Tuesday, 15 December 2009

December Kirtan.

Good news! Ranchor is coming to lead our December Kirtan. As he ushered in the year for us in January,he will see it out for us in December. There's pleasing symmetry!

Ranchor plans to bring his Tamboura, which as it is probably the largest in Britain, is no mean feat. It has such a special sound, to enhance the chanting.

So - Kirtan by Candlelight - wonderful chanting, Christmas fare, lovely company - what more could a fellow want!

Date: Sunday, 20th December.

Time: 4.00 p.m.

Venue: The Friends Meeting House, 43, St. Giles.

Kirtan by Candlelight.

November's Kirtan by Candlelight was beautiful - both the chanting and the candlelight!

A chanter took these splendid photos, to give you some idea.

Our next Kirtan by Candlelight will be this Sunday, 20th December at 4.00 p.m. It would be nice to see you there!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Ranchor's New Book

Ranchor Prime, well-known to Oxford chanters, for his blissful kirtans, is also a writer and publisher. His interest in conservation, the environment and animal welfare, has led him to write a new book, launched recently in London.

Cows and the Earth is a book about ancient methods of cow-farming, in which cows are enabled to live natural lives and deaths, instead of being slaughtered; and how these are being revived and practised in a Vaishnava community in England. Ranchor presents the case for more compassionate husbandry of dairy cattle, showing how this may ultimately be of benefit to the Earth and to humans, as well as the cows.

A pair of oxen actually attended the book launch in the centre of London, with their good friend Chrissie Hyndes who was also there, and who wrote a foreword to the book.


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Speaking of Pumpkins...

Look at these beautifully carved ones, by Jahnavi! She carved them for a Mantralogy Kirtan in Australia at the end of October. Vastly superior to our humble efforts - she can come and carve ours next year!

The top one is a lotus flower, and the bottom is 'Om' in Sanskrit character.

Jahnavi - a favourite amongst Oxford kirtaniyas - has been touring for many months now, with Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits, holding great kirtans in many far-flung parts of the world. I know that, although it has been a wonderful time for her, it has had it's difficulties, being apart from home and family for so long. So Jahnavi, we're routing for you!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

October Chanting.

Pictures from our glowing October kirtan. Gopal and Rembert led mellow chants in keeping with the season and we sang the very special Damodarastakam song, with it's lilting melody. A kirtan to remember!

Photos courtesy of photographer Claire Williams, who is off to India for a few months - and takes our blessings with her for a wonderful retreat.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Fire fighting

Mark Anderson led our September kirtan with the expertise born of a lifetime's chanting. His rich, deep voice varied in moods and expression, as he sang a variety of mantras and sacred songs, and we followed merrily on.

We were surprised to learn that Mark is a trainee firefighter, with a love of adventure and a desire to help others. Keshava remarked, in introducing him, that this is entirely befitting a kirtan leader: There is a 16thC Sanskrit poem which describes kirtan as "extinguishing the blazing fire of human suffering". So a fire-fighter in more than one sense!

Mark (aka Madhva) spoke of his involvement with kirtan. Although he grew up with it, he performs it now just because it is such a wonderful thing to do.

"Every Friday night I get together with a large group of friends, and we spend several hours chanting. Of all the things you could do on a Friday night, if I were to say I was going to spend it singing prayers and mantras, you might think there were more exciting things to do than that. Yet Friday night is the highlight of my week. "

He brings such concentration and enthusiasm to his chanting, that you can see how he gets so much out of it!

Although we'd been expecting Mark to bring his whole kirtan band, only one other member was able to come this time, but they left with promises of returning with more.

Many thanks to Mark on behalf of us all - looking forward to next time.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Exuberant Kirtan

Kirtan comes in many shapes and sizes, from the slow and meditative, through to the rip-roaring, drum-pounding, dance-til-you drop. There's a kirtan for every occasion! And it doesn't in the least matter how you chant - the effect is always the same - an unburdening of the heart and mind and a lasting upsurge of bouyancy. The ancient texts concerning kirtan state that there are no hard and fast rules for chanting - chant wherever, whenever and however you like. But chant!

