Kirtan Confab

By Steven Libowitz   |   February 21, 2019

Where can you hear some of the greatest Kirtan/call-and-response chant artists all in one place short of attending a Bahkti gathering? How about Yoga Soup this Friday night, when Sounds into Silence, a feature-length documentary that explores chant meditation, makes its Santa Barbara public debut. Deva Premal & Miten, Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, Dave Stringer, Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Gaura Vani and Nina Rao are among the dozens of musicians and Kirtan leaders who appear in the film, both performing and discussing their devotion to the practice.

Produced and directed by Georgia Wyss, who is making her directorial debut after editing such feature docs as The Light Bulb Conspiracy and A Crude Awakening, the film is the product of more than five years of research and filming sparked when Wyss became entranced by mantra chanting in 2004. The beautiful and compelling film documents visits to Kirtan gatherings around the world, including Paris, Barcelona, Greece, and even Russia, plus several locations in the U.S. The journey encompasses an astonishing array of different approaches, with variations in tempos, volume, styles, and instrumentation – from traditional harmonium and tabla, to harps and violins, to guitars and electric basses. Often times a single chant progresses from a quiet meditation to the upbeat energy evoking ecstatic dancing.

The film shows how kirtan’s appeal extends to people from a diversity of spiritual paths, races and backgrounds, both among the mantra chant leaders and kirtan participants. Snippets of chanting are interspersed with interviews offering insight, background and benefits of the practice.

“Chanting is about opening one’s own heart to engage in sharing, which creates empathy and compassion for others,” Jai Uttal, one of the early kirtan leaders in the U.S., explains in the film, a sentiment echoed by practitioners.

“The first time I went, I didn’t even know what they were doing,” one woman recalls. “But I felt at home. I can’t intellectually even tell you what that is.”

That also seemed to be the case in a segment filmed at San Quentin’s prison chapel, where an Indian mystic dances alongside a hardened criminal as they chant “Hare Bo” together. “It has such a soothing effect on my corazon,” the inmate says later.

Friday’s Sounds into Silence screening will be preceded by a short mantra chant experience led by Sudama Mark Kennedy, the Santa Barbara intuitive/energy healer and singer-songwriter who also often leads Kirtan and who recently accompanied Dave String at Yoga Soup earlier this month.

“Mantra chanting generates an incredible release of bliss chemicals in the brain, and seems to have the magical effect of being both relaxing and energizing at the same time,” he said, noting that the predominant vowel in Sanskript is “aa,” “which is the sound of the heart.” “I like to think that when I’m chanting, I’m becoming more of a waveform, a rhythm groove experience that somehow seems to melt everything into a blissful feeling… It’s a way to understand the world as sound, the universe as a giant field of resonance. When we chant we participate and align ourselves with the universe.”

Sudama plans to open with a slow “om namah shivaya” (I bow to that Supreme Consciousness) chant to “attune the room” before offering a more upbeat 10-minute piece. He will also follow the screening with another 20-minute chant, as per Stringer’s suggestion that viewers will be inspired. “So we’ll chant again.”

Admission to the 7-9 pm event on Friday, February 22, is on a sliding scale of $8-$20. Yoga Soup is located at 28 Parker Way. Call (805) 965-8811 or visit

Kirtan in IV

More live call-and-response chanting in Sanskrit takes place Saturday night, February 23, via Santa Barbara Mantra Lounge Kirtan. Sarvatma & Friends will lead the once again monthly immersion in an evening of meditative song via Kirtan yoga, followed by sharing of vegan refreshments, back for a second month at Yoga Isla Vista, upstairs in the back at 900 Embarcadero del Mar in Isla Vista. As always, all are welcome regardless of experience, spiritual beliefs, or quality of voice and are invited to sing, dance, and/or simply sit in silence. The $5 admission for the 7-9 pm event is collected at the door, and includes the post-chanting vegan treats. Visit

Halifax Addresses Death and Dying in Hospice Event

Roshi Joan Halifax, the renowned Buddhist teacher, author, Zen priest, and anthropologist, will give a presentation on “Courage, Love, and Compassion” at the Marjorie Luke Theatre on Wednesday, February 27. Halifax – who was just in town last October for a conversation with Pico Iyer presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures – is founder, Abbot, and head teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Director of the Project on Being with Dying.

Her upcoming talk, sponsored by Hospice of Santa Barbara’s Community Education and Engagement Series, will address the often uncomfortable topics of death and dying, and offer new perspectives on end-of-life care. In addition to travelling the world engaging with audiences about the topics, Halifax has written several books on the subject in the context of Buddhism and spirituality, including The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav Grof), The Fruitful Darkness, Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Wisdom in the Presence of Death, and Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet. Immediately following the presentation, Halifax will sign copies of her latest book, Standing at the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

The event is free and open to all community members. Advance registration is full, but a waiting list will be honored to fill the empty seats just before the two-hour events begins at 7 pm. Visit 

Winter Healing Arts Faire 

The Center of the Heart, Center for Spiritual Living, hosts the wintertime iteration of its quarterly day of healing offerings this Saturday, February 23, from 12 noon to 5 pm. Experience energetic healing, psychic readings, shamanic, and aura readings, medical intuitive readings, astrologers, and past life readings via a variety of Santa Barbara’s talented practitioners who will offer mini-treatment sessions of their services for $20 for 15 minutes. Full sessions are available for additional cost. Notably, the event also serves as one of the closest locations for the John of God Crystal Bed healing sessions. Arts and crafts vendors will also be on hand, showing and selling wares throughout the day. Visit or call (805) 964-4861.

