South Florida Kirtan Artists

By Ramananda Das (Richard Brookens) - Enlightened Practice Magazine Column, December '04

When I began writing this column about a year ago, my focus was on Kirtan in South Florida. Since that time, I have seen it become more popular and, happily, have had the opportunity to take part in many wonderful evenings of ecstatic chanting while accompanying a variety of artists on Tablas. Following is a short list of Kirtan singers (all good friends of mine who I have worked with) living in South Florida. I highly recommend that you attend one of their Kirtans or workshops.

Laura Di Bello - Laura Di Bello is a classically trained professional vocalist who teaches sound healing workshops to both private students and groups in local area yoga studios, fitness centers, and spiritual centers. Her workshops use sound (specifically crystal singing bowls and the human voice) as healing mediums. Laura is currently performing with the Master Chorale of South Florida (formerly known as the Florida Philharmonic) and is studying to receive certification from Healing Sounds, a course of study offered by The Sound Healers Association of the U.S. She is also a vocal instructor at the Milagro Center for the Arts.

Laura's interest in sound healing began while studying world religions and spiritual cultures; it was at that time that she became fascinated with the common use of music and sound as a means through which to link the divine with the human. Tracy Shamoun will be teaching a Yoga posture workshop in conjunction with Laura, who will be connecting the postures with her crystal bowls and chants, at Something Yoga and Massage Jan 15th, 2005. For more information on sound healing, private or group workshops or bringing devotional music to your event please contact Laura at www.dibellvox.com.

Angela Fischetti - A singer at a young age, Angela reconnected to her vocal talents as a means of healing through Kirtan after the national disaster on 9/11. Soon after meeting Arrow, a vocal coach and music producer, she recorded her first CD, titled Angel Fischetti, Enter The Light, and she will be having a CD release party from 7:00-8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2004, at Synergy Center for Yoga and the Healing Arts, on South Beach in Miami. The CD features Angela's beautiful, heartfelt vocals and sensuous harmonies in a wonderful variety of Sanskrit mantras, with some driving percussion tracks.

While recording the CD, Angela held Kirtans at Synergy Yoga for about a year and is now studying the Harmonium. She promises that when she feels ready to accompany herself, she will be returning to a regular Kirtan schedule at Synergy. Angela is also a yoga instructor, heavily influenced by Iyengar. She currently teaches Power, Hatha, and Restorative Yoga, and has a service trademark with her own approach, called Power with Props. Contact her at www.songsofjoyanddevotionbyangelafischetti.com.

Mohini - Mohini began singing mantra when she was in Sivananda teacher training in 1998 at the Sivananda Ashram, in the Paradise Islands, Bahamas. She had taken piano lessons as a child, so when she bought a Harmonium (during a trip to India in 2000) she had a working knowledge of the keyboard.

Because Mohini knew no one else in the South Florida area doing Satsang at the time, she and Shyam, her partner and co-director of the Yoga Warehouse in Ft Lauderdale, began holding free weekly Satsangs at their center about 3 years ago. Every Sunday, beginning at 6 p.m., they begin with a half-hour meditation; then, Mohini leads the traditional Sivananda daily chants.

Following the Sivananda daily chants, Mohini leaves some time for others to lead a chant of their own choosing. Next is a reading from one of Sivananda's books and discussion, followed by a vegetarian potluck dinner. (Recently, Shyam and Mohini have also begun holding free Satsangs on Wed. evenings at 8 p.m.) For info on the regular weekly Kirtans and special Kirtans, go to www.yogawarehouse org.

Serpentine - Originally from New York City, Serpentine arrived in South Florida in 2003. Her professional background as a jazz singer in New York eventually led to her composing her own hybrid vocal language and electronic soundscapes, incorporating music from around the world, performing in performance art venues such as the Knitting Factory, The Kitchen, and the Symphony Space Theater, and recording with Gabrielle Roth, Trey Gunn, and Bobby Previtt. During the 1990s, she released four records under her own labelÜGoddess Rock Records and toured and performed with her own band throughout the Northeast and in New York City.

