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Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe Bhakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.com There is nothing traditional about Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe.  And that’s just fine with us.

Larisa and the Tribe deliver unapologetic Mantra Rock.  Quite unlike anything we’ve seen anywhere else. The first time we experienced their edgy urban-laced brand of bhakti, our jaw dropped, and they just keep get juicier each time we see them.  Quite possibly the tightest little shakti band in the West, they never fail to fill your cup with lovelovelove and take it right over the top — and then bring it back down to earth with something authentic and grounding like Larisa’s now-signature LOVE-IN with the crowd.

Larisa Stow, Bhakti Fest 2014, TheBhaktiBeat.comThis year’s set at Shakti Fest was no exception, as love goddess Larisa snuggled up close and personal at the front of the stage with adoring fans pouring out their affection.  She reflected it right back, singing them a heart-felt love ballad laced with advice for living fully from one who knows how. “We need to embrace all the parts of ourselves,” she said. “Even those wild parts.”  It was like group therapy in the bhav!

“How juicy can we get?” Larisa asked the crowd at one point.  “How much can we open up in this moment?”

They set the tone for their set right off the bat, with a Maha Mantra rock-out that proved why they call this music mantra rock.  Then it was time to “wake up those heartlines,” as Larisa implored the obedient bhaktas before her to put hands to hearts as she launched into an electrified ode to Tara, the Buddhist goddess of compassion who is always ready to spring into action to relieve suffering.  This was like no Om Tara you’ve heard before;  the seed mantra Om Tara Tuttare Ture Soha was fused with the English chorus “Om Tara, wake up in my life…” and driven by rich rhythmic layers of horns from the Wizard of Woodwinds Richard Hardy, bass, guitar, violin, and percussion.  Oh, just watch the video…

Then things got really juicy.

Shakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.com Larisa Stow Shakti TribeWith Tara sufficiently awakened in our hearts, the Tribe turned our attention to the Goddess Who Takes No Prisoners with a powerful seed mantra to invoke Kali.  We were also treated to a brand new song based on the Sanskrit mantra Ahem Prema, which means “I Am Divine Love.”  The Tribe’s version featured Bethany Folsom’s  exquisite violin amidst original lyrics reminding us that “The universe is in my womb” and “I am the love that I seek.”

Quotes, Bhakti Fest May 2014 by thebhaktibeat.comJust when you thought you couldn’t get any more love from the Love Tribe, “Whatcha Gonna Do With All That Love?” poured forth.  The song, already a signature anthem  for this Long Beach-based band, is now immortalized on Shakti Tribe bumper stickers that were given away freely from the stage.

But they weren’t through with us yet.  They hit us with another version of the Maha Mantra that shook the ground with its high-energy must-dance vibe (trust me — I just shook my whole neighborhood blasting it in my apartment…).  If you weren’t dancing by now…well, I don’t think anyone wasn’t dancing.  The set ended, fittingly, blessedly, with the title track from their epic CD “Rock On Sat Nam,” officially sealing the Tribe’s place as the Bhaktas Most Likely to Rock Your World.

What are we gonna do with all that love?  Pass it along of course!  Larisa made us promise.

Shakti Tribe is Benj Clarke on bass, Richard Hardy on woodwinds, Bethany Folsom on violin, Keith Larsen on drums, and of course, Larisa Stow holding court center stage on harmonium and vocals. Bray Ghiglia played guitar at Shakti Fest, and Mirabai Devi held space energetically throughout the set.

Mirabai Devi, Shakti Tribe, by thebhaktibeat.com at Bhakti Fest 2014 MaySo go ahead. Pass on the love.

See the full Photo Journal from Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe’s set here.

