Saturday, 18 December 2010

December Kirtan Cancelled

Regretfully, due to bad weather conditions, we shall have to cancel tomorrow's kirtan. Some of our kirtaniyas are stranded in snow-bound villages, and Chakrini, who was to come from London, would be safer staying there in such treacherous weather.

So please keep warm and well and we can meet again when the weather is more clement!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Chakrini and the Christmas Kirtan

For our upcoming December kirtan, we're fortunate to be having the young kirtaniya, Chakrini, visit us and lead us in chanting. Chakrini, singer, songwriter and musician, has just released her new kirtan CD, Songs of the Soul. As her website (where you can also hear excerpts from the CD) describes: "A childhood and a lifetime spent immersed in sacred chants and music, has given Chakrini's devotional singing a depth that goes straight to the heart and the soul." We hope you can come and join us for and enchanting Christmas kirtan on 19th December.

November Kirtan

November's kirtan, led by Ranchor Prime, was unusual and interesting. Ranchor is an interesting person! As well as his work in the field of conservation, here and in India, Ranchor is an artist, a musician and a writer and publisher: this year he published his book on the ancient text Bhagavad-Gita. So this time, he spoke to us a little on the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita and led us in singing some of the Sanskrit verses from the text, something we've never done before at our kirtans, but which was inexplicably satisfying. Then we chanted some of our regular mantras, enjoying Ranchor's mellow singing and musicality and ended up with mulled apple juice and biscuits to completely satisfy the inner self.

We're grateful to Ranchor for so often taking the time to come to Oxford from London, on a Sunday, to give us the pleasure of his company and chanting. Thank you, Ranchor!

Friday, 19 November 2010

October Images

I'd just like to mention, before you see the photos, that we never put up a photo of anyone, unless we are quite sure they are happy with it. A newcomer was concerned last month, when she saw photos being taken, but you can rest assured, we'll not include anyone who hasn't specifically been asked. That's why we don't usually post photos of the assembly of chanters.
Gopal led us in kirtan, with sweet melodies and a variety of mantras, ending with a Govinda mantra. He explained that in Sanskrit, Govinda means one who enlivens and gives pleasure to the senses. I think we all found that to be true!

October fruits and flowers.

Photos by Pavel Tomanec.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

September's Celestial Kirtan

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
William Blake

Our September kirtan, replete with autumn fruits and flowers, was sung with 'jolly voice'! Although there were several 'new' first-time chanters, everyone joined in with gusto and the result, as one chanter described it, was a 'celestial atmosphere'.

Our very newest chanter was little Ananya, whose mother brought her to her first kirtan. She was as good as gold the whole way through and charmed us with her smiles. Her mother, Swetha, covered the cost of the refreshments afterwards, in honour of the event. Thank you Ananya and Swetha!

Gaura, brought two friends from Cambridge, and the three of them took turns in leading the chants. Craig and his Croatian wife Dunja are planning to start kirtan programmes in Cambridge - and we hope to join them there sometime, to return the compliment.

Gaura hari sings Govinda jaya jaya...

Dunja, who has a lovely voice, singing the ancient chant 'om namo bhagavate vasudevaya'

We finished up with autumnal mulled apple juice, nut biscuits and coconut sweet balls.

We're very grateful to Gaura, Craig, Dunja and friends who travelled so far to bring us a wonderful experience of chanting. Thanks chaps!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Kirtan This Sunday

We have a young Irish kirtaniya to start us off into a new season of Kirtan Experience. Gaura Hari lives with his Russian wife near London and has many years of kirtan experience under his belt, having toured extensively in Poland, Australia and India with various chanting parties. I've known Gaura since he was six, but haven't seen him for years, so am curious to see what all this chanting has done for him! Gaura is bringing some kirtaniya friends with him and we look forward to chanting with them all this Sunday, 19th September. Hope you can make it too!

In Nambour, Australia.

Gaura Hari absorbed in chanting bliss - Melbourne, Australia

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

We Say Goodbye to Meru...

