Kirtan at Kumars

by Joanna D.

I had been craving music. Craving an outlet for voice. Craving Kirtan. The opportunity came Friday night at Kumar’s, a kind and multi-talented local. At the beginning, he took a moment to talk about what Kirtan is. Can be. I liked what he had to say – this is my interpretation of what that was. He said that Kirtan is the practice of devotional signing. A practice. Much like yoga. It is powered by your intention… the one in your heart. Sing from your heart; with devotion, invite something greater than yourself to come sit within you. Create a lightness; loving kindness. That is what it can be. From your intention… your heart… for yourself and the ones you love. I added a bit there…

Photo by Dan Elliott

The setting was quite lovely. A rooftop performance. Under a covering made of bamboo, woven grass and a blue tarp was a well-lit space with foam padding on the concrete floor and thin pillows to soften ones seat. The crowd was mainly people from the Shala and other studios around Gokulam. Perhaps twenty to thirty in number. A slightly stormy evening brought a cool breeze; orange and pink colored the clouds.  It was lead by a man named James Boag and his friends, Paul from Bellingham, USA, and an Italian woman named Radhe on Harmonium. Ganesh, a local Indian man and friend to many, was on the Tablas.

Swaying with the beat of the drums and the melody from the harmonium our voices rang out into the disappearing light. Sometimes soft and light, other times the energy was so great – the singing so heartfelt and intense – the temperature rose at least ten degrees. It was loud, genuine and the most present I had felt since my arrival. Joyful. When the singing stopped and we were all sitting in silence, it was actually quiet. Quiet does not seem to come often here. I recall noticing the sound of the tarp softly floating in the breeze. Creating a rhythm of it’s own.

The after feeling was so incredibly peaceful and beautiful. Happiness arose out of every being left in the room. Hugs, laughter, kindness.

In terms of celebrating the New Year, 2012, this is the sense I wish to carry through with me. Love and light.