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A musical match made in bhakti heaven? Tabla maestro Daniel Paul and Seattle-based songstress Gina Salá have set sail on their first road trip together to launch Paul’s latest CD, Tabla Mantra: Songs of Love and Rhythmic Rapture, which features Salá’s vocal prowess on almost every track.  (Jai Uttal, C.C. White, Prajna Vieira, Steve Gorn, and lots more make appearances as well.)  The tour, begun Thanksgiving weekend in Salá’s home ‘hood, takes them straight down the West Coast from Portland, Ore. (Nov. 30) all the way to San Diego (Dec. 16), and back up to San Francisco (Dec. 22).  Nineteen stops in 29 days — whew! 

A Combination With Chemistry

Photo by Julie Dittmar

Both Paul and Salá grew up in musical families, and both have studied Indian classical music extensively.  Paul is best known for his tabla magic but is a classically trained vocalist as well, and this “hidden talent,” as Salá described it, is on display in Tabla Mantra(He plays a pretty mean harmonica too.)  Salá’s deep passion for helping people realize “the power and pleasure in their own unique voices” has led her to teachers worldwide. She is a professional voice coach, Sanskrit tutor, singer (in two dozen languages!), and healer who regularly leads workshops and retreats in India, Mexico and other locales.

Rhythmic Rapture and Vocal Velvet

@ Bhakti Fest 2011 (Photo courtesy of Gina Salá)

Tabla Mantra lives up to its subtitle.  Blending haunting, multi-layered vocal harmonies with soft, melodic instrumentalism driven by Paul’s tabla and punctuated throughout with ripples of tarana — kind of an Indian classical version of scat — the music wraps around you and envelopes you like a lover’s embrace.  It has a dreamy, ethereal, even other-worldly feel, a soundscape where voice and rhythm swirl and rise and fall away to a whisper in a seamless circular interweaving of melody and mantra. 

This is a disc that should really be listened to — not just dropped into the background while you’re doing dishes.  Settle down and experience it.  Let the notes sink in deep.  Chant along with the mantras that ebb and flow like waves through the melodies.  If you don’t get goosebumps, check your pulse.

Tabla Mantra is Paul’s fourth CD, and his second “kirtan album” (the first two discs were instrumental, featuring his tabla tarang — a full set of 16 tabla tuned to different notes of the musical scale).  Here the foundation is kirtan fused with tarana, a particular type of classical Hindustani vocal composition with roots in the mystic poetry and music of ancient Persia.  Tarana is often described as akin to the scat riffs of jazz in its melodic repetition of seed syllables and sacred sounds that, to most of us, sound like nonsense words — albeit highly rhythmic ones.  It has a very distinctive flavor, and crops up again and again throughout the disc, interweaved with layer upon layer of vocal harmonies and mantras, fugue-like.

Tabla Mantra Collaborators

Paul learned tarana from his vocal teacher, the legendary Ali Akbar Khan, the “Emporer of Melody,” to whom the CD is dedicated.  If you’ve seen Daniel Paul play at all, you’ve no doubt heard bits and pieces of his brand of “drum-scat” during sets with Jai Uttal, Shyamdas, The GuruGanesha Band, C.C. White, Salá, or others. 

‘The One I Set Out to Make at 19’

Tabla Mantra has been a long time coming, Paul told The Bhakti Beat.  “Sometimes I jokingly think to myself that this CD is the one that I set out to make when I was 19 and first starting to study Indian classical music,” he said.  “I didn’t know anything about Indian music at the time; I thought I was just going to go study for a month or two and bring it back into my Western music. Nine years later I finally left, and it’s kind of surprising that I never did record this kind of music until now.  I feel like I’ve finally come full circle.”

Gina Salá: Power Vocals

He said he started composing and recording for Tabla Mantra three years ago.  “When I first started writing the material, I knew that I needed to find just the right voice, so in the process I tried a lot of voices.  I recorded a few friends on melody, then I recorded Prajna [Vieira] and C.C. [White], then finally I ran into Gina, and she had just that right Indian inflection and the ability to bring what I had been envisioning all along.”  Salá, he said, “is really the first person I’ve run into who could sing tarana with me… Without her, I think I may never have gotten [this CD] done.”

Master Tablist Meets Master Vocalist

The two met just three years ago at Bhakti Fest in California.  Paul was accompanying Jai Uttal on tabla, as he has for the last 20 years or so.  Salá was there performing for the very first time, even being introduced as “the best kirtan singer you’ve never heard of.”  The seeds for their collaboration were planted during her set, with Paul watching intently from the sidelines,  curious to hear for himself the singer everyone had been buzzing about…

Well, here, see how they tell the story:


By Bhakti Fest this past September, they were like old friends.  (I ran into Paul in the Palm Springs airport not once, but twice — before and after Bhakti Fest — where he excitedly filled me in on the collaboration.)  They had played some gigs together in the Northwest. They were recording his CD and beginning work on hers (coming next Spring).  They were planning their West Coast storm tour and a week-long kirtan & yoga retreat in Maui, near his long-time home.  And when Salá took the main stage for what has become a regular rise-and-shine spot on the Bhakti Fest line-up, Paul was right there beside her, surrounded by tabla of every size and shape. 

