Today Thaddeus and I spent the afternoon in a tiny independent movie theatre we just discovered here in Denver watching a matinee of a heartfelt new documentary about kirtan-wallah Krishna Das.
If you’ve ever been into a yoga studio in America, you’ve probably heard his soulful voice whether you know his name or not. It is truly distinct, carrying with it a power and depth of emotion that is like no other musician or bhajan singer out there. Krishna Das sings traditional devotional songs, mostly in Sanskrit or Hindi. His music though is not pure traditional Indian music. It is presented in a way that is perhaps more accessible to a Western audience while still maintaining the authenticity of the practice of kirtan. Long before he discovered the Mahamantra, Krishna Das was playing the blues as an emotional outlet and his kirtan is infused with that.
This film, One Track Heart, is his story about how he came to be the musician that he is, all through the grace of his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. It is a beautiful story; a tale of getting lost, finding real unconditional love and happiness, feeling lost from love and then finding it again only to discover it was never truly lost, merely hidden for decades because of fears and illusion.
It is not a long documentary but it is full of inspiration and teachings. Krishna Das’ incredible kirtan weaves through the images, interviews and stories. I personally found KD’s own personal telling about how chanting is a practice for a him, a practice of tapping into that place of Divine Love and Grace, a practice of restoring faith and sharing the holy Names with people to be really incredible.
If you are a fan of kirtan, I highly recommend this film:
I love kirtan. Nowadays there are so many wonderful kirtan singers out there, but Krishna Das was one of the pioneers in the West (outside of ISKCON really) and his music is still some of my most favorite. He channels something, some Grace, through his songs and it’s deeply and emotionally palpable. I’ve been known to cry on more than one occasion just by listening to his recordings. We listen to one of his renditions of the Hanuman Chalisa every morning when we are driving to Mysore. I love starting my day with that prayer of devotion and humility.
The practice of chanting is simple, but profound. Anyone can do it.
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 15th Century Vaishnva saint, taught that kirtan, the devotional and congregational singing of the holy Name, is the clearest pathway or practice of yoga for the Kali Yuga. As a musical person myself, I certainly can’t dispute this. Music is one of the most incredible tools for conveying emotion and for tapping into something grand, way beyond our little selves. Music is an avenue to connect with others and to connect deeply with ourselves. And when you add in to the mix the sacred vibrations of Sanskrit, the effect is mesmerizing.