Shardul Pandey: I welcome you Natesh at SANGKRIT.net, what’s your story?
Natesh Kirtan: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, Shardul!
I love to chant, especially in the kirtan form, but also other forms. I have been chanting in the kirtan tradition for over 30 years, having first connected with it in late 1979 in the Oakland Siddha Yoga ashram of Swami Muktananda. I became a devotee of Baba and his successors. After being on that path for over a decade, I had a very powerful dream of Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi) before I knew anything about her, even receiving a hug from her in the dream, and I a couple years later I finally met her and became her devotee. The name Natesh I received from her many years later. Having these extraordinary beings guiding and transforming my life for the past 34 years has been truly a blessing. I, along with my wife, Monnie, and others, have been leading weekly kirtan in Sedona, AZ, for over 9 years with a group I simply called the Kirtan Wallahs and I’m now finally in the process of creating a beautiful kirtan album, Bliss of Kirtan, with great support from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Ben Leinbach, and many wonderful musicians and singers.
The process of starting a chanting group in Sedona all unfolded initially from me sitting down with the intention to practice some classical guitar pieces in the Fall of 2003 and the next thing I knew I was ‘downloading’ a chant to one of the many Deities, like Rama or Krishna or Durga or Shiva. Then I would forget about playing any classical piece and just be blissfully chanting whatever new chant. After some months of this I really lost all interest in playing any classical pieces anyway because that didn’t compare to the bliss I experienced from chanting and decided it was time to ‘share the bliss’ and started the Kirtan Wallahs.
I’ve also composed over 180 chants since 2003, although I’ve ‘retired’ a bunch of them that I became less enchanted with. It was had to narrow down the field to what to put on this first album!
Shardul Pandey: Tell us about ‘Bliss of Kirtan’ album Project ? How long have you been working on this? How much have you done and when do you think it will be released?
Natesh Kirtan: In one sense I’ve been working on it for close to 10 years, as one of the chants on the album, He Ma Durga, I composed in Autumn, 2003. But in terms of deciding to do a studio album and moving forward with the project, that decision happened in May and with some Grace I’ll be able to release the album in mid to late November.
The Bliss of Kirtan album is first and foremost a kirtan album, with the intention to inspire people to chant along with the call and response format and to invoke ecstatic, even transcendent, states of bliss in the listener, through chanting along or even simply through listening. I’ve intentionally kept the tempos much mellower than I typically do in a live kirtan so that the music can also serve as a backdrop for yoga, meditation and general daily activity.
As I mentioned, Ben Leinbach is an awesome producer, and I have some very talented female singers on the album as well as many excellent musicians contributing on bansuri, sarod, esraj, santoor and cello as well as tabla on some tracks. Sample excerpts from the latest rough mixes for the 8 tracks on the album can be heard at this link.
I’ve been getting wonderful comments from people who have heard some of the album in its present state, using adjectives like profound, sweet, powerful, lovely, lush and blissful, to name a few. Some of the tracks are mantras (or shloks) like Gayatri and Tvameva Mata and others are to the different Deities like Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna and so on. It’s also running very close to the 79.8 minutes maximum recommended for a commercially produced CD.
All the recording is done so we’re in the editing and mixing stage and still have mastering, artwork, physical production and so on to go. We got it this far on short-term borrowed money to take advantage of an opening in Ben’s schedule so now we have to raise money to get it finished and pay back the short term loans. We’ve started a funding campaign on Indiegogo to help make it happen.
After all these years of doing live kirtan and composing chants, I’m really excited about how beautiful this album is turning out for sharing the ‘Bliss of Kirtan’ with the world!
(To be continued…….)