Tag Archives: music

Any sound that moves you to dance

My theme song for 2015

Sara Bareilles sings Brave

Chant and meditation in DC for a greater cause

The Heart of Peace: An Evening of Chant and Meditation with Krishna Das and Sharon Salzberg, at Sixth & I on at 7:30 pm, Sunday, July 10. Tickets are $35 each purchased online or $40 at the door. They are making a special joint appearance in honor of the Kalachakra for World Peace.  Their chance meeting in 1971 in Bodhgaya, India, where the Buddha found enlightenment, was the beginning of their individual spiritual journeys and their life-long friendship.  Krisha Das is a leading practitioner of kirtan. Salzberg is a prominent voice that brought mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism into the American mainstream.

This event honors the Kalachakra for World Peace Empowerment in Washington, DC offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, July 6 – 16, 2011. Kalachakra is a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony that stretches over 11 days. “The Kalachakra, open to all who wish to participate, has the power to benefit all beings on this planet. The Capital Area Tibetan Association welcomes you to join in this historic event, offered with the heartfelt motivation to inspire harmonious relationships and abiding peace in our hearts and in our world.”

Kirtan fusion invades the American soundscape

New York Times Chanting Is an Exercise in Body and Spirit is about the rising tide that kirtan is riding on.

“It has left the churches and the yoga studios because it’s such a simple practice,” said Krishna Das, 61, who grew up on Long Island as Jeff Kagel and traveled to India in the early 1970s. “It’s not about belief in any religions, so people are coming from all walks of life. You give it a try and if it works, you’re in fat city. If not, you do something else.”

Although kirtan is rooted in India’s devotional religions and involves chanting the names of God, Krishna Das says the practice requires no allegiance to any deity or set of beliefs, and he is dismayed that many associate the chant “Hare Krishna” with people who begged on the streets and danced in airports in the 1970s.

As I’ve said before here, Krishna Das is the soundtrack of my yoga experience. What is really interesting is the fusion that’s happening in the United States as musicians and yogis take the Hindi core and combine it with pop, gospel, reggae, hip-hop and rapping, plus all the other world music influences, to produce a unique, innovative sound, nurtured in the small venues of yoga studios and churches. It’s part of the mainstreaming of yoga in America. Purists probably hate it and it will never achieve broad popularity, but that’s not the point. It’s what is happening to yoga itself, starting out with the “pure” Indian practice (which may be a relatively modern application of ancient rites) and then layering on multiple riffs and licks of Pilates, marital arts, gymnastics and dance. The market and society are bending it in new ways that make it more relevant and “marketable” in our society.

Explaining the stillness that nurtures Leonard Cohen’s songs

New York Times Leonard Cohen Returns to the Road, for Reasons Both Practical and Spiritual is about a musician whose songs have influenced me deeply, especially “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah.” Now I learn that he is deeply grounded in Zen Buddhism to the point of spending five years in a monastery.

Roscoe Beck, Mr. Cohen’ s musical director, says that even on the longest flights Mr. Cohen sits cross-legged and straight-backed in his seat, in a monk’s posture. Asked whether he also does yoga to build strength and agility for his stage shows, Mr. Cohen, his demeanor courtly but reserved, smiled and replied, “That is my yoga.”

So now I have a reason to explore the music archives for Cohen songs, and to listen for the intention that inspired them and moved him towards Zen discipline in the latter years of his life.

By the way, the Times journalist Larry Rohter, author of this profile, is an old Latin America hand whom I met in my days in Peru. That goes back 30 years.

Kirtan for the Obama inaurugal

Graphic: poster of the inauguration event Chant4Change
Poster for the event

CHANT 4 CHANGE, January 19, 6:30 pm – 11:30 pm, at Church of the Holy City:


Celebrate the Inauguration of Barack Obama on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with sacred activist Shiva Rea, world-renowned kirtan/chant artists Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer, Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits and 400 other conscious revolutionaries.

I suspect that this event is going to sell out very quickly. It’s a relatively small venue. You can buy tickets at Brown Paper Tickets at $70 a piece. It’s for a good cause.

Coming yoga events in the DC area

Beryl Bender Birch, the master instructor of Hard and Soft Power Yoga (within the Ashtanga school), is giving a weekend workshop at Georgetown Yoga on Friday, June 6 and Saturday, June 7. As noted here and here before, I participated in a Bender Birch workshop at Thrive Yoga. I really enjoyed the opportunity to benefit from her insight and inspiration and would recommend her to any serious yoga student.

At Thrive Yoga, there are a couple of great workshops coming up:

  • Govindas & Radha – Waves of Love Weekend on June 13-14. Govindas is a Rockville native who now lives in California and leads workshops that combine asana with kirtan, music, rhythm and joy. You can buy his CD at CD Baby. The Friday evening event is going to be a family affair in which you can bring offspring and friends for a single price.
  • Anusara Yoga with Desiree Rumbaugh will take place on the July 11-13 weekend. Desiree is an exception teacher and associate of John Friend. She has multiple two DVDs that deal with body issues through yoga. These sessions are going to be 2-3 hours long so that will really reveal a lot about Anusara’s approach to the body .

There is nothing like take an intensive workshop (just one session or multiple days), to break through barriers in your practice.

Singing to God

Washington Post Singing to God Maragatham Ramaswamy tells about why she makes music and sings and then sings to Lord Ganesha. She has been teaching in Virginia for 20 years and possesses a shy sincerity that confirms her faith and talent. In yoga studios, we often see the borrowing of Hindu gods, music and symbols. Sometimes this appropriation is sincere; other times is just decorative, a style picked out of a catalog.

Maragatham is an authentic manifestation of Hindu culture flourishing in a foreign land. She has a website and a music association, called Ragamalika, that promotes carnatic music from southern India.

Kudos to my hometown paper and former employer, the Washington Post, for this new feature, On Being. [MLS: oops, my hometown paper made this feature section disappear, distributing the videos among local news (?) and making them really hard to find. Maragatham continues to have her own website.]

A Missed Opportunity

I was checking out Spirit Voyage Music, a distributor of sacred music (some would call it New Age), and I realized that they are located in northern Virginia, in Purcellville. They are strong on Kundalini, but have lots of other world music styles. They also have a ticket outlet for concerts.

I followed a link to the blog of one of the employees, Hargobind, and discovered that I had just missed a concert of Dave Stringer, one of my favorite kirtan musicians, at Willow Street Yoga on September 15. I will have to add this to my blog roll and ping it frequently because he will probably be in the know of other concerts in the DC area.