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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




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


Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69


Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein vividly recalls standing on the stage at Woodstock next to Swami Satchidananda before half a million or so flower children in August 1969.

Barely 19 at the time, but deeply involved in chanting and yoga, he had been charged with bringing “an element of spirituality” to the festival by Woodstock producers Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld .  Silberfein immediately turned to his guru Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga, and they flew together by helicopter to Yasgur’s farm to deliver the opening invocation that set the festival — and the “Woodstock generation” — in motion.  Swami famously called music ”the celestial sound that controls the whole universe” and led the crowd in chanting Om Shanti.

“At that moment, while I was standing there looking out at that sea of people, the seed for Bhakti Fest was planted,” he told The Bhakti Beat.  In 2008, 40 years later, the vision of a Woodstock-esque gathering completely devoted to kirtan and yoga came back to Silberfein, and he set forth to nurture the seed into life.  He likes to think of Bhakti Fest as a “spiritual Woodstock” — minus the drugs, sex and alcohol — a place for people to go and immerse themselves in the bhav for three or four days straight and “dive deeper into the self.”

Shakti Fest Dives Deep Into Ma

This weekend the fruits of Silberfein’s labor are ripening into Shakti Fest, the first of three big gatherings this year under the Bhakti Fest umbrella.  Shakti Fest, billed as a “more intimate” version of the 24-hours-a-day-for-3-days-straight bhakti blow-out that happens in September, is built around the theme of, well, shakti…a celebration of the divine mother. (It falls on Mother’s Day weekend, after all, and what self-respecting bhakta would pass up that kind of chance to get everyone singing ecstatic Jai Ma chants for hours on end?)

So, who’s chanting at Shakti Fest?  Who’s not chanting would be an easier answer!  Bhakti Fest’s spring fling is sort of a little sister to September in the same way that Omega’s Spring Chant is a little sister to Ecstatic Chant weekend in the fall.  As such, it lacks the really big names that headline the September Fest (like Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Dave Stringer).  But, seriously, with a line-up like this, who’s going to feel like they’re missing something?

The Line-Up for Shakti Fest. What's not to love?


If you can’t be in the bhav at Joshua Tree this weekend, you can still follow the flow by staying tuned to The Bhakti Beat’s ongoing coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and right where you are now.  We’ll be posting updates daily, talking with artists and producers, and posting more from our earlier interview with Sridhar.  Get the bhav, wherever you are!



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!




Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Mar. 9-11


Saul David Raye ignites hearts in Colorado, Jai Uttal awakens bhakti in Sedona, and Gaura Vani teaches harmonium in NY.  The Twin Cities Kirtan Fest lines up SIX local bands, and ChantLanta unites Wah!, David Newman and Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band with EIGHT local bands.  Plus Benjy Wertheimer and Steve Gorn in Portland, Cooper Madison and Daniel Stewart in SoCal, Bhakti Sessions and Goddesses in NY.  The bhav is everywhere.

Top Five Weekend Bhav

Saul David Raye Kirtan/Workshops; Denver (3/9-11)

Photo from Saul David Raye

SAUL DAVID RAYE has a reputation for creating transformative experiences in yoga and chant, and this weekend”s Inner Alchemy retreat at Karma Yoga Center in Denver will be no exception.  Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, the master yogi, beloved bhakta and co-founder of Exhale Venice presents six  integrated sessions focused on “strengthening and activating the spiritual heart and doing inner transformation through the 7 levels of energy within.”  Come for one session or all six, but DON’T miss Saturday night’s ANANDA COSMIC KIRTAN, described as “a moving, ecstatic, expansive and raw experience that dives deep into the nectar of the heart.”  Saul will be joined by local musicians JIM BECKWITH (guitar/vocals) and DAMON THE ZEN DRUMMER (djembe drums/percussion).

