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
BHAKTI BIRD $1,950 after March 31st.
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 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,
Greetings from Northern California!!!
I hope the last days of winter find you all healthy and happy… I know there’s been a lot of colds and flus this season – I’ve struggled with a bad one – but don’t despair, the warm weather is just around the corner.
Also around the corner is our 11th Annual Summer Kirtan Camp, from August 5th to August 11th, in San Anselmo, California. This yearly adventure has grown and grown in depth, joy, music and devotion. If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, now’s the time to take the chance and go on a heart-adventure you’ll never forget.
A year and a half ago we said we were skipping our summer camp, but as usual, God had other plans and last summer we had a beautiful Bhakti journey with about 50 sweet souls. We did, however, skip our winter camp! Not again!!! Next December we will be returning to Blue Spirit in Costa Rica, from December 28th, 2013 to January 4th, 2014 – “New Year’s Kirtan and Bhakti Yoga Camp”!
Yes, we are going back and we are sooooo looking forward to it! Omega will be offering a weeklong program after our retreat and both Nubia and I are teaching at that one as well. You can come just for our New Year’s week or if you wish to go for 2 weeks and rest, bath in the warm waters, sing, dance, move your body, hike and play in the pool and ocean with Nubia, Ezra Gopal and I, SIGN UP SOON AND GET THE BEST ROOMS AVAILABLE.
To sign up you can email:
Lastly, I’m starting 2 new albums… hmmm… surprises in the air!!!!!!!
And if you haven’t heard Kirtan Kids you are definitely missing out. My wife, Nubia, who’s completely unbiased (!!!) has this to say about the kids CD: “It is one of the most artistically and inspiring albums for children I have ever heard!!! and I heard a lot with little Ezra!!! Your friends with children will simple LOVE the gift!!!!”
You can buy it at my website, but if you would like a special deal – 10 copies for $108 plus $10 for shipping – write to Nubia at firstname.lastname@example.org
I guess that’s it for now… I’m late for my recording session, as usual…
Lots of love to you all,
I know I’m a bit late which is totally normal for me, but better late than never! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL!!!
May 2013 be a year filled with joy, love and peace for all beings in all the universes, seen and unseen…..
My family and I have just returned from a beautiful trip to Brazil and I’m finding the adjustment a bit difficult… Summer to winter, relaxing at the beach to getting back to work…. Jet lag is a weird disorder. But basically, all’s well.
Brazil was a time for reconnection. First reconnecting with our lovely Brazilian Kirtan community, then with Nubia’s vast and incredibly affectionate family (who are now my family, as well) and, lastly, with the divinely human trinity of Nubia, Ezra Gopal, and myself….
In São Paulo we had such great Kirtans. Thank you Gui, Rama Kumara Dasa, Govinda Dasa, Dacha, Jose Neto, Charlie at Yoga Flow, Andy & Fe at Aruna Yoga, and all our sweet friends. The light on Solstice night was shining brightly! And guess what…. The world didn’t end!
Then Christmas Eve with family. Seeing Nubia’s happiness melting in the arms of her mother made the whole trip worthwhile. But, gosh, when am I going to get my Portuguese together? Ezra was speaking perfectly, making friends wherever he went and feeling so comfortable with the Brazilian side of his heritage. Playing soccer, telling jokes, sneaking sips of Coca-Cola!!!!!
On Christmas Day we traveled to Bahia, to an island called Morro de São Paulo. A plane, a boat, and a long hike through the sand and we collapsed into the gentle embrace of Yemanja, the mother of the sea…. Every day we’d step outside of our little cottage and into the ocean where the tide pools allowed us to visit with thousands of colorful fish. Then some coconut water and a dip in the pool before our daily foosball tournament. It was boys against girls – Ezra and I on one team versus the mighty Nubia… Touch and go, but us guys emerged victorious….
Ok, I’m rambling again. But really what I want to share is that this period of downtime was so healing and nourishing and so needed after a long and somewhat challenging year. Yes, it took me several days to unwind, to stop worrying about being ‘productive’. (After all, it was the first New Year’s in 10 years that we didn’t do our Kirtan Camp.) But after a little while I found myself surrendering to the amazing spirit of the ocean and the earth, and to the truly blessed love of my family. Happy New Year!!!!!
So now we’re back home… Many projects, concerts and tours are in the works for 2013. Hopefully I can keep my internal rhythm a bit slowed down to really enjoy and give my best to the work I do… And, God-willing, I hope we can all keep our hearts more and more in tune with the Divine melody, the inner calling, our true essences in the year to come….
