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You never know what’s coming next with The Hanumen, the ensemble band created by Gaura Vani, Benjy Wertheimer and John de Kadt.  That came through in their live Webcast concert at Goddard College July 24 (part of an East Coast summer tour with Purusartha Dasa on bass), as well as the unpredictably amusing interview we had afterward with all four Hanumen.

As we’ve written, the evening’s musical agenda sauntered between Hafiz on the hang from drum poet John de Kadt (“Come Dance with Me”) to slave songs from 1800’s America (“Wade in the Water,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”) to original love poems to the world (“I Love You, I Do”) to 11th century Gregorian Chant (“Alleluia,” video below). Traditional Sanskrit chants to the Divine were weaved in throughout.  Often, each of these seemingly diverse genres was wrapped up into one seamless medley of musical artistry.

Each of the trio traded off instruments throughout the night: Benjy Wertheimer variously played the tabla drums, the esraj (a traditional Indian stringed instrument), or acoustic guitar; Gaura Vani switched between harmonium, flute, and guitar, and John de Kadt selected from the mountain of drums that surrounded him.

‘A Living Dialog of Faith’

This was not a “kirtan concert” so much as an exploration of musical mantras in every form, from vastly different spiritual traditions.  “A living dialog of faith,” Gaura Vani called it.

It’s this “ecumenical sensibility,” Wertheimer says, that is at the core of The Hanumen.  “We want to feel like anybody who really wants to give themselves completely to the divine has a way to sing with us and participate in what we are offering.  We are inviting people into the deepest expression of their own love for the divine, whatever path that they’re taking,” he said, adding wryly:  “You don’t usually go to kirtans and hear Gregorian Chants or Sufi poetry.”

Not usually, no.  But we say Alleluia to more of that.

See if you agree after hearing this Alleluia solo by Wertheimer, which he described as “a chant from a somewhat different tradition where men would gather to sing together.”  The Latin words in this 1,000-year-old Gregorian Chant are from Psalm 91 in the Volgate bible of the time, which speaks of justice.  It translates to: “May those who are loving and just flourish like the palm tree/And just like the famed cedars of Lebanon, may they multiply, may they grow. Alleluia.”

A studio version of Alleluia sung by Benjy Wertheimer and long-time collaborator Sean Frenette is on “Jaya,” the latest CD from Shantala, the Music of Benjy and Heather Wertheimer (www.shantalamusic.com), and forms the soundtrack for a beautiful video montage of images from the Wertheimer’s Northwest ‘hood and their bhakti travels.   View that video here: http://youtu.be/9Eqr9QqGRk4.

 Also see:
The Hanumen Prove that a (Mantra) Revolution Can Be a Hoot (Interview, Video, Photos)
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In "the pit"

The return of The Hanumen — the testosterone-driven ensemble band created by John de Kadt, Benjy Wertheimer and Gaura Vani — has been one of the most anticipated events in this kirtan addict’s year.  Who could resist this combination of three exquisite musicians, each with a heart as big as Hanuman’s (and humors to match)?

We caught up with the multi-instrumentalist mantra revolutionaries at a true hotbed of revolution, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., near the end of their short, sweet tour up the East Coast (don’t worry, West Coasters: The Hanumen are coming your way in September).  Afterward, we got to sit down with all four of the current incarnation of this band of bhakti brothers — bassist Purusartha Dasa being the fourth  — for an interview that turned into more of sit-down comedy routine at times:

from thehanumen.com

The Hanumen played in “the pit” at Goddard — fitting, perhaps for revolutionaries whose publicity photos show them covered in mud? — an acoustically correct sound stage from which the college’s community FM station, WGDR, audiocast the concert live to the world.  (A recording of it may be forthcoming, we’re told.)

Their concert covered a lot of sacred ground in mantra music…

delicious drum poetry from John de Kadt, beginning with the dreamily invitational, “Come Dance With Me”…




an Alleluia solo in the 12th century Gregorian Chant tradition from Benjy Wertheimer that took our breath away…




Gaura Vani’s inimitable playfulfulness, sacred story-telling, and powerful call-and-response leadership…




and even a little dance lesson in the “Swami Shuffle” from quiet, dimunitive Purusartha Dasa.


The evening was packed with pleasant surprises, beautifully showcasing the master musicianship of each individually and melding them seamlessly into a smooth flow of original compositions, ancient chants, reincarnated gospel songs, and instrumental interludes.  Luscious.

This is one perfect example:


Check our YouTube page for the latest uploads from The Hanumen @ Goddard!

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