Kirtan is an ancient call-and-response form of mantra chanting within yoga -- predating asana practice, says Prana co-owner Matt Newman. “Chanting mantras in yoga is about lifting your internal vibration. And [Kirtan] is about representing the pulsation between ourselves and nature,” he says, adding that, in nature, pulsation tends to work in reflection, so Kirtan honors that with participants singing one side of the call-and-response -- sing along with Stringer or echo him, but not both.
Dave Stringer (pictured) will be in Salt Lake City for this one event, held Thursday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. Cost is $25 in advance, $30 day of. Participants will sit or stand (no yoga mat needed), and Newman recommends they wear comfortable clothing. There will also be a potluck dinner before the event at Cafe Supernatural.
Newman says that Prana has not offered a Kirtan experience like this before. Stringer will be backed by a full band -- guitar, bass, tabla, harmonium, back-up singer, etc. The frontman will also provide explanations and stories before each mantra.
“You can really hear Dave’s influences in his Kirtan. You can tell he plays the blues and rock & roll,” Newman says. The current musical sensibilities of Kirtan practices can vary widely, depending on who is leading each.
“I was a conventional musician in the sense that I played in everything from a punk band to a jazz-swing orchestra,” Stringer says. The musician/artist found Kirtan when a video-editing project brought him to an ashram in India in 1990. Now, he currently travels the world to lead folks in practice, and he also collaborates with yoga instructors and musicians.
Stringer further describes what Kirtan is/does: “It comes out of an old ecstatic religious experience, like, say, gospel music,” he says. “What it tries to do is create a state of mass-conscious transformation -- in the sense that music itself has always been used to create a trance or a shift in how we experience space and time and the boundaries of our bodies.”
You can think of it as a musical technology of bliss creation, Stringer says -- an experience that not only comes from singing, but doing so with a group of people. “The audience becomes my band. And the audience itself is a very unpredictable organism,” he says, adding that the mantras are sung in the ancient language of Sanskrit, “to have a bit of organized nonsense, so people aren’t thinking their own thoughts,” or attaching pre-conceived notions to words or phrases.
Kirtan definitely has not always been about fusing chanting with rock & roll or other musical genres. But like what the West commonly knows as yoga -- a tradition that only dates back a century or so, after significantly evolving from ancient teachings and becoming Americanized, Newman says -- has shifted.
The point is to get people to sing. And in America, people are more accustomed to singing along to rock or folk -- simple as that. “Kirtan is mirroring what is happening in the overall yoga movement: It’s flexible and adaptable in its approach,” Stringer says. “[Like asana yoga,] Kirtan is also going through a great creative experience, part of that is its translation into Western musical idioms.”