Here’s a little taste of their tarana magic, from our interview and Bhakti Fest:



Listen to & Purchase Tabla Mantra: Songs of Love and Rhythmic Rapture
West Coast Tour Information & Schedule
Daniel & Gina’s Maui Kirtan & Yoga Retreat (Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2013)
Daniel Paul’s website
Gina Salá’s website

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Wallahs to Watch: Bountiful Brooklyn Bhav Births New Bhakti Band, Kirtan Soul Revival (Videos)
Wallah to Watch:  Songstress & Classical Dance Artist Jai-Jagdeesh Dazzles at Sat Nam Fest (Videos)
Bhakti Fest Break-Out Set?  Midwest Wallah to Watch ‘Kirtan Path’ Wows ‘Em (Video)





You Can Count On Me, the much-anticipated sequel to David Newman’s Stay Strong charitable project for Global Green USA, was released this week with a new single available on iTunes and Amazon and a nice long video of the joy-filled jam session that created it.  Newman spoke with The Bhakti Beat about the project’s Aha! moment, kirtan activism, and how his own practice has evolved in the 20 years since he founded Yoga on Main in Philadelphia (hint: fatherhood has factored!).
Have you seen this video yet?  It’s a bhaktified joyride with a boatload of the wallah world’s favorite musicians singing their hearts out and generally having a blast recording the charity single, You Can Count On Me, in one of the music industry’s most famous recording studios. 

The epic jam session began as a twinkle in David Newman’s eye when he was driving to Los Angeles after Bhakti Fest last September.  “I just got a very strong feeling about doing it,” he said.  “I thought: wow, what if I brought a bunch of my colleagues into this really special, historic studio and we recorded this together, and filmed it all?”

Photo courtesy Stay Strong Project

The pieces came together at the speed of an L.A. minute.  iPhones were humming all over Southern California — Newman said everyone was invited by text!– and the response flowed in.  Shiva Baum signed on to co-produce the single with Newman and long-time axeman/collaborator Philippo Franchini. Amy Dewhurst came aboard to produce the video.  The very next day — and lots of thumb-tapping later — anyone in the bhakti world who was in L.A. at the time gathered at the legendary Village Recorder studio to give it up for Global Green USA.

Responding to the call...er, text. (Stay Strong photo)

Photo courtesy of Stay Strong Project

“Everything was put together in a 24-hour period,” Newman said. “The final decision to do it was made Tuesday morning after Bhakti Fest and the recording session happened on Wednesday night.”

Talk about instant karma…

Just look at the list of musicians who showed up to collaborate in the band, choir and dance party.   “I guess you could call them the L.A. Bhakti All-Stars,” Newman said, adding that many artists who were invited had already left the area. 


You Can Count On Me , written by Newman and Donna De Lory, is a feel-good anthem chant in the songwriter-meets-wallah style Newman is known and loved for.  The medley fuses Newman’s original lyrics evoking an “I’ve got your back” loyalty and kinship with a rollicking Shyam Bolo refrain that you can’t help but sing and dance along with (see the video for evidence of that).  The single — available digitally only as a single short track or a two-track set with the longer Shyam Bolo jam — features the vocal nectar of De Lory, C.C. White, and Shyamdas, in addition to all three of the Newmans.  Yes, even toddler Tulsi got her chance at the mike (she’s officially listed in the credits for “giggles”).  Cuteness overload alert! 

Pulled To Do Something Different

With this song and the original Stay Strong single, which broke the top 5 in the iTunes world-music chart, Newman said he had felt pulled to do something different.  “You could say these two songs didn’t feel like they belonged to me.”   At Bhakti Fest he sang a somewhat mellower version of Count On Me, and it was during the course of the festival that “it started becoming clear that the song would be a wonderful vehicle as a follow-up to Stay Strong,” he said. 

Mira & Tulsi Newman (Photo courtesy of Stay Strong Project)

All proceeds from the song go directly to Global Green’s Green School program, supporting the organization’s effort to build green schools in needy communities and help foster appreciation for sustainability in the next generation, the future stewards of the planet.   With Tulsi as a constant reminder, Newman says these are the topics he thinks about a lot these days.  Read the interview below.

Q&A With David Newman

THE BHAKTI BEAT: You Can Count On Me is a benefit for Global Green, as was the first Stay Strong.  Why this cause?

DAVID NEWMAN: As we’ve seen with Hurricane Sandy, there are lot of issues going on in our environment, and sustainability for our future and for our children’s futures is an important issue.  The idea of green schools is critical to building a sustainable future .

