Hi friends, I recorded a video of “Hari Guna Gao” acoustic in my home for you. This song is very special to me because it always makes me think of my dear friend Don Cherry, who passed away as I was writing for Shiva Station. A version like this one will be on my new album Return to Shiva Station coming March 25.
The artistic temperament is always looking forward toward new levels of refinement, new colors and moods of expression, new ways to manifest and communicate the deepest feelings of the heart. The soul of the Bhakta (one endeavoring to walk the yogic path of devotion) is also always looking forward toward meeting the Beloved, experiencing the play of love, seeing His beautiful face, somehow discovering the key to divine love and service in this world. When combined, devotion and art create an inner world of turbulent longing, of passionate experience, of deep emotion. Read the life stories of the poet saints of India and you’ll know what I mean. (Please don’t think I’m comparing myself to those amazing beings! But they are my inspiration.)
When I was first asked to “remake” my album, Shiva Station, my response was, “No way! I can’t go backwards—that was then, and this is now! At this moment, I have so many new songs coursing through me.” I was very resistant, to say the least. My sweet little ego can sometimes speak very loudly. But after thinking about it for a while, I began to see the idea through fresh eyes. I reflected that the thread woven through all of my music, from my very first album, Footprints, to my last Kirtan Kids project is God’s names, and a deep, non-verbal longing for divine grace. Why not revisit my music from fifteen years ago to discover what, if anything, was timeless in each song? So I accepted the challenge.
Returning to this album wasn’t always a comfortable process, not that recording an album ever is. You know how every melody is filled with memories? Well, many of those memories were pretty harsh. Imagine going through a box of photos from a period of your life when you were very unhappy and out of balance. While I had the same devotional practices and feelings in those days, I also felt I was struggling just to be alive, to keep my head above the raging sea. Nonetheless, I dived in and lo and behold, the process turned out to be deeply healing and inspiring—both musically and spiritually. Through each of these songs I was able to reconnect with my soul, my Guru, my Beloved, remembering how desperately they were sung fifteen years ago and resinging them with a new mood of gentleness, surrender, and acceptance.
I sincerely hope that you, the listener, will enjoy the results of this process. I’m consistently humbled and honored when people tell me that my music has helped them through their life’s challenges. With Return to Shiva Station, may our journey together through this strange and wondrous world continue in love, joy, and grace.
Love and peace,
It’s winter here in Northern California and I’m bundled up, sitting on the couch and looking at our first real Christmas tree. Wow, my lucky son gets to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali and all the Hindu holidays…. Lots of gift-giving in this house. (Are we too consumeristic? Well, yeah, of course! But it’s worth it seeing my kid smile!). I was asked to tell a story at Ezra’s school Winter Celebration today and I’m trying to decide which one I can fit into ten minutes. Ramayana? Mahabharata? Tom and Jerry? The Hobbit! My mind is a jumbled junk shop of old and new songs and tales….
Anyway, as I was thinking and daydreaming, my fingers fiddling away at GarageBand on my iPad (The blessing/addiction/gift/curse of creativity never stops!), Nubia came up to me and said “Wouldn’t it be great to give a Holiday gift to your fans?” I said “Yeah, but what?” And she said, with that cute and sometimes too-smart little smile, “Look down at your fingers! You can send them all a song!!!!!”
So here it is. Just a simple little couch potato production with one of the great, ancient Sanskrit Mantras.
Maybe I’ll do a whole album on my iPad GarageBand app someday, but, for now, I hope you all enjoy this one, and I hope and pray for a New Year of peace and universal love and good health and happiness to all!
Jai Uttal with assistant teachers Daniel Paul, Daniel Tucker and Nubia Teixeira.
From August 12th to 17th 2014 at Harbin Hot Springs, California
After 10 years of offering a non-residential Summer Kirtan Camp, and witnessing the widely spreading ripples of our rich, open-hearted Bhakti community, we’ve decided to create our first Residential Summer Kirtan Camp at beautiful Harbin Hot Springs.
