From the Bhakti Trail – Namaste Festival
What ARE the responsibilities of the Kirtan Wallah?
By Spring Groove
I am at the Namaste Festival. It’s happening at a super groovy venue in Herrsching am Ammersee. This is located in Upper Bavaria, Germany, on the east shore of the Ammersee, less than 1 hour from Munich. Percy Shakti of Namaste Studio, along with his beautiful wife Diana and an incredibly supportive staff, have orchestrated the magic. There is stellar sound to enjoy engineered by Johannes Komarek, incredible musicians, and some of Europe’s finest yoga instructors. All these ingredients create a warm cozy vibe to celebrate the coming of Spring, no pun intended.
Shortly after leaving the stage following Prema Hara and prior to Janin Devi & friends I suddenly found myself in a healthy, respectful debate with percussionist, Keshavacharya Das regarding the responsibilities of a Kirtan Wallah. Keshavacharya Das has spent 20 years living as a monk. The last several years, he toured the world singing the names of the divine with a very clear agenda. In his traditionalist belief that as a Kirtan Wallah, one automatically becomes a spiritual leader and a guru of sorts. Therefore, the guru should uphold certain Vedanta teachers…vegetarianism (ahimsa- to not injure) and no drinking no drugs… philosophies and choices I deeply respect. I, however enjoy a healthy debate. And mind you no less than 20 minutes ago was singing a tune I wrote called the Bologna Blues in which I refer to drinking wine in Italy.
So–how can I preach about such things? And is that in fact my job? How about the notion of expanding the Kirtan audience? Is there validity in simply getting ALL walks of life together to sing their hearts open and discover within themselves their own truths? Should these choices be taught or discovered? Are the people prescribing to “no alcohol” truly holier? More spiritual? Should a glass of wine amongst friends after a Kirtan be a shameful or lesser experience than chanting or praying together? Is this ancient Dionysus (Βακχος) ritual something that ought to be enjoyed in secret? Hidden?
Within the art work of my new world-folk CD I ironically released on this very night I include a personal statement which says “when we shift our focus on our similarities rather than our differences we diminish the idea of “us” and “them”. It is then we can raise human consciousness, maximize our potential and celebrate oneness.” To that end I offer the CD, ‘FOLKIN’ AROUND THE WORLD’ and now this dialogue.
Kindly leave your thoughts or criticisms.
Thank you, Keshavacharya Das for your passion, dedication and inspiration.