Kundalinii Express
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Kundalinii Express


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"Bliss on board"

Jun 22, 2005 / vol 11 iss 46
Bliss on board

by Alli Marshall

Chanting to a town near you: Kundalini Express.
From Mongolian overtone chanting to Peruvian nose flutes to Catholic masses and Indian ragas, "music is part of every spiritual tradition," yogic monk Dada Nabhaniilananda recently reminded us, via e-mail, from the road.

Maybe so – but not every spiritual musician is blessed with an appellation like Dada's. Belying his impressive profusion of syllables, the monk is currently on tour with the snappily named Kundalini Express – a super-concentrated gathering of musicians traveling North America to spread the message of spiritual living and promote the practice of yoga and meditation. The tour makes its final stop in Asheville this week.

Get on the bus
Music, the monk goes on, "has long been used to help induce higher states of consciousness. With great effect."

There's also a long tradition of getting on the bus as a means of raising – or altering – consciousness. In the '60s, there were Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters. During 1970-71, Steven Gaskin, head of the Farm, led a caravan of 50 school buses on a speaking tour across the U.S. Fans followed the Grateful Dead and Phish, and continue to trail Widespread Panic, in livable vans. Budget travelers, looking for a change of scenery, hop aboard the Green Tortoise. Thousands of people each year caravan to the ever-changing Rainbow Gathering destinations.

The Kundalini Express, then, is an efficient way to disseminate a complex network of spiritual-music traditions – "a way to celebrate a common spiritual heritage with different spiritual centers across the continent," explains tour coordinator Nirmal Kronenberg by phone. "We're conducting parties... visiting [meditation and yoga]centers to awaken more people."

Participating musicians perform kiirtan (Sanskrit chanting delivered in call-and-response fashion), bhajans (devotional songs) and even rap, in the case of Ana'di Heisler, a native New Yorker who also plays guitar and breakdances.

Father-daughter act Vasudeva and Giita Tandero lead kiirtan. "She has an ethereal voice," Dada enthuses, "and he's very good in [encouraging] group participation."

Before discovering meditation and yoga, Vasudeva, according to innersong.com, was an "Engelbert Humperdinck-style crooner, ... sadly overlooked by the Norway record-buying public." These days, he can be heard on several recordings sweetly chanting "Baba Nam Kevalam," the universal mantra. It means love is all there is.

Giita, just 23, is traveling with her father for the summer before returning to school to become a teacher.

"We've actually become quite an eclectic group," Dada comments, laughing, during a follow-up phone call.

A full-time volunteer for Ananda Marga, the New Zealand-born monk actually started writing and singing songs as a teenager, but he gave up music – along with the right to work for pay or be married – when he became a "renunciate." "And then I started getting a lot of assignments as part of the music department," he recalls. So, singing became part of his service.

At first listen, Dada's songs bring to mind vintage Cat Stevens (think "Oh Very Young" or "Longer Boats"). His voice is rich, warm and earnest. Tracks like "Perfect Love" and "Lake Gardens" on his latest, independently released CD, The Return of the Magic, offer a sonic trip back to innocence coated with a serious dose of '70s-style nostalgia.

Unlike with Stevens, however, it was spirituality that led Dada to his musical calling, instead of pulling him away from the recording studio. In fact, the monk himself dubs his style "spiritual folk-rock," and, in the UK, where he's the senior teacher at the Ananda Marga Yoga Society, he's established the Blue Sky Recording Studio and Innersong Music Distribution company (which also distributes the works of the Tanderos).

"Most of my songs are bhajans – devotional songs with more complex lyrics and arrangements than the kiirtans," Dada conveyed by e-mail. "I also write songs about social and ecological issues, and story songs."

He was planning to visit the U.S. for the summer, so hopping aboard the Kundalini Express just made sense. "I've performed concerts for the public all over the world, and had a very good response. ... Most people quickly understand that our message is universal, and are very interested," the monk writes.

The Kundalini Express started its journey a month ago, traveling across America and parts of Canada, and even dipping into Mexico. Tour members not only perform music but also do service projects en route – collecting people interested in learning about meditation as a matter of course.