Jai Uttal Kirtan/Workshop, Sedona (3/9-10)

JAI UTTAL is back from Bodhi Fest in Australia and heading straight to Sedona, Ariz. for kirtan Friday night and a mid-day workshop Saturday called “Awakening Bhakti: A Celebration of Divine and Human Love.”  In it, Jai promises to “demystify” bhakti yoga.  His message: “With just a little understanding of music and rhythm and a lot of self acceptance, we all can sing and lead and share our hearts with others.”  Bhakti Tribe Sedona is hosting the program, Jai’s first trip to the city in four years.  DANIEL PAUL will be on tabla.  Sedona is pumped.

Gaura Vani: Workshops, NYC (3/9-11; 3/15)

Photo by The Bhakti Beat

GAURA VANI is back by popular demand for Level 2 of his harmonium workshop series at Yogamaya in NY Friday through Sunday.   This is a “hands-on, voice-on, full-on intensive” designed to help participants build on basic skills, lead group chanting and chant with the group, get comfortable reading music, and delve deeply into the practice of kirtan.  Open to anyone who has “ever had your hands on a harmonium and wanted to get better,” whether you took the Level 1 or not.

On Thursday 3/15, Gaura Vani presents SoundBody, SoundMind at Om Factory NYC, in collaboration with yogi KIRTAN SMITH.  This innovative program is described as “a multimedia, multi-sensory exploration of asana, music and mantra” centered around a series of postures evocative of the “scope and evolution of the universe.”

Twin Cities Kirtan Festival, Minneapolis (3/10)

Here’s a beautiful example of a kirtan community coming together as one:  six local bands, each with its own unique sound, chanting for six hours straight over the course of a Saturday.  No “national acts.”  No superstar yogis or simultaneous workshops going on.  Just good, pour-out-your-heart hometown kirtan with 150 or so of your closest friends.  That’s the 3rd annual Twin Cities Kirtan Festival.

Let me see if I can get this line-up right.  TULSI DAS (aka JOSH POLICH) starts it off at 4 p.m.; then KIRTAN COLLECTIVEOM BOLO (MELISSA FOSSUM, ANDREA SULLIVAN, BRYCE KASTNING, ALEXANDRA THIEM); and WILD MOON BHAKTAS.  Next up: SITARA & KALYANI and PAVAN KUMAR (who will soon be playing at Bhakti Fest Midwest), with PABLO CHARIS and WILL KEMPERMAN.  Finally, KIRTAN PATH (PASCALE , NANCY, MARK and GANGAMANTRI DAS) takes the closing set.  All for 20 bucks.  (And door prizes too — including a ticket to Bhakti Fest Midwest in June.)  What’s not to love?

ChantLanta Sacred Music Festival, Atlanta (3/9-10)

Speaking of regional kirtan fests we love everything about, there’s ChantLanta, whose theme is Peace, Love & Kirtan in the South.  And with WAH!, DAVID NEWMAN & MIRA, SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND plus EIGHT (yeah, eight) local/regional bands playing, there’s going to be a lot of peace, love and kirtan going on Friday night and morning-to-midnight Saturday at the magnificent Druid Hills Baptist Church.  For the full story behind ChantLanta and a full list of the local bands, please read Get the Bhav: ChantLanta.


More Kirtan Coast-to-Coast

Portland Pair-Up

This is not just any pairing; this is Indian classical music with master multi-instrumentalist BENJY WERTHEIMER (of SHANTALA) and bansuri flute master STEVE GORN.  Enough said?  I thought so.  They will be moving souls at the Movement Center in Portland, Ore. on Friday 3/9.

Big Apple Bhav

Bhakti Sessions, the brainchild of SRIKALA KEREL ROACH and JESSE JOHNSON, kicks off this Friday 3/9 at City Life Wellness in Brooklyn.  With eight evenings scheduled for the month of March, these gatherings promise to “go deep into the land of transcendental sound vibration,” with an acoustic approach to kirtan weaved with poetry, affirmations and stories.  Srikala’s brilliant new CD, Srikalogy Kirtan Sessions Volume 1, which weaves hip-hop and reggae sounds into traditional chants, is now available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Kundalini yogini, Sikh minister and Yogi Bhajan disciple SATKIRIN KAUR KHALSA brings her sacred chanting to Integral Yoga NY for “Joyful Sounds of Kirtan” on Friday 3/9, accompanied by TRIPP DUDLEY on percussion and BRANDON TERZIC on oud and guitar.  Sure to be a transformative experience.

