Kirtan is a very different kind of music. Based on ancient chants, it has the ability to quiet the mind if listened to with intention. Everyone experiences kirtan differently, and it doesn’t have to be a religious experience. You can think of it as a sing-along. A kirtan concert is not your typical concert either. Everyone sits on the floor, although chairs are usually available. The performers are accessible, in fact there’s not much of a distinction between performers and audience. The wallah (leader) sings the mantra, and the audience sings it back. A single chant can go on for up to forty minutes. As you sing with each other you experience a deep connection with the musicians, the other audience members and yourself. And when the music stops, your mind is quiet.
Because kirtan has roots in India, many of the songs are sung in Sanskrit. Some I choose for the New World Kirtan podcast are also in Punjabi, the language of the Sikhs. If you’ve ever chanted responses in Latin or Hebrew in your religious tradition, then you know how powerful singing in an ancient, holy language can be. You can be completely immersed in the sound, with no words to distract the mind. The magic of the chants can then carry you within.
Kirtan is non-denominational, the Universal language of Spirit, the song of the Soul.
The kirtan I attended last Friday did, in a way, as the quotation above suggested might be the case, start off as a kind of "sing along" (albeit in Sanskrit or some similar language). It ended up as the musical equivalent of what the Quakers call a "gathered meeting," flooding me with a profound sense of the unity of humanity and the glory of our life.
Maybe everyone who will read this posting already knows about "kirtans," but just in case you don't, I recommend the experience!