Much love and light,
The world is a stage for Chicago Children’s Choir as they bring the world musical and cultural treasure ‘Sita Ram’ back to life in Chicago and beyond.
Chicago – Chicago Children’s Choir is collaborating with Lookingglass Theater Director David Kersnar and the critically-acclaimed Natya Dance Theatre to re-launch the world musical “Sita Ram” on stage at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on December 14 and 15.
A youthful melting pot of a musical based on an ancient Hindu epic and performed with an operatic intensity, “Sita Ram” uses nearly every musical genre, from classical to hip-hop to South African, to reflect the multiculturalism of the city and the world.
After the show wraps up at the Harris Theater, Chicago Children’s Choir will take it to India to tour the cities of Jaipur, Delhi, Bangalore, Agra, and Chennai.
“The performance is an uplifting way to reflect the rich diversity of the globe and foster peace through cultural understanding,” said Chicago Children’s Choir Director Josephine Lee, who commissioned Kersnar and Grammy-nominated world music composer Jai Uttal to co-create the production in 2002. “It reflects my passion for the Choir and its mission.”
Directed by Kersnar, “Sita Ram” will feature nearly 200 performers, including 110 singers, 32 dancers from the Natya Dance Company, twelve principle actors and actresses, and 23 acrobats from the Inappropriate Theater Company. Azeeza Khan, creative director of Chicago-based Atelier AZZA and “TimeOut Magazine’s” 2012 Breakout Emerging Designer is creating the costumes.
Azeeza Khan, creative director of Chicago-based Atelier AZZA and “TimeOut Magazine’s” 2012 Breakout Emerging Designer is creating the costumes.
“It’s going to be a party on stage,” Lee said, referring to the bombastic opening scene the show has in store this December. “We see this show as something that could become the next ‘Lion King.’ The collaboration brings so much life to the stage, and it exposes the children to a culture they would not have exposure to otherwise.”
Premiered at Lookingglass in 2006, “Sita Ram” is a modern interpretation of the Hindu epic, “Ramayana” (Rama’s Journey), a sacred 20,000 verse religious poem that teaches morality and ideal behavior through allegories.
“The young prince and princess find each other on earth again to bring the world righteousness, awareness, and love between all beings,” said Natya Dance Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director and Principal Dancer Krithika Rajagopalan.
The tale is just as critical to East Asian culture today as it was in 300 BCE. Children grow up hearing the tale that explores human values and demonstrates how powerful love is created when the two elements (protagonists Sita and Rama) come together to bring the world peace and harmony that is made possible only through love.
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
200 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL
-FRI 12.14.12 / 7:30PM
-SAT 12.15.12 / 2:00PM
-SAT 12.15.12 / 7:30PM
ABOUT CHICAGO CHILDREN’S CHOIR
Founded in 1956, Chicago Children’s Choir is a multiracial, multicultural choral music education organization, shaping the future by making a difference in the lives of children and youth through musical excellence. The Choir currently serves nearly 3,200 children, ages 8-18 through choirs in 60 schools, after-school programs in eight Chicago neighborhoods and the internationally acclaimed Concert Choir. Under President and Artistic Director Josephine Lee, the Choir has undertaken many highly successful national and international tours, received a Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award for the 2008 documentary Songs on the Road to Freedom, and has been featured in nationally broadcast television and radio performances, most recently on The Oprah Show, NBC’s Today and the PBS series From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall.
ABOUT NATYA DANCE THEATRE
The Natya Dance Theatre (NDT) is amongst the most critically acclaimed and culturally treasured Indian dance companies in the United States. The professional dance company was founded in 1994 and is based in Chicago. The highly innovative work of NDT offers profound and subtle expressions of humanity’s deepest questions and values in the context of our present day lives. Rooted in Bharata Natyam, one of the great classical dance forms of India, NDT preserves and perpetuates Bharata Natyam in its entire classical rigor, and moves the art form in innovative directions n to foster cultural exchange through dance.
ABOUT DAVID KERSNAR
David Kersnar is a founding ensemble member of Lookingglass Theater Company. Kersnar founded and currently instructs with the Lookingglass Education and Community Program and served as its director from 1992-1997. David recently directed and co-wrote The Last Act of Lilka Kadison for Lookingglass and Charles Mee’s Iphigenia 2.0 for the Next Theater Company. Kernsar is also writing and co-directing sequences for Don Pasquale at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. David holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University.
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For more information about Sita Ram, please contact Misho Ceko at email@example.com.
Jai will be doing a live interview on The Golden Age Music Show on Sunday at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Call in to request a song— if you’re one of the first three callers, you’ll win a copy of “Queen of Hearts!”
More information about the show can be found here.