As I sit in front of the fire in Ireland at Sunrise farm, I contemplate the year past and want to share the news with you all:
1. The Kirtan stage at The International Yoga Festival, Kawai purapura, Auckland, NZ – Feb 22-25
It has been my privilege to coordinate the Kirtan stage at Kawaipurapura Yoga Festival each year. This being the seventh year and the sixth akhanda kirtan. It’s very inspiring to see how kirtan is growing in popularity and in numbers of groups or gosthis in New Zealand. For example, at the first Yoga festival, we had 8 kirtan groups on the kirtan stage, and this year we had 19 groups. The stage is not dominated by any faith or spiritual group but is an amalgam of many that exist in Auckland as well as other centers in NZ and overseas. It is an interfaith ‘involving different spiritual paths’ akhanda ‘continuous’ kirtan with the purpose of bringing ‘out of the closet’, i.e. ‘temple’ and into the public arena these songs and sounds of the divine, that are hidden like gems within these various spiritual communities. It is also having the purpose of providing a platform through which we can network and have satsaung ‘good company’, and we have had many evenings together singing and chanting the names of the divine. When I listen and sing, I am transformed and lost in the experience of bliss, one that can be shared with anyone, anytime, anyplace.
2. The Women’s Reunion Concert, Auckland, Feb 9th, 2018
One of the most exciting events this year so far, has been the Women’s 80s Bands Reunion Concert in Auckland on Feb 9th at the Dorothy Winstone Centre at AGG in Auckland.
If you can imagine the excitement of over 400 women meeting and greeting each other, some who have not seen each other for a very long time - it was deafening. The sounds of joy and excitement and of women rallying in support of each other was a once in a lifetime experience. I had a rather surreal sensation of being jettisoned into the past, yet aware of being in the present as I sat amongst women bands and solo artists that I knew in the 80’s. Each performance was extraordinary, and professional considering many came together again quite recently to play for this event. A couple of my favourite performances would have to be the powerful blues duo lead by Di McMillan and the atmospheric sounds of the Vibraslaps.
Kim Wesney and Daryn Long the other two women of our band Turiiya who played together in the eighties till the early 90’s was not able to be present on the night unfortunately, but they were there in spirit and sound (it was Kim’s piano recording that accompanied me singing ‘Thread of Gold’.)
Huge thank you to Arani Cuthbert and her team at Diva Productions and of course the Topp Twins for the huge contribution to the event, musically and professionally. I look forward to the documentary that will be made of the concert and interviews placing the music in NZ’s political and social context. It is inspiring to realise that Turiiyas music lives on. For a recent review see at http://bubblingdusk.blogspot.ie/2010/09/turiiya-waiting.html,
3. The New Dawn’s EP: As some of you know, Prahla’d Nassim from France and I have been fundraising to record a mini street album or EP, of four Prabhat Samgiit songs in Bengali and English, that we are exploring with love and western musical sensibilities. At the Ananda Marga Summer conference in Germany Prahla’d and I teamed up with Nirmal on harmonium and Dada Unmantrananda on drums. It was very inspiring to hear these devotional songs come alive with the sounds of different instruments and voices coming together. We are very pleased to announce that the EP called “Who else will?” (care for them) is complete and has been distributed to the contributors. Links below are to purchase the EP and to see updates. http://thenewdawnmusic.com/store/4594146076, https://www.facebook.com/thenewdawnmusic/,
4. Recording Unity Hours III: While visiting family and friends in NZ over the summer months, I managed to team up with long time friend Michael Lloyd to begin recording Unity Hours III, the third and last album of Unity Hours. Many of these songs were written in London and then New Zealand from 2011 – till 2016 and are an account of personal adventures. I have been waiting for the opportunity to work with Michael again to complete this sequel. We recorded 7 songs at Lindale studio, Audiosuite, owned by Ross Mc Dermot with all the musicians being from the Kapiti Coast. It was an ideal setting, having a gorgeous animal farm and vegan friendly café next door, and just the best collection of professional musicians to play with. My deep gratitude goes to Michael, Sarah and family for their generous hospitality, and endless good humour. https://www.facebook.com/michael.lloyd.982292/videos/10155098507501319/,
5. Spirit Fest and Sydney kirtans, Jan 2017
A couple of friends invited me to their beautiful house in Sydney above the beach. We had a surprise reunion of friends old and new, with kirtan songs, meditation and lots of laughter. Thank you, Kellie Kalyanika, and Vistara for organizing this, it was wonderful.
I also attended Spirit fest this January, the last of an era, having been running for 15 years. It was a great celebration of friendship, music and healing arts. Many inspiring workshops were held, and performances of music, poetry, rap, theatre. I really appreciated the gorgeous sound bath and was very moved by the poetry readings. I was honoured to be able to share some experiences, and research on Rarhi kirtan at a workshop I gave. Thanks to JD and the many helpers who put so much thought and energy into making this happen. See at https://www.facebook.com/groups/247661341925/,
6. Path of Bliss New Years and Kiirtan festival at Sine Cera Rainforest, Australia
Such a gorgeous family feeling was created at this retreat, which was exactly what I needed. With all night kirtan over the new year, and lots of opportunities to share kirtan experiences and knowledge during the week, it was a glorious week! One of the highlights for me was the workshop on Sociocracy, and tasty vegan treats made by Jyoti. Huge thank you to Didi Ananda Devanishta, Kamala and other organisers who facilitated this blissful kirtan festival and retreat.