"We sing a lot of kiirtan, and we meditate two or three times daily collectively," reports Kronenberg. "We started out with a dozen people [on the bus], and will probably have about 25 by the end."

The Kundalini Express stops off in Asheville on Friday, June 24 for a 6-8 p. - Mountain Xpress

"Jyotsna LaTrobe"

...Jyosna has an interesting voice- sometimes sounding like a "Material Girl" Madonna, often like the divine Ms. Amos, even an occasional blast of Kate Bush.   She's a versatile vocalist, somewhere between quite restrained and soaring for the stars- and if you're a fan of backing vocals, you'll love her layered approach. - Express Music, New Zealand

"Spirit Beats"

...Jyotsna's distinctive, often thrilling vocals possess a transcendent quality that is ideally suited to the sprightly beats and the uplifting nature of the lyrics...She has an obsession with depth, proving with her self penned lyrics that she is not all disco diva and pop gleam.   She will appeal to those who like some intelligence with their well crafted popular music. - New Zealand Herald Online

"The Singing Monk"

At first sight, Dada Nabhaniilananda (or just plain 'Dada' as he kindly allows those of us without a degree in Sanskrit to call him) in his flowing orange robes, sporting an irrepressible smile through his beard, appears unlikely material for a budding pop star.
However, on stage, armed with his cutaway Martin acoustic guitar and an excellent singing style, backed by a talented group of Melbourne musicians, his performance packs quite a punch. New Age Folk-rock, I guess you'd have to call it, though it ranges from Genesis or Yes-style symphonic rock, through moving ballads, to the reggae beat of "Give My Heart to Africa," with it's 5-part harmonies. The atmosphere was charged from the outset. The setting was an outside stage in a valley in the countryside, at the Victorian "Down to Earth" Festival. Night had fallen and the audience of more than 1,500 seemed to contain many fans of this previously little-known artist.
The opening tones of the synthesiser washed out over the crowd, leading to the soaring lyrics of "Shanti" (meaning Peace) and began to weave a pattern of music and words that held the audience truly spellbound. The atmosphere was quite captivating – I even got up and danced for the last song, which is not like me!
The audience clearly thought this show was the highlight of the evening as they chanted for more. When Dada thanked and congratulated the musicians, he explained that they had never played together before. The audience's response was one of shocked disbelief. Talking about this afterwards he told me,
"It's true. Of course I've played with Harry often, but I only met Fred the bass guitarist yesterday. Don 't you think he was brilliant? I don't even know his second name." Dada. 40, has been a musician since he was 6 -- starting out on classical piano, experimenting with cello and trumpet, and finally settling for voice and guitar. Although be has been playing music for more than 30 years be regards himself as "more of a singer/songwriter than a musician." He writes and sings all the material from the group. The impressive backgrounds of some of his six accompanying musicians bear testimony to his talent. For example, keyboard player Harry Williamson, produced one of Sting's first records. Harry produced Dada's second album, "Warriors of the Rainbow".
Dada seemed quite casual about the grand success of the Festival concert. Does he see himself becoming a male equivalent of "The Singing Nun?"
He laughed and said, "I doubt it, but you never know. Even to be playing here was a surprise for me."
- Melbourne Sun


Live in Concert, 2005
Hecho en Mexico, 2006



Kundalinii Express is a group Yogiis and Spiritual Musicians touring America in an orange bus, performing, leading kiirtan chanting and dance sessions and spreading good vibes. A number of talented spiritual artists from different countries have come together to form the Kundalinii Express band. The artists perform both as a group and individually, blending subtle Indian melodies and rhythms with western folk rock, creating a sound reminiscent of Jai Uttal or Deva Premal.

A recurring theme in their music is the use of Kiirtan, or spiritual chanting. Extremely elevating for both the listeners and performers, this ancient style of music encourages the participation of the audience, both in singing and dancing.

Travelling with the musicians on the tour are several yoga and meditation teachers, dancers, and other performing artists. The Kundalinii Express has performed together for three years throughout the USA, Canada and Mexico, spreading the message of spiritual awakening and transformation of society.

"Baba Nam Kevalam"
"Love is all there is"