AMBIKA COOPER holds space at the Brooklyn Yoga School Friday 2/24 for the ongoing Friday Night Kirtan series that features a rotating cast of bhaktas. Stay tuned for the live CD recorded Feb 10 at BYS featuring Ambika and the rest of the Brooklyn bhavsters (e.g., NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, JEREMY & LILY CUSHMAN FRINDEL) singing the Hanuman Chalisa.

Helping Hands in Harlem: ANJULA PRASAD sings at Interfaith Chanting for Forgiveness, a benefit on Sunday 2/26 at the Harlem Holistic Center that will raise money for Def Dance Jam Workshop, a Harlem-based non-profit performing arts troupe and academic program serving deaf, hearing and physically or  developmentally challenged youths and their families.  Anjual tells us she’s got not one, but TWO new CD’s in the works.  Her current CD, “Anjula,” is available here.

Calling All Wallah Wannabe’s: It’s open-mic kirtan night for the BOSTON KIRTAN & SATSANG gang, who gather monthly at Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Mass. for “kirtan for the people, by the people.” JOHN CALABRIA starts off the chanting, then passes the mic to any wallah wannabe’s or budding musicians trying out their tunes. But if you’re like me and would rather have a root canal than lead kirtan, just soaking in the bhav is also permitted.

Sundays in the Sanctuary with Dave:  In Northamptom, Mass., DAVE RUSSELL leads weekly Sunday night kirtan sessions at the Yoga Sanctuary.  Dave’s been chanting for like 40 years, and going strong.  Check out his schedule for deets on the Sundays in the Sanctuary and lots of other gigs throughout the Northeast.

Left Coast

Wah! Bhakti Fest

Wah! for MA: In Los Angeles (Granada Hills), WAH! is leading kirtan at the “Day of Healing,” a day-long conscious living expo to help launch the MA center in L.A.  Wah! sings for Amma at 1 p.m.  Her new album, Loops n Grooves is now out!

Psalms to Ma: In Santa Monica, PSALM ISADORA is back from India and back at Bhakti Yoga Shala for Jai Shakti Ma: The Power of Devotion. The workshop, described as a “celebration of the Mother through prayer and devotion,” includes chanting, ecsatic dance to open the heart, and a Tantric Goddess Ritual to awaken grace.   Jai Ma.

Dance Divine:  In the Bay Area, the now-weekly DEVOTION DANCE at Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley, Calif. starts Saturday at 7 with an hour of kirtan led by STEPHANIE WINN and SHARAN PAL (tabla).  Devotional DJ Dance Party with DJ OSHAN ANAND rocks till 11.

Sacred in Sacramento: MARTI WALKER is presenting Nada Yoga: Mantras and More Made Easy at Rise Yoga in Sacramento, an experiential workshop where students will learn basic concepts and practical uses of four primary aspects of Nada Yoga: Vedic and tantric mantras, kirtan/bhajans, and pranayama sound techniques.

DC and South

Ten Years and Counting:  That’s how long SACRED CHANTS KIRTAN has been bringing together chanters in the D.C. and Maryland area, and they’re at it again this Saturday 2/25 in Columbia, Md.  And on Sunday 2/26, BE Yoga in Sterling, Va., is hosting a vegetarian pot-luck and community kirtan at the studio’s backyard Yurt.  Eating starts at 4:30 p.m., singing at 6.

Texas Tunes:  More Wallahs to Watch:  The BHAKTI HOUSE BAND, fresh from a gig at the Texas Yoga Conference last weekend (along with DAVID NEWMAN, SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND, and SUZANNE STERLING & THE DESERT DWELLERS), is right back at it with “an evening of sacred sound and devotion sharing the practice of Nada Bhakti Yoga through a very east-meets-west sound in music.” Friday 2/24 at Aledo Yoga, outside Fort Worth.

Mountain Time

Colorado Crooners:  In addition to the IRENE SOLEA tour in Denver and Boulder, TOM FUHRMAN is hosting an all-Shiva night of community kirtan on Saturday 2/25 at his home in Littleton, Colo.  More details at the Colorado Kirtan facebook page — a great source for all things kirtan in Colorado.

Arizona Energizers:  Local band the KIRTAN WALLAHS are leading ecstatic-chant call-and-response at the Yoga Shala in Prescott, Ariz. Saturday 2/25.

If you made it this far, comment here and tell me which of these events you’d like to be beamed to. One person will be randomly chosen to get their choice of the 3 new CDs mentioned.