Our June kirtan was tinged with sadness as we said farewell to the founder of the Kirtan Experience in Oxford - Meru Ostland - who left a few days later to return to Sweden, whence she came. As well as the inspiration behind the monthly kirtans, Meru was also a great singer and led many chants for us, with spirit and a strong voice. What's more she is a top class cook and her banquets, once tasted, are never forgot. Meru we miss you!

Nevertheless, we put a brave face on it and the June kirtan was very sweet, with Meru and Gopal taking turns to lead.

Gopal on harmonium.

Shaunaka on mridanga (clay drum).

Tea and biscuits at the end.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A Great Kirtaniya is Mourned.

Aindra das, loved the world around for his dedication to kirtan, passed away unexpectedly on Friday night, in the pilgrimage town of Vrindavana, India. Aindra had left his home country of America in 1986, I think, to dedicated the rest of his life to kirtan - the chanting of sacred mantras. He organised a team of fellow kirtaniyas to perform twenty-four hour kirtan every day, year after year, in the Krishna Balarama Temple, and although he stayed always in Vrindavana, became famous in all corners of the world, as the many visitors to the pilgrimage site got to know of and appreciate his wonderful chanting. He was an inspiration to many of the new, up-and-coming young kirtaniyas of today. Aindra will be very much missed. In his memory, kirtaniyas have been gathering to perform twenty-four and even fourty-eight hour kirtans in various parts of the world.

Here is a piece I found describing Aindra and his mission in more detail.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Ratha-yatra on Sunday

We found out last month that the London Ratha-yatra festival, to which so many of our regular chanters go, clashed with our June date, so we've changed our June kirtan to 27th. We hope this doesn't inconvenience anyone.

The annual Ratha-yatra is a colourful and kirtan-exuberant street festival and if you're free on Sunday, you may like to take part. You can find out the details here and here. It's great fun and a tremendous atmosphere. Maybe we'll see you there!

Pictured above is Jahnavi, leading kirtan at last year's festival.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

24 Hour Kirtan in Birmingham

About ten of us Oxfordian chanters went up to Birmingham at the weekend to take part in the eleventh, annual 24 hour kirtan at the Bala temple. We didn't stay the full stint, but it was a really wonderful experience just to sit and chant for seven hours straight. Not just sitting, either - quite a lot of dancing happened too, as we all became swept up in the blissful atmosphere produced by the chanting.

Eleven years ago, these events started as very small affairs, with a small core of dedicated chanters - now they have grown and there were over five thousand people there, this last weekend, taking part. They came from all over the country, many staying in accommodation overnight, so as to stay the whole two days.

The Mayapuris - an up and coming new kirtan group were there, and led kirtans in many different moods. And Sachinandana Swami - a German kirtaniya - was an inspiring speaker and kirtan leader also. A great event altogether, and I'll try in future to let you know about these beforehand so you can come also, if you've a mind! They are a perfect way to recharge one's spiritual batteries.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

What is Kirtan

What is Kirtan?

Kirtan is an experience like no other. It combines sacred mantra, or spiritual words with vibrant, joyous music that lifts the soul and energizes the body. Its beauty lies in its simplicity. One leader sings the mantra, accompanied by a few instruments. After each line, the group – however large or small, respond with the same line. This call and response continues as the kirtan slowly unfolds.

Though the kirtan tradition originated in ancient India, it is no less relevant to our modern times. With the increasing demands of the average working life, kirtan is perhaps even more beneficial than ever.

In kirtan, there are no rules – you can sit or stand, or better yet, dance! You can clap or play instruments, and sing to your heart’s content. The only thing necessary is an open heart, open mind, and open ears.

(In our Oxford kirtans we generally sit, though there is space to dance if you are so moved!)

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Merry Month of May

We have two scholars lined up to lead us in kirtan this month: Dr Kenneth Valpey who received his DPhil in Oxford a few years back, has returned this term to engage in a research project into the Sanskrit text, the Bhagavata-Purana.

Kenneth has a musical bent, which led him to take part in the Gauranga Bhajana band in the 1990s, performing kirtan in various venues across Europe, including in Moscow to an audience of 35,000. He was also a member of the St Cross college choir, while a student here in Oxford. He led kirtan for us in 2007 and we're very happy to welcome him back for another session.

