I hope the year has had a magnificent beginning for all of you!
I have so much to share with you all, but I have to keep this short. Who has time to read long emails or Facebook posts? I certainly don’t.
Our Bhakti Kirtan Camp in Costa Rica was total bliss this year. The Kirtans were off the charts, as were the Yoga classes with Nubia, the surfing, Visvambar’s drumming and singing, the sunsets and the sunrises. (Ok, I didn’t actually see the sunrises, but I was told they were awesome….). We made a ‘practice’ of swimming in the warm ocean every evening during sunset. I can’t begin to tell you how this affected our hearts and minds. I’d never really done this and I’m missing it already. If you’re thinking about coming next year, sign up soon and get the ‘early bird’ discount. I haven’t mentioned this before, but Blue Spirit, where we hold the retreat, is a wonderful place for families. Although we don’t provide childcare or a kids’ program, the scene is very kid-friendly (with parental supervision). Ezra has so much fun there!
And speaking of ecstatic, family-friendly Kirtan events, our summer camp at Harbin Hot Springs is already beginning to sell out. This camp has a slightly different tone than the winter camps because I give Harmonium and Indian music lessons on top of everything else. But don’t think it gets too intellectual; the fun, the community, the communion, the yoga, and the wonderful music and singing are sublime. To say nothing of the incredible Hot Springs…..
Check my schedule for upcoming events. Even though I’m gradually cutting down my travel, I look at my schedule and it seems like I’m going everywhere this coming year. Barcelona, Australia, possibly South America….. I’m even visiting the Midwest in June.
On January 31st I’ll be leading Kirtan at Open Secret Bookstore in San Rafael, California. All of the proceeds from this event will go to the Ali Akbar College of Music and to the Ali Akbar Khan Archives, to help continue the teachings of the master of masters, Ali Akbar Khan. There are so many incredible and heartbreaking needs in the world today, so you may ask ‘why do a benefit for a music school’? Well, Khansahib used to say that music was food for the soul, and our souls are all so hungry. Personally, I would say that 99.9% of my musical life is due to the teachings of Ali Akbar Khan. Even when I play Brazilian music on my guitar, or sing Reggae Kirtan, the focus and reverence for each note that was drilled into us day after day guides my hands and voice. Khansahib gave us so much. All he wanted was to share the ancient gift of his music. Whether he was grumpy or sweet, he and his divine music were a gift to the universe. Once he told the class that we were not only destroying his father’s music, we were ‘destroying the entire 16th century’! There was a stunned silence in the room followed by a few giggles that quickly exploded into laughter. Such was his dry humor. And such was his fierce teaching. I don’t think Khansahib had much interest in kirtan. Probably the sound of a room full of people singing mostly out of tune would have been hard on his super microscopic sensibilities. But nonetheless, he was deeply devoted to music as a spiritual path, and always encouraged us to sing from a heart filled with love and humility. Actually, I never would have sung at all if it wasn’t for Khansahib. He insisted that all of his students learn singing as well as instrumental music. My debt of gratitude to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan can never be repaid……
I’ll be accompanied by Vijay Krishna on Mridanga, Prajna Vieira singing response vocals, and Radhanath Das on Kartals.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Just in case you missed it, I released two CDs last year: Return to Shiva Station and Lifeline: The Essential Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach Collection. Please pick them up, enjoy, and buy some for your friends!!!!
I guess that’s enough for now.
Sending love and peace to all,