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Jeffrey Lidke, tabla, at Chantlanta by TheBhaktiBeat.comWatch these Wallahs…

One of the things we love about this “mantra revolution” is how many largely unsung local bands are out there doing their thing, bringing the bhav to their communities, just waiting for people to wake up to this thing called kirtan. The Unknown Bhakti Band. Of course, they’re not unknown to those in the know…but there must be thousands of them, right? Under-the-radar ensembles and Monday night quartets, each with their own unique expression of bhakti, quietly offering music and mantras for anyone who will come out and chant with them?

Chantlanta grew out of this kind of community in Atlanta and beyond.  Seven local and regional bands ended up on the “free” part of Chantlanta’s two-day line-up in the sanctuary of the Druid Hills Baptist Church, representing kirtan in a broad range of incarnations. From traditional Sufi chants to Hebrew Shabbath prayers, from Hindu scripture to contemporary Gospel, and from Paul Simon to the Beatles, Chantlanta embraced it all. 

We’re putting each one of these bands on our “Wallahs to Watch” list.  You might want to too.  Just sayin’.

This is Part 1 of 2, because…well, there were seven of them, and they each deserve attention.  And blogs aren’t supposed to be 1,600 words long. 

First up, Friday night’s line-up of Mantra Ma, Wynne Paris and Chaitanya.  Don’t miss Part 2, with Kirtan Bandits, Sunmoon Pie, Phil McWilliams and Blue Spirit Wheel. Video highlights from each artist, some still uploading…(hello, wifi?)

Mantra Ma at Chantlanta by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Mantra Ma

Mantra Ma

Mantra Ma, aka singing moms Jocelyn Rose and Shonali Banerjee from Atlanta, opened us up softly with a long, layered Ganesha chant, then graced us with Gayatri, the mother of all mantras. With Crystal Stafford on acoustic guitar and Rose on harmonium, the mood was meditative, soft and earthy, reverent and reassuring…

Chantlanta Day 1 by TheBhaktiBeat.comAt one point Banerjee invited everyone to open their palms to the sky and repeat “I am open to receive all of life’s blessings.” Communal abundance prayer…we swear it sent a ripple of energy right down our collective spine.

Chaitanya at Chantlanta Day 1 by TheBhaktiBeat.com

They closed with Asato Ma Sadgamaya in a slow build (watch it here).  This is a Sanskrit prayer from the Upanishads (Hindu scriptures) which translates to: “Lead me from the unreal to the real/Lead from the darkness to the light/Lead me from death to immortality/Let there be peace peace and peacefulness.”  It was the perfect punctuation mark to a powerful set of mantras, delivered with vocal finesse and a mother’s grace. (And we loved how Banerjee’s two young children raced to the stage at the end to give their mom a group hug.)
 

Wynne Paris

Wynne Paris at Chantlanta, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Wynne Paris

Worldbeat troubadour Wynne Paris from Florida can hardly be considered unknown — more like a musician’s musician.  He’s played with, well just about everybody (quite a few of them made it onto Groovananda, his latest CD).  He had his own set on the main stage at Bhakti Fest last year.  (What? You missed that 4 a.m. set?) We were there, and it was worth staying up for the sarod serenade alone. 

He brought his sarod to Chantlanta, thankfully, playing a couple of songs on it before switching to harmonium, then guitar.  The set started traditionally with an invocation to Ganesh, then rollicked right into He Ma Durga with the crowd clapping along.  A detour to the 1960’s with a Beatles-inspired Krishna love medley was followed by a full-on gospel jam-dance in the contemporary “sacred steel” tradition popularized by the Lee Brothers and Florida’s House of God church.  This little roof-raiser had everyone jumping and hollering like…well, like we were at a Baptist church in the South…  Even Druid Hills Pastor Mimi Walker joined the joy parade on the altar-turned-stage.  Watch it here.

Wynne Paris gospel jam at Chantlanta by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Everyone joined the jam, including the pastor!

In the end, Paris went back to his sarod to close the set with a hypnotic Om Namah Shivaya he learned from Bhagavan Das. Lori Michele Love and Dorianne Aillery sang back-up; Jeffrey Lidke and Rishi Waterman on percussion.

See www.wynneparis.com, and do check out Groovananda, a personal favorite driving CD.  But be careful…

Chaitanya

Chaitanya at Chantlanta by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Silvia Riverwind & Koriander of Chaitanya, with Laurie Fisher on fiddle.

Chaitanya took the Friday night bhav to the next level with a high-energy set of traditional mantras swept along on a jam-band medley of rhythm and strings.  It was clear these Asheville, N.C. bhaktas weren’t going to let the night end without a shaktified dance jam.  Jai Jagadambe fit the bill nicely. Watch the video here

This band has been a perennial favorite at Chantlanta for four years running, so we’ve heard.  Now we know why.

Rishi Waterman of Chaitanya, at Chantlanta Day 1 by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Rishi Waterman of Chaitanya

Sylvia Riverwind shared lead vocals with Koriander, whose harmonium was the bloodline of the band (though she switched it up for an acoustic guitar occasionally).  Overlayed with some serious fiddling by Laurie Fisher, Rishi Waterman on percussion and Tom Aldrich on bass, it was hard NOT to move. 

Chaitanya’s debut album, Ark of Love, is available now on CD Baby; a CD release party is set for June 1 in Asheville.  www.chaitanyakirtan.com

Chaitanya at Chantlanta Day 1 by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Last-jam dance party with Chaitanya & the Chantlanta chanters

Don’t miss Part 2 for the rest of the Chantlanta line-up — Kirtan Bandits, Sunmoon Pie, Phil McWilliams and Blue Spirit Wheel

See also:
Part 2: Chantlanta’s ‘Unknown’ Bhakti Bands Reveal Depth & Diversity of Southern Bhav (Videos)
Fresh from The Grammys, Krishna Das Shines at Chantlanta, With Band of One
Southern Bhav Rising: Chantlanta Demonstrates How To Do a Regional Chant Fest
Chantlanta Photo Journal (on The Bhakti Beat facebook page)
Krishna Das at Chantlanta Photo Journal (on The Bhakti Beat facebook page)
Chantlanta Playlist on The Bhakti Beat YouTube Channel (new videos being added)
 
www.chantlanta.org
www.swahaproductions.com (produces kirtan events in the South)
www.krishnadas.com
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