Sunday, November 06, 2011

Fall Updates II

The Yoga of Silence Retreat

September 9 - October 2

Prama Institute

This 4 day retreat was interspersed with guitar accompaniment for walking meditation, teaching and practicing kiirtan and meditating for long periods of time. The bhajan evening was especially devotional, as we went deep into the songs, feeling a great connection with one another; flowing with heart-filled love for the Divine.... 

Cultural Exchange Performance

October 6-7
ArtSpace Charter School
Swannanoa, NC

In September, I was invited to be a visiting artist at ArtSpace Charter School in Swannanoa, where I spent several weeks working with the 5th grade classes on their 15th century, Cultural Exchange performance. The “Central American Natives” learned the Mayan song “Conex Conex Palaxen”. I also taught a small ensemble the percussion to support the song and dance. For the “Spaniards”, I brought in the Sephardic song “La Rosa Enflorese” in the Ladino language.

It was fascinating learning about Spain and the Sephardic culture from the 15th century. My parentage is from that region, and I was able to bring authenticity to the children, while learning something new. I could feel the fusion of Middle Eastern and Spanish cultures in my own heart as I sang the song, and accompanied the children on guitar – my son Prashanta on the hand drum. Cherie Holmes, the dance teacher, masterfully taught the children fluid dances to fit the mood. ArtSpace Charter hosts a state-of-the-art theatre where we performed two shows.

Magical Kiirtans!
October 9-14

Kiirtan artists Jyoshna LaTrobe and Kavita Neuman flew into North Carolina and went out in a flurry, but what a time we had!

Sunday afternoon, at the Prama Institute, Jyoshna gave a Power Point presentation on kiirtan, based on her doctorate thesis. Afterwards, we traded Prabhat Samgiitas, and sang an hour of kiirtan together. The kiirtan was high with Kavita on the khol drum, a traditional instrument made of clay, and covered with bamboo which gives it a wonderfully deep and high ringing pitch at the same time. Jyoshna’s compositions reflect her time spent in Rarh, studying and learning the ancient kiirtan genre. One can feel the authenticity of the songs, as Jyoshna, a dynamic musician, executes kiirtan with total abandon.

Wednesday evening, we presented songs and wound down the evening with kiirtan and meditation for the Full Moon Spiritfest at the Prama Institute.

Thursday afternoon, Jyoshna gave her presentation to a theatre full of middle school students as ArtSpace Charter School. She interspersed lecture with multimedia and participation, having the students all stand up and sing Rarhi kiirtan in the end. The students and teachers greatly enjoyed with her lively presentation.

Thursday evening, we were off to the studio to record two new, festive kiirtans for the upcoming Brazilian project.

The whole week was spent practicing music daily, sharing food together, and catching up with each other’s lives. We came away with a commitment to perform and record together more often to solidify our sisterhood in music!

Monday, October 03, 2011

"The Essence", Sacred HipHop
by Srikala and Anadi
Vocals by Anjali Silva-Natarajan

Here's a little something I did with my sweet little brother, Anadi. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Updates, 2011

Ananda Marga Regional Retreat
Ananda Girisuta Master Unit
The Prama Institute
September 2-4th

The Fall Regional Retreat was held at the Prama Institute on Ananda Girisuta Master Unit - a 3 day devotional, social event, focusing on developing deeper spiritual practices through kiirtan, music, meditation and spiritual talks. The workshop theme this year centered on the psycho-spiritual-socio-economic limb called: Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT). Our local PROUT specialists, Hiranamaya and Ramesh prepared an intensive workshop, working out of the 5 fundamental principles of PROUT. Dada Jyotirsananda gave daily philosophy classes and deep spiritual discourses. The food was lovingly prepared by Sister Haripriya and family. Sister Sharada from El Salvador brought her 3 month old baby and parents, who told stories, participated in the Prout workshop, and gave much insight to the social-political situation in El Salvador. Their presence added much warmth and joy to the occasion. Several new people came from Raleigh, thanks to Brother Pashupati.

Resident musician Jiivanmukta and I coordinated the kiirtans, and I headed up the Prabhat Samgiita and the evening programs. We had representation from Appalachia, Haiti, Latin America, India, and Israel. Young Govinda, who has been working hard on his fiddle and violin skills, attended a music camp this summer and presented a few complex, melodic pieces. As there was a large group of Spanish speaking members, I implored everyone to sing a Spanish folk song with me. A recitation of “The Jabberwocky”, worthy of an Oscar was executed by Ambuja!

One brother confided in me that for 30 years, he had had an aversion to Prabhat Samgiita. When he heard me singing the Shiva Giita, he began to experience himself being transported back into the time of Shiva, and sent chills up his spine, as he could see Him standing there with his trident and hair tuft. It brought tears to my eyes as he shared his personal story. We never know how these God-given gifts touch the human spirit….

Yoga Detox Program,
September 9-11
The Prama Institute

Dada Dharmadevanandaji graced us with another visit and dynamic workshop. I provided the music and kiirtan, including music for a movement segment Friday evening. Saturday night, I led a sweet, intimate chanting circle in the warm glow of candlelight.