As we've been following Gaura vani in recent months, on his mantralogy tour, here's a sample of the more exuberant style of kirtan, recorded in the UK in August. Click here.

Above: Traditional kirtan in India.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Kirtan in the Boston Globe

I just saw an article today about Gaura Vani from the Boston Globe. I love this quote from it:

"Kirtan is just the process of using chant and music to clean the heart," he said from his home outside the nation's capital. "It's like an ancient can of Scrubbing Bubbles to clean our hearts and help figure out who we are beyond the body."

We start our kirtan season again in Oxford on Sunday. What a great opportunity to let the Scrubbing Bubbles of chanting to set us off into new fresh autumnal adventures. Hope to see you there, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed...

All information you need about the next kirtan is in the post below.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

September Kirtan

Welcome to a new season of Kirtan in Oxford! To start with panache, we'll be hosting a newly-formed kirtan band from London, headed up by Mark Anderson. He and his band Sacred Vibes have been chanting at the Kirtan-yoga sessions in West Hampstead, a new kirtan venue which has it's website here. Mark and his team have many years chanting experience between them, and bring a youthful energy and zest to their kirtans.

There's no doubt that kirtan is 'catching on', as more people experience it's uplifting, de-stressing, joyful qualities. So, if you haven't tried it yet, I hope you'll be able to join us this Sunday, September 20th. at the Friends Meeting House, 43, St. Giles, at 4.00 p.m. We look forward to seeing you and chanting with you!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Kirtan the Jewish way - with Kirtan Rabbi

This is a short video on Kirtan Rabbi, who blends Jewish chanting with Indian kirtan. It's a sublime combination. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Here's the home of the video: http://www.kirtanrabbi.com/

Thursday, 30 July 2009

July Kirtan.

After an unfortunate postponement (for the first time in three years) we held our July kirtan last Sunday.

We weren't as big a gathering as usual, but our MC - Shaunaka - encouraged us to chant loudly and with enthusiasm in the spirit of "let me think not what the kirtan can do for me, but what I can do for the kirtan" - the result was terrific!

Gopal led us in chanting Govinda Jaya Jaya - an ancient mantra from the Radha-Raman temple in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. Rembert - who is just completing his DPhil in Sanskrit - led us in chanting the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna mantra) and Gopal finished off with the Pancha-Tattva mantra.

We have managed to buy some new recording equipment, and are in the process of editing the whole backlog of kirtan recordings, with a view to podcasting them very soon. Good news!

Jahnavi and the Mantralogy Tour '09

If you're wondering where our beautiful kirtan chanter Jahnavi (with the violin) is right now, she is on the Mantralogy Tour '09 with Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits and The Mayapuris. They travel around the US and Canada chanting (and dancing) at yoga centres and festivals. Judging from the photos, she's having a good time...

(With Shiva Rea at the Kripalu Yoga Centre)

Looking forward to having her and her sister with us in Oxford in the autumn (hopefully).

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Next kirtan 26th July!

We've moved the next kirtan to the 26th July (from the 19th) as all our chanters fell sick, and hope this will not inconvenience you too much. Come and chant with us before the summer's break, come and chant - to have a break...

Love this picture of the rain so had to add some lyrics below to justify its insertion. It's also quite topical.

"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothin' seems to fit
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'

So I just did me some talkin' to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done
Sleepin' on the job
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin' [...]"

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ratha-yatra Slideshow.

Some beautiful photos of Tulasi - kirtaniya extraordinaire - at Sunday's Ratha-yatra festival in London. Her father Kripamoya is also leading the chanting in one of the photos. Both of them have been kind supporters of our Oxford Kirtans, and hopefully will continue to be.

The photos capture something of the wonderful event which is the Ratha-yatra festival. If you follow one of the kirtan groups and just absorb yourself in the chanting, you'll feel you never lived before!
Click here for the slideshow: London Rathayatra.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

London Ratha-yatra Kirtan Fun...

Today is the day of the London Ratha-yatra - thousands gather together and join in kirtan while Sri Jagannatha is pulled through the streets in his 'chariot'.

