Last night, July 19th, at the studio, we were treated to Brandon’s first ever Kirtan concert with Beth Martens (guitar), Keith Dyck (Turkish Saz), and Miriam Neum (Fiddle/shakers).
Kirtan is call and response chanting. Logically, the Sanskrit word “Kirtan” means “to repeat”.
In a Kirtan practice, or concert, the Kirtankar (person leading the chants), chants a mantra which the audience repeats back. According to Wikipedia, a Mantra is a sound, syllable, word or group of words in the Sanskrit language that have deep philosophical meanings and spiritual vibrations that, when chanted, create vibrations in the phyical and spiritual bodies. Also, when one chants, the breath is engaged which can alter consciousness.
The intent of Kirtan is to open your heart. Traditionally, Kirtans are devotional. Like singing love songs to the God of your understanding.
Chanting mantras always gives me a heightened feeling like chanting spells, and touching something ancient. And letting that ancient quality touch me.
In the Kirtan, 20 of us gathered on the floor with blankets and bolsters around the musicians. We were blessed with a beautiful toddler in the studio as well! Beth began with 3 simple notes on the the guitar to warm us to sound. She painlessly guided us into our first chant. It was remarkable how quickly we began to sing back. The energy picked up as we gained confidence. The musical conversation went full swing on the one chant for 45 minutes. Keith and Miriam helped us with their voices and improvised musical accompaniment. It was easy to follow and fun to sing out without fear. (You don’t have to have singing ability to participate in a Kirtan. You don’t even have to sing. Just being there is enough. You also don’t have to sit for the whole thing. You can stretch out on the floor and be at home.)
The first chant was “Lokha Samastha Sukino Bhavantu”. It translates as follows
May all beings be happy
May my thoughts, words and deeds
Contribute in some way to the
Happiness of all beings
It is helpful in one sense to know the meaning of the chant so you can reflect on the meaning and intent while participating.
In another sense, not knowing the meaning of the mantra can still create that magic. Chanting in Sanskrit bypasses the logical left brain.
Next we chanted the ever pure “Om Shanti”. OM. The sound of creation. The sound symbol of one-ness. SHANTI. The word symbol for peace.
We took a savasana, relaxation pose for the next round. It was so incredible to allow sound to wash over us all. It felt so safe and free, like watching clouds and allowing imagination to play softly.
Our musicians took us through the 7 chakras with sound and meaning. This part of the practice is based on the work of Caroline Myss. If you are curious about her work with healing and chakras, look her up. She is an intuitive healer. We took our time honouring each part of ourselves. Wholeness was not just a concept anymore. It was genuinely felt and very real.
To close the Kirtan, we all created a continuous OM together. It was an ocean of sound. It was a celestial sky of sound. We were beautiful together. The sound shined and polished us.
There is no applause in a Kirtan between songs or chants. Just as we would not clap after a hymn in church. Instead, there is a comfortable silence to allow for integration. It is taught that within the mantra is silence. We should aspire to listen for that inner silence.
Beth’s Kirtan Calling Band has a lyrical, folky feel to it. Not all the chants were in Sanskrit. There were english parts to it as well making a nice blend. Oddly enough, I myself don’t remember any of the english chants!
I wish to thank Beth, Keith and Miriam for taking the time to come to Brandon from Winnipeg to share their love and their talent with us for our benefit. I also wish to thank everyone who chose to make time in their lives to come sit and practice in a special way.
Lokah Samastha Sukin Bhavantu. Om Shanti.