Prema Hara is one of the latest bhakti-based kirtan bands blazing the path for us to sing from our hearts, raise our hands in the air and dance in devotion to the divine. Originally from Europe, the couple Kamaniya and Keshavacharya Das came together while living in ashrams in New York. Their first release, Sweet Surrender, is a collection of mellow, soulful and smooth traditionally-inspired kirtan tracks that give us the opportunity to dive deep into the temple of our own hearts and experience the essence of bhakti: devotion, surrender, and sweet love for the divine.
Kamaniya and Keshavacharya Das’s voices masterfully alternate taking the lead and then reunite singing in divine harmony. This interweaving of vocals is reminiscent of the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
In the modern world of kirtan nearly every style of music is being infused with mantra: rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz and blues. Prema Hara sticks to traditional approach in the use of their “Indian raga-based” melodies and classical kirtan instrumentation with harmonium, mridanga, bansuri flute and kartals, giving Sweet Surrender a refreshing, deep, authentic and transcendental vibe. Each track is a shining gem, yet some have stolen my heart: “Shymasundari Radhe,” “Udu Sita Ram,” and “Sweet Surrender.”
I have played songs from Sweet Surrender in virtually every Yoga class I have taught since I listened to the album. Produced and arranged by kirtan masterminds Gaura Vani and Bada Haridas, with performances by The Mayapuris, Surrender is a definite playlist add. I recommend Sweet Surrender for all forms of Yoga, massage, driving or a contemplative walk on the beach. Sweet Surrender exudes warmth and intimacy and undoubtedly has my vote as one of the top kirtan collections of 2010.
–– Reviewed by Govindas, co-owner/director of Bhakti Yoga Shala, a donation based yoga studio dedicated to the practices of bhakti and kirtan. Govindas and Radha’s latest release Light Inside You is available at: bhaktiyogashala.com.
David Newman and Mira are veterans of sacred music and Newman’s latest release – appropriately titled To Be Home – will immediately put a smile on anyone’s face and inspire the opening of any heart. You can imagine Newman singing with his awesome smile on every track. Newman has composed and performed kirtan ballads filled with Shakti and delivered with an organic basket of nutrients from the soul of the Earth. His voice and, most importantly, his devotion, are grounded with authenticity and sweetness. Newman could be one who follows Krishna Das in popularity as time moves on and this album keeps Newman on that trail. He keeps it all real and, as a fellow musician; I honor and respect his choices.
To Be Home begins with “Jaya Gurudev” delivered softly as a ballad. “Heartsong” has a touch of the sensitive side of Dylan. On “Rama’s Journey” Mira takes the lead with her North Indian-influenced inflections nicely blended into the excellent textures of the rest of the band. Philippo Franchini accompanies Newman with his always tasty guitar chords on every song. The “Hare Rama” choruses have a lot of power behind them that could explode into an anthem if they chose to play it up.
The entire album is consistently filled with nectar. The harmonies are delivered with nicely executed projections and the attitude is satiated with passion. While he is musically trained, Newman does not try to impress anyone with fancy leads or unneeded egoic musicianship. The music is always abundant with love and from the heart. With Mira at his side, Newman knows how to bring it all home and the love is just bouncing off the walls with high levels of professionalism. I recommend this CD to everyone interested in bhakti or looking for music to accompany a Yoga class. davidnewmanmusic.com
–– Reviewed by Michael R. Mollura, writer, musician and composer (including the film Climate Refugees) earning a PhD from Pacifica Graduate Institute:
During the warm early Sunday morning glow Simrit Kaur and her musicians arranged themselves on the Bhakt Fest main stage, with a guest appearance by Harijiwan on gong, Simrit Kaur’s teacher whom she honors on her new CD, The Sweetest Nectar. The clarity of her voice reverberated through the Joshua Trees and I was gently and lovingly awakened with the repeated refrain of “Wah-hay Guru” from her composition “Akal…Deathless” reminding us of our own inner divinity.
The music on The Sweetest Nectar including “Akal…Deathless” transmits the same pure clarity of devotion, attention and joy. Her serene presence, melodious voice and depth of practice that shine through in her chant demonstrate her rising star within the sacred music genre.
On Nectar, Simrit Kaur elicits the musicianship of talented guitarist, arranger and producer Todd Boston (whose own Yoga-inspired music is worth checking out) as well as the mixing talents of Hans Christian, another name familiar to those who are building collections of Yoga tunes. The production has been a family affair, as Simrit Kaur’s husband Jai Dev Singh Khalsa contributes in composition, production, art direction and design.
Every track is beautiful and worthy of repeated plays in a variety of settings, from classes to meditations to the car to setting a positive vibration at home. She concludes the collection with “Long Time Sun;” the familiar words become her own through her unique tempo and meter and rich, harmonious layering of her voice and harmonium with Todd Boston on guitar, Ramesh Kannan on percussion and Hans Christian on cello and keyboard. “Sun” is a fitting final note for a beautifully produced CD that is a must-have addition to any yogi’s collection and a gorgeous introduction to the lyric Kundalini chants. Simrit Kaur will be at Golden Bridge Spiritual Village in Hollywood, Fri, Oct. 8, 7:30 P.M. smritkaurmusic.com; goldenbridge.com.
–– Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko, RN
DVD Giveaway: Enter To Win!
Yoga on the Edge
By Sara Ivanhoe
What You Win:
Enter to win a copy of Sara Ivanhoe’s practice DVD, Yoga on the Edge, a gorgeous and lyrical expression of spontaneous practice that is an inviting practice companion for Yoga at home or on the road. After years of developing Yoga media in a studio, heartfelt teacher Sara Ivanhoe decided to take her mat outside – which she did, in epic style, practicing beachside in the Bahamas.
This series of sunrise, high noon and sunset practices should come with a warning label though. You may end up carting your mat to the ocean pre-sunrise or you may start bowing to the Pacific at sunset. You may end up with your full daily allotment of Vitamin D if you make your practice time high noon. Or, you may end up, plane ticket in hand, en route to warmer climes. We’re not responsible for any rash decisions as a result of practicing Yoga on the Edge. For more information, visit: yoganation.com.
How to Enter:
by October 31 with the answer to the following query: “What’s the difference between doing Yoga and being a Yogi?” When Sara asks this question, she is asking for more than how any of us incorporate Yoga into our everyday lives, but to ask any of us who call ourselves yogis to examine the magic of the moment when we are able to tap into the mystery of the practice, of moving from the physical and intellectual practice to the inspiration emanating from the soul.
Winners will be selected and notified in November and then we will choose one of the submissions for publication in the December, 2010 issue of LA YOGA Magazine. Maximum length: 600 words, please. We look forward to reading your responses.