I have the privilege of hosting Bhavana for a Kirtan event in Glasgow on Wednesday 26th November. Bhavana are a husband and wife group based in Brighton who travel in the UK and Europe leading kirtans and voicework workshops. Narayani is a BWY IST teacher offering bhakti yoga and yoga in the tradition of Krishnamacharya and the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, she trained in voicework with Chloe Goodchild. Her husband Mat is a singer and multi-instrumentalist, he collaborates with a variety of World and devotional musicians.
Hi Narayani and Mat
Thank you for talking with me.
What attracted you both to the kirtan path? What keeps you on it?
Narayani - I actually discovered I could sing when I led my first Kirtan on my yoga teacher training course. I had only come across it a year earlier at the Sivananda Centre in London and I was hooked instantly. It made me feel amazing. On a long term basis it becomes a very transformative practice so that is what keeps me going.
Mat - I first met Narayani when she was leading a Kirtan and I really loved it. It has been a very natural process as I have been interested in and playing devotional music for many years.
How long have you been doing it?
N - 10 years
M - 3 years
How would you describe Kirtan?
It is a way of coming together and singing, without any need to be tuneful or skilled, just to enjoy singing. Kirtan uses sanskrit & hindi words and mantras, which have a vibrational quality, that help us to feel more relaxed and peaceful, its also a wonderful way of channelling emotions. We are using words that invoke the divine energies at play in the universe and ourselves, that allow us to connect more deeply to the world, ourselves and others and help us move more from a place of love than anger, fear, jealousy and so on.
Have you had any feedback of benefits people have experienced during or after a kirtan?
Yes all the time, people really love it. It makes us feel good, we can come in unhappy and grumpy and leave feeling happy, peaceful and calm. Just today I offered a KIrtan at funeral, with people who are not familiar with it and they were all really moved, in a way that helped them connect to their sadness, grief and joy of the person that they had lost.
Narayani, How did you first get into voice work? Do you still do other types of singing outwith kirtan?
Once I discovered I could sing and that I loved Kirtan, I went in search of every Kirtan singer I could find, that year all the big US kirtan singers came to London - Jai Uttal, Bhagavan Das, Krishna Das. In the middle of this I found myself in a concert with Chloe Goodchild. I was really struck by what she offered. It took me a year, but I signed up to her facilitator training and spent nearly 5 years training with her, I started facilitating after three. I sing a lot without words, Mat and I improvise together all the time, but I very rarely sing words that are not Kirtan. Although that may change....
Mat, what first attracted to you devotional music? How does it inspire you?
Since experiencing tribal music in Southern Africa as a young child and singing in a choir, I was on a search thereafter as a musician to discover a deeper meaning to sound and music, that journey continues and it inspires my music every day.
You run kirtans as a husband and wife team, what has been the best thing so far of working together?
Everything! We just love it! We love travelling together, the adventures, singing together, spending time with the amazing people who host us. and the journey making our new album of course!
What is your favourite mantra? Why? What does it mean to you?
N - I love all the mantras but I am particularly fond of Ma chants, so anything about Shakti, Kali, Durga and so on. It helps me connect to a sense of a higher concsiousness and also the planet we live on. Kirtan works on the basis that it is often helpful for us to have a form to relate to the absolute and that is certainly my experience.
M - Similarly Ma chants and I love the mantra Soham which we often do in workshop. They take me to a feeling of expansion and connectedness.
Does kirtan have a spiritual meaning for you?
Yes, but nothing dogmatic, simply a way of connecting more deeply to our own true selves, love. The name of our new album "Remembrance" is based on that, that it helps us remember our true nature.
Where in the world has this practice taken you so far?
Quite a few places, we have been to a lot of the UK, gradually getting further north which is fantastic, we also have been to the US, Finland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Gibralter and soon Portugal as well and of course India, but we go there to deepen our own practice... We love travelling and go wherever we are invited so we hope it will continue to take us to new places and to meet new friends.
Do you have a favourite experience from one of your trips?
We have lots of amazing experiences, everywhere we go we are shown such generosity and kindness. It is a really special thing to experience.
We are looking forward to your forthcoming kirtan event in Glasgow, Have you ever been to Scotland before?
Narayani - I have but not for nearly 15 years so I am really excited to be coming again
Mat - No this is a first and I am really excited, we are going to take a couple of days holiday as well so we can really appreciate coming.
For those yet to experience a kirtan what message would you give them?
Just come, it is something that you only find out if you love by coming, there is no need to be able to sing, or have any experience. Its just fun!
You can meet Bhavana and experience their Kirtan on Wednesday 26th November 6.30pm at Health Rediscovered, 82 Gordon Street, Glasgow, G1 3RS.
£10 (+50p booking)
Low/unwaged by donation.
Booking is advisable, please book your space at www.enjoyharmony.com/events