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Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance


Lokah Bhakti

The Bhakti Beat @ Shakti Fest: We’re crazy about the “Bhakti Dance” with the dancing, rapping Latino yogi known as Lokah (“Loco Lokah” to some!).

He jumped on stage toward the end of Deepak Ramapriyan and Breath of Life Tribe’s set Saturday afternoon at Shakti Fest and led the crowd in an exuberant dance lesson that jumped and weaved and twirled its way throughout the front-stage seating area before settling back into a meditative prayer.  Deepak and the Tribe provided the soaring soundtrack for the choreography with a joyous Radhe chant.

Watch what Loco Lokah does at about three minutes in.  Sure caught us by surprise!

Earlier in the day, Lokah jumped in — literally — to the Temple Bhajan Band’s set and delivered three original songs in the conscious hip-hop vein that had most of us jumping for joy along with him.  (Was it possible NOT to dance during that Krishna rap?)

Lokah Bhakti jumps in with the Temple Bhajan Band for a little Krishna rap.

Now, we realize this trend for edgy, urban hip-hop/chant fusions is not for everyone, but we personally are loving it!  Bhakti yogis like Lokah, Srikalogy in NYC, Govinda Sky out of Boston, and a slew of other young hipsters (see this Facebook group for a sampling) — not to mention established pathfinders like Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe, who have been marrying rap beats to Sanskrit for years — are pushing the envelope and opening the calling of the names up to a new generation who might not otherwise be drawn to “sacred music.”

We say ki JAI to that.

More Shakti Fest coverage:

Jai Uttal:  The Essence of Bhakti Fest

Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69


Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? 3/30-4/1


What’s ahead: Mike Cohen with Brenda McMorrow in Toronto; Wah! and Deepak & Breath of Life Tribe in Santa Monica; SRI Kirtan rocks the Bhajan Belt; GuruGanesha, Girish and the Kirtaniyas converge on the Bay area, and David Newman hits the Midwest.

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Five for the Bhav

Toronto Melds Kirtan with Yoga

Photo by The Bhakti Beat, Bhakti Fest '11

We have a personal beef about how some yoga conferences eschew kirtan concerts altogether, so we rejoice whenever chanting gets featured billing at a yoga gathering.  Like the Toronto Yoga Conference, where MIKE COHEN will be joined by a high-powered chorus of musicians that includes BRENDA MCMORROW, LEA LONGO, LANA SUGARMAN, KEVAN McKENZIE (drum kit) and CHRIS GARTNER (electric bass) for the weekend’s main event on Friday night 3/30.  Also at the conference, Cohen is leading a workshop on integrating kirtan into yoga practice and teaching on Saturday 3/31, which promises to “demystify” kirtan for yogis interested in expanding their repertoire.

Cohen has just announced his latest CD, Soul Contact (officially available April 2), which he says was “profoundly influenced” by his travels to holy sites in South Indian and was crafted during a two-year kirtan tour across North America.  With guest vocalists JONI ALLEN and ALLIE STRINGER (that would be DAVE STRINGER’S niece), he describes the disc as “an invitation to sing, dance, clap and play with Divine Energy within a contemporary Western context.” Here’s a sample track from it, a sublime version of the Gayatri mantra featuring Allie Stringer’s vocal magic.

by The Bhakti Beat

From Toronto, BRENDA McMORROW heads to Buffalo, NY for a concert Saturday 3/31, kicking off a new Northeast tour for the Guelph, Ontario artist, who is literally taking off as a world-class chantress.  She will hit New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana and Ohio before heading back to her home province.  Northeast tour details here.

Double-Dose at the Shala

Santa Monica’s kirtan temple strikes again this weekend .  WAH! brings her bhav to Bhakti Yoga Shala on Friday 3/30 before heading to Encinitas for a concert Saturday 3/31 and afternoon workshop on Sunday 4/1 at Jyoti Mandir. (Wah! schedule here.)  On Saturday night the Shala hosts DEEPAK RAMAPRIYAN and BREATH OF LIFE TRIBE for what is sure to be a bhakti-rocking night.  Both events are part of the pre-Bhakti Fest build-up.  Need more?  There’s more.  GOVIND DAS, Bhakti Yoga Shala’s co-founder and head bhakta, will be leading a brand new Monday Night Community Kirtan on, yeah, Monday night.  The Shala’s website has the deets for the whole weekend, and don’t forget to check out what’s coming up.

