You never know what’s coming next with The Hanumen, the ensemble band created by Gaura Vani, Benjy Wertheimer and John de Kadt. That came through in their live Webcast concert at Goddard College July 24 (part of an East Coast summer tour with Purusartha Dasa on bass), as well as the unpredictably amusing interview we had afterward with all four Hanumen.
As we’ve written, the evening’s musical agenda sauntered between Hafiz on the hang from drum poet John de Kadt (“Come Dance with Me”) to slave songs from 1800’s America (“Wade in the Water,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”) to original love poems to the world (“I Love You, I Do”) to 11th century Gregorian Chant (“Alleluia,” video below). Traditional Sanskrit chants to the Divine were weaved in throughout. Often, each of these seemingly diverse genres was wrapped up into one seamless medley of musical artistry.
Each of the trio traded off instruments throughout the night: Benjy Wertheimer variously played the tabla drums, the esraj (a traditional Indian stringed instrument), or acoustic guitar; Gaura Vani switched between harmonium, flute, and guitar, and John de Kadt selected from the mountain of drums that surrounded him.
‘A Living Dialog of Faith’
This was not a “kirtan concert” so much as an exploration of musical mantras in every form, from vastly different spiritual traditions. “A living dialog of faith,” Gaura Vani called it.
It’s this “ecumenical sensibility,” Wertheimer says, that is at the core of The Hanumen. “We want to feel like anybody who really wants to give themselves completely to the divine has a way to sing with us and participate in what we are offering. We are inviting people into the deepest expression of their own love for the divine, whatever path that they’re taking,” he said, adding wryly: “You don’t usually go to kirtans and hear Gregorian Chants or Sufi poetry.”
Not usually, no. But we say Alleluia to more of that.
See if you agree after hearing this Alleluia solo by Wertheimer, which he described as “a chant from a somewhat different tradition where men would gather to sing together.” The Latin words in this 1,000-year-old Gregorian Chant are from Psalm 91 in the Volgate bible of the time, which speaks of justice. It translates to: “May those who are loving and just flourish like the palm tree/And just like the famed cedars of Lebanon, may they multiply, may they grow. Alleluia.”
A studio version of Alleluia sung by Benjy Wertheimer and long-time collaborator Sean Frenette is on “Jaya,” the latest CD from Shantala, the Music of Benjy and Heather Wertheimer (www.shantalamusic.com), and forms the soundtrack for a beautiful video montage of images from the Wertheimer’s Northwest ‘hood and their bhakti travels. View that video here: http://youtu.be/9Eqr9QqGRk4.Also see: The Hanumen Prove that a (Mantra) Revolution Can Be a Hoot (Interview, Video, Photos) Photo Journal of The Hanumen on facebook www.thehanumen.com www.benjymusic.com www.johndekadt.com www.gauravani.com www.shantalamusic.com