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Yoga Texas Style (Dana Shamas)

What did we love about the Texas Yoga Conference?  The bhakti, baby!

No surprise there, but seriously: these folks “get” that yoga is more than asana.  TYC founder Jennifer Buergermeister told us the integration of practitioners from a wide array of yogic and healing arts was by design, a nod to the Eight Limbs of Yoga.  Bhakti was weaved seamlessly into the weekend, the way we dream about it being weaved into every yoga conference out there.

NOLA’s Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band

For starters, there was Saturday’s Bhakti Bash with Sean Johnson And The Wild Lotus Band, the New Orleans-based trio who are pioneering the integration of kirtan and asana.  Johnson told of his own yogic journey, first to hatha yoga, then to bhakti, and finally to a fusion of the two.  When he first started teaching yoga 16 years ago, Johnson said, his “physical practice” and his devotional practice were very separate.  “Even to ‘Om’ in class was scary for me then,” he shared.  But after years of this separation, he said his yoga practice “felt a little dried up.”  For the last several years, he has been “experimenting with how to bring these two paths together.”

“We have to figure out ways to keep bringing juice to our practice,” Johnson said.  “Bringing bhakti to hatha has helped sustain me.”

Bhakti Bash with Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band

Over the next two hours, he brought some juice to the convention center ballroom and proved that his “experimentation” is working.   With a rapt audience of a couple hundred yogis huddled close to the stage, he recounted classic tales from Hindu scriptures and mythology, of Radha and Krishna, of Shiva and Shakti, of Kali and Saraswati.  He told of Durga Ma’s cursed war with the demons, how each time she slayed one, a hundred more would appear from the drops of blood, until she was overwhelmed and could do nothing more but sit down to meditate; how it was only by going within that she found the strength to slay every last demon and return peace to the land.  Then we all joined our voices in praise of Ma, with Gwendolyn Colman’s rich vocals leading the response to Johnson’s call.  Jai Jai Ma, Saraswati Ma. 

An hour or so into the session, Johnson sent us back to our mats for a bhakti-infused yoga flow to the rhythms of Colman’s percussion and Alvin Young’s bass.  It was a side of Sean Johnson we hadn’t experienced before (the yoga teacher) — and one we highly recommend.  Very juicy.

The Bhakti House Band at Texas Yoga Conference by TheBhaktiBeat.com

The Bhakti House Band

The Bhakti House Band proved why they are Texas’ favorite kirtaneers with bookend sets in the morning and evening on Saturday.  By the end of their final set, the little crowd gathered in the common area was rockin’ out to the rhythms of Kristin and Randall Brooks and their band of bhaktas, and didn’t want to see them stop.  Particularly when Randall, the self-described “kid from the ‘hood,” tried out a freshly devised conscious hip-hop riff on us — look for that one on the upcoming album from this Fort Worth-based group, a charity effort for their Peace Love Om project, which aims to raise cultural awareness and promote diversity among youth around the world and support suffering children, families, and communities in need through donations and seva.  Remember this bhakti couple — they are the go-to back-up band for Texas-touring artists and are fast making a name for themselves on the national kirtan scene.  Watch this space for videos and more on The Bhakti House Band…

Prathiba Kirtan at Texas Yoga Conference by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Pratibha Kirtan

On Sunday, we got to experience the sweetness of new-to-us Aaron Lind and Pratibha Kirtan from New Orleans, with Ashley Beach rockin’ the acoustic bass and Jordan Arey on drums.  Lind, whose talents include some pretty impressive acro-yoga, said he was first inspired to lead kirtan thanks to fellow NOLA yogi Sean Johnson.  The bhakti trio is currently touring Texas and in the midst of recording their first CD.

Flight School with ex-punk/monk Raghunath Cappo took off in three sessions over the weekend, a testament to the popularity of Cappo’s practically legendary approach to mastering gravity-defying arm balances, for anyone who dares to fly.

Ragunath Cappo at Texas Yoga Conference by TheBhaktiBeat.com

Raghunath Cappo

What we liked was his down-to-earth, New Yorker style and his keeping-it-real vibe.  What we loved was his bhakti; he started each class with satsang and chanting, complete with a little lesson in what kirtan is (“meditation with your voice”) and does (“It’s about uncovering self-knowledge, or ‘atma jnana'”).

“The saints and yogis in India are not performing yoga to get six-pack abs and a nice ass.  They’re practicing it to become transcendent,” Cappo said.

