By Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) - Enlightened Practice Magazine Column, April/May '04
During February and March there are many Yoga / musical events to look forward to. We are indeed fortunate to see a scene developing in South Florida that includes Kirtans, Satsangs, Nada Yoga workshops, and other Yoga related or spiritual musical events. One of the most interesting developments has been a loosely connected "circuit" of Yoga studios that have made it possible to present Yogis like Bhagavan Das, Durga Das (David Newman), Swami Paramhansa (Milk Baba), and Russill Paul to South Florida in the last few years. These studios already have an established Kirtan night (weekly or monthly) and understand the value in bringing this high vibrational energy to their students and staff.
I know there are studio owners that are afraid of turning off some students with spiritual events or Mantra in their classes, but some consider it a duty to give students an opportunity to connect to their higher self with something more than just the poses as a tool. So I would like to personally thank the owners and staffs of Synergy Yoga in South Beach, Yoga Warehouse and Red Pearl Yoga in Fort Lauderdale, and Something Yoga and Massage in Boca Raton for their efforts in supporting Kirtans/Satsangs, workshops and other Yoga/music events. They all have a regular Kirtan at their studios and in addition sponsor Kirtan artists from out of state. I would also like to applaud the efforts made by the Yogis and Yoginis who hold their own Kirtans/Satsangs at places like Prem Yoga in West Palm Beach (see below), and Yogi Hari's Ashram in Miramar.
I hope you the reader, will take advantage of the upcoming events below and get in touch with the Yoga communities spirituality. I see it as solid evidence of a true spiritual awakening in South Florida that most of the past events have been so well attended. Below are some events I highly recommend. It's true that I am involved in some of them (I have got to be the luckiest Tabla player I know) but as the scene develops and more studios get involved with more spiritual events I hope someday there will be too many well attended events for me to play all of them. Nothing would give me greater pleasure.
A Bhakti Yogi, Bhagavan Das went to India in the mid 60's. After much traveling and searching he took Neem Karoli Baba as his guru. He eventually introduced Timothy Leary ("Turn on, Tune In, and Drop Out"), and Richard Alpert, two professors from Harvard, to his guru. Richard Alpert also took Neem Karoli Baba as his guru and was given the spiritual name Ram Das. After returning to the United States Ram Das used a phrase given to him by Bhagavan Das for the title of his book: "Be Here Now". Back in America, Bhagavan Das met and began working with poet Alan Ginsburg and Zen spiritualist Alan Watts among others. It was during this time that Bhagavan Das was introduced to Jimi Hendrix's manager Michael Jeffries who arranged for him to record in the legendary Electric Ladyland studios. Those sessions led to his first album entitled AH. AH is one of the earliest recordings in what would be known as "world music". And today, Bhagavan Das is quoted as being "...the Jimi Hendrix of Kirtan masters." You can read about Bhagavan Das's spiritual journey from the mid 60's to the recent present in his autobiography "It's Here Now (Are You?)" published by Broadway Books. The San Jose Mercury News reviewer said it was "A fascinating story of an all-too-human man seeking spiritual truth in fascinating times". You should also hear his most recent CD titled "Bhagavan Das Now" produced by the Beastie Boys Mike D. Billboard said "The depth and spiritual resonance of Bhagavan Das' vocals is very moving, and when combined with Mike D.'s mix chops, the result is truly mesmerizing music. ...a startling, ultimately wondrous East-meets-West vibe unique to this project. Now is a world music album with all sorts of crossover potential." In addition to the autobiography and new CD Bhagavan has been developing two film projects: one is a documentary and the other a dramatization of his spiritual journeys.