 Also See:
Too Much Talking from a Kirtan Wallah?  Hmm. Bhakti Quotes Worth Repeating from Shakti Fest 2014
Top 12 Bhavalicious Moments at Shakti Fest 2014 (Photos)
Shakti Fest Moments” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
Shakti Fest Finale” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
“Jai Uttal” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
‘We Need a Bus!’  Kirtaniyas Kick Off Shakti Fest Kirtan and Take Bhakti to A ‘Whole Other Level’
 
Connect with The Bhakti Beat!
Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat
The Bhakti Beat on facebook
The Bhakti Beat on twitter
The Bhakti Beat on YouTube
The Bhakti Beat on Google+
 

Like what you see here?  Help us keep The Bhakti Beat flowing!  Consider donating today, a one-time contribution or a recurring contribution — any amount is so appreciated and will help us continue to bring you the bhav.  The Bhakti Beat is a labor of love, completely self-funded by Brenda Patoine (moi), who is a freelance neuroscience writer by day.  Every little bit helps! THANK YOU! Donate Here.

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Shakti Fest 2014.2 006At one point during the weekend-long love feast that was Shakti Fest 2014, I ran into Vijay Krsna and his beloved, Sarasvati Devi, the couple who lead the Kirtaniyas.  It was the day after their late-night set,  and I was gushing to them about how deeply touched I was by their kirtan and teachings (I despise gushers, frankly, but there I was, gushing…)  Vijay asked if he had talked too much.  I was perplexed by the question.  He said that he had “gotten into a little trouble” for talking too much during his set.

Really?  I was dumbfounded.  I mean, I know we’re here to sing, to chant the Names, to raise our voices in unity, to dance and clap and twirl in ecstatic joy.  I’m all for that.  But really, too much talking?  Kirtan is, after all, more than just another live-music concert like you can get at any bar or nightclub on a Saturday night.  It’s the core practice of bhakti yoga, an ancient discipline of devotion and service.  There is so much joy and wisdom in the teachings of bhakti yoga! Personally, I love it when kirtan wallahs pause from the chanting to offer little bits of wisdom or profound teachings from this tradition, or simply personal reflections from their own bhakti path.  Am I alone on this? I don’t think so.

Here, in honor of the “talking” part of kirtan, are a few of our favorite quotes — at least the ones that we had the presence of mind to write down — from the bhakti feast in the High Desert at Joshua Tree:

Vijay Krsna, Kirtaniyas, Shakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.com“It’s no longer enough to perform kirtan.  We want to inspire kirtan.  We want to be inspired by kirtan.” Vijay Krsna of The Kirtaniyas, Thursday night’s pre-kirtan.

“We are the way heaven shows up.” Akahdahmah Jackson of Aykanna (an Aramaic word from the Lord’s Prayer meaning “as it is in heaven”), Friday afternoon.

“Our true nature is whole and complete.  You are infinite joy. When you realize you are one with Krishna, you realize you are whole and complete.” ~Manoj, the Deity Wallah, speaking between sets on Friday.

Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe, Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com“We need to embrace ALL the parts of ourselves — even those wild parts.” ~Larisa Stow, Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe, Friday evening.

“It’s half English, half Sanskrit, and 100 percent ecstasy,” ~Dave Stringer, Friday night, speaking of his forthcoming collaborative CD with Donna De Lory interpreting the Radiance Sutras in mantra music.

Simrit Kaur, Bhakti Fest May 2104, by theBhaktiBeat“Sometimes I feel like I’m dangling from a thread. The mantras are all I have to hold onto.” ~Simrit, Kundalini chantress, Friday afternoon.

“You’ve got to give love in order to receive love.  With every step you take, give love, receive love.  Give love, receive love.  Give love, receive love.” ~Wah!, Saturday evening

Jai Uttal, quote, Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com“Every day I wake up with the a feeling of being completely lost. How can I function in a meaningful way on this earth? The answer is that I get to sing God’s name.  Without that I’m basically a lost cause.” ~ Jai Uttal, in his “playdate” (aka workshop) Saturday afternoon.

 

“I love that silence at the end of the chant.  It’s almost as if you work the whole song to get to that point of silence.  Then it’s just you and the Divine for a moment.” ~Cooper Madison, The Gandharvas, Sunday afternoon.

“Hanuman is the embodiment of grace.  The Chalisa opens up our hearts to that channel of grace.” Govindas, of Govindas & Radha, during the Sunday morning Hanuman Chalisa session.

