Krishna Das (singer)

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Krishna Das
Krishna Das.jpg
Krishna Das in 2005
Background information
Birth name Jeffrey Kagel
Also known as Krishna Das
Born (1947-05-31) May 31, 1947 (age 67)
Origin Long Island, New York, USA
Genres Kirtan
Occupations Singer, songwriter, record Producer
Instruments Harmonium
Years active 1994–present
Labels Krishna Das Music, Nutone Music
Associated acts Arjun Bruggeman, Genevieve Walker, Mark Egan, Mark Gorman, Patrick Lee Hammond, Nina Rao, David Nichtern, Steve Gorn, Walter Becker, Ty Burhoe, John McDowell, Wah!,
Website www.krishnadas.com

Krishna Das (born Jeffrey Kagel May 31, 1947) is a U.S. vocalist known for his performances of Hindu devotional music known as kirtan (chanting the names of God). With eight albums released since 1996, Das is perhaps the best known U.S. singer of kirtan-style music. He is also sometimes referred to as the "Rockstar of Yoga".

Biography[edit]

Krishna Das traveled to India in August 1970 [1] where, as Ram Dass had done, he studied with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji). Krishna Das has studied ancient Indian meditation practices, Bhakti Yoga - in Hinduism this is the yoga of devotion, and is now devoted to singing and teaching. He has released several CDs, and he travels around the world giving performances and teaching, sometimes with Ram Dass. In recent years he also has often led workshops in combination with leading meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. He has also offered workshops with yoga teacher Dharma Mittra. In India, he visits Rishikesh for practicing Yoga and meditation.

Krishna Das is arguably the best known U.S. singer of Indian kirtan-style devotional music. Other artists working within this genre include Bhagavan Das, Jai Uttal, Ragani, Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band, Shyamdas, Lokah Music, Wah!, Deva Premal, Girish, Shantala and David Newman.

Krishna Das has recorded numerous variations of Hanuman Chalisa, a 40 stanza Hindi devotional poem to Hanuman by Tulsidas (c.1600). In recent years, he has also performed and recorded the traditional gospel song, "Jesus is on the Mainline." He has commented that he read the Gospels while in India and, "they sound a lot different at 10,000 feet." He also remarked that there has been some criticism about an "ex-Jewish boy" chanting the name of Jesus. He responds to this by saying that his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, once said "Jesus is Love," and singing about Jesus is just singing about love. Other heterodoxies are found on his album Door of Faith (2003), which includes a setting of the Hanuman Chalisa that interpolates the Buddhist "Gate of Sweet Nectar," and a setting of the Gospel tune "God is Real," which blends in "Hare Ram".

Krishna Das's harmonium bears an image of Hanuman, and he generally wears red T-shirts when he performs (a coloring associated with Hanuman).

Krishna Das's musical style is distinctly Western, using chord progressions typical of Western popular music. The kirtans he leads often build from a slow, meditative tempo to a high paced catharsis. It is common for his audiences to stand up and dance during some of his Hare Krishna chants. The ensembles with which Krishna Das performs change frequently. He is usually accompanied by a tabla player (Arjun Bruggeman), other percussions (including cymbals, drum kits, and occasionally cowbell and triangle), strings (cello or violin—Genevieve Walker), or electric bass guitar (Mark Gorman, Mark Egan or Patrick Hammond), or guitar (David Nichtern). Often, he is accompanied on kartals (or karatalas, small cymbals, also known as manjeera) by Nina Rao.

Krishna Das has been associated with many other artists. Two of his albums have featured Hans Christian as a guest multi-instrumentalist, and Sting appears on the album "Pilgrim Heart". He has also appeared on an album with Baird Hersey & Prana entitled "Gathering In The Light".

Krishna Das has written about how his Guru put him onto the path of Kirtan, and a quotation follows:[2]

'At what would turn out to be my last darshan of Maharaj-ji's physical body, I was petrified with fear about returning to the U.S. after so many years. I hadn't worn a pair of jeans or shoes for such a long time that I couldn't imagine what it would be like. I didn't want to ask Maharaj-ji what I should do in America, but all of a sudden I blurted out in anguish, 'Maharaj-ji! How can I serve you in America?'

'He looked at me with mock disgust and said, 'What is this? If you ask how you should serve then it is no longer service. Do what you want.' I couldn't believe my ears. How could doing what I wanted to do be of service to him? I didn't have that kind of faith. I just sat there, stunned. Then after a minute or so he looked over at me, smiling sweetly, and asked, 'So, how will you serve me?'

'My mind was blank. It was time for me to leave for Delhi, to catch the plane back to the States. He was looking at me and laughing. I bent down and touched his feet for the last time and when I looked up, he was beaming at me, 'So, how will you serve me in America?' I felt like I was moving in a dream. I floated across the courtyard and bowed to him one more time from a distance. As I did, the words came to me, 'I will sing to you in America.'

'Soon afterwards, during the full moon in September, Neem Karoli Baba left his body. Now he had to be found within. The chanting, the meditation, the puja and all the wonderful time spent with Maharaj-ji turned out to be seeds that he himself had planted in my heart... seeds that would keep growing and blossom by his Grace.

His album, Live Ananda (2012), was nominated for the 2013 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.[3] He performed at the Grammy Awards Ceremony as well. In April 2014, his album Kirtan Wallah was released, under his own label Krishna Das Music.[4]

Anusara Yoga Invocation[edit]

Krishna Das composed the melody for the Anusara Yoga invocation, "Om Nama Shivaya Gurave," at the request of John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga. Friend describes this composition as occurring during a summer night at a secluded mountain retreat center in Utah in 1998.[5]

Discography[edit]

  • 1996: One Track Heart
  • 1998: Pilgrim Heart
  • 2000: Live... on Earth
  • 2001: Breath of the Heart
  • 2003: Door of Faith
  • 2005: All One
  • 2006: Gathering in the Light with Baird Hersey & Prana
  • 2007: Flow of Grace: Chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, Sounds True
  • 2008: Heart Full of Soul
  • 2010: Heart as Wide as the World
  • 2012: Live Ananda
  • 2014: Kirtan Wallah

Books[edit]

Other Appearances[edit]

  • Open to the Infinite: Live at the Inner Directions Gathering (Video), with Ram Dass, Bertram Salzman, Matthew Greenblatt. Inner Directions, 1999. ISBN 1-878019-11-2.

Documentary[edit]

In 2011 and 2012, a documentary was made about Krishna Das called One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das.[6] It was directed by filmmaker Jeremy Frindel and features interviews with Krishna Das as well as others commenting on his life and spiritual quest. In late 2012 the documentary was picked up by distributor Zeitgeist Films for US distribution,[7] and it came out in the USA in May 2013.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "About Krishna Das". krishnadas.com. Feb 2012. Retrieved Feb 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ [1] This text appears on KD's official website. A similar account is given in the liner notes of his CD One Track Heart, 1996.
  3. ^ "55th Annual GRAMMY Awards Winners:Nominees". Grammy.com. Feb 2012. Retrieved Feb 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ "New CDs in stores this week". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2014-04-14. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  5. ^ Ty Burhoe, Invocation, CD liner notes, Sounds True Records, 2006.
  6. ^ "Official Website for One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das". 
  7. ^ "Zeitgeist Grabs Krishna Das Documentary 'One Track Heart' for April Release". 

References[edit]

External links[edit]