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Passionate about the planet

As the Bhajan Boat forged the troubled waters of Manhattan’s East River last weekend, SRI Kirtan punctuated their set with a passionate rap against “fracking,” one of the latest threats to water quality perpetrated by Big Oil & Gas.  The very UNtraditional lyrical riff was brilliantly wrapped inside a traditional chant venerating Ganga Ma — the troubled holy river revered in India as symbolic of the Divine Mother, the source from which all life and salvation flows. 

It was mantra with a message, a take-no-prisoners warning not to frack with Ma’s water…


Fracking — a moniker for hydraulic fracturing — is the process of pumping millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to extract natural gas.  The practice has gained favor with gas drillers as a cost-effective way to harvest vast natural gas reserves, but many questions about its safety and how it affects the water supply remain unanswered.  In New York State, regulators are still debating whether to allow fracking.  A state-wide moratorium is in effect temporarily, while environmental and health reviews continue.  Meanwhile, with the state dragging its feet, more than 100 upstate NY municipalities have banned fracking, but these local rules are also under attack:  in the first of many legal battles, a state judge recently invalidated Binghamton’s municipal ban.

‘Are You Serious?/Are You Delirious?

Don't Frack with her

Fracking has “shortsighted benefits,” says Ishwari, SRI Kirtan’s female half, because it offers access to a “cheap resource” — untolled billions of gallons of natural gas preserves.  But the process is environmentally suspect, at best.  At worst, it’s a “Molotov cocktail/right at your tap,” as the song goes.  “We can’t afford to sell out on this one,” she says, with line-in-the-sand determination.

“There is no life on earth without water.”  Only about one percent of the Earth’s water reserves are suitable for drinking, Ishwari points out.   “Fresh, drinkable water is our most precious resource.”

SRI Kirtan's Sruti Ram & Ishwari at Bhakti Fest Midwest

Ishwari and SRI Kirtan’s other half, Sruti Ram, recorded a studio version of “Don’t Frack” last year with Srikalogy’s Srikala Kerel Roach, a NY-based conscious hip-hop artist who is making his mark on the new wave of experimental kirtan-rap fusion now gaining momentum  in the “yoga-music” world.  (Hear Don’t Frack here.) 

 The Message in the Mantra

The words to SRI Kirtan’s anti-fracking rap and Ganga Ma mantra are:
Jai Jai Ganga Ma
Jai Jai Shankara
Bham bolo Mahadeva Shankara
I’m gonna get my water back,
don’t frack
Not gonna let you fracture…

It’s Undrinkable
We’re on the brink
to sell our souls
to make a buck
so we can say
we lost our minds & gave it
away to Exxon/Mobil
they made their bottom line
America, your mantra
Will leave the world behind.

Are you serious?
Are you delirious?
on CNN with a
ridiculous grin
About the gas below
What do you know?
Chemical madness in your water flow.
Molotov cocktail
right at your tap
spontaneous combustion
delivered while you nap
There is so little time, we have
So much to learn
Please don’t let our water burn!

See also:
More Coverage from the Bhajan Boat:
‘Bhajan Boat’ Charity Kirtan Cruise Circles Manhattan With a Boatful of Bhaktas (Video)
Bhajan Boat Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page
Stay tuned to this space for more from the Bhajan Boat (subscribe here), and check our YouTube channel for the latest uploads.

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


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? Maha Shivaratri 2012


Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is upon us.  Said to be one of the most sacred and auspicious nights on the Yogic calendar, Maha Shivaratri honors Lord Shiva, one of the three energies of the Hindu trinity (the trimurti).  Of all the Hindu dieties, Shiva’s pretty intense.  He’s the  “god of yogis,” both creator and destroyer,  timeless, formless, nameless.  Shiva is consciousness and bliss.  He wears a cobra for a necklace.  And he really likes kirtan.

