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Who needs a Grammy anyway, when you’ve got Hanuman? (Photoshop by Susie Anderson)

Mark this day in kirtan history:  Krishna Das played at the Grammys, invoking Narayana (that’s God) and the Yardbirds, the British invasion band of the 1960’s.  What could be more perfect for the Rock Star of Yoga?

Okay, so he didn’t win the coveted Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.  We’ve brooded.  We’ve pounded our fists on the ground. We’ve screamed NOOOOOOOOO! on social media.  But somehow we’ve managed to dig ourselves out of the deep dark pit of “so close!” despair to take a step back, chant an Om or two, and contemplate what this all means, win or lose.

What it means, folks, is that kirtan was at the Grammys.  ‘Nuf said, no?

Krishna Das was introduced as a “world-wide icon and the best-selling chant artist of all time” by David Alan Grier, the host of the Grammys pre-telecast.  He even called it “kirtan” in the introduction — not “yoga music” or “mantra music” or “sacred music” or any other euphemism being applied now to the ancient form of Sanskrit-language call-and-response chanting.  And not, thank Narayana, “new age music.”  Okay, so Grier couldn’t pronounce the word (he said KURR-tahn), but at least it was there.  (If you missed it, don’t despair:  the webcast version of the Grammys’ “non-mainstream” awards is available for 30 days at www.grammy.com.)  And, okay, there was that snarky remark by Grier after KD’s performance (“I’m so blissed out”).  But still….kirtan was at the Grammys.

Kirtan at the Grammys. (Photo by Bob Sinclair)

In fact, Krishna Das was the first performance of the special pre-telecast livestream of the less-known awards.  Right along with what he might wear (was he really going to buy a red tux?), what he would sing had been the subject of much speculation…would it be the world’s shortest Maha Mantra?  The all-time fan favorite Om Namah Shivayah?  Could he even “perform” a traditional call-and-response chant without a response choir backing him?  One could hardly expect the Grammys pre-telecast audience to jump into the role, but maybe he would bring along a whole posse of responders — who knew?  It was a well-kept secret in the kirtan world.  What would an artist whose average song is say, 15 minutes long and depends heavily on repetition from a chorus of responders, play live in a front of a kirtan-naive audience in a 5-minute time slot?

KD didn’t disappoint.  Backed up by Nina Rao, his long-time assistant and the person he credited for making the Grammy nomination happen at all; Arjun Bruggeman, his trusty tabla player; David Nichtern on guitar, and Steve Ross on vocals — along with a full-fledged orchestral Grammy House Band — the Yoga Rock Star delivered a rock-and-roll classic worthy of the Grammys, with a kirtan twist of course.  With a squeeze of the harmonium and that characteristic Ommm drone of his vocals, he launched into the original medley he created for Heart As Wide As the World (the brilliant 2011 CD that would have made so much more sense as a Grammy nomination, in our humble opinion).  In the end, it was For Your Love.

Narayana, meet the Yardbirds.  World, meet Krishna Das.

Yeah, there were sound issues.  Archit Dave, KD’s intrepid sound engineer, was apparently not in the house.  And we were watching it livestreamed — surely not our preferred way to experience KD’s debut on the world stage of the Grammys.  But still, it was kirtan at the Grammys.  Our hearts were all aflutter.  Here is the highest quality recording we’ve seen:

Afterward, there was the not-so-long wait for the actual award-granting (“Oh, yeah, there’s more!” seemed to be the collective opinion on social media).  It all happened very fast.  Before we knew it, they were announcing the nominees for Best New Age Album.  We were struggling with an internet connection that kept skipping on both laptops we had set up to ensure we didn’t miss a beat.  And scrambling to capture the announcement on video, recording from the skippy, pixelated livestream.  Before we could even hit record, the winner was announced — not the name we were looking for, needless to say.

We’d share the video with you but all you would get is a wide crowd shot as the Grammy producers searched their camera feeds for the winner (L.A.-based pianist Omar Akram) and a blood-curdling scream of NOOOOOOOO! in the background (that would be me, reeling with the shock of rejection).  We’ll spare you the ear-split.

So, there it was.  Hopes shattered in an instant.  Pacing-the-room excitement transformed to disbelief faster than you could say Ommmm.  *Sigh* So close, but yet so far…

Aided and abetted by the kirtan support group that is The Bhakti Beat community on facebook, we pulled ourselves up from the pit and saw the light.  Barriers were broken. History was made. Win or lose, Krishna Das had introduced call-and-response chanting to a world audience. A very mainstream world audience.

Kirtan was at the Grammys.

‘Baba Plaid’ at the Grammys. L-R: Krishna Das, Steve Ross, Nina Rao, Arjun Bruggeman. Photo by Amy Dewhurst

Oh, and the red tux?  Naaah.  Thankfully to fans everywhere who wouldn’t recognize him in anything else, he stuck to a Hanuman red T-shirt and a Baba Plaid button-down.  But we’re still wishing he had been interviewed on the Red Carpet, because we were dying to hear his response to the obligatory question, “Who are you wearing?”

Also see:
Kirtan in a New Age: What’s in a Grammy Category Name?
Krishna Das’ Live Ananda Earns Grammy Nomination; Kirtan Grammy Would Be a First
Watch KD’s performance at www.grammy.com (available for 30 days from the Feb. 10 webcast)

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  • annapurna February 11, 2013, 1:43 am

    This is so beautifully written! Ram Ram!

