Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yoga Conference I — Kirtan

Two full days out of my head at a Yoga Conference! I so needed a break from being mental.

Two full days spent pushing myself physically and then ending with a celebration of music. Tired. Soar. Blissed out.

Just came home from the Krishna Das concert. A kirtan call (sorry, couldn't resist). Kirtan is "call and response," a bhakti yoga practise that has the audience repeating what the musician is musically phrasing. Mostly in Sanskrit. What does it mean? Is not knowing the meaning of words a disadvantage? The words become music through repetition and melody. If the world can be divided into two types of people - the ones that hear melody and the ones that hear lyrics - I would be on the side of the planet that hears the melody. My brain seems to prefer it. And now that my hearing is fading it is all the more difficult to discern the meaning of the words even in English. So holding a sheet of chants printed in a foreign tongue and trying to sing along is oddly comforting. I think it is because by taking the meaning out of the words they become something else, something just as magical. Or perhaps it is because the words suddenly transcend meaning.

Later in the evening he led everyone in a rousing country kirtan of "Jesus On the Mainline... tell him what you want." It was totally fun. It seemed like the world turned upside down. It was approaching the song and words without the ingrained prejudice and bias I usually bring to lyrics like that.

Kirtan is interesting because it so much relies on interaction. The more you participate the more you enrich the experience. I was sandwiched between a very enthusiastic person and one that was far more restrained, and it was like being numb on one side of the body. Unlike going to a traditional concert, where the role of the audience is to simply clap in appreciation when the musical interlude has ended, in kirtan the demand to respond penetrates from the stage right into your skin.

Krishna Das was wearing a red plaid shirt. Born Jewish and looking pretty white, here is a clip of the Soul Man. Not what you visually expect when you hear the music, but then again maybe this is what makes it so accessible. A North American accent returning om. (oh no, I really do need to head to bed for some zzzzzz).

More on the conference later.

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