Kamaniya & Keshavacharya, Prema Hara, Kirtan Revolution, Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com“It takes a lot of people to make a kirtan revolution.” Kamaniya Devi of Prema Hara, Sunday afternoon.

 

“Unconditional love.  It’s really the only thing we should be practicing all the time.  But it’s hard, isn’t it?  Singing is the most powerful way to unconditional love. ” ~ Masood Ali Khan, Sunday morning.

“The only way to get back home is to fall in love with God.” ~Saul David Raye, putting to song a quote from Italian musician Alex Cigolini, during Monday’s Post-Intensive.

Gina Sala, Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com“Because the one I love lives inside of you, I lean as close to you as I can.” ~Gina Salá, singing one of her signature love songs during Saul David Raye’s Post-Intensive.

Quotes, Bhakti Fest May 2014 by thebhaktibeat.comSo then, the question is: Whatcha gonna do with all that love, Bhakti Beaters?

Pssst…Pass it on.

 Also See:
Top 12 Bhavalicious Moments at Shakti Fest 2014 (Photos)
Shakti Fest Moments” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
Shakti Fest Finale” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
“Jai Uttal” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
‘We Need a Bus!’  Kirtaniyas Kick Off Shakti Fest Kirtan and Take Bhakti to A ‘Whole Other Level’
 
Connect with The Bhakti Beat!
Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat
The Bhakti Beat on facebook
The Bhakti Beat on twitter
The Bhakti Beat on YouTube
The Bhakti Beat on Google+
 

Like what you see here?  Help us keep The Bhakti Beat flowing!  Consider donating today, a one-time contribution or a recurring contribution — any amount is so appreciated and will help us continue to bring you the bhav.  The Bhakti Beat is a labor of love, completely self-funded by Brenda Patoine (moi), who is a freelance neuroscience writer by day.  Every little bit helps! THANK YOU! Donate Here.

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Kirtan, Bhakti Fest May 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.comNo, this is NOT a blog professing to proclaim the “best wallah” or the “best music” or the best anything at Shakti Fest, the Bhakti Fest franchise’s spring fling in honor of the Divine Feminine.  Choosing a best kirtan artist would be like proclaiming azure blue or burnt orange to be the “best” color in the rainbow.  Like the vast palette of hues on Earth, there is a vast range of kirtan “moods,” from soft and prayerful to raucously ecstatic, from pared-down and traditional to full-on electrified rock-out.  Who am I to say what’s “best”?  That’s a deeply personal opinion based on what resonates with any one of us.  I know what I like, but that doesn’t mean it’s “best” for you…

And besides all that, I never met a kirtan I didn’t like, so picking a few “best” ones is nothing short of impossible for this chanthead.

Instead, I’m focusing on a few of the many moments during the course of Shakti Fest when my heart was touched deeply enough to fill this old softie cynic’s eyes with salty tears, or make me laugh out loud, or simply smile inwardly at the sweetness of it all.  So here are my top 12 bhavalicious moments from Shakti Fest, in no particular order…

1) Meeting bhakti friends for the first time and getting hugged like they were your best friends for life.  Does that ever get old?

Dave Stringer set, Shakti Fest Bhakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.com2) The little pod of princesses who climbed up on stage to dance and prance about during Dave Stringer’s set and summarily stole the show.  And Stringer’s “let it flow” response when asked if it was okay if they stayed.  (Personally, my only problem with the adorable little girls was that they were blocking my view of Steve Postell; how could I ogle my guitar hero with a 7-year-old sweetie in the way?)

Steve Postell, Bhakti Fest May 2014, by theBhaktiBeat.com3) And since we’re on the subject, Steve Postell. Period. Because when a celebrated electric-guitar rock star from L.A. comes out to Bhakti Fest to play with every headliner plus a few others, that’s worth crowing about (and yeah, even ogling over).  Stay in the bhav, Steve, we need you here.  Please.

4) Manoj, the Deity Wallah, offering his humor-laced teachings about God and gods during the set changes. “God is not external,” he said, “He is not some old bearded guy in the clouds with an anger-management problem.”  LOL.