Gopal needs no introduction to our regular chanters. He's one of our stalwart and popular kirtaniyas and is currently working on his DPhil in Hindu Studies, here in Oxford, working out the intricacies of karma, destiny and time in the Srimad Bhagavatam. We hope none of the forementioned will prevent him from turning up on Sunday, at 4.00 p.m at the Friends Meeting House, 43, St. Giles, to lead us in deep and joyful kirtan.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Spring Kirtans.

Our March and April kirtans were resplendent with jars of golden daffodils, tastefully arranged by Shyama.

Jahnavi and Tulasi Harrison (golden-haired) were our guest kirtaniyas in March, delighting us with their musicality and sweet, meditative chanting. Everyone seems to have got the hang now of clapping along in rhythm, so it was a rousing kirtan.

Jahnavi spoke a little about her experiences last year on the Mantralogy tour, bringing kirtan to five continents. After chanting with all kinds of people, from all kinds of cultures, from the very poor to the very rich, the whacky to the highly respectable, the young and old, she came to the conclusion that "kirtan is for everyone"; everyone likes it and everyone can feel it's beneficial effects. Jahnavi has just left England again for New York, to spend some months there with Gaura Vani and his kirtan band, As Kindred Spirits. We'll keep you posted of any interesting developments there.

For April's kirtan, our own local, home-grown, organic kirtaniyas, Shyama, Rembert and Meru, led us in a variety of chants, including the very ancient "om namo bhagavate vasudevaya". It was the fourth anniversary of The Kirtan Experience in Oxford and we celebrated with cake.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Our Distinguished Photographers

Our kirtan group is lucky to have two first-class photographers as it's members, who've kindly lent their talents for this blog over the last few years. Claire Williams (above) gained a distinction in her photography diploma last year and is planning to take a degree in photography next. Claire is presently in India taking photos for the Raleigh India Expedition, for young people. You can see her photographs on their blog here

India must be pretty much a photographer's paradise, with so much colour, sunlight and unusual sights.

Pavel Tomanec gained a distinction in his BA in photography last year from Westminster University. And funnily enough - he's also in India.

We are missing them - had nobody to take photos of March's kirtan which is a shame as it was very picturesque. But wish them both well in their future careers in photography.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Kirtan Mellows.

Friends of Oxford Kirtans - Jahnavi, Tulasi and Mark, were in Belgium last week for a whole weekend of kirtan, with chanters from all over the world. "Radhadesh Mellows" took place in a Belgian castle, near the Somme. The whole weekend was broadcast live on webcams and recordings from the weekend have now been podcasted on the Radhadesh website. Here is one of Jahnavi leading the chant: Radhadesh Mellows Day 1 , and there are many others to listen to: here.

24 hour kirtans and kirtan weekends are becoming popular - we hear of many of them around the place. We hope to persuade Jahnavi to write of her experiences with them; in the meantime, enjoy the kirtans!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Tambora.

As mentioned below, our last kirtan was enhanced by this beautiful and ancient instrument, the tambora. I'm always delighted when Ranchor brings his to the kirtan, as it produces an almost 'mystical' sound as a background to the chanting.

There is a very technical explanation of the instrument here, if you're interested enough to read it - I had never realised how much there was to what seemed a rather simple construction of a gourd, a piece of wood and some strings - each of which only plays one note. As the article describes: "Every single string produces it's own cascading range of harmonics and at the same time builds up a particular resonance..." It's this which gives the effect of almost being in another dimension, when the tambora plays.

It's also intriguing that there are 'male' and 'female' tamboras! And there can be no doubt that Ranchor's is a male.

December Kirtan Photos.

(Please click on photo to get full effect)

Photos from our December candle-lit kirtan, with Ranchor Prime. It was lovely!

Ranchor's mighty tambora...

...and Shaunaka pretending to play it!

Afterwards we feasted on delicious home-made pizza and mulled grape-juice. The chanting, the company and the candlelight were all mellow and harmonious and I think we all left feeling good.

Many thanks once again to Claire who kindly took these photos. More about her in an upcoming post!