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Five for the Ride: Car Kirtan (Use with Caution)


Who shall we take along on the ride today?

You know when you’ve got one of those seemingly endless drives ahead of you?  Four, five, six hours in the car with nothing to do but drive drive drive?  Well, silence may be golden, but throw in a couple bhakti-rockin’ CD’s and the miles will just flyyyy by.  Trust us.

Having just endured a 6-hour drive home from Cape Cod, we know this.  I was about to crawl out of my skin from sheer boredom when I discovered Om Spun (the latest release from Wynne Paris’ all-star band Groovananda) in a crevice of my car and popped it into the CD player.  Immediately I started bopping and singing along with the gospel-infused chants and multi-layered instrumentalism.  I was grooving to Groovananda and loving life.  And apparently, driving faster.

Suddenly, there were blue lights flashing in my rear-view.  Talk about a buzz-kill.

“Is there any particular reason you were speeding, Ma’am?” the baby-faced rookie officer asked me in that official, you’re-busted tone.  Me: “um, uh….”  I thought about taking out the CD and handing it to him, but didn’t know how that would go over.  Plus, I still had three hours to go — I needed that CD!

I’m thinking that there are a lot of kirtan CD’s that need to come with a warning label like this one from Krishna Das’s Chants of a Lifetime CD:

Caution: This CD features chants that render it inappropriate for use while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Warning label or not, here are a few of our favorites for car kirtan.  Please use with caution.

Five for the Ride

1. Om Spun, by Groovananda.  This is “raga rock kirtan,” brilliantly fusing world beat, jam-band, rock, jazz, kirtan, folk, Indian, trance and gospel. Whew!  Featuring Wynne Paris on vocals and sarod, Rick Allen on drums, JT John Thomas on organ and Doug Derryberry (Bruce Hornsby band) on mandalin, plus Mark Karan, Krishna Das, Badal Roy, Perry Robinson, Girish Cruden, Dave Stringer, Kim Waters (Rasa), Ramesh Kannan and many others. (2011) Get it here.

2. This IS Soul Kirtan, by C.C. White.  By now everyone’s got this on their playlist, right? C.C. White’s debut solo album is a sweet, rollicking joy ride of classic chants reinvented with a Southern Gospel and soul-shaking exuberance.  I’m in love with the reggae-style Hare Krishna maha mantra punctuated by a deep, thunderous — and alltogether too brief! — Krishna rap by Bob Wisdom.  Chills.  Every time.  Co-produced with Matt Pszonak, with Patrick Richey, Denise Kaufman, Cooper Madison, Steve Postell, Richard Hardy, Michael Jerome Moore, Jeff Young, Arjuna O’Neal, Vasu Dudakia, more special guests and the Soul Kirtan Choir. (2011) Listen & buy here

3. Thunder Love, by Jai Uttal.  Queen of Hearts, Jai’s reggae-kirtan CD released last fall, would easily fit the bill here too.  But Thunder Love, released in 2008, has occupied one of the slots on my car CD changer since I bought the disc.  Jai’s trademark heart-soaring vocals will make you forget you’re stuck in a car and take you right with him into the inner chambers of the heart.  Please, put it on cruise control before Bolo Ram (Track 2) comes on…Produced by Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach for Nutone Records.  Get it here.

4. Love Holding Love, by Wah!  Of all the Wah! albums I love, I love this one the most.  (Of course, I haven’t heard Loops and Grooves yet, which is due out any day now.)  Maybe it’s the chill, almost trancey lounge feel, or the heart-pumping electronica beats, or the soft-rap riffs of love-centric lyrics that never fail to remind me that it’s all love baby, even if you’re stuck in the worst traffic this side of the 405.  It holds a near-permanent slot in the Baja’s player.  A two-year collaboration with Paul Hollman, with guest artists that include Elijah Tucker (drums), Katisse Buckingham (vocal percussion, flute), Ryan Pate (drums), produced for Nutone. (2008)  Get it here.

