Global Ecstatic Chant
Throughout the ages and across cultures, prayer through song and simple body movement has been a powerful vehicle for connecting with the Divine. In addition to offering the increasingly popular kirtan (high-energy call-and response chanting from the Hindu/yoga tradition), ONE LOVE weaves together ancient and contemporary chants from many spiritual traditions and countries, combining beautiful vocal harmonies with infectious energy, and a wide array of instruments from around the world. Their performances are highly interactive, uplifting, and transformational—a musical celebration of global prayer!
One Love was chosen in 2014 as the most outstanding emerging band by BhaktiFest, the most popular yoga and chant festival in the US.
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The ONE LOVE Story
Imagine the scenario. It’s 1973, and I’m a teenager, growing up in NYC. It’s a beautiful spring day, and I’m walking in Central Park. From a distance I hear drums and voices singing. As I approach, I see a cluster of very exuberant people wearing colorful, exotic clothing, with funny haircuts, garlands of flowers, and ankle bells. They’re shaking tambourines and playing odd-shaped drums with two heads (the drums, not the people--they weren't THAT weird...).The musicians are full of energy and joy, chanting endless repetitions of: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare…
A light of recognition flashes inside me. I know that song! It’s from the Broadway musical Hair! (Never mind that the mantra is 2000 years old...)
I see these people only as another of the City’s many fringe cults. In my mind, I lump them into the same category as the “Moonies,”
those dazed and confused young followers of
Rev. Moon, or the “Purple People,” an eccentric clan who used to ride their bikes through the park, wearing only purple clothing. I watch with amusement as the Hare Krishnas dance and sing.
Fast forward about 3 decades. It’s Labor Day weekend 2004, and I am at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, at the very first annual Ecstatic Chant Festival. I signed up because chanting sounded fun. I like to sing. I find myself in a huge hall with 400 other people. An American Jewish guy from Long Island named Krishna Das gets on the stage and sits down at the harmonium. He has an unassuming outfit of jeans and a flannel shirt. He and his band begin to lead us in kirtan, Hindu call-and-response devotional chanting.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare… the same chant I heard years ago, set to a fresh new melody.
The room swells with the sound of the chant echoing back and forth, in a hypnotic call-and-
response musical exchange. I feel waves of love welling up in me. Love for myself, for everyone
in that huge room, and for God/ Goddess/
Divine Energy... My heart cracks open, and I utterly and completely melt. Tears flow, and I finally understand, without being able to explain it rationally, what those Hare Krishna folks were up to.
After that initial inspirational experience, I started leading kirtan and interfaith devotional chanting at worship services and other spiritual gatherings, along with my husband, Nataraj.
At first it was just the two of us, with him on electronic keyboard and harmonium, and me on guitar and lead vocal. As the energy and enthusiasm for our work grew, we drew other musicians into the fold, including the multi-instrumentalist wizard Joe Smellow on percussion and an array of flutes, harmonica, pan pipes, didgeridoo, and more. Later, we invited some fabulous women singers to join us on harmony and response vocals, some kickass percussionists to raise the energy, and we took our band on the road. We've performed throughout the United States at churches, festivals, yoga studios, and retreat centers, as well as educational and cultural venues from preschools to universities.
Since the formation of the group in 2008, the One Love band has been an ever-changing and evolving family of musicians, which has kept a fresh and alive quality to our offering of global ecstatic chant.
We also offer live music yoga classes, workshops and retreats that synthesize sacred chant, ecstatic movement, meditation and sound healing.
The practice of devotional chanting spans across and cultures, spiritual traditions, and millennia. The repetition of simple phrases or words helps us bypass the analytical mind, and simply drop into the spaciousness of the heart.
When we chant mantras, Divine Names, or simply sing songs that celebrate life, we are dipping into that expansive wellspring of joy and peace that dwells within the core of our being. When we sing together in kirtan, we create community among ourselves and enjoy the beautiful sound of our voices resonating together. We awaken the natural qualities of love and devotion within us. This heart-centered practice is known as Bhakti Yoga, which uses singing to express our love and longing for God/Goddess/Spirit/ Source.
The masters have taught us that we don’t even need to understand the meaning of the mantra or the Name in order to benefit from devotional chanting, because the chanting itself has an effect on the nervous system and the subtle energy body vibrationally. In particular, root languages such as Sanskrit and ancient Hebrew are said to have a powerful vibrational affect that is transformative. This is called Nada Yoga, the ancient yogic science of sound.
The interesting paradox is that chanting the many Names and honoring the many Forms leads us to direct experience of what is Nameless and Formless.