Maha Shivaratri can be intense too.  It’s traditionally celebrated with a series of elaborate pujas (sacred ceremonies) that pay homage to Shiva (in the form of linga) with offerings of flowers and incense, baths of milk and honey, and non-stop kirtan that goes all night.  The ritual culminates in the marriage of Shiva and Parvati (Shakti), which is symbolic of the union of consciousness and matter — the dance of universal creation.  As dawn breaks and a new moon rises, a sumptious feast of prasad is shared as a final offering to Shiva.

Wait a Minute, Did You Say Linga?

In case my Dad is reading this (unlikely), or anyone who is new to Hindu culture or Maha Shivaratri, I know what you may be thinking.  Ritualistic worship of linga?  Bathing them in milk and honey?  Marriage, union and creation?  Some people go right to the gutter with this, like there’s some kind of cultish sex worship going on (not to be confused with the cultish sex worship allegedly going on in the Anusara kula).

Indeed, a friend once described a Shivaratri event he attended in Colorado as “beautiful young women pouring yogurt over a huge stone phallus.” Huh?  At the time, I had just registered for a Krishna Das retreat at Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas and had decided to extend my stay to experience Shivaratri at the ashram.  Frankly, I knew little about the significance of the night; I just saw “all-night chanting” and signed up.  My friend’s description of his experience made me wonder what I had gotten myself into…

Samadhi By Sunrise?

Shivalingam puja at Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas.  March 2009

I can assure you that there wasn’t anything remotely sex-cultish about the Sivananda celebration.  It was sacred, beautiful, and profoundly moving.  As my first introduction to a “real” puja — performed by a bona fide Tantric priest from South India in the ashram’s little open-air temple — it made an impression on me.  If felt authentic.  And powerful.

The legends surrounding the significance and power of Shivaratri as a holy night for spiritual purification and rebirth are many.  It is said that those who please Shiva on this night, worshiping him in accordance with the rituals set forth in Hindu scripture, will be freed from all past sins, dwell with Shiva in enlightened bliss and be blessed with moksha, liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Freedom from past sins? Dwell in enlightened bliss? Who doesn’t want that?

I don’t know if that’s all possible, but it makes for good story-telling.  And when it’s 5 a.m. and you’ve been chanting every incarnation of Om Namah Shivaya for eight hours straight and haven’t eaten or slept for 20 hours but somehow are feeling incredibly clear and energized and ready to jump right onto the “shiva train” that is about to slither its way through the ashram grounds in a joy-filled chant-along version of the dorky wedding chain-dance, you might even start to believe it.

Where’s the Shiva Bhav?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

India would be a good place to start.  Just about anywhere there will do, neighborhood Shiva temple or home puja.  Or, you could celebrate with SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR, (NOT the sitar maestro; the founder of the International Art of Living Foundation), who will be leading the festivities at his organization’s headquarters in Bangalore.  If you can’t be there, you can still be there (sort of) through the magic of LIVESTREAM.  The broadcast starts Saturday 2/18 at 8 a.m. EST (6:30 p.m. IST).

Sivananda Yoga Ashram (Paradise Island, Bahamas) continues their annual Maha Shivaratri tradition with pujas throughout the night by Ashram priest Krishnan Namboodiri and continuous Shiva chants from dusk until dawn led by senior staff.  The prasadam buffet served at dawn is a feast fit for Lord Shiva himself.  Festivities begin Monday night, 2/20 (the astrologically correct day of observance).  Here’s a sliver of the festivities from last year:

Sivananda has a worldwide network of ashrams, and many others will be marking Shivaratri as well.  At the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Marina Del Rey, Calif., festivities and chanting begins at 9 p.m. Monday 2/20.  And at its Hollywood and Santa Barbara locations, the Vedanta Society of Southern California hosts celebrations Monday 2/20 beginning at 6 p.m. till 1:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively.  These are described as traditional fests marked by fasting, meditating, praying and singing to Shiva. (Hat tip to Joni Yung, deva of yoga events tracking in L.A., for posting these.)