Don’t forget to send events to bpatoine@aol.com, post them to The Bhakti Beat’s Facebook page., or Tweet us!







Where’s the Bhav? Maha Shivaratri 2012


Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is upon us.  Said to be one of the most sacred and auspicious nights on the Yogic calendar, Maha Shivaratri honors Lord Shiva, one of the three energies of the Hindu trinity (the trimurti).  Of all the Hindu dieties, Shiva’s pretty intense.  He’s the  “god of yogis,” both creator and destroyer,  timeless, formless, nameless.  Shiva is consciousness and bliss.  He wears a cobra for a necklace.  And he really likes kirtan.

Maha Shivaratri can be intense too.  It’s traditionally celebrated with a series of elaborate pujas (sacred ceremonies) that pay homage to Shiva (in the form of linga) with offerings of flowers and incense, baths of milk and honey, and non-stop kirtan that goes all night.  The ritual culminates in the marriage of Shiva and Parvati (Shakti), which is symbolic of the union of consciousness and matter — the dance of universal creation.  As dawn breaks and a new moon rises, a sumptious feast of prasad is shared as a final offering to Shiva.

Wait a Minute, Did You Say Linga?

In case my Dad is reading this (unlikely), or anyone who is new to Hindu culture or Maha Shivaratri, I know what you may be thinking.  Ritualistic worship of linga?  Bathing them in milk and honey?  Marriage, union and creation?  Some people go right to the gutter with this, like there’s some kind of cultish sex worship going on (not to be confused with the cultish sex worship allegedly going on in the Anusara kula).

Indeed, a friend once described a Shivaratri event he attended in Colorado as “beautiful young women pouring yogurt over a huge stone phallus.” Huh?  At the time, I had just registered for a Krishna Das retreat at Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas and had decided to extend my stay to experience Shivaratri at the ashram.  Frankly, I knew little about the significance of the night; I just saw “all-night chanting” and signed up.  My friend’s description of his experience made me wonder what I had gotten myself into…

Samadhi By Sunrise?

Shivalingam puja at Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas.  March 2009

I can assure you that there wasn’t anything remotely sex-cultish about the Sivananda celebration.  It was sacred, beautiful, and profoundly moving.  As my first introduction to a “real” puja — performed by a bona fide Tantric priest from South India in the ashram’s little open-air temple — it made an impression on me.  If felt authentic.  And powerful.

The legends surrounding the significance and power of Shivaratri as a holy night for spiritual purification and rebirth are many.  It is said that those who please Shiva on this night, worshiping him in accordance with the rituals set forth in Hindu scripture, will be freed from all past sins, dwell with Shiva in enlightened bliss and be blessed with moksha, liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Freedom from past sins? Dwell in enlightened bliss? Who doesn’t want that?

I don’t know if that’s all possible, but it makes for good story-telling.  And when it’s 5 a.m. and you’ve been chanting every incarnation of Om Namah Shivaya for eight hours straight and haven’t eaten or slept for 20 hours but somehow are feeling incredibly clear and energized and ready to jump right onto the “shiva train” that is about to slither its way through the ashram grounds in a joy-filled chant-along version of the dorky wedding chain-dance, you might even start to believe it.

Where’s the Shiva Bhav?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

India would be a good place to start.  Just about anywhere there will do, neighborhood Shiva temple or home puja.  Or, you could celebrate with SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR, (NOT the sitar maestro; the founder of the International Art of Living Foundation), who will be leading the festivities at his organization’s headquarters in Bangalore.  If you can’t be there, you can still be there (sort of) through the magic of LIVESTREAM.  The broadcast starts Saturday 2/18 at 8 a.m. EST (6:30 p.m. IST).

Sivananda Yoga Ashram (Paradise Island, Bahamas) continues their annual Maha Shivaratri tradition with pujas throughout the night by Ashram priest Krishnan Namboodiri and continuous Shiva chants from dusk until dawn led by senior staff.  The prasadam buffet served at dawn is a feast fit for Lord Shiva himself.  Festivities begin Monday night, 2/20 (the astrologically correct day of observance).  Here’s a sliver of the festivities from last year:

Sivananda has a worldwide network of ashrams, and many others will be marking Shivaratri as well.  At the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Marina Del Rey, Calif., festivities and chanting begins at 9 p.m. Monday 2/20.  And at its Hollywood and Santa Barbara locations, the Vedanta Society of Southern California hosts celebrations Monday 2/20 beginning at 6 p.m. till 1:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively.  These are described as traditional fests marked by fasting, meditating, praying and singing to Shiva. (Hat tip to Joni Yung, deva of yoga events tracking in L.A., for posting these.)

