By Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) - Enlightened Practice Magazine Column, Dec-Jan '04
Those of you who are interested in attending a Kirtan should make a point to attend both of these upcoming events - Russill Paul's concert and workshops in December and a series of Kirtans with Durga Das (David Newman) in January. A Kirtan is a gathering of people with the intent to raise their collective vibrations by connecting to the higher vibration of God-consciousness through chanting. You can find out more about what a Kirtan is if you refer to my previous Om Shanti column in the Oct/Nov Enlightened Practice. You can also read it on my site at www.yellowbellmusic.com. Another event I'm recommending is the PEACE CONCERT by Jorge Alfano.
The first weekend in December Russill Paul's Concert and Nada Yoga Workshop will be held at Something Yoga in Boca Raton. Russill Paul was born in South India and trained as a monk under Dom Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine spiritual teacher. It was during his five years as a monk that he studied Sanskrit chanting and South Indian Classical Music in addition to Yoga, Meditation, and Philosophy. He presently teaches in the Masters of Liberal Arts Program at Naropa University, and the Doctor in Ministry program at the University of Creation Spirituality, both in Oakland, CA. Check out his CDs on the Gaiam and Relaxation Company labels and read more about Yoga of Sound at www.russillpaul.com.
The concert is from 7:30 - 10 PM, Fri., Dec. 5 and will include Russill Paul performing on a one of a kind 10-stringed mini-sitar, synthesizer, and harmonica. He will be accompanied by myself (Richard Brookens) on Tablas and Clay Pots and Michael Moses on other assorted percussion. Russill Paul will lead participatory chanting during the evening.
During the workshops (Sat., Dec 6 and Sun., Dec 7) the four major streams of sacred sound in Hinduism: Shabda Yoga, Shakti Yoga, Bhava Yoga, and Nada Yoga will be explored. The workshops will also include sacred gestures (Mudras) and words (Mantras), coupled with sacred movement and Yogic breathing practices (Pranayama).
At the end of January Durga Das (David Newman) will be returning to South Florida to lead three Kirtans and one . The first Kirtan will be on Friday, Jan 30, 7 PM, at Synergy Yoga in South Beach, the second on Saturday, Jan 31, 7 PM, at Yoga Warehouse in Fort Lauderdale, and the third will be on Sunday, February 1, 7 PM, at Something Yoga in Boca Raton. He will also combine yoga asanas with live chanting and heartfelt meditations in a class called "Yoga of Love!" from 10:30-12:30 AM on Feb 1 at Something Yoga.
Durga Das was here last August and is returning to build on all the great vibes generated then. For those of you who missed him during his last tour he plays the two-stringed ?[I have to find out the name]? or acoustic guitar while leading call and response chanting. He writes his own music and intersperses a folk/rock/blues style into the Kirtan with great success. Michael Moses and myself are once again fortunate to be accompanying him on assorted percussion.
Durga Das, a Bhakti Yogi (the Yoga of Devotion), is a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba as are Krishna Das, Bhagavan Das, and Ram Das. He also teaches Astanga Yoga at his Yoga center in Philadelphia. Don't miss these heart-opening evenings of ecstatic chanting and community. You can check his music out at www.davidnewmanmusic.com
Billed as a Peace Concert at Yoga Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale at 6PM on Sunday, DECEMBER 7: Nada Yogi and musician-of-many-traditions Jorge Alfano (www.jorgealfano.com) returns to the Yoga Warehouse for another beautiful evening of music and peace. Jorge plays the shakuhachi (Japanese Flute), the Bansuri (Indian bamboo Flute), and various string instruments.
Being a musician and a Yoga instructor puts me in a unique position when listening to the genre of music variously called Yoga/Meditation/Relaxation/New Age/Wall Paper Music. Someone "noodling" in a major key on a grand piano or acoustic guitar over synthesized strings and/or crashing waves invariably makes me feel like I should be facing the front of an elevator, or worse, opening wide for the drill. On the other hand the skillful use of acoustic instruments (including but not limited to the piano or guitar) to create a peaceful cocoon of harmonious sound can greatly enhance a Yoga class or some quiet time alone.
I'd like to recommend two CDs on the Dharma Moon label - 'Drala - midnight flower' and 'at ease'. I have used them both in my Yoga classes and really enjoy the play of energy and relaxation on these recordings. I also think the instrumentation and musicianship on both of these CDs is exceptional. Both of these CDs have superior musicians and composers - unfortunately neither lists the personnel or any other information about the production. If I knew what individuals made this wonderful music I would be motivated to find out what else they might have produced. It gives me the feeling that this music was produced by different people and then assembled by the label. The fact that both CDs have a cut named 'Home Again' that are not the same piece of music makes me wonder how generic this approach might be. Despite the lack of information you can expect a high level of musical and production values on these CDs.
On 'Drala - midnight flower' I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful mix of melodic bamboo flute, sensitive acoustic guitar and piano, pulsing percussion, and haunting vocals by Falguni that makes for a varied and interesting progression of pieces. I particularly felt the piece entitled ? is energizing in its use of a driving percussion groove in 7/4.
'at ease' uses a more meditative approach with only a few of the 9 pieces having a pulse or percussion. Some beautiful melismatic Indian vocals using Sargam (the Indian solfege) and particularly a beautifully haunting version of the Asatoma Mantra (called Home Again) create an introspective atmosphere. Both CDs are available at Darma Moon, Amazon, and stores everywhere.
If you'd like to get a perspective on where I'm "coming from" musically then I would invite you to go to my site www.yellowbellmusic.com and sample some of my music and read my bio. You might have a better idea if my recommendations have any validity for you.
Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) is certified in Sivananda and Kundalini Yoga. He currently teaches Yoga at Barry University in Miami Shores, Spa Atlantis in Pompano, and Yoga Connection in Plantation. He also plays woodwinds (saxophones, flutes, and clarinets) and hand percussion (tablas, clay pot, et al), and regularly performs professionally in the local area. He has also performed throughout the United States, the Carribbean, and in Panang, Malaysia, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Europe. He has released two CDs of original World Fusion Music, and three meditation/relaxation CDs on his Yellow Bell label. Contact him, listen to free samples from his CDs, and view pictures of some of his performances and World instruments at www.yellowbellmusic.com.