In Venice, at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, superstar yogi SHIVA REA is joining forces with superstar kirtaniya DAVE STRINGER for what I’m guessing will be a somewhat UNtraditional initiation to the auspicious period surrounding Shivatri.   The event starts with “body mala-based yoga” led by Shiva (all levels) and ends with ecstatic kirtan.  Sunday 2/19, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.   (If you can’t make it to LaLa Land, you can join a free Shiva meditation led by SHIVA REA via teleconference on Monday 2/20.) Also on Sunday at Exhale Venice, SAUL DAVID RAYE presents Shiva Nataraj, the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, an immersion in Shiva teachings and practices that includes Shiva mantras, meditation, kirtan and a flowing asana/pranyama/mudra practice.  1 p.m. to 4:30 Sunday 2/19.

Way up the coast in San Francisco, CHRISTOPHER “HAREESH” WALLIS will lead Shiva-focused satsang, kirtan and storytelling at The Center SF, Friday 2/17 beginning at 9:30 p.m.

The Shiva bhav starts flowing early in Colorado too.  At Boulder’s Studio Be, Colorado’s vibrant kirtan community joins up for ecstatic chanting and shivalingam puja with BHAKTI SHAKTI, Friday 2/17, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In New York City, the place to be for Maha Shivaratri is the Broome Street Temple, which kicks off the celebration Saturday 2/18 (4-10 p.m.) with a SIX-HOUR KIRTAN (part of the Bhakti Center’s monthly chant marathons) featuring SRIKALA KEREL ROACH, ACYUTA GOPI, ANANTA GOVINDA, special guest RAGHUNATH and others .  Festivities continue Sunday, 2/19 (8 p.m.) with an all-night puja consisting of a series of abhishekas, or ritual baths of the shiva linga.  Kirtan will be provided all through the night by NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, AMBIKA COOPER, JEREMY & LILY FRINDEL, and other special guests.

Ananda Ashram in Monroe, N.Y., about an hour north of NYC, will mark its fifth annual Maha Shivaratri All-Night Music & Dance Celebration from 9 p.m. Saturday 2/18 to sunrise Sunday.  DEEPAK KUMAR PAREEK has organized a “Concert for Positive Change” with a line-up of musicians including NAREN BUDHAKER (tabla), KEDAR NAPHADE (harmonium), ANDREA BRACHFELD (flute), KRISHNA DEVI (leading kirtan), MITALI BHAWMIK (vocals), AMIRA DVORAH (bansuri flute), INDRAJIT ROY-CHOWDHURY (sitar), STEVE GORN (bansuri flute), SHEETAL KARHADE (vocals), SRI KALIMA (dance), AQUEEL BHATTI (tabla), and DAVID KEEN (violin).

Not to be outdone by New York or L.A., the little Hridaya Hermitage in Industry, Maine will be marking the occasion with an open forum on the meaning of life, from the yogic perspective.  The 5-hour program on Sunday 2/19 includes bhajans from the Hermitage’s high-energy house band SHIVA LILA, shivalingam puja and dinner, concluding with an intention-setting ceremony to alleviate suffering in the world.

Where are you getting your Shiva Bhav this weekend?


Learn More About Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri: Celebrating Lord Shiva.  Glimpses of Divinity

Maha Shivaratri Significance (a secular overview from the India tourist board)

Who is Shiva? (from the Chopra Center, Archetype Series)

Shiva Linga and Its Significance (from Rudraksha-Ratna)

Maha Shivaratri Puja Overview & Shiva Symbolism

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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Feb. 10-12


What’s in store: rocking buttes in Colorado with Dave Stringer, bhaktas band up in Brooklyn, Deva does Down Under, and Gurunam Singh sings for peace.  Plus Irene Solea, Jai Uttal, Girish, David Newman, Wynne Paris, Satya Franche, and regional kirtaniyas to watch!


Colorado Rocks Its Butte

DAVE STRINGER will be rockin’ the bhav in Colorado this weekend, finishing out the “Dave-Joni-Patrick Utah-Colorado Kirtan Tour” with long-time accompanist JONI ALLEN on vocals and guitar and PATRICK RICHEY performing his percussion magic.  Next stop: Friday Night Yoga Club in Denver, Friday, 2/10, where the Dave Trio will be joined by local musicians Dakini Ma, Kate Drazner & Kendall Perry.  Live-music yoga at 6 p.m.; concert at 8.