Bhakti Rock in the Bhajan Belt

Photo by Ganagaram (Patrick Finn)

Back East in the Hudson Valley’s Bhajan Belt, SRI KIRTAN (aka SRUTI RAM and ISHWARI) are back from India and at their home ‘hood studio of Euphoria Yoga in Woodstock on Saturday 3/31, rocking the local bhaktas with their inimitable blend of genre-bending bhajans.  KC SOLARIS will join on tabla.  In India, this dynamic duo opened the evening chants at the annual Festival of Flowers at RADHANATH SWAMI’s Radhagopinath temple in Mumbai, and got covered in a few million loose flower petals that rained down from the heavens.  After reading their blog post recounting the story, we’re adding the Festival of Flowers to our bucket list.  Wow.

Bhav Around the Bay

Northern California’s Bay Area gets a triple-shot of bhakti love this weekend: GURUGANESHA BAND (with special guest JAI UTTAL!), THE KIRTANIYAS and GIRISH all have gigs this weekend in Berkeley and San Francisco.

GURUGANESHA SINGH and his band of troubadours (including HANS CHRISTIAN, MICHELLE HURTADO, DANIEL PAUL, SAT KATAR SINGH and GURUSANGHAT SINGH) hit the Rudramandir Temple in Berkeley Friday night for one last California gig — and word is that JAI UTTAL will be joining the fun.  (Do you think he’ll have gotten the day-glo colors out of his hair yet, after last weekend’s Holi Fest?) The GGB has collaborated its way up the coast of Cali, playing along the way with KARNAMRITA DASI, THOMAS BARQUEE, clarinetist RAM DASS KHALSA, and more.  Saturday the band heads north for a string of concerts in Oregon and British Columbia before the West Coast leg of this national tour culminates in SAT NAM FEST in Joshua Tree April 12-14.  East Coasters will get their chance soon enough: that leg begins in Virginia May 18.  See the full tour here.

There might be some residual Holi Fest colors found at Purusha in San Francisco Friday night as well, when the KIRTANIYAS bring their Krishna love back from Utah to rock Bay bhaktas.  The Kirtaniyas — VIJAY KRSNA, SARASVATI NUGENT, RASIKA COVIN, NITAI PREMO — will be joined by Jai Uttal’s long-time vocal accompanist, PRAJNA VIEIRA (whose debut CD will be out later this Spring).  They all head to San Raphael Saturday 3/31 and Los Gatos on Sunday 4/1Details for all three shows here.

Also on Friday, GIRISH is back in NoCal and playing for yoga with ANNIKA WILLIAMS at Yoga Tree Mission in San Francisco.  We stumbled upon a yoga class at BHAKTI FEST where Girish, YVETTE OM and ALVIN YOUNG  (of the WILD LOTUS BAND) were jamming, so we understand why so many people want Girish playing at their yoga class.  (In fact you can get three days of Girish-infused yoga next weekend, 4/5-7 at the Breathe Yoga Retreat, happening at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center aka the home of Bhakti Fest and Sat Nam Fest 2012.)  On Saturday 3/31, Girish heads south for concerts in Santa Barbara, followed by Avila Beach Sunday 4/1, continuing a breathless North American Diamonds in the Sun tour.  We hope he gets to breathe at the Breathe retreat… Tour details here.

Mantras in the Midwest

More wanderlust from DAVID NEWMAN aka DURGA DAS, who is in the midwest this weekend with concerts in Chicago Friday 3/30 and Oshkosh, Wisc. Saturday 3/31. On Sunday 4/1 Newman pulls double-shift at Inner Sun Yoga in Oshkosh, presenting his Inner Fire workshop from 10-noon plus a live-music yoga jam later in the afternoon.  All details here.

And because everyone knows Midwesterners can’t get enough kirtan, three local bhakta bands in the Minnepolis area are joining forces for a mini-encore of the recent Milwaukee Kirtan FestTULSI DAS, PASCALE LAPOINT and OM BOLO reconvene the kirtan on Saturday 3/31 from noon to 4 p.m.  Details here.

Those are our top five spots for the bhav this weekend.  Where will you be chanting?

Don’t forget to post your events to The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page or tweet us with them.  Thanks!




Best of the Bhav


The desert sun has set on another Bhakti Fest. The last wallahs have wailed their Maha Mantras, the superstar yogis have left the tent, and the long journey home is complete. Time to review and reflect.