Vijay Krsna & Sarasvati Dasi, Kirtaniyas, @ Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat5) Vijay Krsna welling up with tears on stage when he started to talk about his guru.  Unable to continue speaking, his beloved wife Sarasvati Dasi, with a pump of the harmonium, seamlessly stepped into the silence while her husband composed himself.  Divine union.

Wah, Bhakti fest 2014 May, by TheBhaktiBeat.com6) Wah! shimmering like the Bhakti Goddess of Love that she is in an iridescent plum-colored Gopi skirt and a big black bad-ass bass, reminding us all that if we want love, we have to give love.  “Are you loved?”  She yelled out, then answered with another question:  “Are you LOVE??”  (This simple exhortation is what unleashed the tears in me for the first time — but not the last — of the fest.)  The crowd swooned.

“You’ve got to give love in order to receive love.  With every step you take, give love, receive love. Give love, receive love. Give love, receive love…”

7) Story time with Jai Uttal during his “playdate” (his answer to a “workshop”), when he told of chanting at Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba’s temple in India in the 1970’s.  Each time the chant faded to silence — even after 6 hours of chanting — Baba’s voice from a back room would chime in, yelling: “Keep singing!” and the chanters would start anew.   Jai’s playdate ended with a long, exuberant Radhe chant, which eventually slowed and faded to blessed silence.  That is, until a voice from somewhere in the back yelled out: “Keep singing!”  Wait, was that…?

Larisa Stow Shakti Tribe @ Bhakti Fest May 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.com8) Larisa Stow, Shakti Tribe Goddess, sitting at the edge of the stage and gathering her adoring fans close around her like a mother gathers her children to her chest, palpable love flowing in all directions.  Whatcha gonna do with all that love?

9) Cooper Madison, extolling the virtues of the space between the chants.  “I love that silence at the end of the chant,” he said from the helm of his new bhakti band, the Gandharvas.  “It’s almost as if you work the whole song just to get to that point of silence.  Then it’s just you and the Divine for a moment.”  mmmmmm, yes.

Saul David Raye, Bhakti Fest May 2104, by TheBhaktiBeat.com10) Saul David Raye, pumping a harmonium with a bumper sticker on it that proclaimed LOVE WINS, staying gracefully composed and present despite the sound problems that plagued his set (and others).  His mike was out for a good half of his set, cutting in and out loudly much of the rest of the time.  He never lost his focus, never once lashed out in annoyance at the sound guys who seemed to be taking their sweet time getting the problem fixed.  He just kept singing and smiling and pumping the harmonium we could barely hear.  Yep, Love Wins.

Jaya Lakshmi & Ananda @ Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com11) This scene, from Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda’s luminescent love-feast of a set:

12) Gina Salá raising her hoarse-from-the-desert voice (she was on stage a lot) one final time during sivasana at Saul David Raye’s Post-Intensive to lull us all into sweet oblivion with a little diddy that went like this:

“I Love You, I Love You, I Love You….Just as You Are.”

And with that little love song came the tears again for this bhakti-fried chanter.  Could there be a more perfect way to end this Shakti love Fest than a reminder that we are all love? Just as we are.

Now there’s something to take home with you…

OK, your turn.  What was your favorite part of Shakti Fest?  Or of any Bhakti Fest you’ve ever been to… The Bhakti Beat wants to know!

Jai Jai Shri Radheeeeeeeeee!

K.d. Devi Dasi @ Bhakti Fest May 2104, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Also See:
Shakti Fest Moments” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
Shakti Fest Finale” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
‘We Need a Bus!’  Kirtaniyas Kick Off Shakti Fest Kirtan and Take Bhakti to A ‘Whole Other Level’
 
Connect with The Bhakti Beat!
Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat
The Bhakti Beat on facebook
The Bhakti Beat on twitter
The Bhakti Beat on YouTube
The Bhakti Beat on Google+
 

Like what you see here?  Help us keep The Bhakti Beat flowing!  Consider donating today, a one-time contribution or a recurring contribution — any amount is so appreciated and will help us continue to bring you the bhav.  The Bhakti Beat is a labor of love, completely self-funded by Brenda Patoine (moi), who is a freelance neuroscience writer by day.  Every little bit helps! THANK YOU! Donate Here.