Then, on to YOGA ROCKS THE BUTTE, a “snowga” and music fest in Crested Butte, Colo. with the requisite line-up of big-name yogis (including SHIVA REA, SARA IVANHOE and MICHELINE BERRY, among others).  STRINGER headlines Saturday night, 2/11.  GOVINDAS AND RADHA, JOEY LUGASSY, DJ DREZ, and STEVE GOLD will round out the bhakti love on the butte with performances throughout the weekend.

Brooklyn Bhaktas Band Up for BYS

JEREMY FRINDEL and LILY CUSHMAN FRINDEL have made the Brooklyn Yoga School, which they co-founded, a regular destination for Brooklyn bhaktas with their ongoing Friday night kirtans (this Friday’s features SATYA FRANCHE and friends).  On Saturday, 2/11, Brooklyn bhaktas give back with a 4-hour kirtan with everyone from the Friday night series taking a turn at the call.  That includes NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, AMBIKA COOPER, TERRENCE POMPEY, AND SUNDAR DAS along with JEREMY & LILY.  Whew! The whole thing will be recorded and edited into a CD to raise funds for BYS programs, so you can get your Brooklyn bhav on no matter where you are.

Deva & Miten Dive In Down Under

Photo Credit: Deva Premal & Miten

Have you noticed that Australia is the new hot destination for kirtan wallahs?  DAVE STRINGER was there last fall, JAI UTTAL is heading there soon, KRISHNA DAS will be there in April…  Right now, DEVA PREMAL, MITEN and MANOSE are gracing the Aussies at the Ecstatic Chant Retreat in Byron Bay.  Retreatants got a special treat on night 2 when the GYUTO MONKS OF TIBET stopped by to offer puja (sacred ceremony) and in return, were serenaded with Om Tare Tuttare, the beautiful Tibetan mantra invoking compassion and liberation.  The retreat was sold out, but the trio’s tour Down Under continues, culminating with the Bodhi Festival Feb. 25, which also features JAI UTTAL and DAVE STRINGER.

Gurunam Singh Sings for Peace

In Boston, a workshop to invoke power, peace and prosperity will feature the divine melodies of GURUNAM SINGH.  The Friday evening session begins with a 75-minute live-music-powered vinyasa class, then a meditation to dissolve energetic blocks in order to live with prosperity, followed by kirtan to enter into a place of peace.  Sounds perfect to us: Gurunam’s 2008 CD The Journey Home is a favorite, especially Dukh Par Har, a chant subtitled From Pain to Peace.  Works every time.


Boston Metro Leads

Tons of bhav flowing inside and outside of Boston.  In Byfield to the north, IRENE SOLEA is at Roots to Wings Yoga on Saturday, 2/11 for a kirtan concert with her rockin’ band, EZRA LANDIS (guitar), OWEN LANDIS (drums/percussion) and DANNY SOLOMON (keyboards/bass).  We’re in love with Irene’s rich harmonies and soulful expressiveness — a joy to chant with.  On Sunday 2/12 Irene plays for morning yoga in John Calabria’s class at Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Mass.

In Malden, Mass., the place to be Friday 2/11 is the Grand Opening for the new Hridaya Hermitage Kaya Kulpa and Yogic Healing Center.  The benefit kirtan starts at 8 p.m., and we know it’s going to be good, promising “lots of full volume-kirtan” and dancing with the SHIVA LILA BAND, TOM LENA and others.

In Cambridge, JAISHREE & PREMA BHAKTI will be chanting at Dazza’s Urban Ashram on Friday 2/10.  On Saturday 2/11, the band heads to S. Portland, Me., for a kirtan at Sadhana.  Check out their sound here.  Me like.

And, in Brookline, Hebrew chants with Boston’s HEBREW KIRTAN BAND, who will open the festivities at Dance Friday (1615 Beacon St.) Kirtan from 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., followed by DJ dance party.

