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With Vermantra, Kirtan Storms Vermont


The setting for Vermantra: Vermont College of Fine Arts' Chapel

While an early Nor’easter slammed the East Coast last weekend, kirtan stormed Vermont. “Vermantra” drew some of the brightest lights in the northeast kirtan world to the grand Chapel at Vermont’s College of Fine Arts for a day-long immersion in sacred sound, satsang and yoga, all to benefit Vermont flood victims.

Ironic, huh? The first big storm of the year threatens a fund-raiser for relief from the last big storm, Hurricane Irene?

Well, Nor’easter be damned. As Ishwari, one-half of SRI Kirtan (with Sruti Ram), pointed out deep into the night: “It’s snowing outside and we don’t even care!”

Call. Response.

Chanting for Charity: Jen Canfield and Devadas Labrecque

Vermantra is the dream-child of Jennifer Canfield, a native Vermont bhakta and founder of the Call & Response Foundation. Jen has been working with Vermont’s only psychiatric hospital to bring kirtan to the patient/inmates (Dave Stringer, the Mayapuris, and the Hanumen have all been there!), but that program is on hold because Irene’s floodwaters washed right through the facility and rendered it unusable.  Along with Brooklyn-based kirtan artist Devadas Labrecque, Jen led the call for a 12-hour kirtan benefit, and kirtaniyas from New York, Boston and beyond responded. That included SRI Kirtan, Nina Rao, Jeremy & Lily, Anjula Prasad from New York; Adam Bauer, Dave Russell and Tom Lena from Massachusetts; Brenda McMorrow from Toronto…plus KC Solaris, Baba Kamal, Rasamrta Devi Dasi, Danny Solomon, Jerry Otenrocks and so many local kirtaniyas.

The day was loaded with memorable moments. Among my personal highlights were SRI Kirtan’s set, because they never fail to blow me away with their full-on heart-rockin’ bhakti, and a rollicking Jai Ma chant with local yogi Prem Prakash and a dozen or so musicians jamming out….Adam Bauer on HARMONIUM leading kirtan (soft and sooo sweet)…Nina Rao doing the Chalisa…the vocal nectar of Anjula Prasad and Lily Cushman that made everyone sit up and take notice…a kickin’ medley of Beatles + Hare Krishna from Tom Lena….every song by Brenda McMorrow…

Oh, just watch the videos. Brenda McMorrow just bubbles over with joy in this Lakshmi chant, with Satya Franche (vocals), KC Solaris (tabla), Nina Rao (mridanga), Adam Bauer (bass) and Jen Canfield on box drum (yeah, she can play too).

Here’s Nina Rao (best known as the gatekeeper to Krishna Das but a chantress in her own right) doing her signature “Nina Chalisa,” her version of the 40-verse prayer to Hanuman. She’s joined by Devadas, Jeremy Frindel, Lily Cushman, and Rasamrta Devi Dasi.

And last (for now) but definitely not least, this kirtan jam with Prem Prakash and the Kailash Jungle Band — which in this case included every bhakta in the room! So much fun!

Stay tuned to this space for more videos from Vermantra, including SRI Kirtan and Tom Lena…


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  • Ed Ritz November 3, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Brenda, what a great job you do on this and a HUGE service to all who look to kirtan to raise their vibration through devotion. Thank you for your seva! Ed

    • Brenda Patoine November 3, 2011, 3:52 pm

      Thank you Ed — so sweet of you to say. Great to see you and Susan — thank you for YOUR seva! And to Jennifer Canfield for pulling this amazing event together so beautifully! lovelovelove!

  • Jason November 14, 2011, 8:53 pm

    Did Nina Rao chant the Hanuman Chalisa or the Nina Chalisa? The caption on the youtube video states the former but you state the latter. I want to order this song!! It was amazing.

    • Brenda Patoine November 14, 2011, 9:29 pm

      Jason, she chanted the Hanuman Chalisa. I was probably taking license when I called it the Nina Chalisa, which is what Nina Rao’s rendition of the Hanuman prayer is called on Flow of Grace, the CD from Krishna Das. I guess I just think of any Hanuman Chalisa by Nina Rao as the Nina Chalisa — rightly or wrongly…either way, it’s a beautiful version, isn’t it? Thanks for commenting!

      • Jason November 14, 2011, 9:46 pm

        It is very beautiful. It is so delicate and hauntingly soulful. It just made me emote. I plan to order the Flow of Grace CD. I only hope the rendition of it there is similar to this one I heard at Vermantra.

        • Brenda Patoine November 14, 2011, 10:00 pm

          I just listened to both the video and the Flow of Grace version simultaneously (don’t try this at home!) and it’s the same luscious melody — though they do sound different of course, since one is studio recorded and the other is live. I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy with Flow of Grace if you have any affinity for the Chalisa. Buy the Book/CD combo pack — the book is so worth it, and it has all the words and transliteration. Enjoy!

  • Jason November 17, 2011, 5:24 pm


    I downloaded Flow of Grace and I love each and every track. The only thing is, I’m not sure if Nina is singing an exact chant from it. It’s definitely not the Nina Chalisa but sounds a bit similar to Sri Ram Chalisa. Could it be that she is singing a chant found elsewhere on Krishna Das’ collections? I downloaded Door of Faith and Heart As Wide As the World too.

    I’m delighted you have posted this live version in any case!


  • Jason November 17, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Me again, 🙂

    Would you by any chance have any recordings of the chanting by Jeremy & Lily? I loved, loved, loved it but can’t find anything by them online for purchase or just to listen to. Thank you!