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Kirtaniyas Kirtan by TheBhaktiBeat.com @ Bhakti Fest May 2014Shakti Fest 2014 — the first of the three bhakti yoga “love fests” by the Bhakti Fest franchise — kicked off with a little pre-show Thursday night with the Kirtaniyas, the progressive Krishna Kid bhakti band that is pushing the kirtan movement into new ground.

The leader of the pack, Vijay Krsna, paused midway through the high-energy kirtan to tell a story of something that happened in Las Vegas a week or two prior (yeah, forget that old maxim that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — does not apply here).  The band was in Vegas for Holi Festival of Colors, the spring ritual in India where people throw brightly colored powder on one another which is swiftly spreading in the U.S., with at least a dozen color festivals at last count in the States.  If you’ve seen any of the videos of these festivals, you know how high the energy is…

Vijay Krsna, Kirtaniyas, Bhakti Fest 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.comWitnessing the exuberance of the festival in Vegas, Vijay said, he realized “Bhakti is going to a whole other level, a level beyond ourselves individually or collectively.  We’ve entered a new phase of this kirtan movement.”

Sitting with a group of other devotees in Las Vegas after Holi Festival, Vijay exclaimed: “We need a bus!  We need a bus so we can drive wherever we want to sing and dance and share the Names.”

A few days later, the band of wandering bhaktas was in Santa Monica leading a street kirtan on the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city best known for its amusement-park pier and wide sandy boardwalk-lined beaches.  Less well known is Santa Monica’s rich bhakti history — Krishna devotees have long gathered on the city’s promenades to chant the mahamantra accompanied by bells and drums.  (The Third Street Promenade was in fact, where this writer/bhakta first experienced the “Hare Krishnas” many years ago as they danced and chanted their way down the street.)  Since 1977, the city has hosted the Festival of Chariots, a parade of elaborately decorated coaches in celebration of Lord Jagganatha, with devotees, locals and tourists alike jubilantly dancing and chanting all along the route.

Today, Santa Monica is home to a rich “California-ized” bhakti community, a city where you can get your sankirtana fix just about any night of the week.  Ground zero for this community is Bhakti Yoga Shala, a shaktified refuge in the heart of the city founded by Govind Das and Radha, a kirtan couple who are mainstays on the Bhakti Fest schedule. The Shala infuses yoga classes with chanting, holds weekly kirtans, conducts kirtan trainings and workshops, and regularly hosts bhakti wallahs from out of town for roof-raising sankirtana.

Nitai, Kirtaniyas, Bhakti Fest May 2014 by TheBhaktiBeat.comSo, back to the Kirtaniyas…Here they are, chanting the Names on the Third Street Promenade just like their predecessors in the Western bhakti movement, just days after putting out the intention for a bus, when one of their extended family comes forward to announce jubilantly: We have a bus!

“Give thanks to Krishna: WE HAVE A BUS!” Vijay exclaimed to the group that had gathered around the little band of bhaktas.

Recounting the story of intention-turned-to-manifestation in a matter of days with an air of awe and gratitude, Vijay reflected: “This has been the mystery of my life: Would you like to live a life of your heart’s desire?  We have been vortexed into this intention of leading a life of chanting and dancing.”

At the end of the evening’s session, which began with a prayerful “Jai Guru Dev,” built expertly up to a rollicking rendition of “Sri Krishna Chaitanya” followed by a high-energy Maha Mantra/Hari Bol medley, and finished meditatively with Vijay singing “No Ordinary Name,”  the charismatic young kirtaniya offered this nugget:

“It is not longer enough to ‘perform’ kirtan.  We want to inspire kirtan and be inspired by kirtan.”

To which we say, HARI BOLLLLLLL!