Sanskrit & Samosas in SoCal

(Photo from Cooper Madison)

COOPER MADISON is back at Bhakti Yoga Shala in Santa Monica this Friday 3/9 for a night of sacred names, mantra, meditation and ecstatic singing.  He’ll be surrounded by friends, including SAPPHRON OBOIS (sax), VIVEK VIRANI (tabla), DEEPAK RAMAPRIYAN (vocals, violin) and EDDIE YOUNG (bass, cello, flute).  To celebrate Cooper’s debut CD (coming soon), everyone will get a pre-release song from it for free, just for showing up.  (And if that’s not enough there are free samosas.  But get there early if you want some.)

PSALM ISADORA is back too, and reconvening Shakti Church at the Shiatsu Massage School in Santa Monica this Sunday 3/11.  The event supports a documentary in gestation called “Shakti: The Power of Women.” The service at “Church” will include 108 sun saltuations, kundalini tantra breathwork, chanting with Mother Medicine Kirtan, ecstatic dance and drum circle.  Jai Shakti Ma!

Up the 405 in Sherman Oaks, Calif., DANIEL STEWART and friends are gathering for their monthly community kirtan jam fest at Rising Lotus Yoga.  Joining Daniel Friday 3/9 are ARIELLE SILVER (vocals and tambourine), CATHY CAVADINI (vocals), SHANNON BAKER (vocals and kartals), JEFF HARRIS (guitar), DARBY ORR (bass), and GREG KLIMUCK (cajon and percussion).  Expect ecstatic-ness.

(Photo from Sahaja)

Goddesses in Woodstock

The 7th Annual Woodstock Goddess Festival is here. Billed as a music/art/dance celebration, the popular event benefits the Ulster County battered women’s shelter. This year’s festival runs Friday 3/9 to Sunday 3/11, at the Colony Café in Woodstock, N.Y., and includes all female-fronted live music with artists such as UBAKA HILL, bellydancing with THE WILD ROSES, a Goddess/Women’s art exhibition at Varga Art Gallery in Woodstock, a Goddess Poetry Festival, and, yes, chanting, with SAHAJA KIRTAN (7 p.m. Satuday 3/10), a local artist who is a regular at Kripalu and at Omega staff kirtans. Sahaja is also teaching drop-in harmonium classes at Euphoria Yoga in Woodstock every Friday in March.

New England’s Got Heart and…UFO’s?

Maine kirtaniyas band together this Saturday 3/10 to raise funds for Sadhana, a South Portland meditation center that often hosts chant events. The event, dubbed Anahata (for heart), features bhaktas from western, eastern and southern Maine: ANANDA BHAKTI, FULL HEART COMMUNITY KIRTAN and KIRTONIUM, who will play as one ensemble beginning at 7:00 P.M. Gong Meditation and healing circle with TODD GLACY, SUZANNE SILVERMOON and KATHY MOORE starts at 4:30, with pot-luck dinner in between.

Dave Russell says, "Kirtan attracts all types." LOL

DAVE RUSSELL takes up root and spreads his wings at Roots to Wings Yoga in greater Newbury, Mass., for an evening of devotional chant Saturday 3/10, where he’ll be joined by HOLLY HARTMAN (vocals), CHARLIE BRAUN (guitar & vocals ), and CHARLIE SHEW (percussion) — and maybe a UFO?  Dave’s second CD will be released this Spring.

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

THANK YOU for sharing THE BHAKTI BEAT with your bhakta friends!