I know there are several Oxford kirtaniyas there today, and maybe you are too... but if, like me you couldn't make it, here's a video I found of last years festival: ISKCON devotees in their bright robes of saffron, making a joyful sound, - and showing that you don't have to be musical, or even sing in tune to be able to take part in kirtan!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Kirtan Alert!

Great opportunity for kirtan, this weekend, at the London Ratha Yatra. This is the London version of the thousands-of-years-old annual festival in Jagannatha Puri, Orissa - (from which comes our English word juggernaut).

Essentially it's a street festival, pulling the great Jagannath chariot through the streets of London, accompanied by joyful kirtan. Drums, cymbals, dancing, chanting - and a vegetarian feast at the end. If you love kirtan, this could be the thing for you, this Sunday. Organised by ISKCON, this is London's 41st Ratha Yatra, and there'll be several kirtaniyas from Oxford there - so some familiar faces to latch on to!

There's more kirtan on the stage at Trafalgar Square, after the procession.

41st London Rathayatra is on Sunday 28th June 2009
Assemble at Hyde Park, South Carriage Drive 11.30am
Procession departs 12 noon
Arrives at Trafalgar Square 2.30pm
Festival in Square until 5.00pm

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Ten Million Moons

Click on Picture!

We posted about Gaura Vani - the young American kirtaniya - in January, when he organised the great Kirtan-Fest, Chant4Change in honour of the new President's inauguration. Now, he has released a new CD of kirtan and Indian sacred songs - Ten Million Moons. We were lucky enough to be sent a copy for review and have solicited a couple of responses from two young musicians, which you can read below.

For myself, the CD was full of surprises. I was astonished at the energy and passion which comes through in each track and the variety of moods and styles throughout. By the middle of the second song I was in tears at the moving rendition of a Sanskrit poem, describing the power and beauty of kirtan.

Gaura-Vani and his band As Kindred Spirits, are all young and energetic and maybe this CD will particularly appeal to people of their own generation. But even as a middle-aged listener, I find it engaging and heart-stirring. If you'd like to buy a copy, you can do so here: Ten Million Moons. And read the two reviews below.

Ten Million Moons - Review No 1.

by Chris Diamond - student of Hindi and Music, at SOAS. (Plays tabla and sitar).

At ease in the village temples of India and the chic yoga studios of London or New York, Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits, in their new album Ten Million Moons, prove that kirtan comes in all shapes and sizes. The trendy, upbeat, and smooth world music style is equally matched with featurettes of every major musical style of India that has influenced modern kirtans.

To classic Vaishnava tunes, Gaura Vani and his team add a cool, vibrant, jazzy edge. The polished corners of traditional, spontaneous kirtans, might make this a best-selling album amongst the many Americans and Europeans who frequent yoga studios and meditation groups.

This album contrasts with the last album from As Kindred Spirits, Nectar of Devotion. Whereas the last album had a fairly uniform feel and style, the new album, Ten Million Moons, has almost as many styles as moons. We skip from yoga chic with tracks such as the very soothing Moods of Kirtan (Siksastakam) to the bouncing-off-the-walls ecstatic Pirate Song (Dina Dayal).

Gaura Vani & co take some leaps of faith as they explore the uncharted territory of bhajan fusion. We hear a Gospel version of the Bengali classic Jiva Jago; an American folksy tune inspired by the ancient philosophy of India more akin to Bob Dylan, and a Sufi Persian poem of Amir Khusrau. For the purists out there, traditional Indian Bhajans in Hindi (Meera’s Song) and Bengali (Worship the Golden Lord) can also be found.

Overall this album stretches the imagination of both hardcore kirtaniyas and World music buffs. I don’t envy the record shop owners who have to find the right label to put this album under on the shelves!

Ten Million Moons - Review No 2.

By Jahnavi Harrison - violinist, kirtaniya and student.

Nearly a decade after the success of their debut CD ‘Nectar of Devotion’, Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits have released a new album of kirtan and devotional songs, entitled ‘Ten Million Moons’.