California Calling

In Oakland, a special treat when JAI UTTAL teams up with his beloved NUBIA TEIXEIRA for “The Alchemy of Yoga and Kirtan,” a workshop described as a “heart-opening adventure through breath, movement and sacred sound, blending those traditions in a deep and playful way.”  Namaste Grand Lake hosts the three-hour afternoon workshop and kirtan Saturday 2/11.  Deets here.

In Sherman Oaks, DANIEL STEWART & FRIENDS present ecstatic kirtan at his studio, Rising Lotus Yoga, Friday 2/10; 8:30 p.m.

GIRISH’S tour schedule shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.  This weekend he plays in Corono Saturday 2/11, at the Yoga Den Health Spa, then heads to Santa Monica to chant with the kirtan junkies at Bhakti Yoga Shala, Sunday 2/12.  Next up for Girish:  Pittsburgh.

L.A. take note: The KIRTAN WALLAH’S (aka ARJUNA O’NEAL & FRIENDS) and BHAKTI DANCE are having a kirtan LOVE FEAST, and you don’t want to miss a single course.  At Core Power Yoga on Wilshire.

Southern Kartals

Two events to note:  WYNNE PARIS is leading kirtan in Alachua, Fla., Friday 2/10 at the Ayurveda Health Retreat, with VISVAMBHAR SHETH of the MAYAPURIS joining in!  Wynne never fails to bring it; have you heard his masterful collaborative CD, Om Spun by Groovananda?  Good stuff.  And rumor has it he’s working on a new live kirtan CD.

And, a Georgia band that just came into my consciousness, RAHASYA, is spreading the bhakti love throughout the Southeast.  This weekend they’re chanting at the Yoga Room Healing Arts Cooperative in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Friday 2/10 and at Open Heart Yoga School in Carrboro, N.C., Saturday 2/11.  Check out their music here, and catch them live if you can.  They are going to be at Chantlanta, the sacred music festival in Atlanta March 9-10 that features WAH!, DAVID NEWMAN and SEAN JOHNSON AND THE WILD LOTUS BAND.

Northeast Notes

Speaking of DAVID NEWMAN, he’s back east after a mini-California tour, playing in Westmont, N.J., Friday 2/10 at a concert at Anjali Power Yoga to benefit Africa Yoga Project.  On Saturday 2/11, he’s chanting back in Pennsylvania at the Shri Yoga and Wellness Center in Reading, Penn.

In New York City, DREAM TIME is back!  The event that was born on New Year’s Eve lives on, and has now morphed into a two-day conscious-living extravaganza that includes (among LOTS of offerings) ecstatic kirtan, dance-party kirtan with SRIKALOGY, contact improv with JESSE JOHNSON, a tantra workshop with RAN BARON, and tons more.  Friday 2/11 starting at 8 p.m.; Saturday 2/12 Noon to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Maine Kirtan Soars

PREMA BHAKTI is in S. Portland at Sadhana Meditation Center for kirtan Saturday 2/11, preceded by a Chakra Shakti Yoga class with JAISHREE.

In Portland studio Bhakti in Motion, TODD GLACY and KALEE COOMBS weave sacred tones of gongs, singing bowls, flute, voice and other sound remedies in a feast of sound at the Be-Loved Valentines Concert Saturday 2/11.  Best thing about it?  You don’t need to be a couple.

Elsewhere in Maine, ANANDA BHAKTI is playing at the new 6-S Yoga in Manchester, Me. (near Augusta) on Saturday 2/11; and ShivaShakti School of Yoga in Rockland, Me. hosts kirtan with AIYANA & KRISHNA on Sunday 2/12.

Maine kirtonaholics have a great Facebook page: Maine Kirtan.  Subscribe to it to stay on top of the Pine Street State’s bhakti flow there.

Where do you find out about kirtan or yoga in your community?  The Bhakti Beat wants to know…


Tell us where you’ll be chanting.  Email us, post links on our Facebook page, or Tweet us.




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


Who shall we take along on the ride today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five for the Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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