Annual Great Mother Honoring and Celebration, 9/24/11
The Prama Institute

This retreat was for The Institute of Whole Life Healing, "Many Paths; One Truth", led by Babaji Koleoso Karade & Iya Osunnike Anke. Visvamitra and I led an afternoon workshop titled:  Devotion in Action

I met with Iya Osunnike beforehand, who let me know that they were honoring the goddess “Yemanja” this weekend. As we spoke further, I began to recognize the names of the (West African) gods and goddesses I used to sing about 20 years ago, during my exploration of Afro-Brazilian/Cuban music. Though I didn’t know much about the African religions, I always felt a deep, primodial connection to the songs. I told Iya my story as a lead singer (puxadora) for the "Mexe, Mexe" samba school in the San Francisco Carnaval, 1990. Along with the traditional “samba” song, I had chosen an Afoxe (Afro-Brazilian) song that I really loved. While singing from the float to tens of thousands of people, I switched to the Afoxe song, and felt a complete shift in the spiritual force. Capoeira artists from an Afro-Brazilian school left their group, and ran behind my float, singing along. I remember the powerful connection to the indigenious beings, and the universal elements in that very moment.

I wanted to bring something in common with the retreat participants, so I asked a sister who practices Candomble’ to drum for me while I led the Brazilian chant for Yemanja - the goddess of the sea. As we sang, calling to Yemaja, some sisters got up to dance. We all felt the strength of the feminine force!

I then brought in collective Prabhat Samgiita, and introduced the group to kiirtan. Our dancing and singing was spirited, as the group connected with the Divine. After a wonderful talk and workshop exploring ways to open our hearts and artistic activities on how to get in touch with our heart’s desire, I led the group in a round “Open up your heart, open up your eyes, open up your heart and let your love shine.” We sang with great passion. I scanned the room and my eyes fell upon a sister who was singing with her whole heart, eyes wide open. I sang with her for several more minutes, before winding down and stopping the song. More kiirtan and meditation closed the session.

Afterwards, as I greeted the participants, I spoke to the sister with whom I had connected while singing. She shared with me that she had always [hated] her voice, and didn’t like to sing. While singing, she felt her heart open up and began to sing louder and fuller, with total abandonment. She said she didn’t want to stop, and almost left the room so she could keep singing once I ended! Axe! I love these special moments in time – how we connect with others in deeper and deeper ways, until we feel, there are no barriers in this great universe. This was an exceptional group of people, and I thank the Divine for bringing us together today!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gano Chapel, MO

Summer Updates

Tantric Futures Reunion
Kansas City, MO
June 27 - July 4, 2011

The Tantric Futures Reunion was hosted at a beautiful college campus, north of Kansas City, with pristine flower gardens, overlooking lush, rolling green hills.

One of the highlights of the retreat was a workshop based on the 4 different social classes: workers, warriors, intellectuals, and spiritualists. The participants were asked to develop a play based on these social classes. Our group chose the “the warrior”, with a female heroine, and I was asked to develop the theme song for the play.

The music I chose was based on a song I had written about my grandmother years ago – in a Latin, 6/8 time. “Victoria, you don’t know how beautiful you are, Victoria, don’t you know that you’re a shining star…” schmaltzy, but with some depth: "…the muddy waters clear, and the moon appears, go and find it, trust the one who is your guide, open up your heart and mind, pull from the strength inside… let your inner light shine!"

We had great fun creating the story and the characters: Victoria, a disabled woman is ridiculed, and feels hopeless in the world. She meets with her mentor, a Yaqui elder who shows her how to meditate on the mantra “Baba Nam Kevalam”. Victoria runs into a situation where two men are harassing a checker at the market. She pulls up the courage and tells them to stop, threatening them with her cane. The men are pressured into leaving. Victoria has found her strength!

I was asked to perform at the cultural program, and chose a set of songs – including the Beatles song "Within You, Without You", with Giita on violin, and Caetanya on the Oud - a lute-like stringed instrument commonly used in the Middle East. We played in the elegant Gano Chapel, an enormous pipe organ as the backdrop.

28th Annual Prabhat Samgiita Retreat
Fayston, VT
August 19-21, 2011

The 28th annual Prabhat Samgiita Retreat was held in Fayston, VT at the home of Ciranjiiva and Parashakti, overlooking a beautiful mountain. The weather was perfect – around 70 degrees. Arun and I led the teaching, and around 50 people attended.

The devotional evening program was filled with subtle stories and songs. Brother Alok read a touching excerpt from his upcoming novel.

The attendees are improving their singing skills, and are understanding the complexity of Prabhat Samgiita more deeply with each passing year. It was wonderful having two acharyas originally from Bengal – the original language of Prabhat Samgiita. They brought humorous stories, and much warmth and support.

