His first concert attracted only four people in a New York City yoga studio.
Since then, he’s made Kirtan (devotional music) a bestseller, moving millions with his heartfelt vocals and harmonium playing. He’s performed on the Grammys and was the subject of a documentary that was released in 2013. He’s the Kirtan Wallah (maker) aka Krishna Das, and he’s headed to Florida in conjunction with the release of his 14th CD.
Krishna Das will conduct a workshop at Miami’s Unity on the Bay, Friday, April 11 from 2 to 5 p.m. The next day, he will be on stage from 8 to 10:30 p.m., at the Julius Littman Performing Arts Theater in North Miami Beach. He also has performances in Jacksonville, Sarasota, and other east coast cities as part of his Spring tour.
“Krishna Das is the Sting of Kirtan. He’s energetic, heartfelt, and has a message to share,” said Hal Martin, founder of Stop, Breathe and Smile. “South Floridians have been craving this type of performance, as we saw earlier this year when Stop, Breathe and Smile hosted concerts with Mirabai Ceiba and last year with Deva Premal & Miten, GuruGanesha Band, and Snatam Kaur. We expect to sell out both events with Krishna Das.”
Krishna Das doesn’t just perform. As a Kirtan artist, he engages as he leads everyone in the call and response singing of mantras. His workshops include participatory chanting, interspersed with his personal anecdotes about his spiritual path, and a forum for questions and answers. He has a winning personality, with a dry sense of humor. Possibly that’s what led to the recent documentary that chronicled how a young Jewish boy from Long Island, with the birth name of Jeffrey Kagel, ended up as Krishna Das (servant of the Lord) in India, dedicating his life to spread devotion or bhakti.
Chanting of mantras is for all, says Krishna Das. “They come from the Hindu tradition, but it’s not about being a Hindu, or believing anything in advance. It’s just about doing it and experiencing. Nothing to join, you just sit down and sing.”
With chanting, says Krishna Das, “You spend less and less time in heavier negative states of mind. You’re letting everything go. We’re living in a very harsh world. It’s not so easy to find love and peace.”
Alina de la Paz, a founding member of Stop, Breathe and Smile, acknowledges the difference that Kirtan has made in her life. It has brought her hope, clarity, and calm within a storm-filled sea of uncertainties.
“I wake up to Krishna Das’ resonant voice every morning chanting, chanting, chanting with him. The Bhakti practice has saved my life and I am grateful for KD’s devotion that inspires me to be more every day. Experiencing him and his practice in person is an awesome experience that I look forward to again and again!”
de la Paz has attended several of Krishna Das’ workshops in the past, but this is the first one in her hometown, and she’s grateful that South Floridians will be able to absorb the positive energy and spirituality that exudes from his persona, along with a steady baritone voice.
Krishna Das stumbled upon Kirtan in 1969 after he met the American spiritual icon, Ram Dass. The next year he turned down an opportunity to sing with Blue Oyster Cult and followed his heart to India.
He sold all his possessions and remained in the Himalayas for decades until he went back to America to open the next chapter of his life.
In 1994, he packed up his harmonium and went to yoga centers, where he began chanting for an ever-growing audience. While his chants are, were, and will always be rooted in the spiritual sounds of India, his unique natural music soon began to inform his melodies.
“I’m just a Kirtan wallah,” says Krishna Das. “You have to drop an anchor down into your heart. If we can’t clean our own hearts, we can’t change the world.”
For more on The Kirtan Wallah, visit www.krishnadas.com.