Kirtaniyas at Bhakti Fest May 2014, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Stay tuned for more coverage of Shakti Fest 2014, here (TheBhaktiBeat.com), there (facebook) and everywhere (twitter, Google+, YouTube, yadayada!

Connect with The Bhakti Beat!

Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat
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Sunset at shakti fest by Kamaniya Devi on TheBhaktiBeat.com

Photo by Kamaniya Devi

Can we just say how much we love livestream?  We envision a day when every festival and concert, kirtans included, is streamed free to living rooms and laptops everywhere. With perfect audio.  And a strong, steady feed.  And — since we’re dreaming — professional camerawork that zooms in on the action.  While we’re at it, could we get a caption here and there identifying featured musicians? (Who was that on violin with Karnamrita Dasi anyway?)

Until that vision is reality, we’ll take what we can get.  What we got yesterday from Shakti Fest — thanks to New World Kirtan and Kitzie Stern for persevering with the technicalities — was two full sets of the bhav in Joshua Tree, Dasi and Jai Uttal, plus smatterings of choppy, wildly fluctuating audio from Saul David Raye, Deepak Ramapriyan, and David Newman’s sets earlier in the day.  By the time Dasi took the stage, it seemed like the bugs had been worked out on the stream AND video had been added.  Not only did it sound better, but we had a back-row view of the action.  We’re glad we stuck it out and kept listening…

Here’s the link for the livestream to Shakti Fest (May 17-19), which starts at 10 a.m. daily and will continue until the bitter(sweet) grand finale.

Shyamdas at Shakti Fest, by Kamaniya Devi, on TheBhaktiBeat.com

From the stage to the altar. (Photo by Kamaniya Devi)

This is, of course, the first Bhakti Fest without Shyamdas, the beloved “elder statesman of bhakti,” as emcee Shiva Baum described him last night.  Normally, Shyamdas would be steering the ship of bhav here, both behind the scenes and stage center, particularly during the legendary final set, where all the wallahs and musicans crowd the stage for a final Hare Krishna mahamantra.  (Check out the action from last fall’s finale in the video below.)  While he may not have been there in body, it was clear from listening in on the goings-on in the high desert that Shyamdas was on everyone’s minds, and in everyone’s hearts.

In every set that we caught, the artist paused to say a few words, share a personal remembrance, or dedicate a song to Shyamdas.  Jai Uttal devoted a Sri Radhe chant in what he called “a sad melody” to Shyam; Dasi closed her set with one of Shyam-ji’s favorites, The Song of Sweetness, which glorifies the nectar of Krishna’s form and love.  Govindas, one half of Govindas and Radhe and the founder of the Bhakti Yoga Shala, Santa Monica’s temple to kirtan, spoke at length between sets about his time “sitting at the feet” of Shyamdas.

The master of Hari Katha was eternally present.

Jai Uttal & friends, by Bhakti Fest, on TheBhaktiBeat.com

Jai Uttal & Friends (Photo courtesy of Bhakti Fest)

Just before Uttal played, Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein came onstage to pay tribute to his dear friend in words and a three-minute slide show with an audio track of Shyamdas being interviewed in India just weeks before his death.  Putting it together, sifting through images and recordings of Shyamdas, “has been tearing me up emotionally every single day,” Silberfein said.  He told of the Bhakti Yatra group tour to India in January, for which Shyamdas was a very large part of the itinerary but never made it to the entourage waiting for him.

You may have heard the story before…but Silberfein added some new details.  He said Shyamdas called him just before they were slated to rendezvous saying he was suffering a breakout of shingles and wouldn’t be able to join the group of 25 or so Westerners who had traveled to India fully expecting a Shyamdas-led tour of Vrindavan, the holy city in India that Shyam so loved (and was practically the town’s adopted mayor , from what we’ve heard). Instead, Shyamdas stayed in Goa to rest and recuperate; the motorcycle accident that ended his life happened a few days later.

