Kirtan with Nina Rao and Ambika Cooper

Kirtan 2 - Ambika Cooper & Nina Rao

Last Friday, my husband and I attended a Kirtan with Ambika Cooper and Nina Rao hosted by Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. This was my second Kirtan (read about my first experience and Kirtan 101 here) and my husband’s first.

This time I was more relaxed and knew what to expect. As a visual learner, I also appreciated that they handled out lyrics to all of the mantras/chants beforehand. Ambika and Nina are beautiful singers while the drumming spoke to my soul (I’m partial to drums). The crowd was more lively this time – one woman was dancing in the corner, most swayed to the melodies.

My favorite mantra continues to be the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna). It starts slow, building the energy. Then speeds up as if the song and singers are overflowing with prana (life force).

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

“Hare” is an address to God’s energy, known as Radha, and “Krishna” is name of God meaning “He who is attractive to everyone.” “Rama” means “one who gives pleasure and enjoys life.” When chanted the maha-mantra is a petition to God: “O Krishna, O energy of Krishna, please engage me in Your service.” ~Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

Kirtan - Ambika Cooper & Nina Rao

My first Kirtan

Harmonium

Harmonium

Friday night I attended my first ever Kirtan at mang’Oh yoga studio led by musicians Seth Lieberman, Daniel Cole, and Aaron Angel (Click here to view a sample Kirtan in NYC).

 A Kirtan is a communal singing experience that uses call and response chanting of Sanskrit mantras to transport the singers to a state of bliss, peace and joy. Everyone sits on the floor. The wallah (leader) sings the mantra, and the audience sings it back. A single chant can go on for anywhere between 10 – 40 minutes. Musical instruments like the harmonium and Tabla drums are played.

Going into it I was a bit anxious and not sure I’d really want to sing mantras in a room full of strangers. I was also worried it would feel overly religious or “new agey”. However the atmosphere in the room was very calming by candlelight. The performers welcomed everyone warmly and explained how the Kirtan works. Even though I sometimes forgot what I was suppose to be saying the flow and vibrations of the Sanskrit words created a beautiful mix. My favorite moments were right after the music for a particular mantra/song stops….. it’s then that we have a few moments of silence. It’s in that silence that I felt the potential power of singing the mantra. And found that my mind eased into meditation easier. My only negative was I wish a better translation of all the words were provided – and even a print out of the mantras. The performers provided a summary of what each mantra meant to them beforehand but my brain kept wanting to know exactly what I was singing.

Tabla

Tabla

Here a hilarious skit where someone tries to explain what a Kirtan is