Barely a month after his 15 minutes of fame in the Grammy spotlight and fresh from a tropics tour of Costa Rica, Sivananda, Bahamas, and Florida, Krishna Das showed up fully for the headline show at Chantlanta last month — even after fighting a spring snowstorm in the Northeast to get there. Tablist Arjun Bruggeman was his sole bandmate. No Nina Rao. No Genevieve Walker on violin. No Mark Gorman on bass or David Nichtern on guitar. The band was stripped down to KD and Arjun, harmonium and tabla, the newly Grammy-nominated Yoga Rock Star and “his partner in crime,” as KD has called Bruggeman.
It was like we were in Russia or something…
Just before the kirtan started, I said as much to Bruggeman, and he offered that he actually preferred it that way — that it allowed him to be more attuned to KD’s chanting, to get deeper into the rhythms of the bhav. (These are my words, paraphrasing him.) As the night unfolded, you could feel the difference, subtly, in their interactions between and during the songs.
Krishna Das was in a good mood.
He came onto stage to resounding applause, settled himself before his harmonium, adjusted his ear piece, squinted out at the full-house crowd jammed into the soaring sanctuary of the Druid Hills Baptist Church, and waved. “Hey y’all,” he said in his best Southern drawl (for a New Yorker).
After his traditional invocation to grace, he looked out at us and deadpanned: “Please open your hymnals to page 108.” The crowd cracked up.
The pared-down duo went on to deliver the Best of Krishna Das Live, commencing with Sita Ram (what else?), flowing into Om Namo Bhagavate, then to our favorite tear-jerker, My Foolish Heart /Bhaja Govinda, complete with the story of its writing (you’ve heard that one, right? The old man who was told by the traveling guru to stop wasting time and just “Bhaja Govinda” — glorify God…?). Then it was time for Durga Ma, and his classic story of when Neem Karoli Baba made him, KD, the pujari of the Durga Temple at Maharaji’s ashram after all the “real” priests were caught stealing from the donation box. Jesus was there too, Mainlining to a mass of writhing dancers, built up to with the story of the unusual statue in the secret temple high in the Himalayas where they chanted in a very esoteric language…English! The crowd cracked up.
The next day at the workshop, KD joked about how happy he was that there were so many newcomers at the concert, the kind who still laughed heartily at all of his old stories. The crowd cracked up…
Krishna Das was Still the Same. Grammy fame hadn’t gone to his head, as far as we could tell. In the Sunday workshop he was playful but prescient, wise and wise-cracking all at once, dispensing timeless bits of insight in between the notes of Hare Krishna and Hanuman’s Chalisa. Like this one on “bringing the light” through spiritual practice:
The audience was in love with him, including a sweet little girl in the front who kept trying to give him pictures of Neem Karoli Baba. He answered questions till there weren’t any more, way past the allotted time, and ended the love affair with a long, sweet Chalisa, fulfilling a special request from a participant.
KD shone like the sun, and we all sunbathed.See also: Photo Journal: Krishna Das at Chantlanta (on The Bhakti Beat facebook page) Southern Bhav Rising: Chantlanta Demonstrates How To Do a Regional Chant Fest (Video/Photos) Chantlanta’s ‘Unknown’ Bhakti Bands Reveal Depth & Diversity of Southern Bhav (Part 1) Chantlanta’s ‘Unknown’ Bhakti Bands Reveal Depth & Diversity of Southern Bhav (Part 2) Photo Journal: Chantlanta (on The Bhakti Beat facebook page) Chantlanta Video Playlist (on The Bhakti Beat YouTube Channel) www.krishnadas.com www.chantlanta.org www.swahaproductions.com And don’t miss these classics on Krishna Das from our archives: Krishna Das, Bhakti Rock Star, Keeping It Real Kirtan First: Krishna Das Invokes Narayana & Yardbirds at 55th Grammy Awards Krishna Das’ ‘Live Ananda’ Earns Grammy Nomination; Kirtan Grammy Would Be a First With Deva’s Miten, Krishna Das Does Dylan & Shyamdas Does the Blues Bhakti Fest First: Krishna Das in the Spotlight, Reluctantly, at Midwest All-Wallah Finale Amazing Grace by Krishna Das After Bhakti Fest Rain-Out