In Venice, at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, superstar yogi SHIVA REA is joining forces with superstar kirtaniya DAVE STRINGER for what I’m guessing will be a somewhat UNtraditional initiation to the auspicious period surrounding Shivatri.   The event starts with “body mala-based yoga” led by Shiva (all levels) and ends with ecstatic kirtan.  Sunday 2/19, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.   (If you can’t make it to LaLa Land, you can join a free Shiva meditation led by SHIVA REA via teleconference on Monday 2/20.) Also on Sunday at Exhale Venice, SAUL DAVID RAYE presents Shiva Nataraj, the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, an immersion in Shiva teachings and practices that includes Shiva mantras, meditation, kirtan and a flowing asana/pranyama/mudra practice.  1 p.m. to 4:30 Sunday 2/19.

Way up the coast in San Francisco, CHRISTOPHER “HAREESH” WALLIS will lead Shiva-focused satsang, kirtan and storytelling at The Center SF, Friday 2/17 beginning at 9:30 p.m.

The Shiva bhav starts flowing early in Colorado too.  At Boulder’s Studio Be, Colorado’s vibrant kirtan community joins up for ecstatic chanting and shivalingam puja with BHAKTI SHAKTI, Friday 2/17, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In New York City, the place to be for Maha Shivaratri is the Broome Street Temple, which kicks off the celebration Saturday 2/18 (4-10 p.m.) with a SIX-HOUR KIRTAN (part of the Bhakti Center’s monthly chant marathons) featuring SRIKALA KEREL ROACH, ACYUTA GOPI, ANANTA GOVINDA, special guest RAGHUNATH and others .  Festivities continue Sunday, 2/19 (8 p.m.) with an all-night puja consisting of a series of abhishekas, or ritual baths of the shiva linga.  Kirtan will be provided all through the night by NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, AMBIKA COOPER, JEREMY & LILY FRINDEL, and other special guests.

Ananda Ashram in Monroe, N.Y., about an hour north of NYC, will mark its fifth annual Maha Shivaratri All-Night Music & Dance Celebration from 9 p.m. Saturday 2/18 to sunrise Sunday.  DEEPAK KUMAR PAREEK has organized a “Concert for Positive Change” with a line-up of musicians including NAREN BUDHAKER (tabla), KEDAR NAPHADE (harmonium), ANDREA BRACHFELD (flute), KRISHNA DEVI (leading kirtan), MITALI BHAWMIK (vocals), AMIRA DVORAH (bansuri flute), INDRAJIT ROY-CHOWDHURY (sitar), STEVE GORN (bansuri flute), SHEETAL KARHADE (vocals), SRI KALIMA (dance), AQUEEL BHATTI (tabla), and DAVID KEEN (violin).

Not to be outdone by New York or L.A., the little Hridaya Hermitage in Industry, Maine will be marking the occasion with an open forum on the meaning of life, from the yogic perspective.  The 5-hour program on Sunday 2/19 includes bhajans from the Hermitage’s high-energy house band SHIVA LILA, shivalingam puja and dinner, concluding with an intention-setting ceremony to alleviate suffering in the world.

Where are you getting your Shiva Bhav this weekend?


Learn More About Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri: Celebrating Lord Shiva.  Glimpses of Divinity

Maha Shivaratri Significance (a secular overview from the India tourist board)

Who is Shiva? (from the Chopra Center, Archetype Series)

Shiva Linga and Its Significance (from Rudraksha-Ratna)

Maha Shivaratri Puja Overview & Shiva Symbolism

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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? February 3-5


What’s Ahead: Jai Uttal gets silly with kids kirtan; David Newman pairs up with Girish; the vibe gets high in NYC, and Dave Russell goes head to head with Tom Brady in Northampton, Mass.  Community kirtans shine everywhere.