On ‘Course’ at the Center

Center of the Heart launches a new study group in A Course in Miracles, the highly popular 1976 book that consists of a curriculum that aims to assist its readers in achieving spiritual transformation via teaching the value of gaining a full “awareness of love’s presence” in one’s own life. ACIM exploded in popularity in 1992 when Marianne Williamson – who later published several books based on the Course – discussed the book on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Often called “The New Age Bible,” ACIM has as one of its basic tenets the concept that “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” The study group will meet every Wednesday from 7:15-8:30 pm, with a suggested “love offering” of $10. Call (805) 964-4861, visit or email 

Mats atop MOXI

Power of Your Om yoga studio closes out a month of offering Yoga on Sunday mornings on the roof at MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation on lower State Street. The 9 am community classes are donation based, with 100 percent of the proceeds go support the children-oriented museum. All those who come to the event can stay after the 45-minute session and enjoy the museum for no additional charge. Sign up in advance as space is limited, and remember to bring your own yoga mat and dress in layers for the winter elements. Call (805) 770-5000 or visit

Also at Power of Your Om: Beads & Brews on Friday March 1. Participants will receive instruction in how to make a mala – a string of 108 prayer beads that is used to count mantras or affirmations as part of meditation or prayer – and also drink some beer together. The $50 admission for the 7:30-9:30 pm workshop back at the yoga studio (1221 State Street, Suite 201) includes all of the materials needed to make the malas, which are also used as a wearable piece of meditative jewelry. Visit 

Manifesting with Magic

Wendy Cooper’s new Santa Barbara School of Esotericism and Ecospirituality Meetup debuts at 10 am on Saturday, February 23, with the intriguing query: “Are you ready to become the master of your reality?” In the two-hour workshop in The Bride’s Room at Unity of Santa Barbara, Cooper will discuss “magic” in the context of scientific studies, imagination, and energy frequency. She will provide tools for “connecting to your higher self, aligning to a higher frequency, and manifesting your 5D wishes into 3D reality.”

The ongoing Meetups – intended toward people who are interested in Esotericism and Eco-spirituality and discussing mystical topics – will include discussions, special guests, and workshops at various locations in the community. Subjects to be discussed include Alchemy, Tarot, Psychic-Mediumship Abilities, Energy Healing, Meditation, Feng Shui, Herbal remedies, Numerology, Crystals, Magick and manifestation, Faeries, Metaphysics, Nature healing and spirits, Symbols, Chakras and Archetypes.

Saturday’s workshop costs $30. Visit, or 

Constellations, Continued 

The Peaceful Soul Constellation Workshop facilitated by Lesley Weinstock and Maya Shaw Gale is returning for its first public occurrence in months. The facilitated group trans-generational healing process allows people to disentangle from loyalties and burdens they might carry that do not belong to them. Constellations help us restore love, connection, security, and belonging, resulting in life-changing resolution of long-standing issues or blocks. At the 10:30 am to 1 pm event on Saturday, February 23, at a private home in Carpinteria, one person will experience a personal constellation while there will also be two group exercises to allow everyone to experience a taste of constellation work. Participant fee is $15. RSVP required. Contact Lesley Weinstock (who is a Physician Assistant, Functional Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist, Facilitator of Constellation Work, NVC and Byron Katie’s The Work) at (805) 212-0052 or, or Maya Shaw Gale (Certified Hakomi Practitioner/Trainer, Life Coach, Intuitive and Ceremonial leader, facilitator of workshops and trainings in body/mind and group field transformational processes) at (805) 857-1789 or 

Goin’ South: Expo at LAX

The 17th annual Los Angeles Conscious Life Expo, which takes place this weekend, February 22-24, at the LAX Hilton, boasts more than 200 exhibitors (including the Sunburst Sanctuary in Lompos), 150 speakers (including 12 keynotes), 12 panels, 100 free lectures, and 20 post conference meetings onsite. Among the presenters are A Course in Miracles expert/author Marianne Williamson, trance channeler Kimberly Meredith, Jason Silva, Nassim Haramein, Steven Kotler, Deborah King, and Gail Thackray (Living Your Soul Purpose). Neuroscience and Tech, Ancient Aliens, Sacred Geometry, and Near Death Experience are just four of more than a dozen program in-depth tracks. The Expo’s 88-page program guide is available at select newsstands downtown and elsewhere as well as online at the gathering’s comprehensive website. Tickets range from $20 for Friday general admission in advance, to $625 for an all-inclusive three-day Platinum Pass, good for admission to all events and workshops. Visit or call (800) 367-5777 for more info.


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