5. Live Your Love, by SRI Kirtan.  Make sure you’re buckled in when this one cues up; it sweeps you up in Track 1 with a hard-rocking Govinda/Hare Krishna medley and carries you on that current of bhakti love right through the duo’s signature Rock the Bhakti and on to the final track, a joyous tribute to the sacred Ganges River.  SRI Kirtan is the fusion of Sruti Ram and Ishwari, whose collective musical background spans punk, opera, Gregorian chant, electronica and doo-wop.  It shows.  With Steve Gorn on bansuri flute, Visvamhar from the Mayapuris on mrdanga, the sacred-rap genius of SriKala Kerel Roach , Charlie “Govind” Burnham on violin, Noah Hoffeld on cello, Kyle Esposito on bass and electiric guitar, and Curtis Bahn on dilruba and sitar. Co-produced with Julie Last for Mantrology/Ishwari Music. (2010)  More info here.

That’s our Five for the Ride today.  What’s playing in your car?

(Oh, and the baby-faced rookie cop?  He let me off with a warning.  Maybe it was the music…)


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  • C. White February 7, 2012, 3:41 pm

    Hey Brenda

    Hope you’re well. Looking forward to seeing you soon.
    Thanks for this article, I’ve read it a few times now.

    You’re always in the center, and at the pulse of all Kirtan Love, and I look forward to reading everything you write about.

    Sending you blessings.

    Kirtan Feel Good!


    • Brenda Patoine February 17, 2012, 12:16 pm

      Aww, so grateful for your comments C.C. (and sorry i’m just seeing them now, through some Wordpress glitch -Yikes!). I am touched by your words; and so appreciate you spreading the bhav.

      Soul Kirtan IS Kirtan Love! Thank you for birthing it.


  • Pat Sandford February 8, 2012, 5:59 am

    Dear Brenda ~
    Perhaps you could formulate a chill list that would keep the accelerator foot lightweight? May I suggest Snatam Kaur, Deva Premal or Steve Gold for starters? Although as I have discovered after yoga class, driving *below* the speed limit can cause people to drive past you honking and waving their middle finger at you, too!

    • Brenda Patoine February 17, 2012, 12:22 pm

      Great idea Pat! Perfect picks for those shorter trips when you’re not fighting fatigue…

      Of course, we all know there are dozens more that could be on either the “fast-lane” list or the “chill list.” I hated leaving out Rock On Sat Nam by Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe…and any KD CD would work here too (Flow of Grace and Door of Faith on the chill list).

      *Sigh* So much kirtan; so little time…

  • Daniel Tucker February 16, 2012, 3:38 pm

    Hehe what a great post!!! I love this, and all the CDs in it. I recently happened upon “Groovananda” and was totally blown away, it’s so soulful and funky, I’m glad you included it here.
    Kudos for all the great kirtan-sharing you’re doing here!

    Lotsa love,

    • Brenda Patoine February 17, 2012, 12:25 pm

      Thanks Daniel! Right back atcha with the kudos…we heart Kirtan Central!

      Yes, Groovananda rocks. One of those CD’s that deserves waaaaay more attention!


  • Debra July 11, 2012, 10:46 pm

    I know I’m late for this date, but fortunately I caught the ride to this post in your fb stream! Great recommendations, can’t wait to check out Groovananda, haven’t heard that one yet.

    You crack me up! …good job that sweet police officer only giving you a warning, can’t say that was my luck coming down a mountain pass in CO a few years back and I was singing loud and proud with Snatam Kaur’s Ong Namo. Chill yes…still had every cell in my body going over the speed limit, apparently!

    Keep flowing the bhakti love, Brenda! You’ve got your heart in the pulse of this amazing community and I LOVE it!

    • Brenda Patoine July 12, 2012, 3:00 pm

      Heehee Debra, I see you have been there too. I’ve got a four-hour drive this weekend and I am going to be verrrrry careful about the music I choose!

      Lovelovelove you and so appreciate your kind words and encouragement for my little bhav blog!