The legendary Bhagavan Das returns to South Florida the first week in March for a series of Kirtans, Nada workshops, and private Vedic Astrological readings. Contact Sula at 561-852-9624 for a Vedic astrological reading appointment during March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. He will be performing Kirtans Friday, March 5th, 7 PM at Synergy Yoga on Espanola Way in South Beach, Saturday March 6th, 7 PM at Yoga Warehouse on Flagler Drive in Ft. Lauderdale, and Sunday, March 7th, at Something Yoga off Glades Road in Boca Raton. He will also be available for Vedic Astrological readings on the 7th from 11 AM to 4 PM at Something Yoga. March 10th, 8 PM, Bhagavan Das will be in Tampa at Stillpoint Yoga for a Kirtan and on the 11th at 7:30 PM he will hold a Nada/Chakra workshop. Contact Vati Ammatri at (813) 835-8451 for info on the workshop. The second weekend in March Bhagavan Das will be at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, FL. He will be doing a Kirtan, 8 PM, Friday the 12th, and a Nada workshop Saturday the 13th, 10 to 4 PM. I will once again have the great pleasure of accompanying Bhagavan Das on Tablas and Clay Pot during his South Florida tour. Percussionist Michael Moses will also be with us for many of the dates.
Barbara Sloan will lead a Vinyasa flow yoga class with live music provided by Richard Brookens. This is a special event Yoga class lasting 2 hours. It is intended for students who have developed their practice and do not require basic alignment or breathing instructions. Little or no corrections will be given, allowing the students to connect with the live music and focus their awareness on their inner experience of the poses. The energy level of the class will be mirrored by Richard's playing on Clay Pot and bamboo flutes. Following the Asanas there will be an extended deep relaxation, Pranayama practices, and final meditation. The class will begin and end with Mantras.
Having recently moved from Barcelona, Spain (where they started a Kundalini ashram) to Virginia, this Sikh couple has recently been touring the United States leading Kirtans with their voices and guitar, and holding Naad Yoga (science of sound) workshops. After a successful weekend at Yoga Source in Coral Springs the first weekend of December owner and Kundalini instructor Deva Kaur Khalsa has invited them back for the last weekend of February. Friday the 27th, 7 to 9 PM they will lead Mantra, meditation, and movement. Saturday the 28th, 1 to 5 PM, they will be leading a Naad Yoga workshop. Richard Brookens will likely be playing Tabla with them for both events.
Beginning Sanskrit workshops March 5 - 7 at Yoga Warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. A disciple of Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, who founded Ananda ashram in Monroe New York, Ma Bha teaches the knowledge of Sanskrit grammar, as "science of vibration," using mantra and chanting to learn the Sanskrit alphabet.
On February 14th, 8:00pm, at Red Pearl Yoga in Fort Lauderdale, mystic Pop-Trance singer Serpentine and percussionist James Garcia will invoke the spirit of Valentine's Day. Performing songs from their upcoming CD "Chakra Mysteries and Intimacies", this critically acclaimed duo will open your heart with sensual and compelling music inspired by the Chakras. Infusing tribal rhythms of the Mediterranean and Near East with Serpentine's rapturous vocals this special concert is sure to pack the house once again.
Former leader of World Music ensemble Rainbow Serpent, West Palm Beach Sitarist Tom Thurston has a new group called Gajendra that performs Mantras with a World Beat influence every Friday evening from 7 to 10 PM at Ulla Lobas's Art Studio. The studio is a free-standing house at 427 Iris St where it intersects Qudadrille just east of City Place in West Palm Beach. Richard Brookens on tablas and flutes, Jason on Guitar and bass guitar, Czara on percussion and bass and Doctor Wize on Harmonium fill out the group. Call 561-833-5539 for info.
'NADA YOGA / Sacred Sounds' workshop every Monday in February 7 to 9 pm at Sacred Sounds Institute in Hollywood. The ancient science of Nada Yoga presented in a contemporary and useable way. Explaining the power of Creation's energy from spirit to matter and utilizing the vibration of elemental sounds (earth, water, fire, air and ether) to heal our selves and others. Call (954) 922-0061 for info.
A monthly Kirtan on the last Saturday of each month, led by PremShakti and Dharma. The next scheduled Kirtans are on Feb 28, and March 27 from 7:00-8:30pm. Prem Yoga is located at 1095 Military Trail, West Palm Beach (just north of Belvedere Rd.). Call 561-640-YOGA (9642) for information.
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.