Best of the Weekend Bhav

Stillness and Silliness with Jai Uttal

We’re loving this trend of kids’ kirtans , and JAI UTTAL, with his effervescent playfulness and not-gonna’-grow-up nature, strikes us as the perfect artist to run with it.  This Sunday, 2/5 (1-3 p.m.) at the Open Secret Bookstore in San Rafael, Calif., Jai Uttal is having a birth bash — an official CD release party that is — for his Kirtan Kids CD.  Have you heard this?  Kids or not, you can’t help but sing along with the child-friendly chants and listen raptly to Jai’s retelling of classic stories about Krishna, Ganesha and Hanuman.  Joining Jai for the jam will be BEN LEINBACH, who co-produced the kids CD, and PRAJNA VIEIRA, Jai’s long-time vocal accompaniment.  All parents are asked to remain in their cars.  Or maybe that was a joke…

Before he gets silly with the little ones, you might another side of Jai at a chanting and meditation workshop with Deborah Chamberlin-Taylor called Entering the Still and Boundless Heart.  Saturday, 2/4 in Woodacre, Calif.  We’ve never seen Jai Uttal sit still for long, but his boundless heart is always on display.  Sorry kids, this one’s for grown-ups.

Shakti Flows North: David, Mira, Girish & Philippo Franchini

Apparently Northern California is the place to be this weekend. (Now where’s that transporter when I need it?)  DAVID NEWMAN and MIRA are teaming up with PHILIPPO FRANCHINI and GIRISH for two dates: Friday, 2/3 in San Francisco at St. Cyprian’s Church, and Saturday, 2/4 for the Shakti Music Fest in Santa Cruz, to raise funds for Santa Cruz schools.  They were all together at Bhakti Fest last fall (above), and it was sublime.  Beam me there, Scotty.

High Vibe Dance Party Bliss-Out in NYC

This is the latest in an ongoing series of music-dance-chant events put together by a tribe of conscious hipsters in New York, and they seem to just keep getting better.  The line-up for this shakti-shaking gathering of the tribe includes LOTS of pump-up-the-vibe music — live and spun — plus drumming, sacred songs, and, oh yeah, kirtan, with SRIKALOGY, JESSE JOHNSON, ALOKANANDA and more.  Do you know about SriKalogy?  SriKala Kerel Roach is a singer/musician/turntablist who is fusing traditional Sanskrit chants with hip-hop riffs and dubstep beats to take chanting in a whole new direction.  A new CD, “Kirtan Sessions: Vol. 1” will release this month, and you can get a teaser track for free right now.  (You’ll want to.) For a taste of what can be expected this weekend, check this:

 Superbowl Kirtan?  Yeah!

We love this so much we couldn’t possibly NOT highlight it:  DAVE RUSSELL, the Massachusetts-based bhakta who’s been spreading his kirtan love all around the Northeast for like 40 years, isn’t going to stop for some silly football game.  Oh wait, it’s the Patriots vs. the Giants… Never mind, the chanting at this gathering in Northampton Sunday, 2/5 will be directed at a divine force even greater than Tom Brady.  It’s Dave’s fifth annual Superbowl Kirtan, and it’s happening at Yoga Sanctuary, 150 Main St., Northampton, Mass., at 7 p.m.

The Rest of the Weekend Bhav

New England Leads

Back to Northampton, Mass. Who knew it was a hotbed of bhakti?  Well, Dave Russell does, apparently (he’s competing with Tom Brady on Super Bowl Sunday in Massachusetts after all).  So does ADAM BAUER.  The ubiquitous bass player to so many wallahs will be singing in his home ‘hood at a kirtan and Bombay Beats electro dance party Saturday, 2/4.  Set the vibe high with Adam’s call-and-response, then let it flow into ecstatic dance with DJ’s Ravinhead & Brando spinning Indian and Middle Eastern electro-grooves.

In Cambridge, TOM LENA’s Kitchari Kirtan is back this Friday, 2/3, offering “homemade kitchari (a vegetarian rice and beans dish from India), chai tea, and chanting by the fire.”

In Boston, a ‎6-Hour Kirtan at ISKCON Boston (72 Commonwealth Ave.) on Sunday 2/5 will celebrate the appearance of Lord Nityananda, a Vaishnava saint and disciple of bhakti pioneer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.  RAMA RAYA DASA from Vrindavan, India and several others will be leading chants.  Kirtan from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., followed by special Sunday Feast (free).

In Ayer, Mass., NE of Boston, you can lead the chants at Open Mic Kirtan Songs of Peace at the Wholesome Cafe & Bookstore, where the bhav will be flowing in the back room and the kitchen will be open for snacks.

In Ridgefield, Conn., SATYA FRANCHE & MA KIRTAN will lead their monthly kirtan at Touch of Sedona, Friday, 2/3, 7 p.m.