Now that I have a child, I think a lot about what this world is going to be like for her.  The children are really the shepherds of a future sustainable life on this planet Earth, so environmental issues are very dear to me.

Initially, I did Stay Strong with Global Green partially because I really loved what they were doing, and partially because the chief operating officer, Richard Wegman, is a bhakti yogi/Reiki kind of person – he is someone who really sees the relationship between living with an open heart and activism. I have a real strong connection with Richard, so there’s a synergy there between us.

TBB: What inspired you to create this sequel to Stay Strong?

DN: I would say 50 percent or more of what I do on the Stay Strong project in terms of my impetus or inspiration is just simply to put something out there that inspires people, opens hearts and brings a smile to those faces who see it. That’s my main inspiration. 

Secondarily, with both this new song and the first Stay Strong release, there was something unusual about the writing process that motivated me to do something different. I guess you could say, for whatever reason, these two songs didn’t feel like they belonged to me. When I wrote the song You Can Count on Me, I just felt that I wanted to do something special with the song. Then when I was at Bhakti Fest, it started becoming clear that it would be a wonderful vehicle as a follow-up to Stay Strong.  That’s how it came about.

Photo courtesy of Stay Strong Project

The inspiration to do the video at this legendary recording studio called Village Recorders in Los Angeles really came to me while I was driving back from Bhakti Fest to L.A., where I was going to be for a week. I just got a very strong feeling about doing it, I thought wow, what if I brought a bunch of my colleagues into this really special, historic recording studio and we recorded this together and filmed it?

What was so graceful about the project was that everybody involved, including the producer, musicians, singers, film-makers, it was all put together in a 24-hour period. The final decision to do it was made Tuesday morning after Bhakti Fest and the recording session happened on Wednesday night. And, talk about the technology of 2012 — every single person invited was invited via text message. 

TBB: Wow. What does that say about this community coming together?

DN: The outpouring of energy was amazing. The evening in the studio was just absolutely charged, really a creatively high experience. To some degree I was limited by the people who were still in L.A. [after Bhakti Fest]; there were others I contacted who had already left the area.  So in a lot of ways this is kind of a Los Angeles project — the L.A. Bhakti All-Stars, I guess you could say.

TBB: Does that mean there will be an East Coast version to balance it out?

DN: I never know.  This all came alive in such a short period of time.  The Stay Strong project to me is a mystery: I didn’t expect it to happen the first time and didn’t expect to do a second release, so who knows what could come from it moving forward.

TBB: We’re seeing a lot of “kirtan activism” these days, from Hurricane Sandy relief to sex trafficking in India.  What role can or should kirtan play in activism?

DN: I think the practice and the sharing of bhakti kirtan is its own form of activism (chuckles), because it activates people’s hearts and that inspires them to follow their bliss and passions and to participate in life in a conscious and joyful way.

For all of us road warriors out there doing door-to-door kirtan, that is activism. It’s playing an active role in the upliftment of the planet.  I think all of us who practice bhakti are connected to serving humanity. I can’t really speak about what the role is in getting involved in more traditional activist settings, but to me, [bhakti yoga] is a means to help in a broader way. That’s always been a big part of what I do, and one of the reasons my presentation of kirtan has a little more of a Western flair is to bring it to more people.

In terms of supporting charities and nonprofit organizations, I can’t speak for other people but it definitely plays a role for me. My last CD, Stars, gave a portion of every CD sold to Peter Gabriel’s Witness.org, a humanitarian organization that distributes cameras and iPhones to people around the world to document human rights violations. The video we made, Love Belongs to Everyone, was dedicated to the work that Witness does.

TBB: You’ve just celebrated the 20th anniversary of the yoga studio you founded in Philadelphia, Yoga on Main. How has your practice evolved in the past two decades?

DN: I think the way in which my practice has evolved is that it has expanded, in a very profound way.  When I was younger I had very strong ideas about what was “spiritual” and what was a “spiritual experience,” so in a way I was confined to identify with that through certain kinds of practices – which were very supportive of my spiritual expansion.

Now 20 years later, there isn’t anything that isn’t spiritual to me. It matters less and less what particular activity I find myself engaged in, whether it’s talking with you or having a cup of tea or practicing yoga or taking a walk.  Whatever it is, to me, it’s all part of the same oneness. It’s really been quite liberating, like letting go of a burden of seeing it in some places and not in other places. To see everything as spiritual, as divine — for me that’s been a big shift.  

Photo by Balramdass, from ImageEvents.com

To me this is what we’re working for as bhaktis.  As my guru Neem Karoli Baba said: “See the divine in everything and in everyone.”  

He also said: “The best form to worship god is in every form.” This is the bhakti vision, the divine is in all beings and in everything. So 20 years later, I feel that there’s a much deeper awareness of spirituality in exactly what the moment presents. There is less of a compulsion to make it look different.

TBB: How has fatherhood contributed to that evolution?

