Kirtan Wallah

Krishna Das

Krishna Das Music, 2014

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


I bet you didn't know there was such a thing as a “Rockstar Of Yoga.” I didn't either. Well, Jeffrey Kagel, AKA Krishna Das, has embraced that label with open arms, proving himself to be the leader of Indian Kirtan devotional music. I bet you also didn't know that that was a genre of music.

Though he hails from New York, Das has spent considerable time in India, thus giving a very Western influence and more accessible angle into his music. He’s been nominated for a Grammy and got legends like Sting to perform on his albums; if New Age ever breaks into the mainstream, it's likely Das will be leading the charge. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Speaking of mainstream, Kirtan Wallah has plenty of potential for it. What we all expect to hear here is repetitive chanting, which, of course, is part of the equation. But on this album, there’s also Americana, country and folk influences that are as Western as Leonard Cohen or Neil Young. Even more mainstream, Das puts in some Foreigner samples. Yes, the Rockstar Of Yoga embraces Foreigner. Try scratching your head during downward dog at that idea.

With almost half of these songs running past the 9-minute mark, there's a lot of music to absorb here, especially for those unfamiliar with the genre. This is where the Western influences make the lengthy journey much easier to absorb.

“Radhe Govinda” starts off, and is a traditional Indian Kirtan song. At 10 minutes long, it's an enlightening track for most of us, and might even make you feel more cultured. “Sri Argala Stotram Show Me Lov” follows and Das’ daughter contributing vocals before the track unexpectedly and pleasantly goes into Foreigner's “I Want To Know What Love Is.” “Saraswati,” featuring Boris Grebenschikov, keeps the Western ideas going near the end with a pensive guitar song. Though it's actually one of the shortest tunes at a mere seven minutes, it could easily be twice that length as it's one of the most intriguing and memorable on the album.

Other standouts include “I Phoned Govinda,” which is a breezy campfire tune and sounds like it could be a traditional folk song reworked in a New Age light. And while most of this disc is packed full of interesting, graceful musicianship, "Sri Bajrang Baan" is dominated by vocals as Das sings words that I can't understand; but it seems so pretty and, I have to imagine, enlightening.

Unless you have an affinity for this obscure genre of music already, listening to Kirtan Wallah will initially bring you out of your comfort zone. However, it's such a well-done album with so many parallels to universally beloved genres that it becomes comforting almost immediately.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Krishna Das Music, and is used for informational purposes only.