7. The Rarhi Kirtan Competition and Festival, Oct 26 – 29th, Purulia, Rarh, India
My journey to Rarh, India, the homeland of kirtan in October, is an annual event. Kavita and I sponsor this Rarhi kirtan competition each year along with Sanjay Kumar Mahato, of Prabhat Alloi Foundation as a way of giving back to the kiirtaniyas during my PhD research from 2006-2011, for their trust and sharing of their traditional kirtan knowledge. This 2nd Kirtan competition was a great success, like the first one, with over 40 kirtan groups participating. We also had many supporters this time from Brasil, Ireland, Nicaragua and the USA as well as local media coverage. Many thanks to the local judges and the kirtan groups who came from all over Rarh to participate as well as the Dabar villagers fo
r their attendance. The whole four days were truly ecstatic, mesmerizing and heartwarming celebration of the divine. We were very pleased to be able to give 8 cash prizes to the winning groups, with Rupapaita coming first. In this small way we attract local and international attention and provide some means of financial support, to this rich and diverse music/dance tradition, and therefore aid in its continuation and development. https://www.facebook.com/rarhimaraikirtanfestival2/?ref=settings,
8. Kirtan workshop at Sunrise Farm and Electric Picnic Festival, Ireland: Kavita and I were invited to give a workshop on Kiirtan at Sunrise Farm. It was an amazing opportunity to go deeper into the theory and performance of kirtan over a four day period, ending with an ecstatic three hour akhanda kirtan, with the many groups leading their own kiirtans. We were also invited to perform
kirtan in the Global Green Zone at Electric Picnic, Irelands most popular music festival, with over 50,000 participants. There were also many interesting presentations given in this space. One of my favourites was on soil protection and soil rights, something I hadn’t considered before. Global Green really felt to me like a tiny oasis in the middle of a massive bustling city of music stages, camping, eating, etc. In this music city we were surprised by the variety of bands and were absorbed into various weird and wonderful music scenes there. It was an extraordinary event which we hope to repeat next year. https://www.electricpicnic.ie/,
9. Film Recording project: I was happy to be involved with recording devotional songs and kirtan in Oslo with Vasudeva, Giita, Vijaya, Sontanu and Diviyendu for a film on Shrii Shrii Anandamurtis or Babas life produced by Dada Abhidevananda. We had an absolutely fantastic time together, singing and recording Prabhat Samgiita and kirtan songs for this film, which is being edited as I write. It was very intense but really wonderful experience with lots of fun and laughter together. Thanks so much to our kind hosts, Arun and house mates. Dadas work on Prabhat Samgiita can be seen at this site: https://sarkarverse.org/,
10. Copenhagen Prout Conference, July 2017: I attended this Conference at the request of Ossi Viljakainen to deliver a presentation in collaboration with him on Third Gender(LGBT) rights in Ananda Marga. Ossi talked about his research on a discourse given by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti on Gender and Samskara, where he points out references to the word napumsaka, has been limited in translation. He expands on this translation through his research into its usage in the Upanishads and other ancient spiritual texts. Ossi’s research work is very significant and highlights the challenges we face with translations of these fundamental spiritual discourses. My presentation took a broad historical perspective, and highlighted research done on the roles played by third gender people in indigenous societies such as those in New Zealand, Tonga and Native America. I also offered some insights into personal experiences of gay and lesbian people in Ananda Marga from the 80’s till the present day.
11. Ananda Bliss Festival, 28th June – July 1st, Portugal: Wow what an amazing event this was, the first festival staged at Ananda Kalyani in Portugal! The setting was heavenly, being by the river in the beautiful mountainous countryside. I was astonished at the impeccable organization, attention given to every detail at the festival. For example there was even a food tent with water sprinklers, to cool you down in the hot summer sun. The music was varied and exciting with a host of local and international artists and groups. Kavita and I joined with Nirmal from Malta, Anirvan from Italy and Anita from Finland to form our music group. We performed original and world music, devotional songs, kirtan, Prabhat Samgiita and even a Maori song, to a very receptive audience. We also gave a workshop on kirtan, sharing experiences and research done in Rarh, India over many years. One of the highlights for me was swimming in the cool stony river, which gave respite from the hot summer sun, and provided a place to relax with friends after the workshop. I also was intrigued by a local women’s group singing folk songs and playing women’s’ drums. Warm thanks to all the organisers, including Prahla’d, and especially Jishnu, a longtime friend. Highly recommended! http/544007799283745/s://www.facebook.com/anandafestivalportugal/videos,
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!