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Kirtan at Bikram Yoga – Randburg, South Africa

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January 3rd, 2009

 Bikram Yoga The Crowd

The day before we left South Africa, we had our final kirtan concert at the Bikram Yoga Studio in Randburg, another suburb of Johannesburg, not far from where we were staying.  This concert was quite different from the others. The setting was less formal, and the audience was made up of a more varied crowd, many of whom loved kirtan, but weren’t necessarily part of the Hare Krishna community. For Gaura and the others, the setting of a yoga studio is perhaps the most common for their US kirtan performances, but for me, this was a first time experience.

We arrived early and waited outside on the second floor balcony for the studio owner, Claire, to come and open up. The windows were dark, and for a few moments we wondered whether we’d made a mistake and come on the wrong day! Luckily, we were right, and soon the doors were opened and we were welcomed warmly by the studio staff. Though small, it was a brightly coloured and beautifully laid out space. The last class of the evening was just finishing so we waited in the foyer for a while, greeting the arriving guests. When the well-warmed yogis had all vacated the studio, we went in and set everything up. Bikram is a form of Hatha yoga that uses intense heat as a tool to better yoga practise. As well as helping to sweat out impurities, it also increases flexibility. However, this meant the room was pretty pungent and steamy and it took a bit of airing out before we began the kirtan!

From the very first kirtan, the night just got better and better. A combination of high spirits, along with Ananta’s expert mrdanga beats and Akincana getting into the groove on the bass, put everyone in the mood for dancing. In no time,  the entire audience were on their feet. The harder they danced, the harder we played, and the harder we played, the louder they chanted in response, on and on until the whole room whirled with movement and sacred sound! Even reluctant dancers gradually got up and joined in – the beat was infectious.

To close the concert, Gaura sang ‘Sita Rama’, making everyone laugh when he cleverly adapted the tune from the song – ‘Take My Breath Away’. We were supposed to end at 9.30pm, but we got passed a message from Claire as we finished, saying that she was happy for us to carry on until 9.30 the next morning! There was silence for a moment, the last drone of the harmonium fading away. We all contemplated the wonderful atmosphere of the gathering. We looked at the audience. They looked at us. We smiled. They smiled back. We all knew what had to come next.

‘More kirtan!’ the audience cried. ‘More! More!’

Final Call and Response  Gaura talks after the kirtan.

There was nothing else to go but keep going!  That last kirtan was the most uplifting yet – every face smiling and laughing – the happiness brought about by kirtan is so natural and spontaneous. As I sang and played, relishing every moment of our last meeting with our South African friends, I knew that there was no other place in the world I would rather be.

Jahnavi Harrison plays Carnatic violin and sings in As Kindred Spirits. When not going to university, she travels the world painting and performing and tracking it all in her blog: The Little Conch.

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2 Comments on “Kirtan at Bikram Yoga – Randburg, South Africa”

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  2. Bikram + kirtan? The Perfection of Yoga!

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