The album presents kirtan through a variety of musical styles, from the traditional mridanga and karatal arrangements on ‘Bhaja Gauranga’, to the bassline driven beats on ‘Stop and Talk (Hey Natha)’. Instruments and vocals that span cultures are richly layered throughout, giving a sound that is both timeless, and refreshingly modern. This is particularly so on the energetic opener ‘My Body Is A Temple’, and the moving, strings driven ‘Moods of Kirtan’. There are some unexpected surprises too, such as the gospel choir and Hammond organ on ‘Sleeping Soul (Jiv Jago), which work surprisingly well!

Listening to the CD, it becomes clear that these are more than just musicians. Most of the performers on the album, like vocalist Acyuta Gopi, and multi-instrumentalist Vishvambhara, have lived and breathed kirtan since the day they were born, and the devotional moods they express are tangible and sincere. Combined with their natural musical talent, this makes for vibrant and inspiring listening. Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits aim to inundate the world with the sound of kirtan, and if their current success is anything to go by, they are well on their way.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

June Kirtan

Our June kirtaniyas, Rasasthali (pictured above) and Gopal-hari complimented each other well; Rasasthali with upbeat, lively melodies and Gopal-hari with a mellower approach.

We were surrounded by roses, beautifully arranged by Shyama, and it was a warm, sunny day - all mingling together to make a wonderful kirtan.

Here's a slideshow of the event - the kirtaniyas in various rapt poses!

Sorry about the lack of podcasts - hope to have it all back in order soon.

Monday, 8 June 2009

June Kirtan Coming Up.

Next Kirtan ... this Sunday, 14th June at 4.00 p.m.

Venue: Friends Meeting House, 43, St. Giles, Oxford.

Phone Keshava at 01865 331716 for further details.

Look forward to seeing you!

Monday, 11 May 2009

On Kirtans at Oxford.

Kripamoya, one of our favourite kirtan leaders, wrote about his recent participation in the Oxford Kirtan Experience in his blog - The Vaishnava Voice. I think he's described it all better than we have! You can read it here.

Thanks Kripamoya!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Spring Kirtans

March and April kirtans were accompanied by gorgeous spring flowers. In March we were fortunate to have Kripamoya and his daughter Jahnavi to lead us in chanting. Kripamoya has spent the past thirty years pioneering kirtan in this country and is a stirring kirtan leader. Jahnavi (pictured above) a talented musician is currently finishing her BA in English and played violin, as well as harmonium. Two more young girls, Radhika and Janaki, completed the team, singing sweet kirtans.

April's kirtan was the third anniversary of the Kirtan Experience in Oxford, so we celebrated with cake! You can see a slideshow of the two sessions here.

Photos were taken by Claire and Pavel.

Friday, 6 March 2009

New York Times On Kirtan

Two days ago, The New York Times published a front page article on the increasing interest in Kirtan. Read all about it here.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Surely Not!

There's a website where bloggers can go to discover what personality their blog has. Curiosity got the better of me, and I entered our blog in it. What came up is an amusing contrast to our logo of a peacefully absorbed chanter, yet methinks there may be some particles of truth to it. What do you think?

ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Eighteenth Century Kirtan.

Here is a detail from an etching by 18thc. Flemish artist, Balthazar Solvyns, of a Calcutta kirtan. Apart from the garb, and the outdoorness, it could be an etching of our kirtans in Oxford! The same drums and hand-cymbals are there - although in the centre you can see someone holding a large trumpet; we don't have one of those yet.
It all goes to show that the ancient tradition of kirtan is alive and thriving, and that the vision of the Bengali chanter Sri Chaitanya over five hundred years ago, that kirtan would spread to every town and village of the world, is on it's way to fulfillment. At the time his vision must have seem far-fetched - his country was being overrun by the Moslems as he spoke and was soon to be dominated by the British... yet here we are.

The etching is included in an excellent book by Robert L. Hardgrave A Portrait of the Hindus which you can investigate here.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Kirtan by Candlelight.

January's candle-lit kirtan had a special quality. A strong spiritual atmosphere rose up as the large gathering sang out heartily. This was a happy ending to a near disaster! Mariola, who was to have been our lead singer for the day came down with 'flu that morning, and it was only thanks to Ranchor's stepping into the breach at the eleventh hour that we had a kirtan at all! Thank you Ranchor. And thanks to everyone who came and made it so good.

