Sunday, December 1, 2013

Concert at the Yoga Farm: Karnamrita Dasi

This Thanksgiving weekend at the Yoga Farm, we were lucky to have Karnamrita Dasi for kirtan on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.  She played the harmonium and was accompanied by a tabla player (a different one on Thursday and Friday/Saturday) and someone who alternated between playing the guitar and mandolin.

I knew this was going to be a treat.  I had seen Karnamrita several years ago (before I started writing this blog) at a performance at the Yoga Farm.  It was a great experience back then, so much that I bought her CD, Prayers by Women, and have listened to it regularly over the years.  I went hunting around for more music by her, but while there are lots of random recordings from festivals and such on youtube, the only other recorded piece I was able to find was her piece titled Om Purnam on the Sri Isopanishad in an album by Bada Haridas.

She brings an amazing energy with her sharing various stories from her and life and educating the audience about the lyrics and encouraging participation.  She grew up in an ashram community in the US, but spent several years in India learning music.  I really cannot adequately describe her voice or even the experience of being at the concert.  Her CD might give a slight glimpse into her voice, but there is so much more that is not captured by recordings.

On Friday evening, she told us to remember the name of an album she wanted to recommend --  the Radha Krsna Temple album which was produced by George Harrison (free version at archive.orgCD versioniTunes) .  Some photos from the recording of the Radha Krsna Temple album are available here.

On Saturday morning I found it on iTunes and it instantly sent me back to my college years when my dad would play this music at home in the mornings.  I cannot seem to tire from listening to Govinda, which contains verses from the Brahma Samhita, specifically verses 5.30 and 5.32, reproduced below.
veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣam-
barhāvataṁsam asitāmbuda-sundarāṅgam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi 
aṅgāni yasya sakalendriya-vṛtti-manti
paśyanti pānti kalayanti ciraṁ jaganti
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
This was the first time I actually understood how to pronounce the words as Karnamrita had walked us through it on Friday night.

Listening to it over and over brought tears to my eyes as my mind was flooded with (mostly unhappy) memories of my teenage years and I started to realize how incomprehensible the meaning of life is with so much sadness and suffering as we go from birth to youth to old age and finally to death.

She said that she only sings in sanskrit (with a few exceptions), and also mentioned that memorizing the sanskrit texts such as the Brahma Samhita would keep ones memory sharp, such is the nature of the sanskrit language.

This was really a beautiful weekend as I spent three evenings in row at the Yoga Farm enjoying wonderful food cooked by Shambu and some of the most enchanting kirtan.

Albums featuring Karnamrita Dasi

Since first writing this article, I have come across some other pieces featuring her singing.  She doesn't do a good job of advertising her music but the following is a listing of the pieces that I've been able to find where she has either sung solo or as part of a group.

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