DN: In a huge way!  My daughter Tulsi is just full of love and full of awe. She’s so present and so joyful.  Being with her, you just see the transparency of spirit, because she’s so close; she’s living in that. Being serious, being heavy, or being preoccupied just doesn’t work in her presence.

I always say: who needs a guru when you have a child like Tulsi?


Banner artwork by Jenni Young

See also:

You Can Count On Me/Shyam Bolo is available on:
iTunes at: http://tinyurl.com/StayStrong2iTunes
Amazon at: http://tinyurl.com/StayStrong2Amazon




David Newman (Durga Das)

Project:  Full-length Studio-Recorded CD
Fundraising Goal: $25,000
Deadline:  Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.
Raised as of 10/30: $15,257
Ed. Note: This is part of our ongoing series (more article links at bottom) on crowd-funding, the new buzzword in the music business, in which fans and friends contribute money for new recording projects in exchange for “perks” ranging from free downloads to private concerts.  

The Artist

In David Newman, aka Durga Das, kirtan meets singer/songwriter.  The marriage has been a prolific one, with Newman well on his way to album Nos. 8 (a remix due in early 2013) and 9 (the album currently being funded).  In the 11 years since his first self-produced CD, Soul Freedom, Newman’s visibility and popularity on the kirtan scene has risen steadily, each new release further showcasing his songwriting chops and talent for seamlessly mixing traditional Sanskrit mantras with original English lyrics evoking hope, unity, and devotion.

Kickin' it up at Bhakti Fest 2012

Today, Newman is one of kirtan’s most sought-after touring artists — he tours relentlessly worldwide — and, with wife Mira on percussion and back-up vocals, has become a favorite at chant festivals large and small.  He was a yogi before he was a bhakta, having opened his Yoga on Main studio in Philadelphia 20 years ago, long before yoga was the craze it is today.  He’s also an activist and master collaborator with a knack for circling the kirtan troops in support of environmental causes, as he has with Stay Strong, the popular single and video that raised funds for cleaning up the Gulf oil spill, and the soon-to-be-released Stay Strong 2: You Can Count on Me, which supports construction of “green” schools in needy communities (more on that below).

The Project

Newman has turned to IndieGogo, the popular crowd-funding website, to raise cash for the production of a new studio CD tentatively slated for late 2013 release.  The CD will include two or three original English songs, Newman told The Bhakti Beat, as well as “lots of chanting” in the more traditional vein.  In a departure from his last release, Stars, in which he and producer Bill Moriarty crafted the tracks and brought in musicians one at a time to add layers, the new CD will be recorded with a group of musicians playing together live in the studio. 

Axemen: with David Watts and Philippo Franchini

The band will include Brenda McMorrow and Emy Berti (vocals), Philippo Franchini (guitar), David Watts (bass), Corey Sokoloff (percussion) and Eli Salzman (keys), in addition to Mira on percussion and vocals.  Moriarty will produce.  A recording studio has been booked for early January to lay down the tracks.  Newman said most of the material for the as yet-untitled record is already written — and there are a couple pieces in particular that he is very enthusiastic to record — but he’s also leaving room for improvisation in the studio.  And with that group of musicians, improv is likely to spell magic…

Here’s Newman singing a solo version of the title track from Stars at Bhakti Fest in September:

Newman: Crowd-Funding is the ‘New Paradigm’

Long before he was a yogi or a bhakta, and even before he went to law school (yeah, he did that too), Newman worked for a stint in the L.A. music business — back when the music business was a very different animal. Today, he said, record labels no longer make enough money on physical CD sales to justify forking over a chunk of money in advance for an artist to make a new record. “This leaves the burden on the artist to foot that bill,” he told The Bhakti Beat.  In the beginning, he said he “definitely had a resistence to reaching out to my community to support me in this process,” but he has embraced it as a “new paradigm in the relationship between the artist and the listener.”

“This is a way for artists to say to the community: ‘If this music is important in your life, here is a way you can support its continued existence,'” Newman said.  “Ultimately, the music really belongs to the person who is listening to it and who is touched by it, so it’s like everybody is pooling in to bring forward this offering in all of our lives.”  Accepting the contributions from fans, he said, “has been kind of like a yoga for me, to just receive it and say thank you.”

More News

Remix Bliss: Newman just announced that Stars is being remixed by veteran composer and music mixologist Krishna Venkatesh and will be released in early 2013 as ReBliss: Stars Revisited.  Remixed releases are a growing trend in mantra music — Donna De Lory and Girish have offered remixes recently, and Srikalogy has a “Kirtan Sessions” series featuring funked-up remixes of mantras, to name just three — but this will be a first for Newman, who sees it as a “different vehicle for people to experience my music.” It will have a “trippy, groovy” feel, he said, that he hopes will appeal to a younger audience.