Summer Recordings

This summer, I enjoyed participating in several recording projects: Rap/hiphop artist and filmmaker Anadi (Abe Heisler, NY) asked me to sing kiirtan over a project he’s doing with Anadi and Srikala, "Sacred Hip Hop", to be released this year. Anadi also asked Jyoshna and I to produce a Prabhat Samgiita for a short devotional film. Finally, Kamal Krishna (in Kerala, India) gave his assistance in producing the Prabhat Samgiita “Tiny Green Island” for a collaborative, global project Kiirtan for All

Monday, May 23, 2011

May Flowers, 2011

Mother's Day, May 8th

My son and I produced a sweet video of "Reverent Mother" for Mother's Day. It can be seen at: ShantiAnjali Music

East Meets West: An Evening of Indian Music
Ananda Purnima, May 17
Shakti in the Mountains
Johnson City, TN

A darling little house in the Historic North Roan district of Johnson City, Shakti in the Mountains is a women’s center, offering massage and classes in self-development, and celebrations specifically for women. I opened with Prabhat Samgiita and kiirtan for the Carnatica Brothers, a delightful vocal duo – cousins who have been playing together for over 20 years. Often times, listening to ancient, Indian slokas, I am transported to another time and space, as was the case listening to Shashikiran and Ganesh sing Shiva Shambho, Shanti is the Universal Energy, and Maithrim Bhajata: Please think that others are like you / For mother earth is a wish giving animal / And God our father is most merciful / Restrain, donate and be kind / To all the people of this world / Let all the people live with bliss. The “brothers” have developed a unique style, all their own: when one is soaring in the higher notes, the other drops down to a rumbling bass, connecting the heaven and earth. Ganesh was featured on the chitravina, a unique slide, stringed instrument (vina). Lakshman masterfully accompanied the duo on mridangam. A special thanks to Guhanji and Kim for hosting this event.

Full Moon Spiritfest, May 18
Prama Institute
Marshall, NC

Kori (Chaitanya Kirtan Group) and I wanted to create something together for this event, so we presented two songs: a devotee’s longing to be Krisna’s Song; and a rich Sikh tune, praising the qualities of God. Kori created the melody to the latter song, that included singing a counter melody in double-time. Naresh and Rishi gave musical support on the doumbek (Middle Eastern drum) and tablas. Krisnadeva told a heartwarming story about his stay in jail and his personal transformation – how it helped him to find the good in everyone. Beautiful poetry was shared by several participants, including several Kabir pieces by Visvamitra. Caetanya Saxon brought out an antique dulcimer, passed on by his grandfather. He sang beautifully in Latin and played a German composition. Santor, from the Raleigh area, led us in a lively Hawaiian peace dance, describing how we are connected to the earth, sky, sea, heart; and to one another. As it was the full moon of our guru’s birthday, I sang a tender Prabhat Samgiita:

You are the object of my meditation.
You are the dearest one of my life.
For You, lifetime after lifetime
I have been coming and going, oh Beloved One

I have always wanted You with me
I move along Your path without hesitation.
You are the essence of my life, that’s all I know
& that You are my dearest one

Why do You remain far from me? Tell me what You want from me.
In the game of Your liila, why do you make me cry?
If my weeping gives You joy,
Then let me weep for You.

We ended the evening with a rousing kiirtan and quiet meditation.


~ I’ve recently joined Kiirtan for All, a global group, (under the umbrella of Visão Futuro São Paulo) based in Brazil. Together with several musicians around the world, including Kamalkrisna, Jyoshna, Sukhadeva, Shubhamaya, Rainjan, Vasudeva, and Soja Kiirtan Group, we are recording and filming the Prabhat Samgiita, “Tiny Green Island”. Kiirtan for All promises to be a dynamic, ongoing project, with the mission of spreading kiirtan and devotional music to the masses.

~ One of my favorite sisters and kiirtanista, Jyoshna LaTrobe and I are currently collaborating on Prabhat Samgiita # 218, “Pita Mata Bandhu Sakha" for a devotional video, ready to be viewed this summer.

~ On June 9th, I will be interviewed (in Spanish) on Asia el Amor Infinito, Seres Radio FM, a spiritual radio show that is podcasts globally.

~ I am working with Waldorf consultant and whimsical author, Christine Natale on a CD and book compilation of lullabies and pedagogical muses for mothers and teachers, to be released in 2012.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Earthday Kiirtan" Soja Kiirtan Group
Featuring Anjali and Jyoshna

Soja Kiirtan Group is led by musician/producer Jagatbandhu, and Liilamaya. Jyoshna and I were asked to add our vocals to this project via cyberspace. Liilamay created this aesthetic video. Enjoy!

Baba Nam Kevalam is a Sanskrit mantra meaning: Love is the essence of all....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Full Moon Spiritfest
Prama Institute, NC

The Full Moon Spiritfest was a great success. Over 30 people came out to share poetry and music. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Davidowski highlighted the evening with several modal, "Keith Jarrett-esk" keyboard pieces. Chaitanya Kirtan Group led three devotional chants. Ten year old Govinda Odelle graced us with two classical violin composition, executed with great precision. I co-hosted, led the kiirtans, and sang a few songs with Steve and the percussion ensemble. It was a great opportunity for like-minded souls to gather together for social and spiritual nourishment.