Photos and Recordings from Astanga Yoga NYC KirtanNovember 17th, 2008
Walking up the stairs to the second floor yoga studio of Astanga Yoga NYC on 430 Broome Street felt like I was going home in a way. During previous months some of the As Kindred Spirits group were holding kirtan programs there every other Friday. I felt apprehensive and enthusiastic all at the same time. I wondered if our old friends would be there. I wondered if we would have a nice sized crowd because we had been gone for some months, but all of it paled beside the thought that everything would be okay because Gaura would be there. My big brother, my friend and sometimes my confidant, I am always amazed by the things that I learn while doing kirtan with Gaura and I was sure that this experience would be no less. When I reached the top of the stairs I was greeted with a bear hug, a bright smile, and the words â€œAre you ready for another interesting night?â€ My smile slipped just a little and my eyes widened. The other thing I forgot to mention about Gaura was that sometimesâ€¦he scared me. One of Gaura Vaniâ€™s best characteristics is that heâ€™s all-inclusive, but this often leads to me being brought far outside of what I am used to in terms of traditional kirtan. So far in the years that I have been doing kirtan with him this has never been a bad thingâ€¦but one never knows when it could start.
Â We sat down in front of the beautiful Radha Damodara deities, the reasons that we had gathered there and Gaura began to play the first chords of the bhajan. I was ready with my kartals in hand and Gaura started the kirtan night with a wonderful bhajan that I had never done before. The mantra â€œJaya Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Jayateâ€ filled the space of the yoga studio and caused such a wonderful feeling in my heart. I was already learning new things from Gaura. I looked around at the happy faces that came to participate in a wonderful night of kirtan and just realized how fortunate I was to be among all of them. Like minds that came together to celebrate the way to get in touch with God through song. The ever-inventive John Kruth was there with his flutes and he began to play along with the melody adding heart jumping rifts and sweet soaring notes. A new addition to the group that night, Ray Ippolito was there playing guitar fusing in notes that I never even thought to add. Gaura mentioned the special musicians that were going to join us earlier but I had never imagined that it would have been anything like this.
Â Before long we created layer upon layer of sound that captivated everyone in the room and had them singing with their full heart with all of their voices as we all connected with the more important parts of ourselves, our souls. Ray added ethereal sounds along with the smooth melodies that he would play on guitar and I looked at Ananta and we smiled letting each other know internally that this may not have been what we thought the night was going to be but we both agreed that Ray was a wonderful new addition and we were very happy to have him with us. He added something that we didnâ€™t even know that was missing and filled in space that we didnâ€™t think to fill.
The highlight of the night was the slow and grave Damodarastaka, the eight sloka prayer in praise of Damodara, the deity that was there in the yoga studio. Small lamps filled the altar that held the deities and the light played on their beautiful faces as we sung the soulful prayer with Gaura integrating the translation in with each verse. Everyone had fond smiles on their faces as the story of Damodara was replayed in verse. The story of the Supreme Truth as a child being chastised by his mother filled everyoneâ€™s hearts and took them away to another time and love filled the atmosphere. Before long that prayer was changed to rocking kirtan that had everyone clapping and ready to dance. It was over too soon and Kaustubha was serving sweets and milk before I even had time to come down from that place that the kirtan had taken my heart to. We were able to speak with the crowd afterward, able to get their reactions but I looked at Gaura again with admiration and realized that if he ever asked me again if I was ready for another interesting night that the answer would most definitely be yes.
Gaura Vani – Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Jayate
Gaura Vani – Radhe Govinda
Acyuta Gopi – Hare Krishna
Gaura Vani – Damodarastakam
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