When we initially started our Kirtan Camps, this beautiful practice seemed to be the exclusive province of the bigger ‘stars,’ at least in the West. In India, of course, almost everyone sings a bit of kirtan on a daily basis. If I ever had a ‘mission,’ I guess it would be to help people understand that we ALL ‘have what it takes’ to start our own intimate, personal chanting practice; to take the whole thing out of the celebrity realm and bring it into our homes. Well, ten years later, I see it happening: families singing together; small gatherings in Yoga studios everywhere; and great community events like Bhaktifest, Moksha, Pranafest, Omega Ecstatic Chant, etc etc etc…..
So, back to next summer…..The first time I ever went to Harbin was to perform with my band, The Pagan Love Orchestra. Walking to the natural hot springs I saw a sight I would never forget: tame deer milling around, warming themselves near the pools. Wow! That’s pretty amazing. Over the years I’ve gone there a whole bunch of times, sometime to sing, sometime to simply soak, and I’ve always left feeling a renewed sense of peace and health. The space we will use for our camp is the Conference Hall, a beautiful building tucked in a private sanctuary reserved just for our group. We’ll have our own private warm swimming pool, bucolic camping ground, catering and kitchen and, although it’s quite separate from the rest of Harbin, we will be walking distance to the hot springs. Enjoy good company, good food, warm days and starry nights PLUS hours and hours of singing kirtan and learning the skills to share this ancient practice with others. Nubia will be offering daily Yoga and movement classes, Daniel Tucker will be teaching harmonium and Daniel Paul will guide us through the intricacies of rhythm and Kirtan accompaniment. A wonderful ‘Bhakti-full’ time will be had by all!!!!
One important note: Camping spaces are included in our overall price, but for those who aren’t into camping, Harbin has a very wide variety of different accommodations. However, these book pretty far in advance, so if you’re interested in coming, contact Harbin and book your rooms SOON!
Lastly, may we all have a blessed holiday season and a New Year filled with light and grace.
Warm wishes and lots of love,
Tuesday, August 12 – Sunday, August 17, 2014
ANNUAL RESIDENTIAL SUMMER BHAKTI KIRTAN CAMP!
Jai Uttal and co-teachers Daniel Paul, Nubia Teixeira, and Daniel Tucker
This training is for those who aspire to lead Kirtan; those who wish to enhance their Yoga teaching with chanting; and those who simply wish to immerse themselves in the vast ocean of Bhakti.
In this workshop we will share some of the many tools that we use in our Bhakti practices. Our hope is that everyone will leave this retreat with the inner experience and knowledge that we are all able to dive into this world of devotion and sing and share our hearts with others.
Subjects to be covered:
Kirtan – As the essential practice of Bhakti, Kirtan will be the main focus of this training.
Bhakti Yoga – Understanding the path of Bhakti as a journey of surrender and offering of one’s entire being to the the Divine will.
Mantras – Experiencing the invocational power of the ancient Sanskrit syllables and names in ecstatic song and silent contemplation.
Gods and Goddesses – An exploration of the energies embodied by the different deities of Hinduism.
Ramayana – Studying and reciting the multi-leveled epic adventures of Ram, Sita and Hanuman; and how this story relates to our daily lives.
Saints – Reflecting upon the lives of some of the saints of modern India, particularly Neem Karoli Baba.
Vocal Training – Opening the voice and learning to love the sound that comes from our bodies.
Rhythm – Beginning to understand the rhythms associated with Kirtan.
Learning Harmonium – Gaining a beginning understanding of the rudiments of harmonium for accompanying Kirtans.
~~~~~~~~~~ Hari Om ~~~~~~~~~~
Where: Harbin Hotsprings
CHRISTMAS BIRD $1,400 paid in full by December 25th.
EARLY BIRD $1,700 paid in full by March 15th.
BHAKTI BIRD $1,950 after March 15th.
Camping (bring your own camp supplies and tent) + using Harbin Facilities for 5 nights – 6 days
3 daily meals + snacks
2 daily Kirtan – music and practice with Jai Uttal & Daniel Paul
2 daily harmonium sessions with Daniel Tucker
1 daily rhythm session with Daniel Paul
1 daily Bhakti- Hatha Yoga with Nubia Teixeira
The last evening of the retreat will culminate with a Kirtan Gala led by the participants.