Altar at Shakti Fest, by Kamaniya Devi on TheBhaktiBeat.com

K.d. Devi Dasi and Prajna Vierra tending the Main Stage altar (Photo by Kamaniya Devi)

The audio on the slide show dropped out from the livestream feed so it was difficult to catch, but Shyamdas was telling a funny story involving Uttal and Krishna Das, something to do with Uttal’s assertion that KD was too “masculine to be a Gopi.” (Who can fill us in on the details?)  Whatever it was that was lost in cyberspace, it was enough to elicit lots of guffaws from the audience, as well as a good-natured comment from Uttal, who joked that Shyamdas was “hounding me even from the grave.”

Mohan Baba, Shyamdas’s friend of 40 years and one of the close satsang who was with him the night he passed, told of how Shyamdas — in his final hours of life after the accident — was “totally focused inward.”

“He didn’t say a word and was just sitting there calmly, in an intense devotional space,” Mohan said.

One of the things he loved about Shyamdas, Mohan said, was that “he was just a regular guy.  He was not a swami, not a renunciate.  He lived a householder’s life, and was totally fixated on the divine lila.”  Even though he came from a wealthy Connecticut family, “he turned his back on all that, choosing to live very simply.”

chanters showing love for gina sala by Kamaniya Devi on TheBhaktiBeat.com

During Gina Sala’s set (Photo by Kamaniya Devi)

“There’s a big lesson for all of us there,” Mohan said, “to live life as fully as you can, every day.”

Just when you thought you might make it through this tearjerker tribute without breaking down, Shiva Baum broke down, his voice cracking as he introduced Jai Uttal’s set.

“Shyamdas is irreplaceable, and he will be with us always,” Baum said before turning it over to Uttal   “His love blankets this entire festival.”

Here’s the video from last fall’s Bhakti Fest, with Shyamdas steering the bhav in the festival-closing raucous, windblown, stage-lights-about-to-topple all-wallah finale.  Through it all, Shyamdas just kept singing to Krishna.

Watch the Livestream here.
Shakti Fest kirtan schedule
www.newworldkirtan.com
www.bhaktifest.com
 
See our coverage from last year’s Shakti Fest:
You Want Shakti? Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti
Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest
Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance
On-Stage Proposal a Bhakti Fest First
Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

Connect with The Bhakti Beat!

Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat
The Bhakti Beat on facebook
The Bhakti Beat on twitter
The Bhakti Beat on YouTube
The Bhakti Beat on Google+
 
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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.

 

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You Want Shakti? Larisa Stow’s Got Shakti

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The first time I experienced Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe was at Bhakti Fest 2010, and I pretty much spent the whole set in jaw-drop disbelief.  I know I wasn’t alone;  the mid-day crowd on hand — many of whom, it seemed, were also new to this band from Long Beach, Calif. — was riveted.  This was not your average kirtan.  It was edgy, urban, hip-hop-infused modern “mantra rock.”

I fell in love with the Tribe’s vibe, and have seen them live at two Bhakti Fests since — each one more powerful than the last.  When their latest CD, “Rock On, Sat Nam” (a work of conscious art) came out, I listened to it incessantly (and wrote about it).  I interviewed Larisa Stow about her music and her bhakti path, followed the Tribe’s news about shows around SoCal, and pined to road-trip with them to the Holi Festival in Utah, where they played before a crowd of 50,000 or so drenched in flourescent colors.

So I figured I knew what to expect from Larisa and the Tribe this time around.  I was wrong.

Benj Clarke on Bass

What transpired on the stage over the midnight hours of Night One at Shakti Fest 2012 was beyond expectation. (There’s a nice long taste of it in the video below.) I can’t quite even put my finger on what it was that made this Shakti-fied set stand out so. Maybe it was the late hour or the fact that we’d been “in the bhav” for 15 hours or so, but those who stuck around (most of the crowd) after the Mayapuris finished know what I’m talking about.  It was like the perfect storm of exquisite musicianship, connection between “performers” and “audience,” and straight-from-the-soul message of forgiveness, transformation and hope. Larisa Stow has this inimitable way of connecting at a heart level — there I said it — that just seemed to resonate deeply with the throng of bhaktas crowding the front stage.

