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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
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 program. UPDATE: Read 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 DeetsTo 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a suggestion for an artist to feature.