Jennifer Buergermeister, Texas Yoga Conf. Founder, by TheBhaktiBeat.com

TYC Founder Jennifer Buergermeister

Thank you Texas Yoga Conference founder Jennifer Buergermeister and all the teachers and bhaktas at TYC for bringing the bhav to yoga.   Wouldn’t it be great if EVERY yoga conference did so?

Kick it up Texas!

Also see:




Reason to smile...

Ed. Note:  Crowd-funding is the new buzzword in music production — and it’s taking off in the kirtan world right in step with other musical genres.  In this new model, artists are bypassing the traditional route of funding new releases — contracting with a record label — in favor of reaching out directly to their fan base to finance the high cost of professionally recording and producing a CD.  In return for their contributions, fans receive “perks” that range from an advance download of the CD (for, say, $10 or $15) all the way up to a private concert and Executive Producer credit (for $5,000-$10,000, typically).

In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the crowd-funding efforts underway now in the mantra music world.


Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band

Project:  Full-length CD
Fundraising Goal:  $30,000
Deadline:  October 29, 2012
Raised as of October 27: $28,745 (so close!)
Update: The band reached its goal one day ahead of the deadline!  You can still support the effort; all additional funds will go toward sharing the album with a wider worldwide audience and supporting an extensive CD release tour.

The Band

We have yet to meet anyone who has experienced the N’awlins-flavored bhav of this trio of musicians and hasn’t come away an instant fan.  For three people, they produce BIG sound.   Favorites at festivals everywhere — they were the first kirtan band ever invited to play at the New Orleans Jazz Festival — they are sought-after touring artists and hometown heroes in NOLA. 

Snake charmer Gwendolyn Colman

Bhakti yogi Sean Johnson leads with the harmonium and soulful vocals laced with dreamy poetry and original lyrical riffs deftly tucked into traditional chants.  Innovative percussionist and singer Gwendolyn Colman is one of bhakti’s most colorful characters, typically sporting a flourescent plume atop her fiery red braids and with a green rubber snake dangling from her mike stand (we know there’s a story behind that snake…).  And then there is tall, quiet axeman Alvin Young, a New Orleans institution who has graced the stage with jazz greats Wynton and Branford Marsalis and many others.  He plays with intensity, head down, resolutely plucking his bass and laying the foundation for rhythmic alchemy.

The Project

Alvin Young. Intense.

The goal is a full-length studio CD on a par, quality-wise, with the band’s last CD, Devaloka (a joy–get it if you haven’t).  Expected release date is fall/winter 2013.  The new CD’s title is as yet undetermined; Johnson told The Bhakti Beat: “We find that the name usually reveals itself once we’re in the studio, inside the process of creating the music.”  But, he added: “The theme is clear:  Unity — celebrating the connection between global cultures and spiritual traditions through music.”

If you’ve seen SJ&WLB live in the last year or so, you’ve likely gotten a good taste for the cross-cultural feast the new record promises.  The band’s fundraising page says it will include a number of songs from their current tours, including the anthem-like Unity (Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu), which was released as a music video this summer; the gospel classic I’ll Fly Away; the Sufi chant La ilaha illa Allah; The Way Of Love (Jai Kali Ma); I Will Rise Again; Hare Krishna; Ramachandra, and more.   All except for I’ll Fly Away (see video at bottom) are original compositions, and the lyrics include mantras from different spiritual traditions and the poetry of Rumi.

Here’s a live take of Unity that we caught at Shakti Fest this spring…


Message from Sean Johnson

“This year, after much thought and discussion, Alvin and Gwendolyn and I decided to make a leap of faith and to move away from the traditional music label model on our next album.  The biggest question in making this decision was how to fund a high-quality, full-length professional studio recording on par with our last release Devaloka and get it out there in the world without the support of a record label? We had heard encouraging stories from many bands from around the world who were having great success with a new model called crowd-funding, in which they invited friends and fans to make contributions toward the high production costs of their projects in exchange for gifts and perks, including downloads of the album once it’s completed. With an open mind, we launched a campaign on the popular crowd-funding website Indiegogo.com in July.  Can you help us rally to meet our goal?”
Here is the song that Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band typically close their sets with, and which inevitably gets a lot of people teary-eyed.  (It’s making me cry right now….read the comment on its YouTube page and you’ll see why.)

The Links and Deets

Stay tuned for more featured artists in this new series, Crowd-Funding Kirtan.  And please support your favorite artists by contributing and sharing the news.

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.

If you like the bhav blog, please share it.  We’ll love you for it!

