The Muse Changes the Pattern: Kirtan in Music

by Wendy Warnimont/Shanti

LILA OF ANANDA KIRTANA features Kirtan played on the accordion with more movement and healing focus. Although the melodies and rhythms have roots in traditional Kirtan or Middle Eastern patterns, the arrangements are more organic and push the boundaries of freedom and tradition. This form developed after experiencing kirtan with many lovely groups. I felt I wanted to sing harmony, sing with freedom, be closer to the music, or throw away the chairs or cushions and move with everyone. I realized that I love Kirtan but wanted freedom from the traditional call and response structure with defined structures for singing, or forms where harmony singing is not really welcome. I wanted to shift any barrier between musician and audience, and the physical arrangement where people are either sitting, or more in the back of the room dancing. Shift anything dualistic, linear or limited, into an organic dynamic fluid arrangement. Dissolve structures so people can sing in layers, or together, or in harmony, or in response, whatever.

So I started to sink deep inside and integrate what I’d experienced with Kirtans, went to study with some folks, and then allowed the Muse to channel something new, something that feels relevant to this time here and now, to me. I felt that the accordion was perfect for this, that it allows me to play it like harmonium, but facilitate while standing. In sharing this form I realized that standing gives me more access to move around with the “audience” so we as a group can take shapes, be organic and alive, standing, dancing, moving. Also, because I’m wearing ankle percussion I can stomp out a beat while moving. I’m seeing that this encourages people to dance and stomp feet and clap hands. And have you noticed that stomping and clapping activates meridians and energy, and helps release energies to the earth? It also helps people attune to the rhythm as part of the meditation.

Another aspect of this form is the element of change. Since the chants change quickly from minor soulful with a driving beat, to light major lyrical, the point of change becomes a meditation in awareness to be present but ready for change (good skill to have for your life!!). And so the music moves in these patterns, from active vocalizing and moving, to receptive listening with instrumental music, into silent meditation where healing can happen. Like life, dark to light, light to dark, until neither this nor that, but unity melting, where all is possible!

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