New York City Resonates

In addition to the HIGH-VIBE DANCE PARTY on Saturday (see Best of the Bhav, above), the Broome Street Temple (430 Broome St.) will be resonating with sacred sounds from NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SUNDAR DAS and TERRENCE for the regular first-Friday kirtan, 2/3 at 7 p.m.  (Hold the date for Maha Sivaratri weekend at the temple Feb. 18-20, which includes a 6-hour kirtan and all-night Shiva puja.)

New York’s Bhakti Center (25 First Ave.) will honor Nityananda’s appearance day with a festival featuring bhajans and darshan, teachings on Nityananda, and a feast, all Sunday, 2/5, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The South: Community Kirtan Lives 

Community kirtan is alive and well in the South!  In Columbia, Md., Rufus Juskus leads SACRED CHANTS KIRTAN at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center again this Friday 2/3, part of a long-standing community kirtan group in the DC/Bethesda area.

In Sarasota, Fla., CHERYL & TIM CHAFFEE, the forces behind the recent Rock the Bhakti festival featuring Shantala and Wah!, will be continuing the bhav with community kirtan at their yoga studio, Garden of the Heart Yoga Center Friday, 2/3.  Tim and Cheryl’s band, PALMS TOGETHER, is rumored to be putting together a CD of recordings from the festival.

And in Atlanta, BHAKTI MESSENGER will join SUNMOON PIE for an evening of kirtan and Hebrew chanting at the Selah Center on Saturday, 2/4.

Wisconsin Jams

In Hartford, Wisc., DENNIS HAWK is doubling up his chant calendar this weekend, with two Yoga Jam and Kirtan events, first for kids on Sunday afternoon, followed by a grown-up version.  If you’re in Wisconsin and like to chant, you must know Dennis Hawk, right?  Just take a look at the schedule he’s got coming up, with gigs all over the state and beyond.

Colorado Calls

Kali Kirtan in Colorado

Mountain State bhaktas should be pumped for next weekend’s Yoga Rocks the Butte with DAVE STRINGER, STEVE GOLD, GOVINDAS, JOEY LUGASSY, DJ DREZ and more.  You can win two free passes to Yoga Rocks the Butte at this week’s Kali Puja and Kirtan at Om Time Temple on Saturday, 2/4, where you’ll find Kali-invoking kirtan with VAMADASA and puja (sacred ceremony) led by ADITI DEVI.   Jai Kali Ma!

If you’re fast, you can get your chant on at Friday Night Yoga Club, Boulder, 2/3, when this weekly kula hosts “YogaKirtan Infusion” at Shine.  Kirtan led by SHANTI & SCOTT MEDINA and their band will be followed by a dance party with PAUL TEMPLE & MANTRAMATRIX, which describes itself as “a sonic kaleidoscope of chant, dance and electronic music that calls on the power of mantra to generate an energy field of Divine Bliss.” Advance tickets for this bhakti bash are sold out, but a few will be available at the door.  Hurry.

West Coast Feels Good

Want to feel good in San Diego? Join the CHAD SCOTT BANDSTEVE GOLD with his band STONED ON SHIVA, and REAL BREW for the Feel Good Festival at the Griffin, Saturday, 2/4.  The event supports the Feel Good…Music Project a non-profit effort to support at-risk youth with positive music and healthy lifestyle choices.

At San Diego’s kirtan temple, Bhakti Yoga Shala, ANDRES SALCEDO & THE BHAKTI EXPERIENCE hold the space Friday night beginning at 9 p.m., with Dhaveed Haribol Das on percussion, Emily Michelle on dolhak, and Manohar Gurung on tabla.  Shala co-founders GOVINDAS AND RADHA lead chanting Saturday night, 2/4.  And the studio almost always offers a bhakti vinyasa flow class to round out the weekend

In Los Angeles, two events with VAISESIKA DASA, a Vedic scholar and spiritual leader who has been immersed in kirtan and bhakti yoga for more than 40 years:  Friday, 2/3 at Core Power Yoga (11819 Wilshire Blvd.) for kirtan and discussion of bhakti yoga, and Saturday 2/4 at the Temple Room (3764 Watseka) for a discussion of the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu text.  Details here.

Up the coast a bit in Long Beach, LARISA STOW & SHAKTI TRIBE will be doing some Soul Transformation at a rockin’ kirtan party at Ja Yoga, Friday, 2/3.  “Come prepared to dance!” the Tribe says.  Oh yeah.

Bhav on.  Sat Nam.


Heads up Bhaktas!  We try to stay on top of what’s happening in the kirtan scene, and while we can’t cover everything, we know we’re missing great stuff that we want to write about!  Tell us!  Email us, post links on our Facebook page, or Tweet us