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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Get the Bhav: ChantLanta (March 9-10, Atlanta)


This is the first of a new series, “Get the Bhav,” which covers kirtan festivals and retreats.  Please contact bpatoine@aol.com with information about upcoming events.

ChantLanta. Where the Bhav Is

Move over “HotLanta.”  After this weekend, the Big Peach, the City of Peace and of Trees may well have a brand new nickname: ChantLanta.

Now in its third year and bigger than ever, ChantLanta marries three big artists — WAH!, DAVID NEWMAN & MIRA, and SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND — with EIGHT regional bhakti bands for two rockin’ days of call-and-response chanting plus yoga, sound and movement workshops throughout the day Saturday.

The music starts Friday night with three great local bands, BHAKTI MESSENGER, RAHASYA, and DHVANI, all for free.  These three alone would be enough to get us to ChantLanta, even if they may be new names to many.  BHAKTI MESSENGER, formed in 2009 by IAN BOCCIO, PHIL McWILLIAMS, BRIHASPATI and AMANDA FEINSTEIN, are Wallahs to Watch: they have opened for WAH! and SHYAMDAS, have played with other “big names” in kirtan, and have been invited to play at Bhakti Fest in September.  Check out their music and new CD, “Now,” and hear for yourself why they are on the rise.

RAHASYA, based in Athens, Ga., is another band to remember — and hear.  Comprised of SURDAS and VAJRA YOGINI plus keyboardist GERSHON, the group weaves Sanskrit mantras and Hebrew chants infused with southern gospel improv and heart-opening poeticism.  They have been touring throughout the Southeast in celebration of their second CD, “Covered in Song,” which released just last month.

All day Saturday 3/10, bhakti love flows from five more local bands:  FLYING MYSTICS, WOVEN TONGUES, KIRTAN BANDITS, SUNMOON PIE, and CHAITANYA KIRTAN.  In addition to nonstop chanting, workshops throughout the day cover topics such as Sufi meditation, Five Rhythms Dance, mantra chanting, and breathwork.  By the time Saturday night rolls around for the “big acts,” the energy at the Druid Hills Baptist Church, where ChantLanta unfolds, is likely be higher than…Sunday service at a Southern Baptist church??  The Saturday night line-up is the only part of the weekend that costs anything, and at $50 for three top performers, we think it’s a bargain.  UPDATE:  ChantLanta has graciously extended the discount ticket price of $35 to ALL until the day of the event, thanks to our article! 

Putting HotLanta on the Chant Map

Birthing credit for ChantLanta goes to BHAKTI MESSENGER, whose co-founder Ian Boccio said in an email that the band “threw together” the first fest in March 2010 “as a way to increase awareness of kirtan and bhakti practices” and build a kirtan community in greater Atlanta and beyond.  The strategy seems to be working:  Ian says attendance at BHAKTI MESSENGER’s kirtans has “exploded,” new bands (including DHVANI) have formed, other bands (like RAHASYA) now play regularly in Atlanta, and the city is becoming a destination for touring national artists.  “2012 looks to be a banner year for us, with WADE IMRE MORISSETTE, BHAGAVAN DAS, SHYAMDAS, and GIRISH all visiting our city in the first several months,” Ian said.

Omega Institute’s Ecstatic Chant weekends inspired him, Ian says.  “That was the first time I got the idea of what it would be like to do kirtan for days on end.”  He also found inspiration in the “Chant, Chai and Charity” events organized in Philadelphia by Steve Groff (Mira Newman’s father), and has used that as a model.  Last year’s ChantLanta festival raised $6,000 for charity, even without charging attendees a penny!  (The money came through sponsorships.)  This year, the organizers are hoping for 1,000 attendees, and proceeds benefit two local charities: 50 Cents Period and AiJalon.

Ian Boccio (Photo from ChantLanta)

These bhaktas have big plans for ChantLanta, hoping to make it “the largest and most visible kirtan event in the South.”  (They are not without competition: Sarasota, Fla.’s Rock the Bhakti weekend in January brought in SHANTALA and WAH! to join local groups PALMS TOGETHER and others, and in Houston, the Texas Yoga Conference last month hosted SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND, DAVID NEWMAN & MIRA, SUZANNE STERLING, THE DESERT DWELLERS and Texas favorites THE BHAKTI HOUSE BAND.)

Somehow we think the South is big enough to handle all these festivals and more.  As Ian says: “We believe that if more people are chanting, there will be more peace and harmony in the world!”  Hear Hear.