Banner for Stay Strong 2: You Can Count on Me/Shyam Bolo (credit: Jenni Young)

Stay Strong 2: You Can Count on Me:  The sequel to the Stay Strong charitable project that Newman initiated in 2011 is imminent, with a single called “You Can Count on Me/Shyam Bolo” and video to be released in mid-November.  Newman gave The Bhakti Beat a sneak peek at the joyride of a jam session where the song and video was recorded (at L.A.’s legendary Village Recorder studio) with an all-star cast of mostly SoCal bhaktas — and believe us, you won’t want to miss this.  The song was written by Newman and Donna De Lory and features the vocal nectar of De Lory, C.C. White, and Shyamdas, in addition to all three of the Newmans — yes, even toddler Tulsi got her chance at the mike.  (See this video from Bhakti Fest West for a mellower version of the song.)  All proceeds from the digital-only single go to Global Green’s Green School programUPDATERead our article on the Stay Strong release.

A short sweet performance of “Like Rain,” (from To Be Home CD) at Shakti Fest in May:

Links and Deets

To contribute:  http://www.indiegogo.com/davidnewmanCD?c=home
Newman’s website:  www.davidnewmanmusic.com
Stay Strong website:  www.staystrongproject.com


Stay tuned for more in this continuing series, Crowd-Funding Kirtan.  Please contact bpatoine@aol.com if you have a suggestion for an artist to feature.



Ram Dass, beaming from Maui

We often get asked: “What are the can’t-miss chant events of the year?”  It’s a loaded question, for sure, since everyone has their own idea about what is “can’t-miss.”  Including us.  So we’re sharing our picks for “The Big 5” chant events that are worth getting to, no matter where you’re coming from.  Here’s part 1; stay tuned to this space for the rest (subscribe here).  And tell us what your top picks are!

Omega’s Ecstatic Chant is the original.  Now moving into its second decade as the annual destination for hard-core chantaholics, its roots can be traced back to Ram Dass’s annual retreats at the Rhinebeck, N.Y. campus in the ’80’s. 

Omega Co-Founder Stephan Rechtschaffen told us that, in those days, Ram Dass would invite Krishna Das or Jai Uttal to come and chant with the gathering as evening entertainment, and it became so popular that chanting became a central aspect of the weekend. When Ram Dass could no longer attend due to his health, the chanting continued.  These days, Ram Dass beams in from Maui through the magic of interactive video, delivering his wisdom, humor and reflections of Neem Karoli Baba from a large screen.

What’s So Special About Omega? 

Radhanath Swami (ctr) with Shyamdas and Deva Premal

 Omega is different from everything else on The Big 5 list because it is chant and only chant.  It’s also the only one that is not a “festival” per se — more like a “retreat.”  Or, in Omega parlance,  a weekend workshop (The Yoga of Voice).  The program is chanting.  That’s it.  No simultaneous yoga classes across campus.  No lectures or experiential workshops to compete for your time.  Just chant, chant and chant some more. 


On the second day, there is an extraordinary all-night session that, if you are game, is pretty much guaranteed to take you so deep into the bhav that you just might, as Swami Satchidananda said, “forget everything.”  Participants fairly camp out in the Main Hall, variously dancing furiously or quietly meditating, dozing or chatting in between sets… and before you know it, dawn is rising, right in tune with the lilting flute-play of Manose and Steve Gorn.

But what makes Omega stand out for us are those completely unpredictable moments that are pure gold for the soul — like Radhanath Swami wailing on the harmonica with Deva Premal and Miten.  Or Donna De Lory joining C.C. White to sing Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.  Or this little gem from Shyamdas, who never fails to liven things up with his stories and shenanigans:

‘The Super Bowl of Chant’

Miten, with Omega Co-Founder Stephan Rechtschaffen

Jai Uttal once famously called Omega Chant “the Super Bowl of chant fests,” maybe because only a handful of artists make it to the line-up and the competition to be on the schedule is intense.  (Each artist typically plays at least two full sets over the course of the weekend, and many play a third time at the Labor Day bonus session.)  Rechtschaffen, who makes the line-up decisions, says he is inundated with artists’ CDs and promo tapes and is always on the look-out for bands with a “unique” sound, but knows that bringing in someone “new” means someone else gets bumped, even if they’ve been on the Omega line-up for years. 

C.C. White was at fall Chant for the first time last year, and Dave Stringer returned after a few years’ absence.  Snatam Kaur and Wah!, both long-time Omega regulars, were noticeably absent last fall, as was David Newman (Wah! played at Omega’s smaller Spring Chant in May; Newman and Kaur both led workshop at the retreat center this summer).  Rechtschaffen openly lamented the absence of each of these favorites at fall Chant.   

The 2012 Line-Up 

KD and Arjun Bruggeman

Krishna Das, Shyamdas, Jai Uttal (with Daniel Paul) are constants on the Omega schedule.  They have been leading the Omega Chant pack since the early days and it’s hard to imagine Chant Weekend without all of them.  They can usually be counted on to be stage center during the famous closing session, when all the wallahs and musicians join together on stage for a final free-for-all.   Typically, you can find Shyamdas directing the action, Jai Uttal playfully rebelling, and Krishna Das playfully grumpy at having to be in the spotlight at such an “early” hour (it’s only 11:30 a.m. or so, after all). 

