Music has the power to move me in ways that go beyond notes on a page or sound that come from instrument or vocal chords. There is an essence that accompanies it and when it reaches deep into my soul, it grabs hold and won’t let go.
I was introduced to the experience of kirtan (sacred call and response chanting) several years ago and although Sanskrit is not my native language, the rhythm and feeling of it reminded me of the chanting in the synagogue in which our family spent Friday nights throughout my childhood.
Three such musicians whose music touch me in ways and waves that are transcendent, are Deva Premal, Miten and Manose
Each of them is talented in his or her own right, but together, they create such an intricate weaving of beauty. As I was telling friends in a late night email after returning home from a concert at which they performed awhile back: “the music was heaven sent and the silence after each chant, allowed for reverberations of peace to wash over us. At most concerts, people are accustomed to applauding. At a kirtan, although it is entertaining, it is also sacred ritual, so clapping after each piece is discouraged. What magic these folks are…Deva is from Germany, raised by parents who were disciples of Rajneesh (also called Osho) Miten is from England and his background is rock and blues. Manose is from Nepal and his specialty is Indian bamboo flute. The feeling of the evening, was, at turns, devotional, sensual, rowdy, still, meditative, playful, bluesy…all together amazing. I laughed, cried, danced, prayed, meditated, chanted, sang, all in a 2 1/2 hour period. I so love this kind of music….it is most certainly a way of feeling connection with all that IS.” Deva and Miten as partners in music making and life, have been together for 19 years and their ‘home’ is wherever they happen to be. As Miten shared with a laugh at the workshop, on the particular day, it was Philadelphia. As they told me a few years ago when I had the pleasure of interviewing them, the world is their home. Manose joined them on the road 4 years ago and his contribution to the trio is more than just support; it seems an essential component to their signature sound. He is indeed God’s flautist, or perhaps the hollow reed itself.
The next day, a four hour workshop (not nearly long enough) held at The Elkins Estate in Elkins Park, PA, was a multi-modal experience, in a much more intimate gathering. Eighty of us sat on a colorful sea of yoga mats, zafus (meditation cushions) and blankets as we took the chanting to a deeper level. As preparation, we did breathing and movement exercises; tuning the instrument, as it were. For many of those present, chanting is part of our yogic practice; equally as sacred and supportive to our well-being as asanas (postures) on the mat. What I can say, is that it feeds my soul and in this case, this weekend, healed my tired and cold-symptomatic body.
At one point, we moved into a marble floored grand entrance room that had a domed ceiling and sculpted figures; appearing as if they were outstretched in ecstasy, embellishing the railings that hovered above us. We offered Sufi prayers, acknowledging the oneness of all life, offering and receiving compassion and doing Sufi circle dancing; twirling and spinning, holding hands, gazing into each others’ eyes, bowing and stretching in honoring the blessings in our lives, deeply grateful for it all. Love is the message in each syllable. The familiar chant ‘om'; which is considered the sound of the Universe, is also, according to Deva “The cosmic yes!”
One of my favorite pieces of theirs is called In the Light of Love with the Sanskrit line:
OM SHRI DHANVANTRE NAMAHA
(OME SHREE DARN-VARN-TRAY NAR-MAR-HAR)
This is the healing mantra, based on an appeal to the celestial healer,Dhanvantari, who figures in the Lakshmi story and who gave the Nectar of Immortality to the gods. It can be used to enhance one’sown healing skills and performance as a practitioner;or for self healing, in which it is said to be able to work in many ways to promote healing on all levels: physical, mental or emotional.