Getting My Chant On With Yoga’s Rockstar-Krishna Das
It’s been 6 years since Krishna Das has been through Toronto. And I had the pleasure of seeing him at Metro Hall, a stunningly gorgeous gothic church with a few hundred other old hippies.
He’s the best selling western call-and-response artist of all time, he’s even been nominated for a Grammy. He also sounds a bit like Dave Matthews if that’s your thing.
So Kirtan is a form of Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. There’s a lot of chanting in all Bhakti yoga, from modern Jivamukti to Sivananda (although this is more of a Karma yoga, but for the purposes of this post it qualifies cause they chant their buns off at Satsang twice a day) and there’s of course the Hare Krishna’s, the most hardcore chanters of all. The chanting is important-it’s a form of worship. The idea is that you lose yourself in the chant to god and in doing so become closer. Also, there is something to be said for the vibrational quality of the words. Sanskrit is a much older language than say, American English, and back then the vibration of the word was part of the meaning (see also Aramaic-the language Jesus spoke).
I’ve done a video about my experience with Kirtan in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala here:
If you watched the video then you know two things: I like doing Kirtan with Indians more than white/Western people and that I usually cry at some point, over come with the spirit.
Krishna Das has had game air tight with this large concert format Kirtan. He started off slow with simple call-and-response chants and then moved into a faster, more exciting melody once the crowd got it. Later in the show, he hit us with pleasers like, “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare” and we all sang together. I liked singing with him better than call-and-response because it sounded louder and richer. It was hard to fill such a huge space with our chants.
The church was overwhelmingly gorgeous. The crowd was 99% white. The musicians were off the chain. But I gotta say, it was no Hare Krishna parade of cray chanting and dancing and clapping your hands (lil in the title photo). I’m not sure if it was the venue or if it was the crowd or the setting or what, but there was something really really shy about the whole thing. Really Christian churchy. My friend and I left after two hours of singing and clapping, so I know know if he ever did do the chant to Shiva (my fav) but truthfully, I get down harder on my own at home.
I did enjoy it though, but having sang Kirtan in smaller settings, it’s easier to form connection with the crowd in a small group and it was much harder in concert format.