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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

a weekend of bhakti

it was a bhakti-filled weekend for me this past saturday and sunday, with two major kirtan artists -- dave stringer and wah! -- performing within chanting distance of each other... right in my neck of the woods. so how could i NOT attend both?

these were the event invites i received:

Dave Stringer at Kula, Santa Monica
Saturday and Sunday, April 4th and 5th 8:00pm

Hey Beautiful Chanters,
Please come out and join us this Saturday and Sunday nights to add your shakti to the mix.

Joining me will be:
Patrick Richey - tablas, mirdangam, cajon
C.C. White - vocals
Joni Allen - vocals
Jeff Andrews - bazouki and hammered dulcimer
Denise Kaufman - bass
Ambika Leigh - kartals

We're all charged about the sessions and as usual we'll be pushing the edge creatively and riding the waves of ecstasy.

Everyone is invited to participate. A modest donation at the door will help to underwrite the project, and everyone who attends the session will receive advance copies of the recordings. The official release is scheduled for my September 11th appearance at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree.

Wah! at The Hub, West Los Angeles
Sunday, April 5th 6:30pm

Wah! performs kirtan with those wishing to contribute to charity and welcome Amma Adi Sakthi and Swami Shanmuga.

Hypnotic, mesmerizing and energizing - just a few adjectives that could be used to describe a recent performance by Wah! The success stems from Wah!'s extraordinary voice, which might be characterized as Jewel meets Sade...

since i'd been lucky enough to be part of the kirtan chorus on both krishna das's and steve ross's latest CDs, i looked forward to playing a part on dave stringer's yet-to-be-released album. but with your daily thread's eco-event on saturday (where hillary rubin led a short yoga warmup with the party guests) and wah's kirtan on sunday, i needed to do some schedule-juggling to be able to join dave's recording session.

it all worked out, somehow, in the end. i bailed halfway through the ydt party and arrived at dave's midway through the first chant. luckily, it was something i had learned at one of his previous kirtans, so i was pretty much up to speed from the get-go. for each of the succeeding chants, dave would run us through the melodic variations of each of the mantras, the band would do a quick run-through with their instruments, then dave would start the chant and we'd get rolling. there were only a few times when dave would ask for a retake, which just shows what quick learners we all were :)

there were six chants to be recorded that evening; it was almost midnight by the time we finished the last one saturday night. considering that i was up at six that morning for my usual saturday morning run, i was struggling to stay awake by the time it was all over!

sunday turned out to be an even crazier day for me. while my original plan was to just attend wah's kirtan that evening, it somehow evolved into a yoga class with psalm isadora, followed by wah!, ending with another sing-along with dave.

the class with psalm was one of her monthly yoga potluck classes. when i heard last month that she was scouting for a new venue, i put her in touch with the guys at yogaglo, a new yoga space in santa monica. as it turned out, her first collaboration with the 'glo was that sunday, and since i had somehow played matchmaker, i knew it was something i didn't want to miss. the class ended up being a rather interesting evening with partner yoga and live music. inspired by her recent trip to india, psalm led us through a series of very energetic kundalini- and sufi-inspired poses. but just when it was time to start the potluck portion of the evening -- yes, everyone brings a dish and shares it with the rest after class -- i had to run off and catch wah!... and what was left of her performance.

choosing to travel via bicycle, i pedaled furiously to get to the hub, a little more than a mile away. unfortunately, by the time i got there, wah! had just started her last number of the evening (that's what i get for being two hours late!). after the kirtan, amma adi sakthi and swami shanmuga spoke to the crowd and gave us all a blessing; the event ended with wah! performing one more number. while i was bummed that i missed most of the concert, i was glad that i was able to get wah! to autograph my copy of her latest CD, love holding love, before i left.

as for the do-over with dave stringer, i blame it all on felicia tomasko, editor of LA yoga magazine, who somehow managed to talk me into biking with her to dave's recording session after wah's kirtan. actually, i'm glad i decided to join her, not only because it was a chance to run into more people i knew, but it also increased my chances of getting my voice on the album dave'll be releasing in time for the bhakti fest in september!

speaking of bhakti fest, here's a plug for the upcoming kirtan-palooza this coming september 11-13 in joshua tree, california:

Bhakti Fest is a three day music festival celebrating devotion through chanting, yoga, meditation and community.

All of our presenters embody the spirit of Bhakti - deep devotion.

We will gather on 450 acres of inspiring desert land to express our love and devotion as one community through an enchanting array of activities, including:

Constant Kirtan Concerts
Yoga Classes
Private and Group Meditation
Vegetarian Cuisine
Midnight Fire Ceremonies (Pujas)
Hanuman Chalisas
Eco-Friendly Vendor Village
Camping, Cottages and Cabin Accommodations
Wellness Sanctuary: with massage, reiki, channeling and other unique healing sessions.
Sweat Lodges: poured in the Lakota tradition, space is extremely limited

as far as i know, everyone who's anyone in the kirtan world will be there! check out this list:

Jai Uttal
Dave Stringer
Donna De Lory
Wade Morissette
MC Yogi
Arjun Baba
Govindas and Radha
Dasi Karnamrita
Wynne Paris
Jaya Lakshmi
Joey Lugassy
Tony Khalife
Vaiyasaki Das
Geoffrey Gordon
Vikash & Prabhash
Lily Lalita Diamond
Temple Bhajan Band
Larisa Stow & Shakti Tribe
Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits
Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
Dana De Long
Krishna's Kirtan
Annmarie Solo
Suzanne Sterling