It seemed easier, somehow, to focus on the chanting in the softer lighting. The evening ended with delicious pizza, fudge and peppermint tea.

One chanter wrote to us: "That was a wonderful kirtan yesterday! I really liked the candle-lit atmosphere and the lovely mood. Ranchor is perfect for Oxford. And it was wonderful to see so many new faces. I thought the fir-cone decor was chic and seasonal and cosy and Cathedral-like all at the same time."

Mariola is better now and plans to be with us in February.

Many thanks to Claire for these rich, Rembrandtish photos! (They get bigger and better if you click on them) . Podcasts coming soon!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Crowd goes wild in Washington, D.C.

While crowds went wild yesterday, at Barrack Obama's inauguration ceremony, people danced and chanted "Obama, Obama!"

The previous day, thousands gathered at the Church of the Holy City, within sight of the White House, and burst into exuberant chanting and dancing to ancient, sacred mantras - "O Rama, O Rama"

The first "Inaugural" kirtan, Chant4change, was a huge success. Tickets were sold out days in advance, and to facilitate those who hadn't managed to get one, there was a live webcast. All the most famous American kirtaniyas appeared and sang, such as Jai Uttal, Krishna das, Gaura vani, Shiva Rea, David Stringer and more.

From the very young to the quite elderly, everyone there felt it to be a tremendous occasion. Gaura vani who conceived the idea and orchestrated the event is a young kirtaniya of extraordinary energy and dedication - he has a website here. from which you can buy his CD. I have it and it is excellent!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

More Jahnavi...

Jahnavi chanting during her trip to the USA. (See previous post!)

Monday, 19 January 2009


Jahnavi Harrison came to our Oxford Kirtan in November, with her sister Tulasi, and led us in rousing style. She's written a report of her visit to Oxford in her blog The Little Conch. You can read it here. Jahnavi has been taking part in kirtan since birth (and before!) and now, in her early twenties, has blossomed into a talented kirtaniya, in demand all over the world with her violin and singing. Most recently, she has toured in South Africa and the USA. Jahnavi's blog is worth reading for it's thoughtful posts about her life and her honest struggles for spirituality. If you're a blog reader you might like to check it out.

Rumour has it that we may have another visit from Jahnavi soon; we look forward to that...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The January Kirtan...

...is a Kirtan by Candle-light!

Mariola from Poland and Meru from Sweden will lead us in a variety of chants and mantras, accompanied by harmonium, clay drums and kartals. Refreshments of a delicious kind will be served afterwards.

Join us if you can!

Sunday, January 18th. The Friends Meeting House, 43 St Giles. 4.00 p.m.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Chant For Change...

This jovial cartoon was designed for Chant4Change. Chant4Change, an intrepid group of chanters in Washington DC, have organised a prestigious kirtan event for the inauguration of the new president, next week. You can read about it and even buy a tee-shirt here. If any of our readers live in Washington, there are still some tickets left. And Mr Obama, if you are reading this - why not go along too! All proceeds to charity.

I like the way the cartoon shows chanting as transcending the differences between so many designations and bringing all into a consciousness of harmony and delight. And the inference in the name chant4change that the change so many people are hoping and longing for can only come from a purified heart, free from the negative qualities of greed and selfish desires.

The inspiration for the cartoon must surely have come from the episode pictured below of the medieval saint Sri Chaitanya, chanting and dancing with wild animals in Jarakhanda forest.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

December Kirtan Report and Pics.

In December our Oxford kirtan group was joined by Ranchor Prime, who led us to a blissful kirtan experience. Ranchor gave a talk about the role the heart, mind and body take in the process of chanting. He described how chanting is not a mechanical process, it happens not on our tongues, but in our hearts. It is a transcendental inner experience. When we pronounce the syllables, the heart begins resonating with the sound.

Again we realised that there is nothing like the magic of chanting together with all kirtan participants adding their energy to the chant.

Many thanks to Irina for the report and to Pavel for the photos.