ChantLanta Website Home Page


Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Mar. 2-4


What’s in store:  Wah! returns East, Shantala storms the Northwest, Ragani rocks Milwaukee, KD opens hearts in Orlando and C.C. White stirs souls in Santa Monica.  Lots of great kirtan out there this weekend; here are our top five picks for weekend bhav.  Where will you be chanting?

Top Five Weekend Bhav


BENJY and HEATHER WERTHEIMER, aka SHANTALA, are barnstorming the Northwest this weekend with a CD Release Tour celebrating their latest, Jaya, which everyone has been raving about.  First up is their home ‘hood of Portland, Ore. on Friday 3/3, where they’ll be joined by bansuri flute master STEVE GORN, bass and two-string guitar virtuoso SEAN FRENETTE and vocalist LINDSEY STORMO for a kirtan benefiting Living Yoga and the Oregon Food Bank.  Saturday the gang heads north to Seattle to hook up with GINA SALA to raise money for Yoga Behind Bars with a concert at the Seattle Unity Church.  On Sunday 3/5, it’s off to Vancouver, BC for a CD release party at St. Mark’s Trinity Church.  SHANTALA live never fails to be an experience in master musicianship and deep, reverent devotion, and with this band of stellar musicians backing them, this tour is not be missed.


Fresh from the release of her newest CD, Loops N Grooves, WAH! heads back East for a concert Friday 3/2 at Integral Yoga in New York City.  The long-awaited new CD– more than two years in the making — takes the electronic grooves and dance beats we fell in love with on Love Holding Love up another notch.  Wah’s signature soaring vocals are punctuated throughout with luscious loops and live beatboxing from the amazing “human drum kit” MIKE HAZZIA.  Have you seen this guy?  Vocal percussion at its funkiest!

Next weekend Wah! heads South for CHANTLANTA, the first big two-day kirtan fest in Atlanta, where she’ll be joined by DAVID NEWMAN & MIRA and SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND as well as regional Wallahs to Watch BHAKTI MESSENGER, RAHASYA, and lots more.


Chant Master KRISHNA DAS, just back from a long weekend retreat at the beautiful Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, is jumping right into an urban retreat at the Hindu Temple in Orlando, Fla. Friday night 3/3 to Sunday 3/5.  As part of the retreat, NINA RAO will be leading chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa, the 40-verse prayer to the  “monkey god” who embodies grace and devotion, and GENEVIEVE WALKER, KD’s masterful violinist, will be leading asana classes daily.  Kirtan concerts Friday and Saturday nights have been opened to non-retreatants.  Retreating with KD is an opportunity to get up close and personal with a bhakti “rock star” who is still keeping it real.  KD’s new venture with SiriusXM, KRISHNA DAS YOGA RADIO, launched March 1, bringing kirtan (even if they don’t call it that by name) to a national audience of radio listeners for the first time.  You can try Sirius out for free for 30 days and support this groundbreaking new channel!

Photo by Dale Buegel


Midwest kirtan is not just alive and well, but thriving, in large part due to the charismatic chantress RAGANI, who has been leading call-and-response chanting for some 30 years.  First-Friday Kirtan with Ragani is practically an institution in Wisconsin, regularly attracting 400 or more people and counting among the largest and longest-running ongoing chant communities in the U.S.  No wonder BHAKTI FEST is setting up camp in Wisconsin this July, and no wonder they’ve signed Ragani as a headliner.  Friday night’s kirtan with Ragani is at the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield.  Ragani is a local celebrity in greater Milwaukee, and her wry humor is legendary.  Watch her pass a few right over the heads of her hosts in this segment from a local morning TV show that aired just last week (and give a really nice explanation of kirtan as well — all in under five minutes!).  For more depth (lots more) about Ragani’s world, check out her interview with Josh Polich, whose new Three Teas Podcast covers kirtan and lots more.


Photo by The Bhakti Beat

C.C. WHITE rocks the Shala (Bhakti Yoga Shala, that is) Sunday 3/5 in Santa Monica, Calif.  The Deva of Soul Kirtan is the special guest of spiritual guide HOWARD WILLS, who is leading a series of gatherings on The Art of Well-Being and Higher Consciousness” as part of a California mini-tour.  On March 16th, the pair regroup for a session at Golden Bridge Yoga in L.A.   Word is that C.C. is working on a version of My Sweet Lord, the 1970 classic recorded by GEORGE HARRISON in praise of Krishna, which blended Christian Allelujahs with the traditional Sanskrit Hare Krishna Mahamantra.  The release date has not been announced, but stay tuned to C.C.’s YouTube channel for video of the recording with her and a few close friends.

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





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!