Kirtan with the Kirtan Wallahs
Sunday Night at 7 Centers Yoga Arts, 7-9pm
Kirtan is ecstatic devotional call-and-response chanting and one of the principal practices of bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotional love. This bonus event is open to the public by open donation as well as festivalgoers (no registration required). You are invited to join in this high-vibration conclusion to the Festival by chanting the Divine Name with the Kirtan Wallahs.
The Kirtan Wallahs have led over 500 Bliss of Kirtan programs in Sedona, spanning a period of over 8½ years, and continue to host weekly kirtan on Sunday nights and other special celebrations. Their annual December 31st ‘Chant in the New Year’ program regularly draws 150 to 200 people ecstatically chanting one year out and another one in. The Kirtan Wallahs create an ecstatic experience through a traditional approach to kirtan, more akin to what one might find in an ashram rather than what that is very loosely being called kirtan in the West.
Their kirtan programs have inspired remarks such as: “What an awesome night that was! I was blown away by the whole experience. My upper chakras opened so freely, I felt really at home and in love.” “Your amazing kirtan adds more bliss to my life than I can express!” “I’m looking forward to fully activating my light-body during one of your chants.” “Thank you for your blissful kirtan on New Year’s Eve! It was the best part of my trip to Sedona!”
The group was formed in 2004 by Natesh to create an ongoing kirtan experience open to all in Sedona, Arizona, and neighboring communities. Some months before, in the Fall of 2003, Natesh found that kirtan-style chants were spontaneously “downloading” to him from Spirit whenever he picked up his guitar to play. After several months of blissfully composing and then chanting these chants on his own, he decided to look for other musicians to join him and the Kirtan Wallahs group was formed. The group is presently comprised of 4 people: Natesh, Monnie Ramsell, Lee Moore and Tina Reichow.
Natesh has been chanting in this tradition for over 30 years. A devotee of Mata Amritanandamayi, or Ammachi, since the early ‘90s, Natesh first connected with kirtan in the ashrams of Swami Muktananda and subsequently played guitar regularly for chants at the Oakland Siddha Yoga ashram for several years in the early 80’s. He composed his first chant in that period and has since written about 140 chants that comprise most of the Kirtan Wallahs’ programs (and additional chants that he has subsequently “retired”). He sings lead vocals and plays guitar for the chants.
Monnie sings lead vocals and plays a traditional Indian stringed instrument called the esraj, which is quite rare to find among Western kirtan groups and a wonderful addition to the Kirtan Wallahs’ sound. She previously played harmonium for the group and has been with the group since the beginning. Monnie and/or Natesh have also musically supported a number of other kirtan artists when they’ve come to Sedona, including Swami Nirvanananda, Girish and Jaya Lakshmi.
Lee has been playing djembe for the group since about a year after the group formed. Lee also studies West African drumming and performs with a Sedona drumming group that focuses on West African drumming. Tina played djembe for the group in the beginning, and after taking a break from the group for a few years now regularly plays the double-headed Indian dholak and also kartals (hand cymbals). Tina also regularly plays drums and percussion with other Sedona musical groups.
The group’s website is www.kirtanwallahs.com. The website has numerous live recordings from Bliss of Kirtan programs that can be heard at the site or downloaded for free. PDFs of the music can also be downloaded for free. They can also be found on Facebook (Kirtan Wallahs) and YouTube (kirtanwallahs).