Costa Rica is the go-to place for yogis. There are dedicated yoga centers popping up everywhere. Every day of the year, yogis flock here to get centered and grounded. Now, bhakta yogis can find their sangha and relish their kirtan practice in Costa Rica.
Set in an eco-hotel by the University of Costa Rica, five kirtan leaders representing a good cross section of devotional music were on the stage at the second annual Kirtan Fest Costa Rica.
Kirtan Artists Reflect Diversity
Camilo Poltronieri, a one-man-orchestra, opened up the evening. A French musician living in Uvita, Costa Rica, he layered authentic tribal and traditional instruments with digital beats and electronic sounds of nature. Next was Radha Kanti Didi. A Costa Rican who leads kirtan all over the world, she shared a traditional Vaishnava/Krishna set with two mridanga players, a huge pair of kartals and a mini gong. Alejandra Ulate, dressed in Kundalini whites, provided balance to the ecstatic chanting. She played harmonium accompanied by a flute player. Alejandra combined traditional Sanskrit mantras with Spanish lyrics for her sing-a-longs. Ensamble Mantrika was next. A couple led call and response with their Latin folk styled ukeleles.
Closing out the night were the co-organizers: Gabriel Wiernick on guitar, and Analú Fariña on harmonium. They led chants including Sa Ta Na Ma, Sita Ram, Saamba Sada Shiva and a Tibetan tune, Tayatha Om Bekandze.
After a spiritually charged five hours, attendees left filled with positive energy. Impacted. Sound body mind and soul. Regardless of their past experience, if any, with kirtan, they left feeling chill.
The Birth of Kirtan Fest Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Kirtan Fest was the brainchild of Ana Lucía Fariña. Founder of Pranaluz Conscious Living, she offers classes, workshops, coaching and retreats. Plus, conscious yoga travel vacations around the world.
Analú as she’s known, had been involved with music festivals in other countries. Then, she was a kirtan leader at Bali Spirit Festival. In fact, she was living in Bali when she felt the time was right to share kirtan in Costa Rica, and build community. She couldn’t do it alone, or from Bali. So, she recruited Gabriel Wiernick in San Jose.
A talented musician who studied at Berkeley Music School, Gabriel is also a yogi. He has a penchant for meditative and instrumental music, and kirtan. As a composer and producer, he had worked with diverse yogis and Kirtanis. More importantly, says Analú, “He is passionate to share the gift of Kirtan to all.”
Analú also enlisted her brother, a sound and light technician, and other Costa Rican kirtan leaders.
Developing Her Own Kirtan Practice
Hailing from a family of musicians, Analú got the Kirtan bug early in her yogic life. Nontheless, she needed to nurture her kirtan practice.
“Kirtan is my personal practice. If I could do one thing and live solely from that, it would be kirtan. For my final (teacher training) classes, I just felt all I really wanted to do was chant – not teach any asana. I feel each individual has a unique way to connect with divinity, mine is through a vibrational experience.” She explained, “I see and perceive life in vibrations. Everything is sound and light. Bhakti yoga for me is my practice from heart to heart, a vibrational therapy of love, and devotion. My intention is to be an instrument of service, and instrument of love. A channel to which people can experience and vibrate in the frequency of love, the frequency of divinity. This is Kirtan to me. I feel a deep calling to share it with others as well.”
While Analú was naturally drawn to kirtan, she sought to deepen her kirtan practice. “Fascinated by mantras and yoga chanting music, I would chant sometimes during my asana classes with guitar. I remember going to see Wah and Snatam Kaur. Tears were falling from my eyes from the love and devotion I experienced. I remember asking them personally, ‘How did you start doing this?’”
In India, her Kirtan practice solidified. “At that point I fell in love with Bhakti. I didn’t play formally, but I remember living in Paris with no job nor work visa. I would sit on the streets along with other musicians and chant mantras.” She returned to India in 2015 to study and practice with teachers and kirtanis there. “When I moved to Bali in 2016, I became friends with a great kirtani there who invited me often to play in Ubud. Suddenly, it just started to flow from all my heart. Since then, I have been doing mostly full moon kirtans, every month. I include kirtan practice in classes, retreats and offer a strong emphasis of Bhakti during the yoga teacher trainings I offer.”
Kirtan Practice Takes You Beyond Bodywork
“In the West, in general, yoga is seen as solely a physical practice, or an exercise to gain strength, become fit, or flexible. The full eight limbs of yoga are surely not always taught. Even solely in asana classes per se, I perceive definitely a strong emphasis on form and flexibility rather than understanding the pure intention of asana which according to Patanjali is to ‘cease the fluctuations of the mind’ and its biomechanics (the movement and intention of prana in the body). I know people are working towards meditation and mindfulness in Costa Rica. There are many teachers introducing it to students. Yet, I feel it is challenging to find teachers who embrace, teach and share the eight limbs of yoga. That is one of my personal missions.”
Precisely. That’s one of the beauties of kirtan practice. Attendees embrace the vibrations. The vocals. The instrumentals. There is no competition. As Radha Kanti Didi explained, it’s all about heartfelt joy, and love of the divine, through chanting.
Analú adds, “Everywhere I have been there is always a wide palate of yogis. Those who are just living spiritual materialism, those who dive deep into the studies, those who talk about it not walk, those pure and loving sharing from a place of heart. That is the beauty of life: variety. Some students will resonate more with just asana, a specific practice, or a certain teacher. We have individual paths. One way or another, we will be where we have to be, learn what we have to learn, and evolve from where we are at that specific moment.”
Finally, Analú shares a special quote from Nicola Tesla.
If you wish to understand the universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.
“This is Brahman. This is God. This is Energy. The ‘source.’ Kirtan is an instrument that allows us to not only feel or perceive, but experience this. Experience God.”
Read more about kirtan and the power of sound.