The ever-popular Deva Premal and Miten and Sikh songstress Snatam Kaur round out the top-bill headliners at this year’s Chant.

Vishal Vaid astounds

Vishal Vaid, who has trained in traditional ghazal (an ancient form of poetry in song that translates to “conversation with the divine”), astounds audiences every year (watch this for example) and seems to have a pretty solid position on the Omega roster.  The Mayapuris, the Florida-based band of “Krishna Kids” who have leaped — literally — into the international kirtan scene are back for a third year, and if previous years’ pattern holds true, will join just about everyone else’s bands as well.  

C.C. White

C.C. White is back for her second year, having solidified her return with two crowd-rousing sets last fall showcasing songs from her debut solo CD, This IS Soul Kirtan, which was “pre-released” at Omega.  Gaura Vani and bansuri flute virtuosos Manose and Steve Gorn complete the bill of musicians.  Radhanath Swami, who caused all sorts of excitement last fall when he joined Deva Premal and Miten on stage for an impromptu (and seriously wailin’) harmonica solo, will also be on hand.  We hope he brings his harmonica.

The Deets

When:  Aug. 31-Sept. 3, with a special 10-Hour Labor Day session on Sept. 3.  (If you still haven’t had enough, Krishna Das keeps the bhav flowing with a separate workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 4.)


Radhanath Swami & Donna De Lory

Where:  Omega Institute is located in Rhinebeck, NY, smack in the middle of the “Bhajan Belt,” the upstate New York region known for a confluence of kirtan.  It’s about 90 miles north of NYC and roughly the same distance from Albany.  There’s an Amtrak station nearby and a commuter train to NYC.

How Much:   This is the only bug in the ointment.  Tuition alone for Ecstatic Chant is $395.  The Labor Day session is $125, or $75 if you’re doing the weekend retreat also.  Accomodations are additional, and on-site cabins or dorms tend to be, shall we say, “rustic” (but pleasant enough).  See http://eomega.org/workshops/ecstatic-chant for details.

What Else? Rhinebeck is a quaint and boho-chic Hudson Valley town with lots of restaurants, shopping and an indie movie house.  But you may never want to leave the Omega campus, a rolling oasis with a small lake where you can kayak, hiking paths, great vegetarian meals, a wellness spa with all manner of body-work and subtle-energy treatments available, a soothing sanctuary at the top of the hill, and the charged energy of 30 years as a destination for spiritual masters and seekers of all stripes. 

So, what do you say?  Will you be going to Ecstatic Chant this year?  Why or why not?




Jai Uttal: Seeing God in the mirror…

After having canceled his East Coast tour due to pneumonia, Jai Uttal was back strong as ever for the headline spot Saturday night at Shakti Fest.

Dancing Devi: Nubia Tiexiera and Subhadra

He filled the stage with master musicians — 13 or so, by our count, plus beautiful wife Nubia Teixeira dancing with the deities in the wings — and brought the crowd to its feet for nearly three hours, an exuberant joyride that had even Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein, who is rarely seen on stage, dancing with abandon at the back.

Daniel Paul and Mark Gorman

The set was classic Jai Uttal & the Queen of Hearts Orchestra in full-on heart-throbbing raucousness.  Long, rolling chants that built to an ecstatic frenzy were punctuated by soaring  guitar jams between Uttal, Yehoshua Brill on electric and Mark Gorman on bass, and playful call-and-response drumming between Daniel Paul on tabla and Visvambhar Sheth on mrdanga.

Yehoshua Brill. Remember the name.

It culminated in a new composition — being played for the first time ever as a group, Uttal said — that wrapped the Beatles mantra “HELP! I need somebody” inside a funky reggae-style Maha Mantra.

Interspersed through it all were the kind of down-to-earth, open-hearted “Jai-isms” that we love about this kirtan rock star.  Like his pointing out that Shakti Fest constituted he and Teixiera’s “first overnight date in seven years” without son Ezra Gopal (who declared to them just prior to the trip that he didn’t want to go, in classic 7-year-old fashion).

But the most spine-chilling moment of all for this writer, the moment that stands out not just from this set but from three days of world-class bhav-inducing kirtan — and for us captures the very essence of Bhakti Fest — is this one:

Simple, profound insight delivered in classic Jai style….unscripted, authentic, self-effacing, and straight from the heart.  Just the kind of person you want to see in the mirror…

Good to have you back singing Jai.

The band (L to R): Rasika (of Kirtaniyas), Shiva Rea, Vrinda and Visvambhar Sheth (of Mayapuris), Bob Wisdom (barely visible), Daniel Paul, Mark Gorman, Jai Uttal, Dave Allen, Prajna Vieirra, Yehoshua Brill, C.C. White, Dhanya and Bali Rico (of Mayapuris).