Serpentine has long practiced Hatha Yoga and has recently begun to connect with mantra and chanting on a deeper level. Since moving to South Florida, she has also embraced the power of Kirtan and has been leading Vocal Yoga voice workshops, where she teaches voice technique, breath work, the physical and spiritual power of the human voice and how it acts as a catalyst in releasing and healing our emotions. Currently, Serpentine is recording two new CD projects using Sanskrit Mantras and devoted to the Divine Mother. Serpentine recently performed at the "Inspiration" Omega Conference in Miami with Percussionist Michael Moses, and with Richard Brookens and the World Fusion group Yellow Bell at the Fort Lauderdale Jazz Brunch. Look her up at www.serpentine8.com for info on private voice lessons, upcoming VocaYoga workshops, and CD releases.

Prem Shakti - Prem grew up in a musical family (her mother taught vocals and her father was a professional pianist) and studied vocals, piano, and arranging at Cornell College. But she suffered from stage fright whenever she performed. When she began practicing yoga and devotional chanting, she found a pathway to her heart that allowed her to relax while singing in public. Having sung Kirtans for over 30 years, she offers a deep experience and knowledge of mantra and Bhakti Yoga. Early on, she studied Sanskrit with Swami Brahmananda and Vyaas Houston, founder of the Sanskrit Institute in New York. She also sang and recorded with Swami Kripalu, who wrote Bhajans, and she sang Dhuns where one sings the names of god. She has regularly led hundreds of people in Kirtan at the Kripalu center and periodically immersed herself in the mantra "Om Nama Shivaya" during Saptahs-continuous chanting for 3 to 7 days, during which devotees sing in shifts, so the music never stops. She feels that Kirtan is cleansing and exhilarating, an avenue to an expanded state of consciuosness, a slowing-down time that brings you home to your heart, and a marriage of upbeat music with sweet melodious calls to the heart. Prem Shakti was one of the founding members and program directors of the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, MA. She has lived the life of a vowed monk for 20 years in the lineage of Swami Kripalvanandaji, a Kundalini Master. She has also been inspired by Swami Kripalu among others. In 1992, Kripalu honored her by awarding her the title Acharya, spiritual mentor, for the Kripalu International Network and KYTA (Kripalu Yoga Teacher's Association). This year she has turned over the administration of the PremYoga and Wellness Center in West Palm Beach (which she opened in 1994) to others so that she has more time to lead Kirtans and teach at other centers, as well as to expand her private business of Life Coaching for Enlightened Living and body/mind yoga therapy. Prem continues to direct the 200-hour PremYoga Teacher Training, leading Enlightenment Intensives (Jan. 6-9, 2005) and Spiritual Retreats (Feb. 11-16, 2005) at the exquisite Four Medicine Retreat house.

Prem Shakti has directed and mentored other teachers for 30 years in week-long and month-long training programs and personal mentoring (CEUs, 30 hours) in yoga and meditation, holistic health, chakra balancing and healing arts, personal transformation and stress management.

She has recently opened for and accompanied the founder of Blue Star, Sri Vasudeva, at a local Satsang, and has held Kirtans at her own studio, since it opened. This December, she'll be leading a Chakra Yoga Workshop at Grace Yoga on Sat, Dec. 4th, and a Kirtan at Yoga Warehouse on Sat, Dec. 18th.

Jennifer Vasilakos - Jennifer first began singing Kirtan in New York City at Jivamukti Yoga Center. Inspired by her experiences there with Krishna Das, she began learning mantra while exploring the art of Kirtan. After moving to South Florida, she began leading Kirtans at Yoga South in Boca Raton and still does so regularly, on Tuesday nights. She has also led Kirtans at Something Yoga and Massage in Boca Raton and at Healing Light in Ft. Lauderdale. She possesses a sweet crystalline voice, with a lovely sweet nature to match. She is currently studying the Ektar, a one-stringed instrument from India, so she will be able to accompany herself during Kirtan.

A Special Reminder: Please don't forget Russill Paul's Kirtan/concert Dec 2nd at Prana Yoga in Coral Gables and his Kirtan/concert and Sound Yoga workshops, Dec. 3rd-5th, at Something Yoga in Boca Raton. Russill is a uniquely special man, who has great knowledge of Sound Yoga. I will be honored to once again accompany him on Tablas, Clay Pots, Flute, and Soprano Sax.

Also, if you know of a South Florida Bhakti Yogini or Yogi/Kirtan artist not included in this article, please let me know how to get in touch with her or him for a future profile. Thank 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.

[Previous] Book Reviews