Deposit of $800.00 not refundable after July 20th. Remainder due on August 1st.
OTHER HOUSING OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR USE. YOU CAN BOOK A TENT CABIN, DORMITORY, ROOM, OR PRIVATE CABIN FOR THAT PERIOD THROUGH HARBIN. If you would like to book a different type of room at Harbin, you can reserve with Harbin. Options are here.
CANCELLATION POLICY on CHRISTMAS BIRD and EARLY BIRD PRICE: Deposit of $800 is non-refundable. Fee is non-refundable after July 20th.
CANCELLATION POLICY on Bhakti Bird Price: Deposit of $800 is non-refundable – 50% of remainder refundable if cancellation is done by July 20th. Fee is non-refundable after August 1st.
Well, this has been coming for a long time – I’ve finally filmed my telling of the Ramayana, the great epic story of Ram, Sita and Hanuman. Many of you have heard me do this at Kirtan Camps and workshops around the world. It’s always a deep experience of remembrance and devotion for me, and I love seeing an audience of adult yogis and yoginis transformed into a group of sweet little kids…. These stories are an essential part of the Bhakti Yoga practice and have the power to reawaken a childlike wonder in us all, as well as a deep and ancient well of Bhakti. The Ramayana is particularly close to my heart, as my guru always loved hearing it sung, and encouraged us to explore its unfathomable depths…
We filmed the entire Ramayana in four consecutive one-hour sections, each with some kirtan. There was a really sweet studio audience packed into the small, hot and sweaty little studio. We all felt the energy get stronger and stronger through the day, as if Hanuman Himself had joined us and was listening to his primordial tale.. I hope this feeling comes across to you all when you’re watching and please, please sing along and feel like you’re right there with us.
Part 1 and Part 2 have just been released today, you can watch them now with a Bhakti Breakfast Club membership. Parts 3 and 4 will be added next month. Visit www.BhaktiBreakfastClub.com/jai to sign up. With a membership, you can watch all the other courses in the Bhakti Breakfast Club too, including harmonium lessons with Daniel Tucker, who teaches the harmonium classes at my kirtan camps, and upcoming tabla lessons with Daniel Paul they’re filming next month. If you’re a harmoniumer, you can learn lots of the songs from my “Kirtan!” album, and other live kirtans. And if y’all like the Ramayana courses, maybe we’ll film some more Bhakti story courses for you in the future!
Here’s a little clip – check it out!!
Lots of love,
Hey there, friends……
I hope this beautiful Spring day finds you all in good spirits. Life is so complicated and odd sometimes, isn’t it? But we can still try to keep our hearts and minds fresh, regardless of the challenges that cross our paths. Uh oh, sounding kind of ‘Hallmark’, aren’t I? Well, I’m just trying to remind myself!!!
Anyway, here I am, in between traveling and daddy-ing and husband-ing, working on a new album. Well, new and old at the same time. I’ve been recreating my CD Shiva Station for a 15th anniversary remake. But while the original was a completely rocking, band oriented project featuring the ‘Pagan Love Orchestra,’ this one is solo and acoustic, a very intimate take on a very extroverted BIG album. And it’s sure been challenging. First of all, trying to at least suggest all the orchestral parts on acoustic guitar and banjo really stretches me way beyond my limits, technically…. (Thank God for digital editing, I’m embarrassed to say.) But there’s more to it than that. As I revisit these lovely songs, I’m, of course, revisiting the moods and emotions of 15 years ago. You know how you feel when you listen to an old song that meant a lot to you in a completely different period of your life? Or when you go through a box of old photos? Well, this is sorta like that. And in those days my life was SOOOOOO different. The longings of my heart were pretty much the same, but my external circumstances were quite different and filled with a lot of sadness and anguish. I’m so thankful for the grace that has brought me to where I am today, and it’s healing but difficult to re-experience those feelings that birthed these songs… And rediscover them with the energy and joy the permeates my life now… Does that make any sense? I hope so.
I’m writing this quickly and I gotta go because I’m late for my recording session. Ben just texted me: “Where are you? I bought lunch!” So I’ll ‘see’ you all later.
Lots of love,