By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Feb 7, 2013
“Live Ananda,” by Krishna Das, was nominated for a Grammy in the New Age category.
I would never have predicted this.
But if any American singing Hindu blues were to break through, it would be KD. I’ve written about him before; the back story is here and here. Short version: Kid wants to be a rock star, meets guru, finds everlasting love, devotes his life to singing the names of God, becomes rock star.
Why the names of God? KD explains:
The words of these chants come from a place that's deeper than our hearts and our thoughts, deeper than the mind. And so as we sing them they turn us towards ourselves, into ourselves. They bring us in, and as we offer ourselves into the experience, the experience changes us. These chants have no meaning other than the experience that we have by doing them. 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.
Years ago, Krishna Das recorded a three-day gathering in the Catskills. The form is simple: he sings, then you sing. Like gospel. Sometimes the music seems to want you to go to a place that is bottomless. Sometimes it’s noisy, ecstatic dance music. The unifying element: the absolute commitment of the singer and his community. [To buy the MP3 download from Amazon for $4.45, click here.]
“Live Ananda” is five songs. In different ways, I take their meaning to be: I bow to the source. I do not know that source, so I bow to the source in me, to my soul. Praise to my teachers, who have loved me and shown me the way to victory over suffering. I give them my love, and then their love flows back to me. I have nothing. I have everything. I want nothing.
In a sentence: These are love songs.
For people like us, do they… matter?
I’ve read that Americans would rather read a book about Heaven than go there. Almost all of the time, I’m at the extreme end of that tendency --- I live in my head. Sometimes I remember to seek a manifestation of a force I dimly perceive but don’t begin to understand. And on those occasions, the kind of music Krishna Das makes feels like… transportation. It’s freaky at first, especially if, behind the mask, you really don’t have a high opinion of yourself, but there are many voices in a Krishna Das event and it doesn’t seem like a big deal to add yours. After a while, it’s like body surfing in gentle waves; all you have to do is stay afloat, the swells do all the work.