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 10:22 am

      Thank you so much Annapurna! It was a roller-coaster ride of a day!
      In gratitude,

  • Gary Brachmann February 11, 2013, 8:03 am

    For Your Love, For our Love.Love has always been the answer,the beginning, the end,the All.The vibration of chanting the Holy Names is the heart opening for everyone if you let it in.Thank You K.D. and all chanters for the experience of Love.Aum Kriya Babaji Nama Om. Namaste,Gary

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 10:23 am

      There is nothing we can add — beautifully stated Gary!
      All Love…

  • Jenni Vionito February 11, 2013, 9:04 am

    Love the article, loved the beautiful energy of yesterday and chanting along with KD at the Grammys! By His Grace, thank you! We are all still so happy for KD and the seed of Kirtan planted. Ram Ram

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 10:27 am

      The energy is sooooo flowing in the kirtan community with this watershed event ! And yes, the seed planted. Lots of seeds…
      Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram

  • Jen February 11, 2013, 10:14 am

    Your news is the best. This was definitely a historic event! We all felt it…! Thanks for the report Brenda!

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 10:24 am

      🙂 History is a beautiful thing — when it involves kirtan! Or…mantra music. Or sacred music…
      All One in the Divine.

  • Padme A'Tea (Lyn Gilbert) February 11, 2013, 1:02 pm

    Brenda, beautifully written. History was made last night and it is all good. (and Nina looked stunning…and the men looked very handsome) It was great to see plaid onstage and hear…Narayana and the harmonium…

    Life is so good.

    All Love,
    Padme A’Tea

    • Brenda Patoine February 12, 2013, 12:02 am

      Thank you Dear One. History WAS made last night. (And what about Nina in that dress?? 😉 ) Stunning! Yeah, the guys looked good too. It’s all For Your Love, Narayana.

      Life IS good!

  • Judi February 11, 2013, 2:20 pm

    This is a great day ! He has given the world a taste of kirtan music and chanting now the seed is planted. The energy and vibrations is strong. Love you KD. Keep on chanting. Jai Shree Hanuman Ji!

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 11:59 pm

      Yes, a great day indeed. Thank you Judi!

  • Katie Lopez February 11, 2013, 2:55 pm

    The Boomers are passing the torch to the Millennials, and they are taking it and running! I feel so happy for this new and beautiful generation of musicians, and so thrilled for those who started the journey a while back.

    • Brenda Patoine February 12, 2013, 12:20 am

      Radhe Radhe!

  • yashwanth February 11, 2013, 4:39 pm

    Grammy award winning or losing is not a matter of concern.we appreciate u for your great devotion,dedication to god.u made us chant the mantras innumerable times.u earned Punya & the best,better thing is that u made us earn the same 🙂 thank you KD.God bless you.

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 11:58 pm

      Like. 🙂

  • Lloyd Barde February 11, 2013, 8:39 pm

    Yes this is wonderful. Please, however, stop the “New Age Music “bashing. if it weren’t for this category and its ever present lobbying and presence, there would be nothing like Kirtan exposure and consideration. [ re: “not, thank Narayana, “new age music.””]. If you wish for more respect and acceptance the best way is to show some…

    • Brenda Patoine February 11, 2013, 11:58 pm

      No “New Age Music bashing” here…just an acknowledgement of the silliness of Krishna Das in the same category as “alpha wave” music (the winner, Omar Akram, is a virtuoso in this). There are few in the kirtan world who would call Krishna Das “New Age Music.” Nor, by our reading of comments on past posts here and on facebook, does kirtan want to be called “New Age Music.” But you are correct in saying that if it weren’t for this category “and its ever-present lobbying and presence,” kirtan would not be at the Grammys. In Hollywood, apparently, “lobbying” is critical if you want to win the Grammy.

      Thank you for your comment.
      In deepest respect and acceptance….

  • Tag Pillay February 12, 2013, 5:48 pm

    Kirtan & consciouness makes it way to Grammys. What a change! Nicely penned, Brenda Patoine, your are the real winner.. Consciouness is invincible. So is Kirtan. Thanks!Thanks!Thanks.

  • Keauhou February 13, 2013, 1:58 am

    Great article Brenda…a historic event indeed. It great that kirtan is starting to hit the mainstream. Honestly critiquing the performance though, even as a big fan, I thought KD looked remarkably subdued and maybe a bit nervous. Hey, if you play in the grammy’s you gotta leave it all out there (George Harrison”s My Sweet Lord comes to mind). I’m not sure the audience could relate much with the slow track he selected to play…a more upbeat track (Kainchi Hare Krishna?) would have been more fun and relatable for the audience. Also, we couldn’t hear Steve, Nina or others much on the response part of the call response, and Arjun’s mic wasn’t turned up nearly enough to feel the great percussion that the tabla offers. Oh well, nice to see the numbers coming up on the KD sales chart.

  • diana allen February 13, 2013, 6:57 am

    love this SO much! what a great performance…they really did it! beautiful article, too—you really capture the importance, and the excitement and the wonder of the event….thank you, bhakti beat <3

  • Daniel Paul February 13, 2013, 9:49 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    yes i caught it live and you definitely caught the vibe!
    Love how you write! It’s like a roller coaster of fun and interesting points all wrapped like a beautiful shawl around your heart!
    But, back to the point. Through there were many ironies indeed the importance is that it did happen!
    For all the hard work, the endless miles traveled , the endless mantras chanted and the general craziness of life on the road, hurray for KD, Nina. Arjuna, David amd Steve to boldly go where no chanter has gone before!

  • james February 16, 2014, 5:32 pm

    excuse me did the guy after the announcer say”that was beautiful” the guy who yelled out ? did he yell out”jack off”?!?!?!

    • Brenda Patoine February 19, 2014, 12:06 pm

      LOL. um, no, pretty sure the guy yelled out: “Jai Ma!”

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