Richard Hardy

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she is backed by four top-notch musicians, who are resonating right along on that heart-vibe with her.  This band is tight.  For “just” three guys and a drummer, they conjure incredibly rich melodies. Woodwinds wizard Richard Hardy (who also played with Marti Walker and C.C. White at Shakti Fest) performed his magic on the sax and the flute and…how many other instruments did he have in his bag of tricks?

Kimo Estores

Kimo Estores is masterful as the guitar hero, Benj Clarke lays down the funked-up bass grooves, and Paloma Estevez, the newcomer in the Tribe, rocks on drum kit.  Everyone sings response.

Center stage and weaving it all together is Shakti Sister Larisa, alternately playing the harmonium, dancing with Benj or Kimo, and belting out lead vocals.  But it’s more than her voice, with its incredible range; underneath it all is a warm, approachable authenticity to a depth that is surprisingly rare even in the “love-all, serve-all” world of sacred chant.

Before long she was sitting at the front of the stage, eye-to-eye with everyone, touching palms, connecting personally, physically, soulfully, with each one.  Later she declared from the stage midway through a soaring Radhe-Krishna mantra: “I just want to climb right down there with all of you!”  Then she did just that, leaving the spotlights behind to dance and chant with the throng in the shadows. It was a Larisa Lovefest!

The set electrified from the start: a HUGE Shakti Ma chant that woke everyone up and commanded attention. In a loving sort of way.  But that’s sort of the point with this music:  “Wake Up and Pay Attention.  LoveLoveLoveLoveLove.”  While that may be an oversimplification, it’s the message that, to us, pervades the multi-layered lyrics laced with mantra.

This ethic is on glorious display in the Tribe’s anthem-like “Peacemakers” song (video below), which gives us chills every time.  Do you feel it?

For more Shakti Tribe love, visit www.larisastow.com

"I just want to love you all."

 

 For more Shakti Fest coverage, see also:

Jai Uttal Captures the Essence of Bhakti Fest

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

On-Stage Proposal a Bhakti Fest First

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

 

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Loco for Lokah and the Bhakti Dance

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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

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Shakti Fest On-Stage Proposal A First

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The Bhakti Beat @ Shakti Fest:  It was one of those quirky moments that Bhakti Fest is becoming famous for, like the two weddings last year.  No matrimonials occurred during this year’s fest, but a young man named “Irish Dave” did get the ball rolling after Jai Uttal’s set Saturday night at Shakti Fest.

Slender and blonde with a pierced lip and a shock of long hair off one side of his crown, Dave jumped up on stage (at the invitation of Bhakti Fest emcee Shiva Baum) just as Jai and his musicians were putting down their instruments.  Then he turned to his beloved…

Huh? Proposing to....Daniel Paul??

Ooops that’s not it.  Hahaha, couldn’t resist this crop.

No, it wasn’t Daniel Paul Dave wanted to marry.  He called his girlfriend to the stage, a lithe, tattooed young woman who promised to “get him for this,” and he made a short, touching speech before pulling a small black box from his pocket and dropping to one knee to …well, you can figure out the rest.  Right there in front of 1,500 or so bhavved out bhaktas glued to the drama unfolding on the stage.  Just look at the faces on the back-stage onlookers…

Daniel ducks just in time...

It was a match made in kirtan heaven: apparently the couple met at a concert with Deepak Ramapriyan and his Breath of Life Tribe.  “Thirteen months ago I had no idea this community existed,” Dave told the crowd in a slight Irish brogue before turning to his beloved.  “Before I met you I was in darkness and you brought me into the light.  I truly, madly, deeply, love you.  Would you be my wife?”  Yes, the proposal even rhymed

Talk about pressure.  Thankfully for Irish Dave’s ego, the object of his adoration, Tonia, said yes. Make that, SCREAMED yes!

And perfectly on cue, the music rose up again.    See for yourself:

File this under “Only at Bhakti Fest.”

More Shakti Fest Coverage:

Jai Uttal:  The Essence of Bhakti Fest

Loco for Lokah & the Bhakti Dance

Bhakti Fest Seeds Planted at Woodstock in ’69

 

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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

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