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!”
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…