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Ed. Note:  Crowd-funding is the new buzzword in music production — and it’s taking off in the kirtan world right in step with other musical genres.  In this new model, artists are bypassing the traditional route of funding new releases — contracting with a record label — in favor of reaching out directly to their fan base to finance the high cost of professionally recording and producing a CD.  In return for their contributions, fans receive “perks” that range from an advance download of the CD (for, say, $10 or $15) all the way up to a private concert and Executive Producer credit (for $5,000-$10,000, typically).

In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the crowd-funding efforts underway now in the mantra music world.

 

Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band

Project:  Full-length CD
Fundraising Goal:  $30,000
Deadline:  October 29, 2012
Raised as of October 27: $28,745 (so close!)
Update: The band reached its goal one day ahead of the deadline!  You can still support the effort; all additional funds will go toward sharing the album with a wider worldwide audience and supporting an extensive CD release tour.

The Band

We have yet to meet anyone who has experienced the N’awlins-flavored bhav of this trio of musicians and hasn’t come away an instant fan.  For three people, they produce BIG sound.   Favorites at festivals everywhere — they were the first kirtan band ever invited to play at the New Orleans Jazz Festival — they are sought-after touring artists and hometown heroes in NOLA. 

Snake charmer Gwendolyn Colman

Bhakti yogi Sean Johnson leads with the harmonium and soulful vocals laced with dreamy poetry and original lyrical riffs deftly tucked into traditional chants.  Innovative percussionist and singer Gwendolyn Colman is one of bhakti’s most colorful characters, typically sporting a flourescent plume atop her fiery red braids and with a green rubber snake dangling from her mike stand (we know there’s a story behind that snake…).  And then there is tall, quiet axeman Alvin Young, a New Orleans institution who has graced the stage with jazz greats Wynton and Branford Marsalis and many others.  He plays with intensity, head down, resolutely plucking his bass and laying the foundation for rhythmic alchemy.

The Project

Alvin Young. Intense.

The goal is a full-length studio CD on a par, quality-wise, with the band’s last CD, Devaloka (a joy–get it if you haven’t).  Expected release date is fall/winter 2013.  The new CD’s title is as yet undetermined; Johnson told The Bhakti Beat: “We find that the name usually reveals itself once we’re in the studio, inside the process of creating the music.”  But, he added: “The theme is clear:  Unity — celebrating the connection between global cultures and spiritual traditions through music.”

If you’ve seen SJ&WLB live in the last year or so, you’ve likely gotten a good taste for the cross-cultural feast the new record promises.  The band’s fundraising page says it will include a number of songs from their current tours, including the anthem-like Unity (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu), which was released as a music video this summer; the gospel classic I’ll Fly Away; the Sufi chant La ilaha illa Allah; The Way Of Love (Jai Kali Ma); I Will Rise Again; Hare Krishna; Ramachandra, and more.   All except for I’ll Fly Away (see video at bottom) are original compositions, and the lyrics include mantras from different spiritual traditions and the poetry of Rumi.

Here’s a live take of Unity that we caught at Shakti Fest this spring…

 

Message from Sean Johnson

“This year, after much thought and discussion, Alvin and Gwendolyn and I decided to make a leap of faith and to move away from the traditional music label model on our next album.  The biggest question in making this decision was how to fund a high-quality, full-length professional studio recording on par with our last release Devaloka and get it out there in the world without the support of a record label? We had heard encouraging stories from many bands from around the world who were having great success with a new model called crowd-funding, in which they invited friends and fans to make contributions toward the high production costs of their projects in exchange for gifts and perks, including downloads of the album once it’s completed. With an open mind, we launched a campaign on the popular crowd-funding website Indiegogo.com in July.  Can you help us rally to meet our goal?”
 
Here is the song that Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band typically close their sets with, and which inevitably gets a lot of people teary-eyed.  (It’s making me cry right now….read the comment on its YouTube page and you’ll see why.)
 

The Links and Deets

 
Stay tuned for more featured artists in this new series, Crowd-Funding Kirtan.  And please support your favorite artists by contributing and sharing the news.
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