“What was the highlight for you?” is a question that always comes up in these periods. And I’m always baffled. How does one choose favorite moments from a bhakti-feast that spanned four full days and nights? Fifty-nine kirtan performances, by my count — nearly 100 hours of music on two stages, not even counting all the great live music in the yoga sessions and workshops (and there was some serious going on in those sessions). From new artists you’ve probably never heard of, to the kings of kirtan that you know and love, to collaborations that you only get at places like Bhakti Fest, what WASN’T a great moment would be an easier question.

Magic in the Air
There was magic all around this 3,626-mile trip to Bhakti Fest (via Boston, Atlanta and San Diego). On the way out, my partner Jim and I stayed at a Motel 6 outside San Diego to sleep a few hours before driving the three last hours to Joshua Tree. As we’re packing up, Jim, on a whim, randomly opens the Gideon’s Bible in the room and lands square on Psalm 98: “O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done marvellous things.” hmmmm.

Fast forward to the trip home two days after Bhakti Fest ended, a bleary-eyed drive from Boston after 12 hours of airports, coach seats and schlepping too many heavy bags. Around 3 a.m. we stopped at a rest area in New Hampshire, which was deserted save for a trucker or two napping in their cabs. I headed for the ladies’ room, squinting from the approaching flourescence. No one was in sight, but music was blasting from a speaker somewhere. Is that…? Yup. The Maha Mantra, ala George Harrison in “My Sweet Lord.” All I could do was smile.

Here are some other moments that stand out from our journey to Joshua Tree, offered with complete bias and in no particular order…

Deepak Ramapriyan, Show Stealer

Show Stealer: Deepak Ramapriyan and the Breath of Life Tribe made their first appearance on the Bhakti Fest main stage, and did not disappoint. They delivered an enchanting mix of ancient mantra, modern pop and innovative musicianship and topped it off with “the bhakti dance” to get the whole crowd moving in unison. Original, inventive, captivating!

Crowd-Pleaser: Celebrating the release of her first CD, CC White worked the crowd into the kind of frenzy that only the Diva of Soul Kirtan can.

Larisa Stow, Mover & Shaker

Mover & Shaker: Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe proved they could shake things up last year and moved us again with their hard-edged, soft-hearted mantra rock with a message. Larisa’s tete a tete with audience at the end, with her sitting on the stage and everyone crowded around her like students eager to hear their teacher’s words, was priceless.

Rock Star: Donna De Lory’s set on Saturday night — her birthday — was electrifying. Literally. Her fiery rock-mantra music was punctuated by a spectacular light show from an encroaching thunderstorm (a really BIG one).

Surprise Treat: Krishna Das breaking into Amazing Grace mid-Maha Mantra during his workshop Sunday afternoon.

Dave Stringer with...well, everyone!

Master Collaborator: Dave Stringer loves a good jam kirtan, so he brought everybody he could think of up for his last couple songs. Marti Walker, Brenda McMorrow, Ishwari and Sruti Ram, Meenakshi…who else? He also guest-starred in sets by Joey Lugassy, McMorrow and Meenakshi.

Fantuzzi wakes us up

Late-Night Wake-Up: Fantuzzi, who came on around 4 a.m. Friday morning (Night 1), rocked the worlds of the few die-hards who resisted the lull of sleep (or who were, like me, lurched out of it by Fantuzzi’s high-energy reggae/rock/kirtan love).

Ready for Main Stage: Brenda McMorrow, Canada’s shining starlet of kirtan. Have you seen her rockin’ that acoustic guitar to the Maha Mantra?

Mark Gorman (bass) and Yehoshua Brill (electric guitar), with Donne De Lory

Stage Staples: Deepak Ramapriyan may have broken the record for most on-stage appearances in bands other than his own (28 performances, according to his facebook status). But so many other musicians are called upon again and again: Mark Gorman, Yehoshua Brill, John de Kadt, Dave Allen, Vish from the Mayapuris…who else?

Sweetest Synchronicity: Arriving at the registration tent within minutes of Larisa Stow and Benj Clark of Shakti Tribe and getting the sweeeeeeetest hugs.

And the winner is… I could go on, but what I really want to know is, What were the highlights for you? If you were at Bhakti Fest, what was your favorite moment? If you weren’t there, share your best moment in the bhav anywhere. Please tell us in comments below!