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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Feb. 24-26


It’s a “Wallahs-to-Watch” kind of weekend:  Five rising chant artists — Gina Sala, Irene Solea, Prajna Vieira, Larisa Stow, and Eddy Nataraj — lead the bhav this weekend coast to coast.  Plus, the party of the decade at Exhale Venice; Sean Johnson immerses NOLA in bhav; Bodhi Fest brings Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer and Deva Premal & Miten to Australia, and Brenda McMorrow sings in Estonia.  Yes, Estonia.

Best of the Weekend Bhav

Gina Sala, Prajna Vieira

GINA SALÁ plays in her home ‘hood of Seattle for Singing Satsang at Samadhi Yoga Friday night. Sala, who was introduced at Bhakti Fest 2010 as “the best kirtan artist you’ve never heard of,” facilitates “wholeness through voice” as a vocalist, teacher, composer and sound healer. She began chanting at age 3, living in a Hindu ashram in Canada. Today her music blends original lyrics and compositions with traditional chants from Hindu, African and Tibetan cultures, among others. If you can’t be in Seattle Friday, how about joining Gina in Mexico in March? Her Ocean of Devotion Sound & Wellness retreat holds court in Yelapa, a boatride away from Puerto Vallarta, March 17-24. (Use the code on the link to save $75, for friends of Sarah “Bhakti Babe” Garney.)

Irene Solea, Om Trinity

IRENE SOLEA, a favorite throughout the Northeast, takes her bhav West to Colorado this weekend for a series of events starting with the popular FRIDAY NIGHT YOGA CLUB in Denver 2/24, where she’ll play for yoga with JEREMY WOLF and ASIANA HARPER before kirtan.  Irene will be joined by Colorado kirtaniyas DAKINA MA JAEGER, JIM BECKWITH and DAMAN GROSSMAN.  Saturday morning, there’s more live-music yoga with Irene at Karma Yoga in Denver, and on Saturday night Irene is joined by local wallah MIRA GALE for an evening of devotional chanting at Yoga That Heals in Boulder. Word is that Irene’s new CD will debut in the spring: eight original chants set to pop/rock, Latin and reggae beats. GIRISH and JONI ALLEN are guest artists. Download a teaser track here, a luscious medley of uplifting original lyrics and Om Namah Shivaya.

Speaking of CD’s we can’t wait for, the long-awaited duet release by PRAJNA VIEIRA and BEN LEINBACH is coming soon. There’s even a date for the mandatory CD Release Party: April 20 at Rudrimandir in Berkeley, Calif.  “Amrita” represents “almost two years of hard work, love, devotion, laughter, tears and deep friendship,” Prajna said in an email. This Saturday, Prajna reunites with DONALD FONTOWITZ and RAMANA ERICKSON, aka the MUKTI KIRTAN ENSEMBLE, for a benefitconcert in Pacifica, Calif. (South Bay area) in support of Dyllan Kianna Wicks, a 2-year-old who was born with a rare heart defect and received a heart transplant a year ago. Call Ocean Yoga to pre-register: (650) 355-9642. But hurry, this event is likely to sell out.

Larisa Stow, Bhakti Fest 2011

LARISA STOW & SHAKTI TRIBE continue their quest to transform the world, one soul at a time, with love and mantra rock. Described by the Tribe as a “raise-the-roof celebration of unity-in-community,” Soul Transformation hits the Orange Coast U.U. in Costa Mesa, Calif. on Saturday 2/25. The Love Fest continues in Temecula, Calif., where the Tribe will be rocking the mantras at Living Yoga Sunday night 2/26.
And, on Sunday morning — we love this! — Larisa & Tribe are performing for Reverend Pat Campbell’s services at the Center For Spiritual Living in Temecula Valley. Sunday service with Larisa Stow?  Wish my parents had taken us to that kind of church…

Eddy Nataraj, 700 Voices

Returning to the theme of “best kirtan artists you’ve never heard of,” have you heard EDDY NATARAJ? We caught up with him last Spring at 700 Voices in Connecticut, where he “opened” for DAVID NEWMAN and SNATAM KAUR, and thought he pretty much blew everyone away with his phenomenal Spanish gypsy guitar-strumming and soulful vocals melding Spanish, English and Sanskrit.  On Saturday 2/25, Eddy will be singing at Dharma Yoga of Central CT in Meriden, Conn., so if you’re in the Northeast, go see him.  You will not be disappointed.  (Next week he’ll join up with BARRY RACCIO for Bhakti Shakti, a kundalini yoga workshop and kirtan in New Haven.)  How does he do all that with a brand new baby?

