Is there room for politics in bhakti yoga? If social media on election day is any indication, the answer is yes. In droves, bhaktas and yogis have taken up the call to engage, fully and consciously, in the quadrennial rite of passage that is the American Presidential election. Even artists who you might not exactly consider “political” or “activist” are joining the drive to get out the vote, and in some cases, being very explicit about which candidate they support.
You might call it “Chant the Vote,” kirtan’s own informal spin on the popular “Rock the Vote” drive that enlists pop/rock idols and celebrities to encourage young people to register to vote and make their voices count at the polls. The chant world may be coming to the game a little later than say, Madonna (who was booed at a concert for saying “I don’t care who you vote for, as long as it’s Obama.”), but, like Madonna, kirtan artists are not shying away from naming their allegiances.
White Swan Records, the label of sacred chant superstar Deva Premal, posted this picture of her, apparently standing before a huge mural of Obama. The caption read: “From Berlin, Deva Premal says to ‘vote.'” If the written message was neutral, the picture says it all.
On Sunday before the elections, Snatam Kaur, the soft-sp0ken Sikh chantress, posted this message to her facebook followers:
In two days on facebook, the post received nearly 4,000 likes, 170+ shares, and over 300 comments, which were overwhelmingly positive, by our reading. (Snatam has the largest facebook following of any Western chant musician, with 109,000+ “fans” following her page; in comparison, Krishna Das and Deva Premal & Miten each have about 70,500.)
Chanters with Chutzpah Ki JAI
The outspokenness of these two artists, both of whom have a reserved, quiet demeanor (in terms of their public face at least) surprised us a bit — in a good way. Anyone who is willing to stick their neck out to voice their opinion in this close, contentious race deserves a Golden Cojones prize, in our view, especially in digital age, where one can be slashed and burned in mere minutes on social media.
Mid-day today, Donna De Lory joined the chorus of Obama supporters, posting this message on her facebook page: “Today is a day to ask yourselves, who do I trust? Despite all of my human disappointments, Who is most compassionate and concerned in the sustainable future of all living beings, this beautiful life as we know it?” De Lory then reprinted a lengthy message from a friend named “Allison” laying out the case for re-electing Obama.
Of course, there are folks like MC Yogi who have left no question as to their political allegiances: the conscious hip-hop artist released a special single and video in support of Obama’s first campaign (Vote for Hope). He has also been an active proponent of Yoga Votes, the voter-registration drive that has had a strong presence at Wanderlust and other yoga festivals in the past year.
MC posted this Obama graffiti portrait on his facebook page yesterday, with the message: “We can’t wait for the change, we have to be it!”
Vote Then Chant
Other artists have focused more on getting out the vote than on promoting a particular candidate. Girish and manager/partner Virginia Rodriguez launched a special election-day concert called “Vote then Chant” that was scheduled for election night on Long Island — but sadly, was cancelled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Undeterred, the artist has taken the effort worldwide, offering up a special live version of Om Namah Shivaya for 99 cents and up to encourage people to “vote then chant,” and at the same time help the victims of Sandy. Proceeds from the sale of the single will be donated to the Red Cross’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Get the details here.
What Will You Be Chanting?
From the buzz we’re seeing on facebook and elsewhere, people are going to be chanting through the results from coast to coast, whether in small community kirtan circles or with touring musicians. In Hillsboro, NH, for example, Bethel Farms is presenting “Bhagavan Das–Electing Kirtan” in a three-hour election-night chant and in Atlanta, Bhakti Messenger’s Ian Boccio is leading a group of bhaktas in a Rama mantra (because “every little bit helps,” he said). In Minneapolis, Pascale LaPoint of Kirtan Path was hosting satsang at her house “where we will chant, chat and meditate in peace without following the results.” In Sacramento, Radiant Friend kirtan is getting the chant out at Yoga Shala …
The Bhakti Beat wants to know: did you chant through the election results? What were you chanting and where?
And, the burning question we have: are there any Romney supporters out there in chant land? We know there must be…