More Shakti Fest Coverage:

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69


Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Mar. 2-4


What’s in store:  Wah! returns East, Shantala storms the Northwest, Ragani rocks Milwaukee, KD opens hearts in Orlando and C.C. White stirs souls in Santa Monica.  Lots of great kirtan out there this weekend; here are our top five picks for weekend bhav.  Where will you be chanting?

Top Five Weekend Bhav


BENJY and HEATHER WERTHEIMER, aka SHANTALA, are barnstorming the Northwest this weekend with a CD Release Tour celebrating their latest, Jaya, which everyone has been raving about.  First up is their home ‘hood of Portland, Ore. on Friday 3/3, where they’ll be joined by bansuri flute master STEVE GORN, bass and two-string guitar virtuoso SEAN FRENETTE and vocalist LINDSEY STORMO for a kirtan benefiting Living Yoga and the Oregon Food Bank.  Saturday the gang heads north to Seattle to hook up with GINA SALA to raise money for Yoga Behind Bars with a concert at the Seattle Unity Church.  On Sunday 3/5, it’s off to Vancouver, BC for a CD release party at St. Mark’s Trinity Church.  SHANTALA live never fails to be an experience in master musicianship and deep, reverent devotion, and with this band of stellar musicians backing them, this tour is not be missed.


Fresh from the release of her newest CD, Loops N Grooves, WAH! heads back East for a concert Friday 3/2 at Integral Yoga in New York City.  The long-awaited new CD– more than two years in the making — takes the electronic grooves and dance beats we fell in love with on Love Holding Love up another notch.  Wah’s signature soaring vocals are punctuated throughout with luscious loops and live beatboxing from the amazing “human drum kit” MIKE HAZZIA.  Have you seen this guy?  Vocal percussion at its funkiest!

Next weekend Wah! heads South for CHANTLANTA, the first big two-day kirtan fest in Atlanta, where she’ll be joined by DAVID NEWMAN & MIRA and SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND as well as regional Wallahs to Watch BHAKTI MESSENGER, RAHASYA, and lots more.


Chant Master KRISHNA DAS, just back from a long weekend retreat at the beautiful Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, is jumping right into an urban retreat at the Hindu Temple in Orlando, Fla. Friday night 3/3 to Sunday 3/5.  As part of the retreat, NINA RAO will be leading chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa, the 40-verse prayer to the  “monkey god” who embodies grace and devotion, and GENEVIEVE WALKER, KD’s masterful violinist, will be leading asana classes daily.  Kirtan concerts Friday and Saturday nights have been opened to non-retreatants.  Retreating with KD is an opportunity to get up close and personal with a bhakti “rock star” who is still keeping it real.  KD’s new venture with SiriusXM, KRISHNA DAS YOGA RADIO, launched March 1, bringing kirtan (even if they don’t call it that by name) to a national audience of radio listeners for the first time.  You can try Sirius out for free for 30 days and support this groundbreaking new channel!

Photo by Dale Buegel


Midwest kirtan is not just alive and well, but thriving, in large part due to the charismatic chantress RAGANI, who has been leading call-and-response chanting for some 30 years.  First-Friday Kirtan with Ragani is practically an institution in Wisconsin, regularly attracting 400 or more people and counting among the largest and longest-running ongoing chant communities in the U.S.  No wonder BHAKTI FEST is setting up camp in Wisconsin this July, and no wonder they’ve signed Ragani as a headliner.  Friday night’s kirtan with Ragani is at the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield.  Ragani is a local celebrity in greater Milwaukee, and her wry humor is legendary.  Watch her pass a few right over the heads of her hosts in this segment from a local morning TV show that aired just last week (and give a really nice explanation of kirtan as well — all in under five minutes!).  For more depth (lots more) about Ragani’s world, check out her interview with Josh Polich, whose new Three Teas Podcast covers kirtan and lots more.


Photo by The Bhakti Beat

C.C. WHITE rocks the Shala (Bhakti Yoga Shala, that is) Sunday 3/5 in Santa Monica, Calif.  The Deva of Soul Kirtan is the special guest of spiritual guide HOWARD WILLS, who is leading a series of gatherings on The Art of Well-Being and Higher Consciousness” as part of a California mini-tour.  On March 16th, the pair regroup for a session at Golden Bridge Yoga in L.A.   Word is that C.C. is working on a version of My Sweet Lord, the 1970 classic recorded by GEORGE HARRISON in praise of Krishna, which blended Christian Allelujahs with the traditional Sanskrit Hare Krishna Mahamantra.  The release date has not been announced, but stay tuned to C.C.’s YouTube channel for video of the recording with her and a few close friends.

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





Five for the Ride: Car Kirtan (Use with Caution)


Who shall we take along on the ride today?