Those are 5 Wallahs to Watch this weekend.  Lots more below…


More of the Bhav

Yoga Bash of the Decade?  Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., is celebrating 10 years as a mecca for SoCal yogis with a birthday bash Saturday 2/25 featuring a live music all-star jam and dance party with SAUL DAVID RAYE and the RED MUSETTE ENSEMBLE (aka MICHELINE BERRY, DJ DREZ, JOEY LUGASSY, DEEPAK RAMAPRIYAN, CARLOS TORRES, YEHOSHUA BRILL and others to be announced.  Music is from 8-10 p.m. (apparently there’s a curfew), and there’s YOGA WITH SHIVA REA & FRIENDS from 5-7 p.m.  Oh, and it’s all FREE.  Beam me there Scotty.

Gwendolyn Colman, Sean Johnson

Show Us Your Chants: Trade in the Mardi Gras beads for a mala, and join SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND as they kick off their BHAKTImmersion retreat in New Orleans this weekend . The 8-day intensive starts with a full-on kirtan celebration in their home ‘hood on Saturday 2/25, and fills the week with ecstatic interactive chanting, dancing, storytelling, mythology, “bhaktiful asana practice” with live music, journaling, and love poetry from the Bhakti tradition. Sounds better than Mardi Gras, doesn’t it?

Gone Down Under: The Aussies’ itch for kirtan is being scratched this weekend with BODHI FESTIVAL in Newcastle, Australia, which claims to have “the finest kirtan (devotional) musical line-up ever seen in Australia.” U.S. headliners DEVA PREMAL & MITEN are ending their Australia tour there; DAVE STRINGER is beginning his there, and JAI UTTAL is…flying out for the weekend. (He’ll be joined by the Queen of Hearts Orchestra Oz.) Plus dozens of other artists, yoga and meditation teachers, and inspirational speakers. And get this: admission is by donation, a policy the festival’s spiritual director, Shakti Durga, said “liberates us to
dance together in truth and deep harmony.” This is a trend we’d like to see spread to the U.S., wouldn’t you?

Kirtan College Connection: So, maybe we missed something, but Estonia wasn’t at the top of our list for bhakti hot-spots. In fact it wasn’t even on the list. Well, guess what? Kirtan’s thriving there too, and thanks to a connection made at one of DAVID NEWMAN’S Kirtan Colleges, BRENDA McMORROW is in the former Eastern bloc country for two workshops and concerts in the capital, Tallin, and in Tartu. Palju õnne Brenda!  Meanwhile, DAVID NEWMAN is busy creating more connections: his first 2012 Kirtan College is going on right now at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida, and KC students will be showcasing their talents at a free public concert Friday 2/24 at the ashram.  More Kirtan Colleges with David coming up in greater Toronto (April 27-29) and Satchidananda Ashram in Yogaville, Va. (September 27-30).

Northeast Region

Bhav in Brooklyn: In New York City, AMBIKA COOPER holds space at the Brooklyn Yoga School Friday 2/24 for the ongoing Friday Night Kirtan series that features a rotating cast of bhaktas. Stay tuned for the live CD recorded Feb 10 at BYS featuring Ambika and the rest of the Brooklyn bhavsters (e.g., NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, JEREMY & LILY CUSHMAN FRINDEL) singing the Hanuman Chalisa.

