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Krishna Das spent his early musical years leaning towards jazz, blues and rock and roll. When his spiritual path took him to India he was naturally attracted to the spiritual aspects of the Indian culture. Further travels that took him to the Far East and Africa continued to influence his musical perceptions adding new flavors and broadening his horizons. He has absorbed these influences, in particular Indian devotional music, and has translated this music for a western audience. In 1990 Krishna Das founded Triloka Records. Early travels became the foundation for his work as a producer, musician, singer and songwriter and as head of A&R for the label, Krishna Das plays a pivotal role in establishing Trlloka Records as a vehicle to enable artists to offer their indigenous traditions to a new global audience. 'When I was living in India I heard much kirtan (chanting). I found that I could listen to the singers and sense the depth of their connection with God through the purity of their devotional singing. Krishna Das is an example of someone whose heartsongs open the channels to God.' - Ram Dass
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Kirtan is a chant format used in many cultures. For example, Pentecostals/Charismatics will sing the same words over and over for sometimes well over an hour. The point is to give the logical mind something to do so the creative mind can just rest. Like when at work you might do shredding, folding letters, etc., as a "mental break" from crunching numbers or other high-powered cognitive/stressful tasks.
I use a "Kirtan Groove" playlist in my iPod Nano on repeat all & shuffle to create one-of-a-kind sequences for my Yoga classes. Students like the combination of the spontaniety, unpredictability, and yet common thread that runs through all of the music. This is simply one of the latest additions.
In the last few decades, there have been many messengers of Indian music to the west...like Pandit Ravishankar (Sitar), L.Subramaniam (Violin), L.Shankar (remember the great Fusion group "Shakthi"?), Zakir Hussain (Tabla) and a host of others. But if there was one person from the West that humbly carries Indian music to the hearts and souls of many Westerners, I think it must be Krishna Das through the medium of Devotional Singing (Kirtans). Simply put, "Kirtans" are chanting the name of the Lord with melody, rhythm and devotion. There are numerous devotional singers from India and the rest of the world. But Krishna Das is different. Using haunting new-age music and beats, Krishna Das has the unique ability to transport the listener to a different plane of existence altogether. He is blessed with an AMAZING baritone voice and sings with ABSOLUTE devotion and feeling - A MUST for any devotional singer. The beauty of anything is measured as a sum of the parts and Krishna Das uses everything in an equal measure to create that sublime effect. Of particular mention is the melodic instrument "Harmonium" that is used throughout his albums...people from India are familiar with this instrument which is widely used in devotional singing and ghazals...it creates a sound with soul-stirring depth matched with another spectacular percussion instrument - the Tabla which has found its way into new-age music.
Now for the album. Anyone observed how beautifully the title of the CD "Greatest hits of the Kali Yuga" has been arrived at? Though I am not sure how appropriate the title is for the album, it does create the mood and the setting to listen to the album straightaway. Track number 2 "Om Nama Shivaya" has a trance like effect. My favorite is track number 3 praising Mata Durga...the Divine Mother...simply astounding.
My only criticism is....While Krishna Das is phenomenal, in some songs, each line of his chanting is repeated by a group of people that don't sound as effective as he is. That is a little distracting, but not definitely a show-stopper. If it had been a 100% solo singing of Krishna Das with his great music, this album would be even more effective.
For fellow-travellers on the path of Devotion (Bhakthi Yoga), this album is a great blessing. Using ancient Indian chants with new-age music, Krishna Das alongwith his powerful voice has only created a fantastic album...something that I am going to treasure for a lifetime!
The best spin on the Hindu spiritual concept of Kali Yuga is that it represents the current Era (Aeon) of Completion. The mantra (songs) on this CD are all about the joy of devotion & the healing power of spiritual love.
My (other) favorite Krishna Das CD is Breath of the Heart, and several mantra from that CD are collected here. For example, selection #3, Ma Durga is the same version of the mantra from Breath of The Heart. The solo vocal intro is a fine example of bhakti yoga as well as kirtan of Hinduism, the devotional love of Kali--the female counterpart of Shiva--even in her most fearsome form.
The vocal back-up, Kosmic Kirtan Posse, are wonderful & add to the spontaneous, joyful feel of the music.
I must admit, I usually don't care much for grafting Christian lyrics like "Saving Grace" onto mantra as done on mantra 7 Shari Guru Charanam--but for this selection I make a huge exception. It is so great to sing along, so purifying.
Mantra 8 Devi Puja with its violin, cello & western fusion raises the listener to a higher realm, a deep connection with the heart & mind; the perfect preparation for what I believe is the most gorgeous mantra I've ever heard:
Mantra 9 Mere Guru Dev is absolutely beautiful & connects with the highest vibration of the heart. The melody reminded me of Leonard Cohen's equisite Alexandra Leaving from The Essential Cohen. I see #8 & #9 as 2 parts of a whole.
The CD also includes a feature length DVD ONE LIFE AT A TIME. I have not seen it yet & it doesn't factor into this review.
Breath of the Heart
Chants Of India: Ravi Shankar; George Harrison
Bridges: Best of Private Music Recordings
Gayatri Mantra: Hymn to the Spirit Within the Fire
Essential Leonard Cohen