You know when you’ve got one of those seemingly endless drives ahead of you?  Four, five, six hours in the car with nothing to do but drive drive drive?  Well, silence may be golden, but throw in a couple bhakti-rockin’ CD’s and the miles will just flyyyy by.  Trust us.

Having just endured a 6-hour drive home from Cape Cod, we know this.  I was about to crawl out of my skin from sheer boredom when I discovered Om Spun (the latest release from Wynne Paris’ all-star band Groovananda) in a crevice of my car and popped it into the CD player.  Immediately I started bopping and singing along with the gospel-infused chants and multi-layered instrumentalism.  I was grooving to Groovananda and loving life.  And apparently, driving faster.

Suddenly, there were blue lights flashing in my rear-view.  Talk about a buzz-kill.

“Is there any particular reason you were speeding, Ma’am?” the baby-faced rookie officer asked me in that official, you’re-busted tone.  Me: “um, uh….”  I thought about taking out the CD and handing it to him, but didn’t know how that would go over.  Plus, I still had three hours to go — I needed that CD!

I’m thinking that there are a lot of kirtan CD’s that need to come with a warning label like this one from Krishna Das’s Chants of a Lifetime CD:

Caution: This CD features chants that render it inappropriate for use while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Warning label or not, here are a few of our favorites for car kirtan.  Please use with caution.

Five for the Ride

1. Om Spun, by Groovananda.  This is “raga rock kirtan,” brilliantly fusing world beat, jam-band, rock, jazz, kirtan, folk, Indian, trance and gospel. Whew!  Featuring Wynne Paris on vocals and sarod, Rick Allen on drums, JT John Thomas on organ and Doug Derryberry (Bruce Hornsby band) on mandalin, plus Mark Karan, Krishna Das, Badal Roy, Perry Robinson, Girish Cruden, Dave Stringer, Kim Waters (Rasa), Ramesh Kannan and many others. (2011) Get it here.

2. This IS Soul Kirtan, by C.C. White.  By now everyone’s got this on their playlist, right? C.C. White’s debut solo album is a sweet, rollicking joy ride of classic chants reinvented with a Southern Gospel and soul-shaking exuberance.  I’m in love with the reggae-style Hare Krishna maha mantra punctuated by a deep, thunderous — and alltogether too brief! — Krishna rap by Bob Wisdom.  Chills.  Every time.  Co-produced with Matt Pszonak, with Patrick Richey, Denise Kaufman, Cooper Madison, Steve Postell, Richard Hardy, Michael Jerome Moore, Jeff Young, Arjuna O’Neal, Vasu Dudakia, more special guests and the Soul Kirtan Choir. (2011) Listen & buy here

3. Thunder Love, by Jai Uttal.  Queen of Hearts, Jai’s reggae-kirtan CD released last fall, would easily fit the bill here too.  But Thunder Love, released in 2008, has occupied one of the slots on my car CD changer since I bought the disc.  Jai’s trademark heart-soaring vocals will make you forget you’re stuck in a car and take you right with him into the inner chambers of the heart.  Please, put it on cruise control before Bolo Ram (Track 2) comes on…Produced by Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach for Nutone Records.  Get it here.

4. Love Holding Love, by Wah!  Of all the Wah! albums I love, I love this one the most.  (Of course, I haven’t heard Loops and Grooves yet, which is due out any day now.)  Maybe it’s the chill, almost trancey lounge feel, or the heart-pumping electronica beats, or the soft-rap riffs of love-centric lyrics that never fail to remind me that it’s all love baby, even if you’re stuck in the worst traffic this side of the 405.  It holds a near-permanent slot in the Baja’s player.  A two-year collaboration with Paul Hollman, with guest artists that include Elijah Tucker (drums), Katisse Buckingham (vocal percussion, flute), Ryan Pate (drums), produced for Nutone. (2008)  Get it here.

5. Live Your Love, by SRI Kirtan.  Make sure you’re buckled in when this one cues up; it sweeps you up in Track 1 with a hard-rocking Govinda/Hare Krishna medley and carries you on that current of bhakti love right through the duo’s signature Rock the Bhakti and on to the final track, a joyous tribute to the sacred Ganges River.  SRI Kirtan is the fusion of Sruti Ram and Ishwari, whose collective musical background spans punk, opera, Gregorian chant, electronica and doo-wop.  It shows.  With Steve Gorn on bansuri flute, Visvamhar from the Mayapuris on mrdanga, the sacred-rap genius of SriKala Kerel Roach , Charlie “Govind” Burnham on violin, Noah Hoffeld on cello, Kyle Esposito on bass and electiric guitar, and Curtis Bahn on dilruba and sitar. Co-produced with Julie Last for Mantrology/Ishwari Music. (2010)  More info here.

That’s our Five for the Ride today.  What’s playing in your car?

(Oh, and the baby-faced rookie cop?  He let me off with a warning.  Maybe it was the music…)