Helping Hands in Harlem: ANJULA PRASAD sings at Interfaith Chanting for Forgiveness, a benefit on Sunday 2/26 at the Harlem Holistic Center that will raise money for Def Dance Jam Workshop, a Harlem-based non-profit performing arts troupe and academic program serving deaf, hearing and physically or  developmentally challenged youths and their families.  Anjual tells us she’s got not one, but TWO new CD’s in the works.  Her current CD, “Anjula,” is available here.

Calling All Wallah Wannabe’s: It’s open-mic kirtan night for the BOSTON KIRTAN & SATSANG gang, who gather monthly at Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Mass. for “kirtan for the people, by the people.” JOHN CALABRIA starts off the chanting, then passes the mic to any wallah wannabe’s or budding musicians trying out their tunes. But if you’re like me and would rather have a root canal than lead kirtan, just soaking in the bhav is also permitted.

Sundays in the Sanctuary with Dave:  In Northamptom, Mass., DAVE RUSSELL leads weekly Sunday night kirtan sessions at the Yoga Sanctuary.  Dave’s been chanting for like 40 years, and going strong.  Check out his schedule for deets on the Sundays in the Sanctuary and lots of other gigs throughout the Northeast.

Left Coast

Wah! Bhakti Fest

Wah! for MA: In Los Angeles (Granada Hills), WAH! is leading kirtan at the “Day of Healing,” a day-long conscious living expo to help launch the MA center in L.A.  Wah! sings for Amma at 1 p.m.  Her new album, Loops n Grooves is now out!

Psalms to Ma: In Santa Monica, PSALM ISADORA is back from India and back at Bhakti Yoga Shala for Jai Shakti Ma: The Power of Devotion. The workshop, described as a “celebration of the Mother through prayer and devotion,” includes chanting, ecsatic dance to open the heart, and a Tantric Goddess Ritual to awaken grace.   Jai Ma.

Dance Divine:  In the Bay Area, the now-weekly DEVOTION DANCE at Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley, Calif. starts Saturday at 7 with an hour of kirtan led by STEPHANIE WINN and SHARAN PAL (tabla).  Devotional DJ Dance Party with DJ OSHAN ANAND rocks till 11.

Sacred in Sacramento: MARTI WALKER is presenting Nada Yoga: Mantras and More Made Easy at Rise Yoga in Sacramento, an experiential workshop where students will learn basic concepts and practical uses of four primary aspects of Nada Yoga: Vedic and tantric mantras, kirtan/bhajans, and pranayama sound techniques.

DC and South

Ten Years and Counting:  That’s how long SACRED CHANTS KIRTAN has been bringing together chanters in the D.C. and Maryland area, and they’re at it again this Saturday 2/25 in Columbia, Md.  And on Sunday 2/26, BE Yoga in Sterling, Va., is hosting a vegetarian pot-luck and community kirtan at the studio’s backyard Yurt.  Eating starts at 4:30 p.m., singing at 6.

Texas Tunes:  More Wallahs to Watch:  The BHAKTI HOUSE BAND, fresh from a gig at the Texas Yoga Conference last weekend (along with DAVID NEWMAN, SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND, and SUZANNE STERLING & THE DESERT DWELLERS), is right back at it with “an evening of sacred sound and devotion sharing the practice of Nada Bhakti Yoga through a very east-meets-west sound in music.” Friday 2/24 at Aledo Yoga, outside Fort Worth.

Mountain Time

Colorado Crooners:  In addition to the IRENE SOLEA tour in Denver and Boulder, TOM FUHRMAN is hosting an all-Shiva night of community kirtan on Saturday 2/25 at his home in Littleton, Colo.  More details at the Colorado Kirtan facebook page — a great source for all things kirtan in Colorado.

Arizona Energizers:  Local band the KIRTAN WALLAHS are leading ecstatic-chant call-and-response at the Yoga Shala in Prescott, Ariz. Saturday 2/25.

If you made it this far, comment here and tell me which of these events you’d like to be beamed to. One person will be randomly chosen to get their choice of the 3 new CDs mentioned.

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







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!