Jai Uttal performing at the First Church in Cambridge

Jai Uttal performing at the First Church in Cambridge

It’s probably best to begin this review with a description of what Kirtan is. From its Wikipedia page: “Kirtan (Sanskrit: “to repeat”) is call-and-response chanting performed in India’s devotional traditions.” I was first introduced to the spiritually uplifting Kirtan at one of Mirabai Devi’s public Darshans back about a year ago, so I knew I had to be here.

Jai Uttal is unusual amongst Kirtan performers, in that his music mixes the traditional devotional chant with world music, folk, funk – and with his most recent release, Brazilian rhythms, and even a bit of country blues. Personally, I tend to prefer my Indian chanting “straight up”, but this certainly makes for an interesting and intriguing show, and perhaps will be many world music fans’ introduction into Kirtan. Which is a cool thing indeed.

His performance this evening with Daniel Paul began with traditional Kirtan (on tabla and harmonium), with a super tuned-in audience chanting – and in some cases, dancing – along. Quite an overwhelming experience, even for a jaded Bostonian. Whether or not you have the belief, I think this type of gathering can’t help but affect one on a very deep level. A physical, emotional, and yes spiritual release. This was followed by his more secular world music, moving from harmonium to acoustic guitar, which was less pleasing for me, but clearly others felt differently, and the mix of different styles will likely appeal to a wider audience.

For the full experience of Kirtan, treat yourself to a public Darshan. Such events in the Boston area are regularly announced on Victor Robert Venckus’s Expanding Awareness program, so tune in!

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